Tuesday, February 2, 2010  
   Volume 80 - Issue 5 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“The gallery is for the community, so this is a show essentially for people in the community who want to put something in.”
- Belinda Belseck  
- on the open community   
exhibit at the Art Gallery   

 

Looking Back - John KinnearLet’s travel way back in time with a kid named Jackie (my growing up name). We’ll take a trip into the world of a ten year old - circa 1959.  A time when things were so much simpler. A time when the principle playgrounds of a young boy were: the bush, the creeks, homemade ball fields and the back alleys of Coleman. Ah yes, those unlit back alleys. The perfect place for playing kick the can, hide and seek and raidin’ gardens.
I spent a lot of my youth “up the bush”; building cabins, hunting grouse and skinny dipping in McGillivray and Nez Perce Creeks. The water was always cold as hell but a roaring bonfire afterwards helped to drive away the frog’s legs. This might be a local term but as I recall it refers to the red network of marks that used to appear on the fronts of our legs after an icy dip in the creek or the old West Coleman swimming hole.
Nez Perce was my favourite hangout as a kid and a walk up the Miner’s Path these days brings back a ton of memories. Winter on the Nez Perce, in amongst those giant, ancient Douglas firs, was an amazing time for a bored kid.  Freeze thaw cycles would transform the frozen surface of the creek into a beautifully smooth undulating sheet of ice that one could slide down with abandon. It became a magical alternative to the actual Miner’s Path that one could walk/slide up, albeit carefully. 
As one worked one’s way up the creek past the big bridge and the two hundred steps up to the old McGillivray mine site one would eventually come to what we called Snowshoe Falls. Winter would transform this conglomeratic sandstone step into a vertical wall of ice. Crawling behind this wall and watching water trickle through inside the ice column was always a thrill. In summer, behind this inaccessible waterfall, the water ouzel (dipper) chose to hide and nest.
Above Snowshoe Falls at one time was the old Coleman dam, a control structure, now day lighted, that was designed to provide head pressure and water to the town. It gave us 130 pounds at the hydrant, enough to throw an untrained fireman around pretty good. The dam was a simple log and concrete structure with a small overflow flume and a control gate at its base. That release gate was opened and closed by a big horizontal wheel on the top of the dam that the town prudently kept a lock and chain on. You gotta know that if we kids could have, we would have opened that sucker up.
In winter the dam’s surface would freeze fairly deep and as spring approached the thick ice would break up into large chunks. The game then was to jump to and from these treacherous teetering blocks and also try and steer them with long poles. A tricky playground that would have made our mothers faint dead out but we were quick and sure footed. We were kids and invincible. It was a great place to goof around.  The only incident I can recall that went badly was when Claire Fabro took an unexpected trip off the end of the flume one summer.  
 
She got a banged up knee which she blamed on a trip because if was discovered by the powers (ie. mothers) that be that we were swimming in and hanging around the town's water source all hell would have broke loose.  "Stay away from that dam dam!"
In summer there was a dam event that we wouldn’t miss for the world. Once a year the flow gate was opened and the dam cleaned out and inspected. Dad, who was town foreman at the time used to joke that they needed to make sure there wasn’t a dead moose at the bottom.  Or maybe there was and he just wasn't letting on.
At any rate, being his son I was privy to knowing when the annual release would occur. Me and a couple of foolhardy sixth streeters used to play a dare devil game with the wall of water, logs and debris that was the leading edge of this release.
We would wait in Flumerfelt Park at the north entrance to the tunnel that passes under the highway until we saw the “wall of death” as we called it, roar by the camp shelter. Then we would scramble down the tunnel, which had a ninety degree bend at its south exit, and wait around that bend. We could hear the roar of water and the rumble of rocks rolling down the concrete floor of the tunnel as it approached us but couldn’t see it coming. It was a game of nerves to see how long we would wait before we fled out the other end. The trick was to grab the top of the eight foot culvert and flip yourself up on top as the “wall of death” roared past us and on through town. It was an absolute riot.  It is funny though how a kid’s imagination can transform two feet of rushing water into a killer tsunami!
The south exit was eventually covered over in later years so the creek reappears quite a ways downstream by an old wooden bridge now blocked by a big boulder for safety reasons. Below the bridge is a second tunnel under 19th Avenue, a place so spooky and foreboding that it took several tries before some of us had the nerve to plod through its length.  To be initiated into a gang you had to be sworn in in that tunnel.
Above the north entrance to this tunnel a storm drain empties into the creek from an old concrete culvert. And therein lies an even more bizarre story. On a dare a wacky Italian friend of mine name Renato Bridotti crawled up inside that culvert and then proceeded one block east, then one block north and then under the main highway. He finally gave up his spelunking at the storm drain in front of the First and Last Gas Bar, known as the "BA" Station back then. Then just for laughs he hollered up through the drain at a lady passing by and scared the livin’ daylights out of her.  Renato then retraced this bizarre underground crawl back to the entrance and talked me into trying it.
I had only got about thirty feet or so up that drain pipe when I looked back to find that Renato had stuffed the entrance with branches and dry grass and lit it on fire. I’ll  never forget his cackling laugh as I scrambled east to the first wooden storm drain where the air was okay and waited for Renato’s fire to go out. Geez, those were the days!
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   Volume 80 - Issue 5 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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