Turning Back the Pages: Golden was a town of drinkers, but no worse than others

By Colleen Palumbo

On January 16, 1965, an article appeared in The Golden Star titled “Senior Citizens Golden and District.”

The column was the result of an interview of Golden local George Love. We have very few recorded histories of the people who came before the 1900’s and while it’s a bit disjointed and not terribly smooth reading, it does give us a rare look at the first settlers.

“George Love has been a resident of Golden since 1889 when his father came out to this province. They lived on the farm now owned by Tommy King (present day King’s Trailer Park area) and Mr. Love spent all his life here, except for eight years. He also went to school with Maggie Gould, the first white child born here.

“The family moved from Ontario where Mr. Love eventually returned for two years.

“‘We used to travel down to Buffalo and across to Detroit quite frequently and when we went we rode on the T. H. and B. Railroad which was an American company using CPR tracks. We called it the “To Hell and Back’,’ Mr. Love said.

“Mr. Love later spent six years in Saskatchewan before returning to Golden.

“‘Sometimes there was as much as four feet of snow in Golden and it even went down to 55 degrees below zero in 1910-1911. I worked for three stores here; for the Columbia River Lumber Co. in their mill and for Columbia Wine and Spirits,’ he continued.

“‘When they had that big side that wiped out Rogers Pass, there were three boxcar loads of men that went down from here but in all, we dug out only eleven bodies because the snow was so deep.’

“‘When I worked for the Columbia River Lumber Company, it was our job to keep the river open for the sternwheelers travelling up and down it. We had to cut brush from the bank, haul logs out of the river, and build dams to make sure the boats wouldn’t get stuck,’ Mr. Love said.

“‘In those days, no one locked their shacks so that anyone who wanted to could use the place in an emergency. The only law of this ‘code of the north’ was that everything be left as it was and God help the man who was caught stealing. But a traveller could have a meal and use the bed.

“‘I remember at one time there was a log shack right here in town that someone who had got himself ‘quite high’ decided to take a nap in. He crawled into the top bunk and went to sleep. It wasn’t long before a trapper called Cinnamon Bill came home and found this drunk sleeping in his bunk. Bill took his shotgun and blasted it off right near the other man’s ear and even tore a great hunk of dirt out of the ceiling. I guess the intruder sobered up pretty quickly.’

“Mr. Love also recalled an old-time Goldenite recently featured in the magazine B.C. Digest, Sheriff Redgrave.

“‘If the Sheriff saw men lying around the street too drunk to walk by themselves, he would pick them up, put them in a wheelbarrow and cart them off to jail. I remember seeing him do that many a time, especially from the old Columbia Hotel and the other hotels in town. He’d keep them overnight to sober up and then let them go again.’

“‘Every fall we would take enough whiskey down the river to last the town until spring. That would be quite a trip since the men would take off one of the hoops on the barrels, siphon out several gallons of whiskey, and then put the hoop back on so no one could tell there was a hole. They had a glorious time, but otherwise getting that old boat down the river without getting stuck was a hard job.’

“Life on the regular job had its lighter moments too because ‘the clerks would be hardly able to stand up after they got off work so they often gave their keys to me. I could invite whoever I wanted down to the cellar and I got quite a few people tight, even the preacher, who was a great drinker.’”

But, according to Mr. Love, Golden was no better or worse a town than any other in those days.

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