Dozens of people crowded into Agassiz-Harrison Museum Wednesday (March 6) with a hope of enjoying some stories from the past.
Sitting in cloth-covered armchairs, folding chairs, and even office chairs brought down from the archives upstairs, audience members laughed along with reminiscences from Bev Kennedy, Eoin “Bunk” MacKay, Andy Bodnar and Victoria Brooks.
“I think it was marvelous to have that big of a turnout,” Kennedy, speaker and event organizer, said. “I think I counted 60 people there.”
Wednesday’s event was the first Heritage Speaker Night put on by the Museum, but Kennedy said they are hoping to bring in more, “either monthly or every few months,” because of how well it turned out.
“The stories that are told by the people who actually lived some of the stories makes it more real,” she said about the event. “The stories come to life.”
“The Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge” -Bev Kennedy
|Bev Kennedy talking about the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge during the Agassiz-Harrison Museum’s first Heritage Speaker Night. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)|
Local historian Bev Kennedy took a dive into the history of the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge for her 10-minute speech at the Heritage Speaker Night.
During her talk, she brought up the history of river travel before the bridge — canoes, sternwheelers, ferries — as the difficulties of building a bridge over turbulent water and the toll that came after.
But perhaps more important than the history of the bridge, she noted, is the change that came from it.
Thanks to the Mountain Road and the Harrison River Bridge, “many marriages took place between Mission and District of Kent residents,” Kennedy said. “Many babies from the District of Kent area were born at the Mission hospital.
“In 1956 (when the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge opened), this whole societal trend changed dramatically, almost overnight,” she continued. “Young people immediately started to date and take social activities with young people from Chilliwack and Rosedale area.”
“The 1948 flood” -Eion “Bunk” MacKay
|Eoin “Bunk” McKay shares his memories of the 1948 flood during the Agassiz-Harrison Museum’s first Heritage Speaker Night. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)|
The 1948 flood and the destruction that followed is not something people usually laugh at, but Eoin “Bunk” MacKay’s stories about experiencing the flood as a child certainly sent chuckles through the audience.
Throughout his speech, MacKay offered stories about the Red Cross bringing food up to residents who had evacuated to higher ground, the bridge to his house floating off its piles and one baby boy being born as his mother travelled over the flooded area in a ferry.
He also shared a story of some well-meaning Vancouverites sending a plane load of gumboots to the Agassiz-Harrison Valley.
“When that (cardboard box of boots) hit the ground, there was black things flying everywhere,” MacKay said.
“Everyone went over there and the plane kinda tipped its wings and took off down the valley,” he continued. Residents went over and started picking boots off the ground. MacKay remembered on man saying “Oh, this is size 12. I need something smaller.”
“They were all size 12,” he said. “Everybody had size 12 … and for about three years, everybody had those.”
“Farming in the Agassiz Harrison Valley” -Andy Bodnar
|Andy Bodnar talking about his family’s history of farming in Agassiz during the Agassiz-Harrison Museum’s first Heritage Speaker Night. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)|
Dairy farmer Andy Bodnar knows the history of farming in Agassiz better than most, as he runs the second-oldest family farm in the community.
During his talk at the Heritage Speaker Night, he shared some of his dad’s early experiences after immigrating to Agassiz from Czechoslovakia, including how they get into dairy farming and what crops they brought over from their homeland that didn’t quite make it in Canada, like hemp.
“The hemp they were growing, and they were making linen out of that. Well here comes the RCMP on his bike, cruising by one day and sees the hemp plant growing,” Bodnar said. “Well he stops in and says ‘What are you guys doing with these plants?’”
Bodnar’s parents explained they were growing it for linen, but the officer said “Well, you’re in Canada now, you can’t grow them. You’re going to have to cut them down, because they’re illegal in Canada,” Bodnar remembered.
“The other seeds they brought were poppy seeds,” he added. “RCMP didn’t see them.”
“History of the Agassiz Research Station” -Victoria Brooks
|Victoria Brooks speaking about the history of the Agassiz Research Station. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)|
Victoria Brooks was the last speaker of the Museum’s first Heritage Speaker Night, but spoke the longest about her experiences with the Agassiz Research Station.
Working there for more than 40 years, Brooks shared some of her own experiences, but also the early history of the station — like how it was chosen because, compared to Ottawa, Agassiz seemed “sub-tropical.”
She also shared stories about two world-record holding animals that spent their lives at the Agassiz Research Station: a cow who produced 1,430 kilograms of milk in one year, and a chicken who produced 357 eggs in 365 days.
That chicken, known as No-Drone 5H, was stuffed after her death and now resides in Fort Langley’s farm museum.
“I don’t know who decided that she deserved to be stuffed,” Brooks said. “But she was stuffed and I was told that she went to the International Poultry Congress in Italy after she was stuffed … and she ended up at the Fort Langley agriculture museum, so you can see her there.”