“Rarely these days do we remember the ‘good guys and gals’ who have made a positive contribution to the human race (the villains seem to dominate world history!). However, in a small community like Creston, residents have the opportunity to leave their positive mark on the evolution of our beautiful valley. It would be a shame if these memories were to disappear.”
These words of wisdom are from longtime valley resident and local historian Phil Thomas, and appear on a new box set of 17 CDs produced by Creston Valley Public Library entitled Voices of the Pioneers. The recordings, many of which were originally broadcast on CIDO 97.7 FM, consist of interviews that Phil conducted with octogenarians who had grown up in the valley, and whose families were among the first non-native settlers in the area.
“If you’re a resident of Creston, and you don’t know a Huscroft, you’re probably living in a cave on Goat Mountain!” jokes Phil, as he introduces Mick Huscroft and Dawn Sommerfeld, whose grandparents William and Jane were the first of the Huscroft clan to settle in the area. Other interviewees include Ed Gatsky and Elizabeth Schuler, Dean Wong, Sharon Brennan, Imme Askevold, Bill Constable, Harold Floer, Bob and Ethel Vigne, Ian Currie, Luanne Armstrong (the only non-octogenarian among the bunch) and others.
This project began around 2002, a couple of years after Phil retired after 30 years of teaching at Prince Charles Secondary School. “I hate waste,” Phil explains. “I saw this older generation getting older and passing away, and all of the positive differences they had made in their lives were unchronicled and just disappeared from our memory. It’s a travesty.”
I agree. While I’d be foolish to expect these recordings to compete with the latest James Patterson bestseller, it is these unique, locally flavoured items that distinguish our library and our community in this globalized cookie cutter world.
The recordings document the planting of the first orchards, memories of the first schoolhouses, tales of logging and farming, construction of the Kootenay Pass, the evolution of Alice Siding, the village of Creston and the East Shore communities, and much more. Most vivid to me are the personal memories — Dick Staples sledding down Canyon Street in the ’30s, Ralph Moore’s struggles with attention deficit disorder as a child, Lew and Iva Truscott’s eventful first date.
“People say I have trouble with ‘the filter’,” says Phil. “I’m very curious, I like to ask questions. Sometimes I cross the line a bit! People don’t ask questions these days. Nowadays, every conversation starts with the vertical pronoun.” I’ll let you figure that one out!
Along with Phil Thomas, acknowledgement goes out to Jessa Morris for her production and artistic work, Bronwyn McKenna for her copious note-taking, and Andrew Feltham for technical assistance during the recording and production stages. Thank you also to Tammy Hardwick at Creston Museum for digging up some fabulous photos for the liner notes.
The Voices of the Pioneers 17-CD box set is available for check-out at the library, and we expect to have it available for online streaming through our website soon. A limited number of copies will also be available for purchase for $75 from the library. Come check out the rest of our outstanding local history collection while you are here!
Aaron Francis is the chief librarian at the Creston and District Public Library.