This tape is part of the Salt Spring Island Historical Society Collection and comprises an address to its members, entitled ‘Ghosts of Newcastle Island’.
Mr. Koppel describes the history of the Island, beginning with the Native peoples, through coal mining, sandstone and pulp stone quarrying, Japanese salteries and boat building, CPR resort and finally a municipal park on the Island.
|Address to the Historical Society
|September 8, 1987
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promised to driftwood that I would make a recording because they're reported couldn't get here. The the work that I've been doing on Newcastle Island comes out of an article that I'm writing for beautiful BC magazine. So in a different form, it should be available to everybody in the spring edition, I believe, unless there's some change on their editorial part, but I promise ghosts now that was a little bit of a trick to get people to come out. But there really is one ghost that I would like to mention that doesn't fit into the regular chronology at Newcastle. Does everyone Oh, I should first start by saying Newcastle Island if anyone doesn't know, is just off of Nanaimo. In fact, Newcastle protection Island and a little further away, Gabriel Island are the three islands that really form then IMO Harbor. And if you go in on the ferry at I guess it's called departure Bay, and that's at New Edmond IMO, if you come into departure Bay, you're coming around New Castle Island, and into Nanaimo Harbour. And you're right in behind the place where many of the events that I will talk about, actually took place. The interesting thing to me, and the reason that I called it the ghosts of Newcastle is that when you go there today, it's a provincial marine park. It's very easy to get to, and I recommend that anybody going up there even just for the day, it's an easy trip from here. Well, not now. But normally, when the ferry is running, it's a very easy day trip from here. There's a really nice little ferry from downtown Nanaimo. It only costs it's a passenger ferry, there's no cars over there. There are really no roads, except for parks vehicles over there. It's only $1.25 I think that's round trip. Maybe it's maybe it's each way but it's an inexpensive little day trip. And there's there's a restaurant over there now. It's easy to walk around very good trails, lovely beaches. It's it's really a nice spot. But what I was going to say at the beginning, is that when you get there, you walk around, and it's all just like anywhere here. It's all grown in. And it just looks like solid forest. And then you poke around and you find that there has been a lot there. That even though it's all grown in today, except for one park area that's been kept open, and that is really quite developed. As parks go. The rest of the island is just long trails through the woods. And you would never think that anything had happened there. You think it was just Bush, but it turns out that people have hundreds of people have worked there and slaved away there have died there are buried there. At one time, which I will get into Newcastle Island was actually one of the busiest industrial areas on this entire coast. And I mean the entire coast of the Pacific North Pacific. If you we think of Saltspring Island as being it's close to Victoria one of the earlier places in BC to develop but in Saltspring in the 1860s Let's say you would have found I don't know 50 or 60, tiny homesteads, perhaps scattered through the bush on New Castle Island. You had industry in the 1960s in the 1860s. And literally hundreds of people working there. And the let me just start though with the ghost. So there was one particular interesting story in the 1860s. That sort of ties into Salt Spring. I think most of you have heard of the canal because the Hawaiian settlers who came to Salt Spring Island, well, one of the connectors, named Peter Kokua was a worker on the Nanaimo waterfront in the 1860s. Somehow he ended up there I've heard various accounts. One account says that he was working for a sawmill. I'm not sure I believe that I'm not sure there were sawmills in the 1860s. But in any case, he had come with the Hudson's Bay Company to this coast and was somehow living in Nanaimo. He was married to an Indian woman, and had a child and a mother in law. And he came home one day and found his wife, his child and his mother in law in bed with a strange Indian man. And some say, Well, this was just an Indian custom well level If it was he didn't understand it and he took an axe and he hacked them all to pieces. He murdered them in his house and then he fled. And he fled to New Castle Island, which was just across the water. Well, the authorities got out there tracking dogs. And they tracked him down to a beautiful little bay, which is one of the favorite beaches and swimming spots on New Castle Island. And it's today called Canac a bay. He was caught and put on trial. And of course he was convicted and hanged at a place called gallows point on nearby protected Island and at the time, there was no cemetery
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I promised that I would make a recording because reporters couldn't get
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work that I've been doing on
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Newcastle Island comes out of an article that I'm writing for beautiful BC magazine. So in a different form, it should be available to everybody in the spring edition, I believe, unless there's some change on their editorial part, but
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I promise ghosts now that was a little bit of a trick to get people to come out. But there really is one ghost that I would like to mention that doesn't fit into the regular chronology at Newcastle.
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Does everyone Oh, I should first start by saying Newcastle Island if anyone doesn't know, it's just off of Nanaimo. In fact, Newcastle
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protection Island, and a little further away, Gabriel islands are the three islands that really form
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than IMO Harbor. And if you go in on the ferry,
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departure Bay, and that's new.
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If you come into departure Bay, you're coming around New Castle Island, and into Nanaimo Harbour. And you're right in behind the place where many of the events that I will talk about, actually took place.
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The interesting thing to me, and
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the reason that I called it the ghost of Newcastle is that when you go there today, it's a provincial marine park.
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It's very easy to get to, and I recommend that anybody going up there even just for the day, it's an easy trip from here. Well, not now. But normally, when the ferry is running, it's a very easy day trip from here.
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There's a really nice little ferry from downtown Nanaimo. It only costs it's a passenger ferry, there's no cars over there.
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There are really no roads, except for parks vehicles over there.
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It's only $1.25 I think that's round trip, maybe it's maybe it's each way, but it's an inexpensive little day trip. And there's a restaurant over there now.
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It's easy to walk around very good trails, lovely beaches. It's, it's really a nice spot. But
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what I was gonna say at the beginning, is that when you get there, you walk around, and it's all just like anywhere here. It's all grown in. And it just looks like solid forest. And then you poke around and you find that there has been there that even though it's all grown in today, except for one park area that's been kept open, and that is really quite developed. As parks go. The rest of the island is just long trails through the woods. And you would never think that anything had happened there, you would think he was just boring. But it turns out that people have hundreds of people have worked there, and slaved away there have died there
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are buried there. At one time, which I will get into Newcastle Island was actually one of the busiest industrial areas on this entire coast. And I mean, the entire coast of the Pacific, North Pacific.
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we think of Saltspring Island as being
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it's close to Victoria one of the earlier places in BC to develop. But in Saltspring in the 1860s Let's say you would have found
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I don't know 50 or 60, tiny homesteads, perhaps scattered through the bush on New Castle Island. You had industry
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in the 1960s in the 1860s. And literally hundreds of people working there.
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And the let me just start though with the ghost. So there was one particular interesting story in the 1860s.
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That sort of ties into Saltspring. I think most of you have heard of the Canac as the Hawaiian settlers who came to Salt Spring Island. Well, one of the connectors named Peter Kokua was a worker on the Nanaimo waterfront in the 1860s. Somehow he ended up there are various accounts one account says that he was working for a sawmill. I'm not sure I believe that I'm not sure there were sawmills in the 1860s. But in any case, he had come with the Hudson's Bay Company to this coast and was somehow living in Nanaimo. He was married to an Indian woman, and had a child and a mother in law. And he came home one day and found his wife, his child and his mother in law in bed with a string
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ancient Indian men.
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some say, Well, this was just an Indian custom. Well, if it was he didn't understand it and he took an axe and he hacked them all the pieces.
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He murdered them in his house, and then he fled. And he fled to New Castle Island, which was just across the water.
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Well, the authorities got out there tracking dogs. And they tracked him down to a beautiful little bay, which is one of the favorite beaches and swimming spots on Newcastle Island.
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And it said a called Connect obey.
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He was caught and put on file. And of course, he was convicted
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and hanged at a
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place called gallows point on nearby protection Island, and at the time, there was no
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cemetery. That would except Connecticut's, there was
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a white or perhaps more than one white cemetery, there was an Indian cemetery, but there was no formal cemetery for him. So they buried him, it took them back out to Newcastle Island, and buried him at this spot where he had been found on on Connect eBay. And that should have been the end of the story. But it wasn't. Because later on the place became more and more developed. It was coal mining, which I'll get into, and some of the miners. I'm not sure the circumstances whether they're just poking around, or just part of their job digging a new shaft or something. But some miners were digging around and they dug up this body.
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And at first they didn't know what to make of it. This was in the 1890s. So this whole event was already 2530 years ago,
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when they found this body. And so of course they had to examine it. The authorities were called in and they a doctor checked the body and found it had a broken neck. So they came to the conclusion they looked back and I realized it must be this poor fellow cannot compete. And so he was in rebury at the same spot, basically, but in an unmarked grave. And as the
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lady who is the Senior interpreter they have it's a wonderful thing. They have a parks interpreter, and quite nice lectures and slideshows, all sorts of programs for visitors to come there now about the history of the island. But as she told me, she loves to tell the story to kids who are camping out and she says that this Connecticut Pete still prowls around New Castle Island, because after all you would do if you're very and then dug up again and then
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ignominious and this poor fellow
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the island had gone through many, many stages, many different peoples have lived and work there. And, of course, the first one is a native Indians. Now I guess that's true, probably anywhere on this coast. But Newcastle is only 752 acres in size. It's about a
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little over a square mile,
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about a mile and a half long and something like three quarters of a mile wide, probably at its widest spot. But it actually had two full scale winter
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Coast Salish villages, two different ends of the island. Plus, on the furthest northern tip right, where the ferries go by as they entered departure Bay, there are some old burial caves.
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At the most accessible spot, where you first arrive, if you come across on the ferry, there was a major village called say Stetson. And today of course, is just a myth. But it has been dug into and
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the usual artifacts, of course have been found there, and the interpretive program. And when they do this, they bring out some of the artifacts, one that was most interesting, it was kind of a sandstone and moss. And this is interesting because Newcastle Island sandstone was one of its major resources and I'll get to that again later. But
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the this village was a winter villages very nicely located it's right on a channel between Newcastle Island and this neighboring slightly smaller protection Island. It's kind of on the inner side right on
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the harbor, facing in towards the harbor, not on the outer straight, but that narrow channel comes right through and it's a tidal channel because these islands are quite large enough that the tide really rushes through back and forth. And so it's a good fishing spot and
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in the ocean
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The Indians were able to put nets right across it, it's only about 150 yards across, or you could almost throw a rock across, it's really not very far. And they were able to string some kinds of nets awareness across and they were able to catch enormous quantities of herring
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in the winter, at this spot, which is called the gap.
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And so they use this village from about September of every year, through about April, and it had
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a permanent it had permanent long houses, in the sense that the framework for permanent but the planking was not. Now this cedar planking was very difficult to manufacture. They didn't have
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three resaw machines to cut planks or modern machinery. So they, they had to split
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their planks and perhaps add them to trim them. So making planks from eating from Cedar was very difficult. So they reused the planks. So what they did was they fastened the planks temporarily, for the winter, to these post and beam frameworks. And then in April, they took down the plank off their houses, and they move lock stock and barrel kids and everything over to Gabriel Island as the first step in their
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pursuit of food every year and
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there they was, was very similar to what happened here when the sandwich and couch and Indians used to come to Saltspring Island.
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In Fulford Harbor, for example, there was herring at certain times, but also there were there was a clams that used to come to Ganges and the clams on the beach and preserve them, dry them, bake them and dry them.
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They also came here to dig to pick berries, and to dig up Camus balls, which are the starchy roots that were their main starch except until the potato was introduced, and the potato was introduced by Europeans and then it caught on among the Indians. But until then, there was really no such no major source of starch except for these Camus roots. So the whole whole village would move over to Gabriel islands, starting in April, and that there for a few months, then they would go with apparently, most of the Coast Salish groups, they would go to the mouth of the Fraser River in the middle of the summer to
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catch the runs of sockeye and pink salmon, that were coming up into the Fraser which was another major portion of their, their year's food collection. And then they come back to Newcastle Island. At the end of the summer or early fall. In time for the chum salmon runs which came right into Nanaimo harbor. There's this one river that feeds into there. And then in the winter, the herring and that was their, their years loop cycle. So they were only on Newcastle island for the fall and winter months. But they did have this it was their winter village, it was their major winter village.
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Now things of course, began to change pretty quickly when the bird trade
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arrived with the Hudson's Bay Company. And I think it's ironic that the Indians themselves were main contributors to this change as it affected Newcastle because the next major change was the coming of coal. And it was discovered by Indians. It's not too surprising since the Indians were the ones poking around on the shores and in the woods.
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But in 1835, Indians
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clock util Indians from the northern end of Vancouver Island found coal near Port Hardy, near near Fort Rupert, which is now an Indian reserve.
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And they brought this to the attention of the Hudson's Bay Company. They slowly grew up some calls and local visa.
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And the Hudson's Bay Company at that time was getting its coal shipped from England.
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And they had, I guess this was just a standard thing. They had a regular supply of coal and they weren't that quick to exploit it. But then, as the years went by, into the 1840s, California began to grow really fast. I have some figures. I was quite shocked, but you had the California gold rush at the end of the 1840s.
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In 1848, California's population was 15,000. And by 1850 to only four
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More years later, it was 250.
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So it's an explosion of population on the coast. And the Hudson's Bay Company saw call as a separate marketable good. I mean, they needed some themselves, but also it was it was a good for trade. And
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they established fort Rupert in 1849, which is, as I say, right at the northern tip of the island near near Port Hardy.
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And they began mining coal, but it turned out to be very poor quality coal, and it really wasn't worth it.
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Meanwhile, though, that same year, just as they had gotten going in Fort Rupert, another group of Indians right in the Nanaimo area, found coal on Newcastle Island, and outcroppings on protection Island,
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perhaps on the on the Nanaimo waterfront, I'm not sure if it gets in the end, they did they get under from Nanaimo to hit these postings. But they realized that these postings went right under the harbor.
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They extended from what is today Nanaimo, all the way under the water to Newcastle Island to protection Island and all the way down in the direction of Gabriel islands. So that whole area that's Nanaimo harbor is full of coal
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under the seabed.
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And so as soon as they realized that the fort Rupert coal was not very good and not easy to get at, they started looking at Newcastle Island. And so in 1852, they began
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surface mining at 53. I believe it was a sank deck for a shaft into Newcastle Island. And the first 10 years or so that they worked on it was not very productive. It seems as though they did not really put the resources into it.
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They did go to the trouble though, of acquiring legally acquiring the mineral rights by buying some 6000 acres of land around the area of Nanaimo harbor from the Indians for 668 I believe it was their Hudson's Bay blanket so that that was the price in those days to buy the entire Nanaimo Harbour.
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Anyway, that secured the mineral mineral rights, which they did not exploit very vigorously. And so after 10 years, they sold the island, Newcastle Island, or in fact, their entire coal holdings to the
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Vancouver coal mining and land companies was in 1862.
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while they were working,
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or to work these early mines, they had to have miners. And there were some from this earlier for group in mind, they employed some Indians, but they also brought in miners from Scotland and from the north of England, specifically from Newcastle on time. And that is how the island got its name. It actually gives a case of coals to Newcastle is literally named after Newcastle and
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in the end, the new company, the Vancouver coal mine and Land Company
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went into it in a much more ambitious way. And they sank major shafts they put large investment into Newcastle Island, they built a very big dock at what is today called mitten Bay. This is actually a different isn't from the one I discussed. This is
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really well right across from the Carey terminal, a departure Bay, kind of on the northwestern end of the island, they built a big dock.
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In the end they sank three major shafts and these went down. Initially they went down about 300 350 feet into the ground and they were they were drilled and blasted. This was the main method of sinking the shaft I'm not sure if there is any other method or at least wasn't bad.
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They ultimately went down into scenes that went
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from about 100 100 meters deep to about 400 meters deep or about 1200 feet deep. That was about as deep as these tunnels went. In the end, they were about seven miles of tunnels, all under Nanaimo Harbor, working these coal seams.
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The maximum tonnage that they got out was in one year was in this period of 18 1870 was 400,000 times
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it's a pretty considerable industry for that era and think of 18 said
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and most of it was shipped to California, although some went to Alaska, Hawaii, China and Japan.
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And the at the
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at the at the Pavilion, which is on Newcastle today, which I'll talk about later. They have some wonderful displays. From the mining days, they show the miners uniforms and what they wore and it was incredibly primitive. They actually went down into these mines with little open lamps. It's like a little
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oil slipped onto their camps. And that was the extent of the light that the miners had working down 1000 feet below ground.
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They had ventilation that had some impact, one of the major
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shafts on Newcastle Island turned out to be just a ventilation funnel. In the end, it wasn't a very useful shaft, they had sunk it intending to use it as a regular shaft with a with an elevator and the cage going down. But it turns out that it was it was to expose on the it was on an exposed location on the outer side on the straight side of the island. And the ships was not a good place to load from the shore onto ships. So they actually ended up abandoning it as a working shop and use it use it as a ventilation shaft for this entire network of mines, which in the end, connected up right to downtown Nanaimo. So even today, if you were allowed to, you could walk right through from under Newcastle Island, right to downtown Nanaimo. It's still there. sealed up now because mining ended in about the very last bit was I think 1968 There was still a tiny bit of mining until that year, but most of it ended in about the 1920s. And on Newcastle, it ended around 1903. Because the it was easier and more efficient to get to some of these same scenes from an animal side.
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Now, during this whole time period, I mentioned these dogs, fish oil lamps that was
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to me, this makes even greater impression. sensing how primitive it was, the heavy work underground, was done by horses, and shuttling ponies and mules
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and these poor animals lived out their entire lives underground. They never came up. They slept in stables underground, they were down there 1000 feet. That's where they live. And the mules apparently,
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were fed chewing tobacco.
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And they became addicted to it.
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They wouldn't start work in the morning when the shift arrived, until they had gotten there to have tobacco. And then if the miners
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didn't treat them well, or if they were in a bad mood, they would either kick, they could kick a miner or they would spit back with us
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onto apparently they were very difficult to deal with.
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And that's how most of the heavy work was done in the mind. Although the the actual cages I think were steam powered.
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The conditions were so bad that cave in. And explosions and fires were almost routine. I mean, to read through these literature's every year there's deaths and the worst ones. In
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1887 there was a fire and an explosion in the main mine under the harbor, which as I say goes all the way. Under from Nanaimo to Newcastle, in which 148 members
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and your 48 men the entire shift
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that we're working at mine, except for a few people were killed in this one fire and explosion. The next year 77 died in a similar event.
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And it just goes on around these tunnels collapse. It was very poor conditions.
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reminds me of what you hear about South Africa today.
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The investment was minimal life was cheap, and that's the way it was and that was that was the mining London New Castle and I think we should probably be glad that it's over
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next industry and the next really major one that developed was the sandstone flooring I mentioned the sandstone have more well turns out that Newcastle has some of the finest sandstone anywhere really, really perfect sandstone, long beds of it. The critical thing seems to be from what I've
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I heard and from the descriptions there in the displays, that it should not have any flaws. It says even the tiniest crack that spoils it. But apparently these cracks can be seen at the surface. So they, they scraped away the surface. And today you can go to where the quarry was, it's pretty well blasted out. Most of it, most of the good stuff was used, but you can still see the stones. And they cleared away the surface. And then they would cut down into the sandstone. Again, drilling, they would drill holes, filled them with powder, and set electrical charges that were already using that method at the time. Lighting, imagine running, they were using electrical charges of some kind, I assume set off by a battery. And all these explosions would go off at once and they break out an entire enormous chunk, they could break out a column of sandstone 100 feet long.
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And if they were lucky, it was perfect. And
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the way this got discovered, the sandstone was discovered actually in the course of mining because they were stripping away the surface. And Julian's they knew the sandstone was there. But the way it got exploited was it in 1869.
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I mentioned California already the growth of California while they had been the gold rush. In 1869, they began to build the San Francisco,
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which is a classical building was, I think, Doric huge fluted columns of some kind.
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They needed really fine sand stones somewhere on the West Coast, make those columns and the rest of the building.
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But the columns were really the interesting part because they were so enormous, they had to be absolutely perfect, and they had to be 30 feet long. And about four feet by four feet, roughly cut and then they were trimmed down from that. And they searched all over. Newcastle was the place it was the only place that they could find that had this perfect sandstone. So a company was formed
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to exploit it. And a contract was signed a five year contract to bring out something like 8000 tons of sand stones from this one single Ferrari.
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And so the company brought in
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a spin Derrick was 50 tons capacity. I think it's a pretty large machine for that era, and put in a huge war because they had to be able to get in large ships and they had to be able to load these columns of stones directly onto these ships. To put in a very large work again, this is really the same area right across on departure Bay right across from the Nymo.
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In 1870, the first schooner with
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arrived in San Francisco, and it's a wonderful description of him going to work on the stonemasons. It took some something like two months to carve each and each one of these columns of Newcastle stone a
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couple of years later, one of the later shipments wasn't quite so lucky. An American ship called Zephyr was carrying a load of Newcastle stone, not far from here it went. In the winter it was lost in a snowstorm off of main island and wandered or drifted onto the rocks and
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got hauled and sank and the captain one other crew member died and Newcastle sandstone went to the bottom with the ship probably made the ship go down pretty quick. I would say.
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There's a few other major buildings that you might want to know about that were built with the stone, the BC penitentiary in New Westminster,
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the Esquimalt graving dock in Victoria and the Lord Nelson school in Vancouver fish anyone with their
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record as a PC pen
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this stone was mine was quarried over a period of about 40 years.
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from the records that I saw there was up to 300 people working in it when they were working on a big project and then it would shut down for years at a time when there were no orders for the stone and they'd hired people now most of these people didn't really live their lives in an iPhone, they came across by boat, it's very, very close, even in a rowboat, nothing to go across that channel
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today, and the stone was still being taken out though. As late as the 1920s after it cut all this stone. Some of it got left behind and so they were still chipping out blocks even though New Stone was taken after about 1910 being
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is being quarried, there was a lot of stone there and they, they were shipping it out and it was actually used in Vancouver harbour as the anchorage for big mooring buoys for large ships
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sank these enormous rocks and stone and I guess put a chain onto it. That was the mooring buoy for ocean going ships. Now, the same sense, of course, can be used for other things. And that's the next major industry on the island, which is
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Pope's though now, I had never even heard about a pop stone and I didn't know anything about it. But it turns out that in that time, I'm not sure how it's done today. But pulp and paper mills
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took logs and reduced them to pure wood fiber very fine wood fiber by forcing them against
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the picture your ordinary grinding wheel where you might grind a chisel or an axe, a giant grinding wheel of sandstone. And you have logs being pressed forced against this by hydraulic pressure huge logs. It grinds it into woodpile to be used for pulp and paper. And this same sense though it was perfect for that, at least some of it was dependent on whether it had any cracks in it. And so from 1923 to 1932.
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They were cutting these cylinders, they look like
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wheels, picture wheels, about five feet by five feet, about equally large in width as they are in diameter. That's that's what they look like. And they have, they have a hole in the middle for a shaft, which was cut out later. But they basically cut into the ground with a machine that looks like a giant tin can powered by a gasoline engine. By that time they're using gasoline engine heads on a sort of
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a framework or a
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rack of some kind. And it's it's forced down into the ground as it turns, it begins to cart. And then as they as soon as they have the group,
Unknown Speaker 32:15
they clear a spot in the INS on the sandstone bed. And the foreman apparently looks to see make sure there's no cracks visible. And then they set this machine up, they start to cut. And as as it revolves, and a groove finally formed, they put steel split sharp, sharp, sharp and little bits of steel into this crack. And they start flushing water into it a constant stream of water. And it's actually the split shot that does most of the cutting rather than the the actual metal cylinder, the cutting tool, and it goes around and around and around and keep working on it takes about three hours for this cut to be made down into the ground about five feet or a little more than five feet. And then they drilled holes, or I think really just one hole from the side at an angle and ended down to the base. Again, they put in the powder, black powder and set up a charge and blast out the bottom of this, this wheel of stone. And if they were lucky,
Unknown Speaker 33:24
they would get an intact wheel of stone that they would list out with a crane and then trim off and they had a they had a lot more there than just this one machine. They had a lathe
Unknown Speaker 33:36
trimming bad and they had these things weigh two tons each. So they also had to have a little railway down to the war that they could put these on, they put this on some kind of a call. It would go down along the track to be loaded onto ships.
Unknown Speaker 33:52
And this went on for about 10 years
Unknown Speaker 33:56
employing approximately 10 men now I spoke right and speak to him. Yeah, I have to speak to him. I have the manuscript from one of the men he still lives in in Nanaimo area. And he wrote, as we do here with the with the tapes in the archive,
Unknown Speaker 34:14
either wrote or recorded this manuscript which I got a copy of the park, and he describes working in this pub stone quarry now, today, it looks very nice. So it's kind of strange places. They have all these cylindrical holes in the ground, and they both filled in with water force.
Unknown Speaker 34:36
When it rains, they fill up and then Algae grows. So there's the soupy green holes in the ground.
Unknown Speaker 34:43
Unknown Speaker 34:45
to him, it was a nightmare. He was a young guy. He was working there swinging a sledgehammer helping the drillers and he said that they would be working down in the ground as they work down the game deeper and deeper. He says you know you're it's right
Unknown Speaker 35:00
On the Waterfront practically, but it was down in the ground where there was no breeze. And he said it was just so hot, so terrible that he resolved himself that he had to do this the rest of his life, you'd rather kill himself
Unknown Speaker 35:12
because it's in his manuscript. The other interesting thing that he said was that the acquiree boss
Unknown Speaker 35:21
that they had was, was such an expert on reading the stone, he said he could read, he could read sandstone, like a book, he could just go and say, No, there's a flaw there, that doesn't look right to me, if we sink a hole, there's likely to break, we'll make the cut over here. And this guy was very selective, making a cut, they're making cut, they're keeping everybody working, clearing new areas of ground, being very selective about this. And it was very successfully almost always got out of perfect stone, sometimes it would break, but usually it was good. And with these 10 men, they would get out, on average, one stone a day. So they were able to produce a good steady rate of one stone a day. Well, this guy, this quarry boss.
Unknown Speaker 36:07
After many years of working there,
Unknown Speaker 36:10
the owners of the company asked for insisted that he and his crew work on Boxing Day. And he said, No, that is a statutory holiday, I'm not gonna work on Boxing Day.
Unknown Speaker 36:23
They fired him.
Unknown Speaker 36:25
And they brought in some other Bozo apparently didn't know what he was doing a new boss who was trying to supposedly reform the whole operation and speed it up and get these guys really working here, this fellow is being casual, making only one getting out only one stone a day, they bring in this other fellow, he tries to get out three stones a day, getting everybody to work fast. And he's cutting in all the places in between where there's other first quarry boss had less spaces. He says I'd set the machine up here, out here. And after a month, he only had three stones that were useful. And the rest were all they cracked, at least big crack when they put when they put the blast. And they put the charts and powder charts in and they would crack. And so they went down. They went to this guy and said, come back to work. And he said, you'll have to get down on your hands and knees to ask him. According to the solid writing the manuscript, they literally went down on their hands and knees and asked him, you know,
Unknown Speaker 37:34
this was just 1932. And the, at that time, if you go to the island, you'll see the pulse stones firing is so close to the next major development on the island, which is the Canadian Pacific Railway came in with their civilians, and a pleasure resorts that you can see they wouldn't want to have a quarry there. They had brought the island in 1931. So I believe that's the main reasons for the closing of the quarry. They simply couldn't work
Unknown Speaker 38:04
where the CPR was.
Unknown Speaker 38:07
And we've worked together have to go back a little bit.
Unknown Speaker 38:11
There was one more important group of people who worked on the island, and they kind of spans the history of the postal inquiry, and this is
Unknown Speaker 38:20
Unknown Speaker 38:24
fishermen who set up psalteries on Newcastle. Now, I looked back in the records and I had read, I knew that the Japanese had a very strong position on the coast in fishing. I didn't realize quite how amazing it was, as of 1901 already.
Unknown Speaker 38:45
When they went over to New Castle, it was already 1911. But in 1901, the Japanese Canadians were 2.6% of the population of BC as a whole had 41% of all fishing licenses. And in Nanaimo alone, there were 43 family carrying psalteries each one a major operation so that gives you an idea how large a group they were. And of course here too and in Steve's Nanaimo was one of their main places for the Japanese Canadian fishing fleet.
Unknown Speaker 39:21
As I say, in 1911, the first psalteries were built over on Newcastle. And the description that I have of them is very, very much shacks, open, shed very primitive kind of structures, and it was not a year round community by any means. And most of them did not have to live over there. As I said, we're so close to the Nymo. Most of them lived in the Nymo and came over to work. Some of the fishermen themselves, lived on their boats
Unknown Speaker 39:50
slipped on their boats most of the time, at least during the fishing season.
Unknown Speaker 39:54
Probably never went home.
Unknown Speaker 39:57
And so it was a
Unknown Speaker 40:00
seasonal community except that one of the families, one of these three families also
Unknown Speaker 40:08
built a boat building yard on New Castle. And they, it was quite a sizable operation, they actually built large wooden seine boats. And these were up to about 60 feet. So they're approximately as big as the fishing boats today, and some of them are still afloat. For instance, one thought I talked to you said, oh, yeah, some of those boats, you still see them once in a while, you know, there are some, they were well built. And they did have, they didn't have hydro, but they had their own generators over there.
Unknown Speaker 40:42
They at first didn't have a telephone and there was one fellow
Unknown Speaker 40:47
who I spoke to him on the phone, he used to go over on in a rowboat to deliver telegrams to one of these psalteries. But then, sometime in the 1920s, they put in a telephone line. So this operation was going on for all these years.
Unknown Speaker 41:04
There was also according to one informants, and this is interesting in terms of research,
Unknown Speaker 41:09
disagreements between people who claim to be eyewitnesses, there's just disagreement as to how many there were. Now maybe they're talking about different times. And there were fires in some of these places burned down and were rebuilt. And I was surprised to find that there was no agreement on how many actual business operations there were over there.
Unknown Speaker 41:31
One, one fellow a jack, one of the Japanese told me that there was also a Chinese own psaltery on Newcastle. So there may have been four there may have been five because there was also a salmon psaltery.
Unknown Speaker 41:47
What they used to do with the haircut, the main thing were was Harry.
Unknown Speaker 41:52
They would bring in the herring. Now this was mainly in the winter months, they would bring in the herring. And these guys would have to haul it up from the scows up onto the dock into these sheds. They'd be assaulted in a very heavy brine, and drained and then packed into boxes that held for crates that held 500 pounds
Unknown Speaker 42:16
are carrying each.
Unknown Speaker 42:19
And it was almost all going to Japan and China in fact, more to China's been to Japan but the salted fish was actually quite a big industry. Let me see if I have the figures here.
Unknown Speaker 42:31
But in it was something like 50,000 tonnes of herring were being exported per year in British Columbia, to China in Japan so it's really quite a large industry. And a bit of it you know, quite a quite a major portion was was focused right here on Newcastle Island.
Unknown Speaker 42:51
I spoke to Takeshi who Yama is one of the Japanese fishermen. And he worked in one of the psalteries when he was a teenager. And he described the conditions to me that
Unknown Speaker 43:07
he slept in a bunk house. He did stay over there.
Unknown Speaker 43:12
There were about 30 or 35 men working in his psaltery.
Unknown Speaker 43:18
He got $30 A month,
Unknown Speaker 43:21
plus room and board. And when the herring came in, they'd work until it was finished, as was working day and night. Sometimes they use the fish on at night. And they'd bring in the herring he said sometimes they bring in 100 tons of hurry.
Unknown Speaker 43:37
Several boats would come in, they'd be 100 tons of herring and all these guys would work literally day and night around the clock because it would spoil to get it salted.
Unknown Speaker 43:47
And I was interested to hear that even in those days.
Unknown Speaker 43:51
They did have fisheries inspection. And they'd have those the Biological Station in Nanaimo. It was already there and they had inspectors would come over to make sure that the herring was being assaulted just right, and apparently, if it was assaulted,
Unknown Speaker 44:08
not quite enough. It might spoil in transit to Asia. And if it was salted too much, then the price wasn't good. It was not considered acceptable. Perhaps it was even inedible.
Unknown Speaker 44:21
This guy who Yama
Unknown Speaker 44:25
later became a fisherman and fish buyer himself. When he worked on New Castle, he was just a teenager that he ended up
Unknown Speaker 44:34
Unknown Speaker 44:37
by the early 1940s. He owned three boats. He was a successful fish buyer. And then of course, Pearl Harbor came and the Japanese were all in turn. The boats were all impounded and auctioned off. They were they were ordered to bring their boats to Steve
Unknown Speaker 44:58
and this guy who Yama actually
Unknown Speaker 45:00
He went back to Japan for the war because he was so a fairly young guy and his father,
Unknown Speaker 45:06
who was still the elder and I suppose the force in the family said
Unknown Speaker 45:12
that he had been a fisherman all his life, he was not about to become a farmer. And they actually had the choice of going east of the Rockies, or going back to Japan. The father had been born in Japan. The fellows I spoke to his son had been born in Canada. But they went back to Japan.
Unknown Speaker 45:31
He came back himself, in 1955, went right back into fishing, ended up being a fairly successful fisherman. And he's now I think, 73 and retired the lacs about it.
Unknown Speaker 45:45
As for Newcastle Island, settlements, it was just knocked down eventually, probably by the Canadian Pacific, nobody could tell me whether it was burned down. A
Unknown Speaker 45:55
few people said they think it was just knocked down as an eyesore, because by that time, the Canadian Pacific on the island and was had tours going around. And here were all these old shacks along the shore. They were just knocked down. And so that's the end of the Japanese settlements. But it was it was kind of ironic when I was there. This summer.
Unknown Speaker 46:20
There were all these Japanese teenagers kicking soccer balls around on the field and having a great time. And they were, I asked them, it turned out they were visiting from Japan to study English here for the summer. They were at Malleus been at college. And I wonder if they even know,
Unknown Speaker 46:37
you know, they went into the pavilion and looked around, they would know maybe somebody could tell them. When did they even know that this was at one time was a sizable population of Japanese working.
Unknown Speaker 46:51
There I mentioned the CPR already. Now if you go there today, you see this as you get this very, there's this
Unknown Speaker 47:01
Unknown Speaker 47:06
right, where the ferry arrives in the center of the park.
Unknown Speaker 47:11
Lovely old pavilion. It's about
Unknown Speaker 47:16
it's about 140 feet long.
Unknown Speaker 47:19
It has a dance floor. It was built as a dance pavilion. It has a basketball 40 by 80 feet,
Unknown Speaker 47:28
considerably larger than this.
Unknown Speaker 47:32
Unknown Speaker 47:34
it was built as an outing. spotter destination for CPR ships. Now, at that time, the CPR was already serving. Nanaimo with the princess ships.
Unknown Speaker 47:48
Like the princess Marguerite, I guess is one of them. But
Unknown Speaker 47:53
I've heard various Princess Patricia there's a whole list of Princess ships with the with the CPR ships. There were also the lady ships. Now these were the union Steamship Company that the competing company and union steamship already had
Unknown Speaker 48:09
a place similar to Newcastle island on Bowen Island. So if you live in Vancouver, you could hop onto a steamer in the early evening and go for a moonlight cruise to Bowen Island, or to Newcastle Island, and when you got there, there would be a place to dance. It would be a big band playing at least on weekends in the summer.
Unknown Speaker 48:31
I try to picture this New Castle Island pavilion as a beautiful thing with
Unknown Speaker 48:35
shuttered size so on a on a warm evening. They could just open the sides of the entire building. And we're just open to the air and had a big veranda, a lot of overhangs so if it happened to be raining, you could sit outside without getting wet.
Unknown Speaker 48:53
And CPR developed this as a major pleasure resort. And as a way to get people to use their ships.
Unknown Speaker 49:02
They put in a bathhouse or beautiful beaches for swimming. They had a wading pool, a shallow pool that's not part of the ocean. It's
Unknown Speaker 49:13
sort of up on the lawn that warms up I assume that this is the reason it warms up in the sun a bit more than the ocean.
Unknown Speaker 49:21
It was a tea house and it was a restaurant with veranda restaurants and just to secure I shall read a few prices ago here. Sirloin steak was 50 cents.
Unknown Speaker 49:32
A shrimp cocktail was plenty.
Unknown Speaker 49:38
beverages are ridiculously expensive a pot of coffee with
Unknown Speaker 49:42
relationships and better bread, butter tea, coffee or milk are served with all orders amounting to 50 cents or over
Unknown Speaker 49:51
50 cents was the standard idea of what what what a meal costs in this restaurant.
Unknown Speaker 49:58
Unknown Speaker 50:00
We know they didn't build any hotels on the island, although they had a nice little caretakers house. But what they did was they they dock some of their older ships that I suppose were fuel inefficient or in some other ways, not good for anything else. One of them was called the charmer. And the other was often called the
Unknown Speaker 50:27
I think it was Princess.
Unknown Speaker 50:30
Princess Victoria, I think it was.
Unknown Speaker 50:34
But it was also used up there.
Unknown Speaker 50:38
They use these as hotel chips. So they had they had the chips that actually made the run back and forth from downtown Nanaimo, downtown Vancouver. But in addition, they burst one or two at different times of these older ships, as hotels. And they charge 750 a week for a cabin on one of these hotels, hotel ships, not including meals, and then you could eat at this veranda restaurant. And it sounds very civilized. They had lanterns going up from the dock to the pavilion, so at night, it was extremely romantic. And
Unknown Speaker 51:18
companies would book these ships
Unknown Speaker 51:22
for their annual picnic.
Unknown Speaker 51:26
It was also a tradition from Nanaimo. Nanaimo had always had a special relationship with Newcastle because it's so close. It's a long tradition that the mind the miners union always held their annual picnics on Newcastle. And today the IWA holds picnics over on Newcastle. In fact, lots of schools now do and school reunions and lodges they all hold they're there. If you're in Nanaimo, it's the ideal place to go. But from Vancouver, you could go on one of these Princess ships for $1.50 round trip, two and a quarter hours, which is not too much slower than it was today. I suppose this is going from downtown. This is not the Horseshoe Bay.
Unknown Speaker 52:10
From Burrard Inlet
Unknown Speaker 52:12
took two and a quarter hours to get over
Unknown Speaker 52:15
the date. The day trippers a day cruises were usually things like company picnics, and they would carry as many as 1500 people. I spoke to a lady who worked at this restaurant. At the pavilion, she said it was just crazy when the ships would come in just before lunch. Suddenly, you'd have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people swarming ashore. But they had beautiful grounds. And they still do nice lawns and nice beaches. And the people would start lining up, they sell hundreds and hundreds of box lunches. People go out to take them under the trees and sit on the lawn as their box lunches. Or the moonlight cruises with something else. They'd have an orchestra even on the ship coming over, so people would get on board in Vancouver and it was a floating party all the way
Unknown Speaker 53:06
through the party atmosphere all the way over to New Castle. And then they'd have a big band playing.
Unknown Speaker 53:13
As I say that the lanterns for this sort of romantic atmosphere up from from the war to the pavilion.
Unknown Speaker 53:20
It has a big band.
Unknown Speaker 53:23
Lots of nice quiet trails to stroll around in in the dark.
Unknown Speaker 53:28
That day was very well, well kept very trim. It looks that way today. And when I went to visit this summer, I ran into a couple of women who were
Unknown Speaker 53:38
just 65 and one of them was 65 and 66.
Unknown Speaker 53:43
They had worked
Unknown Speaker 53:47
for a plywood company. They were there were these these women were best pals. They've been friends all their lives. They stood for each other at their weddings,
Unknown Speaker 53:56
such as how close they were and now they're having a day on Newcastle well, they had worked at a plywood company in New Westminster. That was this is 1940 That was building or making plywood for the mosquito bombers. The war had already started. They were working in wartime industry. And their company, as I guess most companies did, held the annual picnic. And that's how they first came to New Castle
Unknown Speaker 54:24
on the day, on this day trips, on the ships.
Unknown Speaker 54:31
To them it was just such a wonderful place that they were both engaged. Each of them had a sweetheart and they went into great detail, telling me about their sweethearts. When they both later married, they stood for each other's weddings. And they're still married to today. And this was the height of their memories of
Unknown Speaker 54:52
those years. They were in their early 20s. And so in addition to going on these day trips, they went on these new night crew
Unknown Speaker 55:00
Unknown Speaker 55:03
sweethearts to hear the big band sounds, to dance to scream music. And as I said, they're men had to go off to war. Within a year or so.
Unknown Speaker 55:16
They said we had Stars In Our Eyes. The war hung over us. Stars In Our Eyes. I'm putting an article.
Unknown Speaker 55:23
Unknown Speaker 55:25
One of them now lives in Nanaimo. And she comes back because it has now been restored the the pavilion, which was then allowed to language eventually, the war came the shortages forced to CPR to take these ships off this run.
Unknown Speaker 55:45
By about 1942, it was over. The people from Nanaimo could still go over there. And there was a limited amount of that the the heavy day tripping from Vancouver ended about 1942. And it had been a losing proposition. In fact, the CPR had not made money in the later 30s on it anyway.
Unknown Speaker 56:07
So it was never revived. And in 1955, the car sold the island to the city of Nanaimo, which intended to make it into a city park, and soon found that it was just too expensive to maintain the staff and salaries and all keeping everything clear, keeping the trails clear. And so 1961 They turned it over to the province for $1. And it's been a Provincial Park ever since. But when I first went there, 10 years ago, I was sailing
Unknown Speaker 56:42
a boat, I was sailing up the coast and stopped in at Newcastle, which I knew was a place a provincial park without an anchor. And I remember going ashore and seeing this old civilian, it was all boarded up and looking really terrible. And it just didn't look very inviting. And the whole place was a nice place to anchor but it didn't seem that there was anything there really to do. And I just failed on the next day.
Unknown Speaker 57:07
Now I went back, and there was this beautifully restored pavilion, they'd spent $250,000. To restore it. There's now a nonprofit organization two pavilions, Newcastle Island Company and society based in the Nymo that runs it.
Unknown Speaker 57:23
There's a little restaurants
Unknown Speaker 57:26
not not a swanky white tablecloth restaurant, like the one I described there
Unknown Speaker 57:32
with their menu, but they have they do have a restaurant or food concession. There are salmon barbecue pits. And basically, it's back to being
Unknown Speaker 57:42
a nice place for groups and large groups in the name of
Unknown Speaker 57:46
disability and I'm over there. And the best thing of all, is they've gotten back to big
Unknown Speaker 57:53
they actually have one bandleader named Dell Richards does anybody anyway ever
Unknown Speaker 58:01
played there in 1939. And now we played there again this summer.
Unknown Speaker 58:07
And this one, this one woman
Unknown Speaker 58:10
that I spoke to says, she goes over there all the time, with her husband to dance, and they still like to go to Newcastle Island,
Unknown Speaker 58:19
to dance in the old pavilion, and they can actually dance one of the same bands for the band to the right.
Unknown Speaker 58:25
People in the band are still there, but they can actually dance down against the big bands. And so I call this the ghost of Newcastle and it sounds that the early history was rather grim and a lot of work. But I think that the latter part was pretty romantic. And when these people go back, it's very special place to them. Anyway, I think any of you want to go there, it's an easy trip. And I seriously recommend it. It's a fun place.