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Home Road Trip Vernon historian heads back in time with a family road trip from the late 1950s – Vernon News

Vernon historian heads back in time with a family road trip from the late 1950s – Vernon News

by Staff

Todays blast from the past is a 1958 road trip from Barkerville to the Okanagan.

Vernon historian and videographer Francois Arseneault has unearthed footage of a family vacation captured on film.

“Today, we’re taking a road-trip to Barkerville, the Williams Lake Stampede and boating on Okanagan Lake with mom and dad. It’s 1958 and BC’s centennial year, Princess Margerat will be visiting the province and opening the floating bridge in Kelowna. WAC Bennet is just a few years into his 20-year tenure as premier of the province, during which British Columbia will experience unprecedented growth and prosperity and the provincial population had just cracked 1.5 million people,” said Arseneault.

As provincial Minister of Highways, ‘Flying’ Phil Galardi was kept busy by the rapid expansion of the province’s paved road system and the completion of most of major road bridges in British Columbia that Bennett described as “the greatest highway building program per capita in the entire Western world.”

“Foster Dennison, his wife and three boys are on a 1,000-mile journey through the Interior of BC with the first stop at the Hell’s Gate to take a look at the fish ladders and turbulent waters of the mighty Fraser river,” said Arseneault, adding driving the Fraser Canyon was still a challenge in 1958, but the construction of paved highways was making progress.

“Motels with colourful names were popular and springing up along the well-traveled routes.”

Founded in 1862, Barkerville is located on the western edge of the Cariboo Mountains in British Columbia.

It was named after Billy Barker who hailed from Cambridgeshire, Eng., and was among the first to strike gold in the area in 1862.

Barkerville was built up almost overnight and was a case of “growth via word of mouth.” It grew as fast as the word of Barker’s strike spread.

His claim would eventually yield 37,500 ounces of gold, making it the richest and most famous claim of the era.

“At first, the town consisted only of makeshift cabins and tents. By the mid-1860s, however, Barkerville and the surrounding area had a population estimated between 3000 and 5000 people. Its growth was rapid and brief,” Arseneault said.

Barkerville’s population was declining by the end of the 19th century, and it eventually had only a few residents. It had a revival in the 1930s, when the Great Depression caused widespread unemployment, and the price of gold skyrocketed.

But as the depression turned for the better, Barkerville declined to a small village.

In January 1959, Barkerville Historic Park was established with an initial area of 160 acres. Today, it’s a living museum and tourist destination, in 1958, it was almost forgotten.

“The Williams Lake Stampede was the next stop for the Dennison family, showcasing exciting rodeo action that demonstrated the skills needed by working cowboys on the many nearby ranches,” Arseneault said.

“A brief stop overlooking Kamloops and then a peek at Pillar rock. The final leg of the trip was back down to the Okanagan and cruising on the lake. There’s nothing quite like a summer in BC.

“A special thank you to Jim Dennison for sharing these wonderful reels.”

Arseneault is always looking for more information on the vintage footage he digs up, and he encourages people to add their input in the comments section on his Youtube page.

Arseneault has an extensive collection of vintage footage, and he is looking for more.

Anyone who may have old 16 mm or 8 mm film footage of the Vernon and Okanagan area is invited to email Arseneault at [email protected].

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