When Roy Henry Vickers shows up for his annual calendar signing session at Heartstrings Nov. 9 there will be an added bonus for the artist’s fans, the official launch of a new book.
Voices from the Skeena: An Illustrated Oral History is a book that in a way has been brewing for some 56 years.
Vickers grew up in Hazelton, but went away to residential school when he was 16. During that time his family moved to Victoria where he caught up with them a year later.
“The life there was so much different than the life we lived up there [in Hazelton],” Vickers explained.
“Lost in the big city, a country boy pining for the north, I wound up visiting the B.C. Provincial Museum, which in those days was located in the legislative
“My trips there took me to many things, to the totems, but there was a trapper’s cabin that I used to go and sit in. I can just see this teenager sitting in this trapper’s cabin and it felt like I was at home with my grandpa.”
As a result of his frequent visitations, Vickers became acquainted with Wilson Duff, an archaeologist, who was a curator at the museum.
Duff introduced Vickers to the Imbert Orchard tapes.
Imbert Orchard was a CBC Radio journalist who, between 1959 and 1966, travelled throughout B.C. recording 998 conversations totalling 2,700 hours.
“Those tapes became part of my life, I loved listening to the stories of the Skeena, people from Kispiox and Smithers, stories about Cataline, stories about the steamboats and they really helped me in that big city,” Vickers said.
Always homesick for the north, Vickers returned to Hazelton 16 years ago.
“When I came back I was intrigued by the number of people who didn’t know those stories or hadn’t heard those tapes of Imbert Orchard,” he said.
In 2012, Vickers went looking for the recordings again by contacting Robert “Lucky” Budd
CBC had hired Budd in 2000 to digitize the tapes. The two men hit it off and led to a number of book collaborations including the award-winning Northwest Coast Legends series.
In the Preface to Voices from the Skeena, Vickers describes those collaborations as getting “sidetracked,”
but they would eventually come back to the Orchard recordings.
The result is a 112-page illustrated version of seven of the stories from those tapes.
Vickers said it is very gratifying to finally see it in print.
“It’s funny I’m always a little nervous when a book comes out and what the reaction will be, but once I get past that … it’s exciting to see images come out of stories that have been part of my life for so long.
“It’s pretty exciting, never ever dreamed I’d be doing it, but here it is.”
Both Vickers and Budd will be at Heartstrings on Saturday from 2 – 4 p.m. to sign books.