Mel and Sharon Hynes are well known in the Columbia Valley as musicians who tell the stories of the past as the duo Kootenay Legends.
The history of Mel’s family in the area goes back to when his grandfather came Golden from Ontario around 1900.
“They came to Golden first and after a while they got a piece of property from the government in Harrogate. Our family has owned the land ever since,” Mel said.
Mel was born in Invermere and has been living on the family land since he was born.
“It was really good in those days. There were no televisions or phones. When we went out to do something as kids, we had to make our own enjoyment.”
One of the things he used to enjoy doing with his family was walking to the lakes in the mountains.
“My mom and dad would take us to the lakes to go fishing. We were just little fellows then,” he said.
Mel went to school in Harrogate before moving to Parson. Eventually he would come all the way to Golden where he graduated high school.
The rides back and forth to Golden were interesting experiences for Mel.
“It was rough. It was all gravel roads then and they were all rough,” he said.
He would also get to Golden by jumping on the trains with his mother in Harrogate.
“It was even rougher. The old tracks were sitting on mud. When the train went by it was just rocking and rolling like a horse,” he said.
As performers, the pair sing a song called the Kootenay Cannonball that is about the ride on the train.
“Someone wrote the song more than fifty years ago. When we play it at places like Durand Manor some of the people come up and say they remember riding the train. They also remember getting bumped off the seats and on to the floor,” Sharon said.
When Mel started coming to Golden he would spend part of his trip at the local grocery store.
“Golden was very small. It had a couple of hotels and beer parlours. We used to get our groceries at Kings Grocery Store. Thomas King had it and he was a wonderful guy,” Mel said.
He remembered there were many times while waiting at the store, King would let him and other children play games together in the corner while they were waiting for their parents.
When Mel was old enough to work he started with CPR in 1952 and made 92 cents an hour.
“It was the only money to make then. Then the sawmill started in Parson and a lot of us left to work for them for $1.25 an hour. So we were really making money then.”
Sharon was born in Marpole, B.C. and moved to Barkerville in 1952 before she met Mel.
“He was in the caribou for a few years and I used to cook at his camp. I met Mel when he was the foreman of his own fire crew. We met again in 1997 and in 1999 I moved down here with him,” she said.
Music has been a major part of their lives and Mel has been performing since the 1950s in the valley.
“We had a band called The Whirlwinds with my friends. We played into the late 1960s. It was really good. People would dance in those days,” Mel said
“Dancing was different in those days. When someone would play, man would we dance. We would dance polkas and waltzes and square dancing. In the fifties their was jiving,” Sharon said.
Mel added that back in the day they would rent a hall so they could take kids in to learn how to dance.
Even though the dancing has changed the pair still enjoys getting out in the valley and playing music for people.
“We love it. When the little ones come along and dance, it makes it more fun than just playing the music. When they enjoy what we do then we enjoy it more,” Sharon said.
“They tell the stories and history of the people in the area. When we released the album The Yellow Monster, which is mostly about logging, we got a letter asking for our music,” Sharon said.
The Kootenay Legends music is now a part of the Library and Archives Canada.