History can be mighty important, particularly when it’s of the place you grew up in.
Linda Fraser (nee Lundquist) should know, as she’s compiling most of what’s known, and hoping to find out what’s currently unknown about this quaint little valley that she says stole her heart, and the heart of her Swedish parents before her.
Her father left Sweden when he was 19, relocating to Smithers after hearing from word of mouth that it was a great place to live. Her father arrived here in 1924, her mother, who was also Swedish, was here for about two years prior to that.
“In the ‘20s and 30’s there were all kinds of Swedish people here,” Fraser said. “There was a huge community of Swedish people.”
They were later followed by the Swiss and the Dutch, but the Swedes were here first, conquering our ski hill before there was even a run to do so.
That was one thing you definitely learned young, she remarked; she can remember being on skis as young as three.
“All the Scandinavians skied, they put you on skis before you could walk,” Fraser said.
Of course, it helps when you live at the bottom of the mountain, she remarked.
When she wasn’t on them trying to learn how to manoeuvre, she’d be watching those older than her trying the ski jump, at the end of Main Street across what is now the CN tracks and going down the hill.
A lot of the stories she’s been hearing about have been about skiing, which is more entrenched with our history than we may know.
“People came from all over to watch Chris Dahlie and some of those old timers jumping, it was big,” Fraser said.
It’s those early days of Smithers that has her so fascinated, and yet there’s so much we don’t know, she said. While she no longer lives in Smithers, she often finds herself back in her hometown, and in discussions with old friends new facts and new stories keep popping up, so Fraser, alongside the B.V. Museum, has undertaken finding these stories to preserve them for future generations.
“It’s lots of fun for me, because I get to talk to all these people who knew my family even before I was born, and they remember everybody,” Fraser said. “I find that it becomes a bit of a passion to do this because it’s preserving the history.”
Frank Parker and Gord Hetherington are just two of the people she’s spoken with, looking at old photographs, hearing how things were in the old Smithers, the Smithers her parents came to see, and helped shape into what it is today.
“The more you dig into it, the more you find and it’s great fun,” Fraser said.
One of the stories was of this 127 foot cedar pole that was cut in Cedarvale that was transported to Victoria. Later, it was made into a totem pole, but getting this pole to Victoria was quite the challenge. First it had to go by truck to Houston, but they had to offload it from the truck at the bridge just before Houston because it couldn’t fit around the corner. But it eventually made it, Fraser said, who later went to Victoria to see the totem pole it became, standing in Beacon Hill Park.
“All these old-timers that are here in the valley, they’ve lived such interesting lives,” Fraser remarked.
She no longer has any family here, but there are still a lot of friends here, Fraser said, who is always drawn back to our community, at least twice a year.
“People who were born and raised in the valley here have really deep roots,” she said. “No matter where I go in Canada, this is always home.”
It’s such a unique community, with a unique history, that it would be a shame to lose that history. She encourages anybody who is interested to speak with the museum, to see how they could help. It could be an old photo, she said, or a tale that may never have been documented, but it’s important that these things are written down for future generations to see the community of Smithers and how it came to be.
“We need to be accumulating the information about the history and it has a place to go, this museum, so it will be here 50 years from now, 100 years from now,” Fraser said.