Turning Back the Pages: Leanchoil was a busy place in the 1950s

These are the writings of John A. Anderson from the 1958 version of Golden Memories:

We’d be trained at Leanchoil and lived there in a house built of railway ties. One length of ties wide, and two length of ties long eight feet by 16 feet. My first impressions of BC were disappointing. A country without a sun, as there had been no sun from the beginning of June to September. It started in a tie pile at Kamloops, and finally burnt itself out at Morley Alberta.

My first visit was to a lumber camp was near Wapta falls, owned by W. Wells. There had my first piece of Canadian apple pie, which was delicious.

Light in the camp came from tomato cans containing leftover grease from cooking. The wick was a rag that gave a great deal of more smoke than light, these cans were fastened all along the walls of the cabin. One felt sorry for the “jacks,” in the upper bunks. From Leanchoil, we moved to Moberly which was great place of gathering for First Nations people. I have seen as many as 400 camped on the John Bergenham farm west of Moberly.

The “Stoneys” came down the Kicking Horse Pass for Moberly. The “Shuswaps” came from Windermere. They met at Moberly, held the pow-wow for a while before they left for Salmon Arm to spear salmon.

About 1889, we moved to Golden. I think that some of the tales told to me by side hillbilly Clemens are worth repeating. He had acquired one long leg, and one short one by walking on the side hills above town.

One of his stories says that a few years before our arrival the few people in town were starving, the only source of food was by way of what was then called the supply car leaving Calgary, once a month. And it generally got to Golden either a few days or a couple of weeks late. Woe to the household that ran short.

The supply car was operated by John Nolan of Calgary in connection with the CPR at this particular time. The car was very late in arriving, and the situation looked bad until someone remembered that there were 50 lbs. of flour in a miner’s cabin in the valley of the Dogtooth range. So a couple of men snowshoed up there and brought out the flour. Remains of that cabin were found in 1956 by three goat hunters.

Mr McMurdo an old prospector snowshoed from the construction camp at Beavermouth to Fort Steele and brought 100 pounds of flour on a toboggan back to Beavermouth and up to Beaver River 20 miles beyond Connaught.

On one of my school holidays, I had an exciting trip to Fort Steele, helping Charlie Nicholson freight whiskey. It was put up in 40 gallon oak barrels weighing about 400 lbs. each. We got stuck at the bottom of Sinclair Hill, and it was necessary to unload most of the barrels and roll them by hand, to the top of the hill. The round trip took almost a month.

During the flood of 1894, the track for about a quarter of a mile beyond the first tunnel east of golden was completely washed out. There was a depth of two feet of water over the rails for one and a half miles west of Golden. And for a half mile west of Moberly telephone wires were touching the water. There was a wire cable stretched from the CPR station to the Kootenay House. The station was against the hill opposite the government bridge. It costs 25 cents a boat ride to the Kootenay House. When your money was all spent there you got a free ride back.

One evening, Sheriff Redgrave gave his only prisoner the keys to lock himself up at six o’clock. The sheriff was taking a friend for a canoe ride. When he got back the prisoner had left, taking the Sheriff’s watch with him. However, he encountered the mosquitoes and the floodwaters west of Golden near the Columbia River. Next morning he and the watch were back at the jail, asking please to be allowed to spend the rest of the term away from the mosquitoes.

There were a few exciting evenings, while Kootenay Central was being built. Saturday night after payday was a real humdinger. The loggers and the construction crews of the K.C.R. would get into a fight. Then the Fraser, and McGregor bridge crews would try to clean up the winners. One especially bad Saturday evening, my uncle. Fred Anderson was sworn in as an extra policeman.

Those were wonderful days.

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