Turning Back the Pages: A reflection of Donald’s heyday

Anecdotes of Donald by George Love

This little ditty comes from the first Golden Memories book. Printed in 1958, this book contains a great deal of little bits of information that has not been used in other Golden Memories books. The museum has several copies that it would be happy to loan.

Snuggled reflectively in his favourite armchair, Mr. George Love gently tugged a cigarette paper from a yellow packet and reminisced. At the kitchen table opposite his affable wife, now working, now pausing, listening inquiringly as he talked.

Yes sir, the heyday of the town of Donald has been a short one, spectacular too, like spring storms which argue their way down the Columbia Valley Trench from time to time. The place had been built in the year 1885 when the Canadian Pacific contractors were, in poet E.J. Pratt’s words, “Making a hundred clean Caesarian cuts and bringing to delivery in their time their smoky, lusty-screaming locomotives.”

So Donald was built with all the brusqueness and extravagance which characterized the growth of the railroad. The town, it was decided, would be the divisional headquarters of the Canadian Pacific Railway; but soon it became a lively business and governmental center as well, for it was one of the few population centers in British Columbia’s spacious hinterland.

Soon the town grew until it contained, probably, a thousand souls. Alas, another of the depressions which had been seizing the country from time to time impelled the Canadian Pacific management to tighten its belt in the early 1890’s. The divisional headquarters of the railroad was transferred to Revelstoke, B.C. and most of Donald vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Household belongings, homes, stores and even the Oddfellow’s Hall were loaded on to flatcars and carried off.

Some people journeyed to Field, many, to Revelstoke, and a number, to Vancouver. And a few moved several miles south to a sprawling, brawling community called Golden.

In a mildly apologetic voice Mr. Love observed that he’s been born too late to remember much about Donald. His uncle, Mr. Ruttan, had kept a busy little general store there. George recalls how someone built a toboggan slide on trestle work right through the centre of town. On this the dauntless locals could be sure of a lightning trip – the slide was glare ice. And late in the night, sounding like the roar of a lion, the noise of the toboggans made a clear impression on the mind of a small boy, George Love.

When the town “broke,” the Love family moved south to King’s Farm (today Kicking Horse Mobile Home Park), and George attended school at the “Y” about one mile north of Golden. (About where the Petro Bulk station sits today) With fondness mingled with amusement Mr. Love recollects his first teacher, a Miss Preston, who had remained unbetrothed and unloved for obvious reasons. In 1896 the school was moved to the site of the present day courthouse(Old courthouse location), and with the arrival of a new pedagogue, J.A. Bates, the staff was increased to the impressive number of two. J.A. Bates was a zealous believer in the art of self defense; consequently he equipped himself with not only a pointer but also a strap(about the size of a boa constrictor, thinks Mr Love). This he kept ominously rolled up on his desk, humbling recalcitrant by firing the thing at them and having the young target retrieve the weapon only to have it applied in a more formal and ceremonious manner.

Golden City, or Golden, said Mr. Love provided a bluff contrast to the neatness and compactness of the community of Donald. Golden was originally a railroad construction camp and looked like one, – homes and streets were about as carefully planned as the mountains which surround the place.

Golden’s growth was somewhat similar to British Columbia’s. Like the province, the town developed slowly and spasmodically. Moreover, Golden was built up on the provincial staples, lumber and minerals. The community made its first formidable gain in population during the Klondike rush, which induced thousands to follow the trainloads of boisterous prospectors passing through the town, shouting and jeering through the plate-glass windows of Canadian Pacific cars.

But owing its life to such undependable industries as mining and lumbering, Golden saw men come and go; sometimes these men found work, sometimes, disappointment.

Golden’s wily hotel keepers soon created a measure of order and neatness out of obvious disorder and slovenliness.

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