September 2nd, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 35
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
Looking Back – The Last Ten Years
Looking Back
John Kinnear photo
Jack Doddsley's marker at Passburg
Given that the Pass Herald is celebrating and commemorating its remarkable 90 years of publication, I thought it might be interesting to step back into my column archives with the paper and revisit the myriad of stories that have been foisted on you, the reader. An overview of a decade’s worth of Looking Back, if you like.

While some refer to me as a historian I think maybe I might be more of an elaborate storyteller, a weaver of tales, so to speak. I do go to some research depth on stories but not to the level of a true historian such as the respected Ian McKenzie. So while I have been writing now for 14 years for the Herald, it is only in the last 10 years that my columns have been permanently posted in a special on-line archive.

What say we dip into this archived collection and wade around in the veritable cornucopia of woven stories therein. I usually average about 22 columns a year which is a lot of research, even if I am just skimming the surface. Inevitably it is the stories of local interest that seem to garner the most feedback. When I get up close and personal, do family histories or my own recollections, these pieces seem to resonate best. If I ever do a book, it will definitely go in this direction.

During 2009, the first year of posted archives, my topics were all over the map, topic-wise. A lot of the stories had war aspects to them, like the 1942 Japanese submarine attack on a West Coast lighthouse (War on Our Doorstep), a piece on the atomic bombs (Little Boy and Fat Man Revisited), the history of the swastika (Reclaiming a Spiritual Symbol) , Valour at Sea – Canada’s Merchant Navy story, and a piece on the fall of the German Reichmark after 1919. That last one got reworked 10 years later in the 2019 issues because around 2015 I was allowed to post a lot more pictures on line and in the printed version, so I got to show off my collection of post World War One Reichmarks.
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In 2010 the columns with local flavor included how coal was cleaned at Greenhills Mine in 1930, a tribute to Coleman’s volunteer fireman, a look back to 1960 with memories of hanging around Nez Perce Creek as a kid, some Orpheum Theater history and my favourite, “Set ‘Em Up Again Kid” about the hazards of pin setting at Carl’s pool hall in downtown Coleman. I also got to acknowledge Martin Hruby and Jack Doddsley’s tragic loss in 1983 in the accursed BC Coal hydraulic coal mine.

The year 2011 got to be a real hodge podge with the local pieces touching on Thomas Gushul, my memories of bucking coal at Vicary Mine, looking back at the 2005 September snowstorm blackout here, some interesting museum stories and an exploration of the zinc smelter in Frank. My favourite of that year was called Children of the Plane Crash and profiled the relatives that came to visit the DC-3 Dakota remains and place a plaque on behalf of Senior Officer William Sealey. Sealey perished along with 6 others in that 1946 tragedy. I have since acquired a letter from a pilot who flew the same day, one flight ahead of Sealey, and who offers his theory on what happened. Perhaps I should get that out there, someday,as it is significant.

2012 - had a bit of local flavor including a piece of fascinating history called, The Bells of Holy Trinity Church. Those beautiful historic bells stand outside the church as a symbol of its unification into one place, just like the Crowsnest Pass did. I wrote about helping an Australian retrace his grandfather’s footsteps to Corbin and introduced everyone to Mrs. Mundie’s scrapbooks. Mary Mundie’s clippings are fabulous and I will continue to dip into them to profile local stories from 1964 till the year 2000. I also reminded everyone that Thomas Blakiston missed our Pass in 1858 in a piece called The Discovery of the Crowsnest Pass (Almost) and followed up with a story on his naming of Gould Dome and its subsequent renaming as Tornado Mountain in 1915.
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2013 - The year of the flood. I photographed the action early that morning from Hillcrest to the lakes and it was spectacular. Almost got arrested trying to get the front page shot at the washed out CPR crossing. I wrote about how the Americans bullshitted the Argo storyline, German POW’s in Canada, the story of the bouncing bomb and stiffed a few people with my April Fool’s piece entitled, Who was Loof Von Lirpa? The story of Randy Fabro and I running the US border (Eureka and Back-Just Barely) got a lot of feedback but the one that really resonated with people, near and far, was one called Tales from the House on the Hill. I even got an email from a retired nurse in Alaska.

2014 - was also a year for local stories of interest. I profiled Chris and Nini Peressini, through research found a long thought missing small locomotive from Hillcrest in Moosejaw (The Little Engine That Could), explored the Sleepee Teepee motel story and the history of the Roxy Theater. That was the year we commemorated Hillcrest’s 100th and Steve Hanon, Myriah Sagrafena and myself coordinated an aerial drone shot of 189 kids at Horace Allen school spelling out the number 189. It was like herding cats getting them together but it was a spectacular shot.

2015 - More war stories, this time about how horrific tunnel warfare was in World War One (A Nightmare at Mount Sorrel) and the follow up piece called, A Mountain, a Major and a Tunneling Company. It reveals how Mount Coulthard was named, a peak that our publisher, now a climbing maniac, went up this summer. Locally I visited the old lime kilns (The Cycle of Lime) and Il Bosc- Stories from East Bushtown. In that one you can learn about Duke Scodellaro, a fabulous hockey player who is credited with developing the very first goal-glove blocker.
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2016 – Year of the Watershed. I spent a huge amount of time researching all the watersheds in our area and ran a five column profile of them complete with maps. It gives a real educational overview on how important these drainages are. All the way to the Hudson’s Bay! Again the focus this year was mostly local with stories about my connection to that Alaska nurse (An Outsiders Perspective) , a piece on my remarkable Grandmother, who lived to 104 (Katie Agnes and Alexander Selkirk), high school graduation memories and a piece called Growing Up on Sixth Street which has an ending that still touches me and hopefully you if you chose to check it out again.

2017 - I bought every book about the Prince of Wales Hotel and did a three-part series on its history. Thank God it survived the Waterton fire because it is an iconic structure. Locally I revisited the 1923 and 1948 floods here and the near-miss grass fire in October that shut Coleman down and left us without power and ready for evacuation. There are 12 great images that you can see on line with this story entitled, In the Absence of Light – There Was Fire. I was also lucky enough to meet and interview Joey Coccioloni before he passed and tell his story, Tales of a York Creek Trapper.
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2018 – I really got caught up in a couple of local stories, one on Frantisek Vejr (Frank Wejr) from Frank which ran to four parts and the Kerr Legacy here in the Pass which ran to three parts. I still have one more Kerr part to go to finish up the story on the one and only Kay Kerr and family. Lots of great on-line pictures with these projects. I also got swept up in the dambusters story again with two stories and revealed a local connection (Daniel Revie Walker) to this remarkable piece of history. My wife and daughter actually stood on one of the surviving dams in Germany and I got really weirded out when I discovered that a flight sergeant named John Kinnear was killed on that mission. Go figure.

2019 – This year started with the cancer discovery in Lorraine’s kidney on her 80th birthday and got worse in late October when a CT scan revealed its après surgery spread. I persevered through this using the column as a distraction. So again, a four-part series on one of my favourite people –Gunter Koci. It is the definitive story of coming to Canada and building a new life. A Long Journey into Happiness was another two part series on the Marietta Mancini story which touched me deeply. Sometimes it takes a few columns to do a story justice.

All in all the stories are what I hope you, the readers, have enjoyed. There are well over 220 of them online and I invite you to dabble in whatever interests you. I’m just connecting the dots here in the Crowsnest Pass.
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September 2nd, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 35
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