CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Billie Steele

Madeira Park (B.C.), Harbour Publish­ing, 1990. 154pp, cloth, $29.95
ISBN 1-55017-027-9. CIP

Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up
Reviewed by Adele Case.

Volume 19 Number 3
1991 May

Helen Dawe's Sechelt is an unusual tribute to the memory of a grandchild of a pioneer resident in the coastal area optimistically known to Vancouverites and tourists as the "Sunshine Coast." Sechelt, Davis Bay, Wilson Creek, Roberts Creek, Porpoise Bay, "Redroofs" and Halfmoon Bay make up a coastal area offering a diversity of opportunities to those hardy pioneers who applied for land grants after the 1890s. The book will be treasured as a trove of memorabilia for all who live in the area between Howe Sound and Jervis Inlet, or those who had any contact with the families of the first white settlers in that section of the B.C. coast.

Logging and fishing were important factors in giving employment to those who built up many of the small settle­ments up the B.C. Coast, but the Sechelt region offered more, as it was an isthmus between the Strait of Georgia on the west side of the settlements and the salt water inlet running north and east. This fertile and pleasant country provided possibilities in farming and summertime hospitality and tourism. The area still attracts sports fishermen, artists, crafts people and great numbers of tourists. The communities thrive and continue to expand, attracting retired folk as well as working residents. Sadly, many other waterfront outports on the old Union Steamship route have died or are becoming ghost towns.

This book was compiled from Helen Dawe's recollections, her collection of photographs of pioneers, and anecdotal research on a wide range of the people and highlights in their lives throughout the early decades of the infant settle­ment (a great storm, for example, would be written about, or a grounded vessel or hotel afire would be photographed). As well, though, we see the humble pride of a pioneer couple in front of their log cabin, with a belled cow, a posed photo of the Sechelt Indian brass band with instruments in hand, and early residents waiting for their mail to be sorted. These serve to focus the reader's attention on the rich multicultural background of Sechelt dwellers, as well as on their manifold interests and occupations.

In such a "folksy" record as this one might expect slight interest from the sophisticated city residents. This would be a pity, as Helen Dawe's pictures are a chronological history that should not be lost. This link is valuable, as the whole of the lower mainland is changing rapidly. The black-and-white photo­graphs are arranged under several sub­headings, under chapter headings such as "Early Settlers," 'The Opening of Sechelt," "Seaways and Roads" and "Schools and Churches."

Short stories accompany a number of the photos, and there is additionally a text that gives further details on the well-known families and major events in the Sechelt environs through the past one hundred years. A sensible and useful index lists not only residents and locations but also newspapers, passen­ger ships and other commercial craft that plied the coast. Churches, residen­tial schools, major stores, banks, compa­nies and even epidemics that struck the community are also indexed.

This is a browser's book, but one with great charm, as the entries encour­age further reading.


Adele Case, Britannia Secondary School, Vancouver, B.C.
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