People

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Rosslanders, past and present have always indulged being in the great outdoors. Escaping into nature, soaking up the sun, and sharing the beautiful weather and adventures with family and friends. Together Rossland grew into a community that celebrates nature, encourages active living, and embraces the surrounding landscape. Outdoor activities in the 1900s were not much different from those of present day. Fishing, hiking, and swimming were among some of the most popular summer activities. Visit the museum’s new display located at the Rossland Public Library to learn about some of Rossland’s popular summer activities, such as…

When the Rossland community came together in the Summer of 1932, to support the construction and opening of the Rossland Pool. Coming together to play, competing in competitions, and enjoying a refreshing dip on a hot summer’s day. Generations of citizens have created lasting memories at this heritage site.
Come take a closer look at a 1944 swimming trophy won by children.

Gifted with a remarkable backyard, Rossland is surrounded by an extensive network of high quality trails and paths winding through forests and ending with breathtaking views. Hiking has always been popular in Rossland. One of the most popular and an annual tradition is the hike up Mount Roberts to celebrate Canada Day. Want to know what hikers wore in the early 1900s? It’s all revealed in our new display. Join the museum for the hike this year and be part of this long lasting tradition! Carpooling 8am from the museum parking lot.

Some of the most popular fishing spots from the 1900s are still popular among Rosslanders today. Fishing spots such as Trail Creek, Big Sheep Creek, and Nancy Greene Lake. Come take a look at a handcrafted bamboo fishing rod made circa. 1920s.

Are you more of a behind-the-scene picture taker during the summer? Have you ever heard of a Brownie Camera? Ever wondered why it’s called a Brownie? Come see this artifact in its original 1920s leather case with lens and read all about it.
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Want to learn more about other popular summer sports? Stay tuned for the Museum’s next display on golf and tennis at Mountain Town Properties – downtown location.

The name “The Flying Steamshovel” can be seen when traveling through the streets of downtown Rossland, but have you ever thought, what does it mean? What is its story? And how has the name survived the test of time?

Today, 114 years after the flight of the Flying Steamshovel, and 71 years since the written accounts by Father Freney, the Flying Steamshovel makes its way back home to the Golden City and has landed at the Rossland Museum & Discovery Center’s newest display!!

There has been, and still is, considerable controversy surrounding this peculiar story. Just keep in mind that the famous Wright Brothers’ first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flight took place in 1903, in North Carolina. Paul Cornu is credited with the first free vertical ascent in a helicopter in France in 1907. Meanwhile, the Flying Steamshovel is reported to have flown in 1901, at the height of 200ft in little, old Rossland, BC! SO, should The Golden City be acknowledged as the true birthplace of man’s gravity-conquering abilities?

This new display will capture the interest of locals and new comers alike. Rossland is well known for its place in the Mining and Skiing domain, but this display will highlight Rossland’s due place in the Aviation world. The display showcases the research and persistence against adversity that Father Freney had to face to get the story recognized by top aviation magazines. It showcases the only information found on the inventor – Lou Gagnon and his life before and after his explosive crash and his smashed dreams of flying in the wintery month of February.

Have you ever wondered what the Steamshovel may have looked like? Well, this display hosts the only (known) three dimensional model created based on sketched images of eye witness accounts! Why is it called a Flying Steamshovel? Our new display holds all the answers.

The museum is open Wednesdays to Sundays 10am to 6pm through to the end of June. We are open 7 days a week 10am to 6pm starting July 1st until the end of the summer.

The following essays have been researched and written by Ronald A. Shearer, Professor Emeritus (Economics), The University of British Columbia.

Yes, there was skiing in Rossland before we built the chair lift.

The Chinese and Chinatown of Rossland – Fragments From Their Early History

Mid-Winter Mardi Gras: Rossland’s Original Winter Carnival

Olaus Jeldness, Pioneer Mining Man and Father of Skiing

 

 

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Chinese workers in front of Kee Chinese Variety Store in Rossland, BC

In studying the articles from the earliest newspapers of the Boundary and West Kootenay mining camps and towns of B.C., one can say that the Chinese were living in many of those mining towns almost from their inception. (The exception seems to be the Slocan and Lardeau areas where they were not welcome.)

The Chinese were considered good workers and generally worked for less money than a white person. The Chinese were strongly discouraged from working underground by local Trade and Labour Councils and in fact, in many communities, these Councils led the opposition to any kind of work employment of the Chinese.

The Chinese seemed to be willing to do any kind of work and most were employed as cooks, domestic help, woodcutters and labourers. They operated Chinese laundries in all mining communities and owned and operated a few stores (starting with the first stores in Rock Creek).

Chinese gardens were developed in any community in which the Chinese stayed – Rock Creek, Kaslo, Nelson, Greenwood, Trail, and Rossland – they met a need in the booming mining camps where the cost of importing food was high and provided a source of income for the Chinese.

Almost all the newspaper articles spoke negatively about having Chinese in the community. Trade and Labour Councils didn’t want the Chinese because they were cheap labour and took jobs away from the white men.

The Chinese did not assimilate. The Chinese sent their money back to China. The Chinese lived where they worked and conditions were crowded. Unclean conditions in laundries caused municipal restrictions and bylaws specific to Chinese laundries. The Chinese were associated with vice – gambling and prostitution in large cities and they were infidels. Feelings against the Chinese were strong and when government task forces came into the communities seeking input they heard from many. (The Head Tax was raised to $100 from $50 in 1901).

 

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The Chinese made their first appearance in this district in 1865 – 22 years before the first claim in Rossland was staked. They were the bulk of the labour force on the construction of the Dewdney Trail. They deserted Dewdney when they reached the Columbia River, to try their luck at gold panning. Their camp was set up at the mouth of what is now called China Creek. They probably drifted back to the coast from the China Creek camps.

It is quite likely the Chinese filtered back to Rossland with the first rush of the miners, shortly after the camp sprang into existence in 1890. An issue of the “Rossland Miner” – September 23, 1897 reports that there were 200 male and one female Chinese residing here at that time. They were employed as cooks or house boys, several ran wash houses, cultivated truck gardens or raised pigs. A few were merchants and at least one was a fan tan expert. Another issue of the local “Rossland Miner” of 1897 reported the arrest of a Chinese man for the selling of opium without a license – the fee for such a license being $250.00.

Though the Chinese did drink, partake of opium and gamble, they contributed much to Rossland’s history particularly with their agricultural efforts known as the” Chinese Gardens”.

These truck gardens supplied Rosslander’s with fresh produce for over 50 years. This area has now mostly given way to the Rossland – Trail County Club.

They were kind to their non-Chinese friends at Christmas and their New Year, bringing gifts of handkerchiefs and other articles made of China silk, lily bulbs, candied ginger, lychee nuts, and firecrackers.

On October 12, 1903 the Chinese Masonic lodge, with a membership of 100 was opened with great ceremony, and celebrations which lasted for two days.

Chinatown in Rossland occupied a distinct area most of which was destroyed by fire in the early 1920’s. The buildings that survived the fire gradually fell into disuse and eventually disappeared. The last landmark was the Chinese Masonic Temple which was torn down about 1950. All traces of Chinatown have now disappeared and the site is now a residential area.

Written by: James Heidt

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By 1942 skiing activity was low and membership in both Ski Clubs had decreased drastically. It was considered that a race from the top of Grey Mountain all the way into Rossland would revive the skiers’ spirits and enthusiasm.
The first race was held on March 1, 1943. Racers were sent off at 1 minute intervals and had to climb to the top of Grey Mountain. From there, they skied down the slopes of Grey into Squaw Basin, and down the trail to Indian Flats. Skiers then headed to Red Mountain Road and the reservoir, with the finish at the top of Spokane Street.

The race was held once a year for four years but had to be cancelled in 1947 due to lack of snow at the lower levels.

The Grey Mountain Grind became a thing of the past with the amalgamation of the Rossland and Trail Ski Clubs to form the “Red Mountain Ski Club”, and the building of the Red Mountain Chairlift.

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A BRIEF HISTORY

ORIGINS

Skiing was first introduced to Rosslanders by Scandinavians who came to the area to work in the mines. The most famous of them was Olaus Jeldness, a mining engineer, who came to Rossland in 1896. Skiing was mainly jumping and what was called ski running, but there was also a form of cross-country. Skijoring was yet another form of skiing.

The Norwegian Ski Club was formed and it held the first recorded competitions in Canada. These were held as part of the Winter Carnival, held from as early as 1898 until 1918. The Carnival continues annually to this day.

The first downhill race was held in 1896 from the top of Red Mountain down the south side to the site of the present museum. Jeldness won it. The first Canadian (Dominion  of Canada at the time) downhill ski championships were held here in 1898 as part of the first Winter Carnival. The winner of the downhill event was presented with the Jeldness Cup (won by Jeldness himself three years in a row). Ski jumping was an integral part of the Championships.

Other prominent ski jumpers and runners in the early years were two other Norwegians, Torgal Noren and Minnie Engen.  Olaus Jeldness actually preferred ski running on Deer Park Mountain, as he considered Red Mountain too steep for skiing! He had to use his braking pole too much.

The famous “Jeldness Tea Party” was held on the summit of Red Mountain. Olaus invited 25 guests to hike up and he would provide skis for the descent. The guests were “fortified” on the way up and at the top. Jeldness had the foresight to arrange for a Dr. Bowes and his ambulance to be waiting at the bottom. He received much business!

The Ski Club folded by 1918 but people from Trail and Rossland continued to ski, though there was no organized skiing until the early thirties.

POST WAR

The arrival in Rossland of another Norwegian skier in the late 1920’s, Trygve Nora, sparked increased interest in the sport. He became well known for his ability in jumping and cross country. His interest turned also to slalom and it was mainly his influence that produced the skiers that would be needed to build the  ski area at Red Mountain after World War II.

In 1929 the Trail Ski Club (TSC) (originally the Rossland-Trail Ski Club) was formed. Jumping was still foremost in competition and by 1933 the club had built two hills, one north of the reservoir and one down in the Trail area. In 1933 the Rossland Ski Club (RSC) was formed. In 1934 the RSC built a jump on Monte Christo, north of the reservoir, and a cabin was also built. In addition the TSC installed a gas-driven rope tow on the present lift line on Red Mountain, approximately towers 2 to 5.

Skiers from both clubs used the cabins as a base for touring up to the higher peaks and ridges. For even easier access cabins were built in Squaw Basin. The first was the Klister Klub cabin, built by TSC members. RSC members built one a few hundred yards down the creek. The Yodel Inn was built in 1945.

In 1943, the RSC hosted the first Grey Mountain Grind, a race starting at the top of Grey, down through Squaw Basin, across Indian Flats, on to Red Mountain road, along the reservoir and ending at the top of Spokane Street. Originally, it was an attempt to keep the sport of skiing alive during the war years, however, the race was run for four years in a row and cancelled in 1947 due to lack of snow. It was not run again for many years, probably because all attention was on Red Mountain.

RED MOUNTAIN SKI CLUB

Talks between the TSC and the RSC resulted in the amalgamation of the two clubs, in 1947, forming the Red Mountain Ski Club. The immediate objectives of the club were to build a chairlift up Red, build a lodge at the base, and to extend Red Mountain Road to the base area, from the TSC cabin (where the road ended at that time).

There was only one chairlift in Canada at that time, at Mont Tremblant in Quebec. The single chairlift at Red was designed and built by people  who had never seen one, nor ridden one. It was built by volunteer labour where possible, with the acquisition of equipment from old mining tramlines in the area and the use of on-site lumber. The club also received extensive help from Cominco (now Teck). The first ride up was made on Dec. 16, 1947.

The base lodge was built in the fall of 1947, using the timbers of the Black Bear Mine Compressor House located near the present museum site. What is now the Rafters Lounge was set up as overnight accommodation – bring a sleeping bag, rent a cot.

The 1950’s saw more area cleared for skiing and a Ski Patrol was organized.  As well, a Ski School, including special instruction for promising kids, was started – the birth of Red Mountain Racers.

In 1960, a poma lift was installed from the Lodge up to the Back Trail. The operation had grown to the point that a full time manager was hired in 1961.  When Highway 3B was put through, in 1962, the ski area became one of the most accessible in BC.

Installation of the Granite Mountain chair in 1965 opened up a huge amount of skiable terrain, but also put Red into the big league of ski areas.  Main Run was cleared the same year, and Jumbo and South Side Road the following year.

The first World Cup Race to be held in Canada was hosted by the RMSC in 1968. Around 7000 fans cheered Rosslander Nancy Greene as she won the giant slalom (start gate at the top of the cliff, course down the face!). This win clinched for Nancy her second World Cup (1967 and 1968).

There would be a second World Cup race at the mountain: a downhill and Super-G were held here in 1988. Many other top-level races have been held at Red Mountain over the years, and Red Mountain Racers have put more racers on the National Team than any other club in Canada. Kerrin Lee-Gartner, who won the gold medal in the downhill at the Olympics in Albertville, also grew up in Rossland, and was a Red Mountain racer.

The T-bar was installed in 1971, the Red Mountain chair replaced in 1973, and the Paradise triple chair installed in 1976, opening up yet more skiable terrain. Alongside the lift improvements, more runs were cut and the Lodge upgraded.

A NEW ERA

By 1987, it became obvious that the Club could not continue to operate without an injection of capital. In 1988, Directors and members decided to sell the facilities of the Club, which had grown too big to be run by volunteers.  On May 3, 1989, after 42 years, ownership passed to Red Mountain Resorts Inc. The 42 years of RMSC is the longest any ski area in North America has been operated by a ski club.

Since the sale in 1989, a good amount of summer grooming has been done allowing opening of operations with less base snow. Paradise Lodge was built in 1991, and the Granite Chair was replaced with two triple chairs, Silver Lode(1994) and Mother Lode(1995).

The ski area was sold once again in 2004, to Howard Katkov and associates, from San Diego. Under new ownership further summer grooming has been done, new runs cut and a new quad chair has replaced the old Silver Lode, opening up much-needed beginner and intermediate terrain. Along with these kinds of improvements, real estate development has also arrived, transforming Red into a true destination resort ski area.

For further information:
“The Hills Around – 75 years on skis in Rossland” by Jack Mitchell
“The Ski Race” by Sam Wormington
“Rossland – The Golden City”   pub. Rossland Miner, 1949
Compiled by Libby Martin (January, 2008)

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Hometown: Stangvik, Norway / Rossland, BC / Spokane, WA
Date of Birth: 1857
Date of Death: 1935
Inducted to the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame: 1988
From http://www.skimuseum.ca/bios/Jeldness_Olaus.pdf

Olaus Jeldness pioneered the establishment of competitive skiing in western Canada. Born in Stangvik, Norway, in 1857, he caused a stir there when, at the age of 15, he ski jumped a distance of 92 feet heralded as a world record at the time. He emigrated to the United States at the age of 16 to pursue a successful career in mining. He returned to Norway in 1882 to develop a mining operation in the north until 1896 when he left to come to Canada and the mining community of Rossland, British Columbia.

Shortly after arriving, he began to foster skiing. Jeldness brought his skis, his love of the sport, and a single long steering pole. It was reported that he would frequently delight his gallery “…by flashing down the hill holding the pole high above his head, in exultation, to the delight of the throngs of spectators that flocked to witness his daring exploits on skis.” (Rolf Lund, Nordic World, March 1978)

The first recorded Canadian ski competition took place at Rossland in 1897, an event which he organized and promoted. He won this first downhill on Red Mountain on March 6, 1897. Early racing might be considered a free-for-all and clearly dangerous by today’s strict safety standards as the racers all started together at the summit, hurling themselves down the mountain to the finish line on the main street of town. The racers controlled their speed by using their single long pole as both a rudder and brake, choosing their own route down the mountain.

In addition to being a great competitor, Olaus Jeldness was also a teacher of skiing, sharing his skills and his joy of skiing with others in his community. He was instrumental in creating the Rossland Winter Carnival which began in 1898. Included in the carnival were competitive events which included a race called the Canadian Champion Ski Race which descended 2,000 vertical feet over a 1.5 mile course. He won this event as well as another, the first Canadian Championship Ski Jumping contest. He would repeat his successes, now called the Dominion Ski Championships, winning both Downhill and Jumping events in 1899 and 1900, his last year of competition. When he retired from active competition he also retired the MacIntosh Trophy which he had won for the third time. He was 44 years of age.

In the autumn of 1898, he organized the clearing of three separate downhill runs and organized and formed what was, arguably, the first ski club in Canada.

He also donated two historic trophies, the first in 1900 which would become the permanent possession of a skier who could win it three consecutive times. (This was achieved by Torgal Noren who won the ski jumping championship in 1904, 1905 and 1906.) The conditions accompanying the second Jeldness trophy, donated in 1908, stipulated that it would be a perpetual trophy awarded from year to year. This important trophy was given eventually to the Rossland Historical Museum where it remains.

As successful in his mining ventures as he was in skiing, he was able to retire to a comfortable life in Spokane, Washington in 1909. Even in retirement, he remained active in the development of the sport and he is reputed to be the originator of skiing competition in the western United States when he organized a ski jumping event in Spokane.

It would seem appropriate that for his considerable contribution to competitive skiing that he should be known as the “Father of Competitive Skiing in Canada”.

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Booty Griffith (born 1916) arrived in Rossland in 1937. By 1946 he was busy selling the first X-country skis and promoting the sport in this area. In 1973 Booty and friends ( The X-C Runners) began exploring the Ben Shaw trail and newly opened Seal Creek road. In 1974 they built the Ben Shaw shelter. This plastic covered A frame became the prototype for some 16 more shelters built across the upland area. Later in 1976 they located, SE of Ben Shaw, the Sunshine cabin and Adventure trail.

The Cabin Builder

From RosslandNews.com – http://www.rosslandnews.com/community/131281034.html

“Years and years ago, Booty Griffiths ran a ski shop in Rossland,” Les Carter says. “He was a great ski racer and worked as a ski boot company rep. He was a general hell raiser. Booty built years ago a little pole and tarp shack. It wasn’t far out of town, but at the time there wasn’t much beyond the Red Mountain base.”

It was called Booty’s cabin. The community used to ski out to Booty’s cabin for lunch.

The Forest Service considered the hut illegal because it didn’t have a permit of any kind and was on Crown land and so were going to burn it down. But the whole community got incensed and a some people went down and picketed in front of the Forest Service’s office.

The Forest Service agreed to let it stand under the conditions that it was public and couldn’t be called Booty’s cabin.

Griffiths didn’t like that, so he and his buddies went out and built another 10 cabins.

“That’s how the cabins developed in the past,” Carter said. “A bit of an outlaw feeling to them. Over the years they have kind of become part of the community scene. They’re scattered, about a dozen of them, around the Nancy Greene Pass area.”

He said one of the great games in the winter is to see how many of the huts you can visit in a day. The huts are just for day use and are designed to be temporary.

“They’re not permanent, they’re not on foundations, they’re not built out of great stuff,” he added. “Over the years we’ve developed a bit of a practice of putting a decent roof on. They are mostly A-frames and a lot of the roofs are getting converted over to recycled aluminum.”

The huts have become popular, with tourists coming from out-of-country to experience them.