Raincoast Chronicles 17
Stories & History of the British Columbia Coast.
Edited by Howard White.
Review by Thomas F. Chambers.
The Raincoast Chronicles began in 1972 as a result of an Opportunities For Youth Grant. This is the 17th book in the series which have covered a great variety of topics including logging and early Vancouver. There is no central theme to No. 17 which contains twelve stories about coastal life and interesting coastal people.
Raincoast Chronicles 17 offers something for everyone. For example, it deals with prominent British Columbia citizens, like Victoria photographer Hannah Maynard, plus unknowns, such as August Schnarr of Bute Inlet who eked out a meagre living for his family with little more than willpower. As the title suggests, the book also chronicles routine west coast activities, like hunting and fishing, and the unusual, such as the handling of the great small pox epidemic of 1862. Covering a considerable variety of topics, the stories show how rich life was on the B.C. coast.
Two of the most interesting stories are Donkey Boiler Coffee and The Deer??? The former discusses the making of coffee for loggers in the firebox used to create steam in an engine boiler. While this topic may not be as important to the history of the west coast as is that of Francis Mawson Rattenbury, architect of Victoria's Empress Hotel and the subject of 'Ratz by Robin Ward, it does give readers a slice of what life was like for the working man. The Deer??? by Dick Hammond is a fascinating account of two hunters on the trail of a stag which constantly outwits them. The story, which totally engrosses the reader, is told with awe and reverence for one of nature's magnificent creatures.
Kalpalin - an Aboriginal Metropolis, by Dick Hammond, contains an interesting history of the Sechelt Indians of the Coast Salish linguistic family who lived on the shores of Pender Harbour. These unusual people had an elaborate civilization which was totally destroyed by contact with the white man. Their treatment at the hands of missionaries intent on saving their souls is truly disturbing.
While the selections in Raincoast Chronicles 17 are well written by knowledgeable people, the inclusion of brief notes about the authors and their interests would have improved the book. The work shows the richness and diversity of Canadian history; and, without such books these stories and the people chronicled would be lost forever.
Thomas F. Chambers is a professor of politics, economics and history at Canadore College of Applied Arts and Technology in North Bay, Ontario.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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