A popular historical Facebook group run by Eric Brighton and Greg Nesteroff called Lost Kootenays has released the cover of their upcoming book of the same name.
Given its content, it’s only fitting that the page itself has a rich history.
Nesteroff, born and raised in the Kootenays and a former editor of the Nelson Star, interviewed Zac Odin, who started the page on Mar. 22, 2013, and remarked on the 5000 likes the page had garnered at that time. Today the group has nearly ten times that many members.
READ MORE: Lost Kootenays plumbs local nostalgia
In that interview Odin, originally from the Yukon and at the time based out of Creston, said the original goal of the page was to “show a time in the Kootenays that was somewhat neglected — the 1950s through the 1970s.”
Odin later handed the page off to Randy Glover of Warfield, who Nesteroff said was one its most prolific contributors.
“Randy deputized me when he was diagnosed with cancer,” Nesteroff said. “Sadly, he died about a year later, in July 2019. I continued by myself for a while, until Eric came on board in 2020 and revitalized the page.”
Brighton currently lives in Kamloops and grew up in Burnaby, but has called many locations home including multiple places in the West Kootenay.
He got into history at an early age, due to his father having worked on many projects around the province, and on road trips or wherever they’d go together, he would point out what used to be in all the various locations.
Brighton also worked for the NDP in 1991 and got to know B.C. historian Bill Barlee, who as Brighton put it, “put the icing on my future history buff cake when we spent some time together.”
“I have always loved history since I was a little kid,” he said. “I used to stare at this old BC map I had for hours and places like Pioneer Mine, Sandon and Fort Steele screamed out my name.
“Simply put, I love BC history and I enjoy interacting with all the history inspired folks out there. The Kootenays has been my main passion for the last 20 years. I have explored them extensively, lived there and taken around 20,000 pictures of it. I’ve been an amateur photographer the last 20 years.”
He explained that over the past few years he’s become rather well known in the realm of online historical groups — both for his posts which frequently go viral and for the work he does as a moderator or admin in several popular pages.
Nesteroff, who recently moved from Nelson to Trail, said his interest in local history was whetted on childhood trips to places like Ainsworth and Sandon, and took full flight by his teenage years. He’s been actively pursuing it since 1998.
|Legendary Sandon, B.C.|
The page posts with regularity, with multiple posts per day. On May 5, for example, the page published 16 posts, from a watercolour of a Ktunaxa elder painted in 1934, to legendary Sandon in 1897 and a 1940s shot of Nelson’s beloved Gyro Park Pool.
So where does all this content come from?
Brighton said he’s been hunting for captivating historical photos in the B.C. and Vancouver archives for years, long before he began posting on Facebook.
“I just liked to find neat old pics of BC and download them to my computer just for personal use,” he explained. “I would research them and send them in an email to friends who might be from that town or worked there or who we traveled to that place together. Somehow that eventually led to me posting in history groups on Facebook.”
Over time Brighton has developed a knack for knowing how to find rare photos, and knowing what types of photos evoke strong interest and reactions from people. He said that over the years his exploration has led him into all sorts of archives but the B.C. and Vancouver archives remain his bread and butter.
Through all the truly countless photos the page has posted, Nesteroff said there is always new stuff to be found, and fans of the page’s content are in for a treat with the upcoming book.
“You would think that previously unseen pictures from more than a century ago would be hard to come by, but they pop up with surprising regularity,” Nesteroff said. “In the book, we’ll be using some amazing images that have never been published before.”
In terms of some favourite photos, Brighton is partial to images of Sandon, B.C. before the great fire of 1900, as well as shots from the narrow-gauged railway that ran from Sandon to Kaslo during the silver rush. Honourable mentions go to pictures from Fort Steele and the Sullivan mine in Kimberley.
Nesteroff recalls getting a shot Nelson’s Douglas Jones had acquired displaying tipis and a sternwheeler on the Nelson waterfront from the early 1890s, describing the previously unseen image as “instantly iconic.”
|Tipis on the Waterfront. Nelson, B.C. circa 1890s|
The evocative cover image of the forthcoming book is another favourite of his, depicting the ghostly Arlington Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition.
The book came to be because Halifax publisher MacIntyre Purcell had been following the page and felt compelled to reach out with the idea of turning the page into a physical form.
Once complete it will consist of 128 pages of black and white images spanning the 1860s to the 1950s, with a fairly even split between East and West Kootenay. Brighton did most of the photo hunting, while Nesteroff tackled most of the caption writing.
“Choosing the photos and stories is, of course, the hard part,” Nesteroff said. “We wanted the book to be geographically and thematically representative of the region. We also wanted to use the most eye-popping images available to us, especially ones that haven’t already been reproduced endlessly.”
The experience of working on the page and now the book has been incredibly valuable to both historians.
“One of the reasons I post in Lost Kootenays or any history group or page for that mater is that I learn more from the comments than I do from my research or prior knowledge,” Brighton said.
“Kootenay Elders share about the memories they have about working in that old mine or riding on that long gone sternwheeler or living in that now vanished town like Michel-Natal or Arrowhead, BC. People share personal family pictures and stories from their pioneer Grandma, Grandpa and parents, etc. There is an invaluable wealth of knowledge and first hand experiences in those comments.”
Lost Kootenays is expected to be released this fall.