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VALLEY VOICES: Facebook page collects history of the North Thompson

Perhaps one key to unlocking the vault of history is online
Barclay West, the son of Mrs. West the schoolteacher, lived in Avola. This photo of him with his puppy, Honey, in 1959, was posted on the new Facebook page and received several comments from former Avola residents near and far, including his sister, Rebecca West Beaton of Blue River. These “Baby Boomers” who can recall names and facts are a big part of the group enjoying the Facebook page. (Photo submitted)

By Eleanor Deckert

Every so often, there is a flurry of interest around the topic of local history.

Maybe an old-timer passed away and the friends and extended family gather together to reminisce, share stories and laughs, facts and tall tales.

Or an estate auction attracts former neighbours who realize they shared experiences decades ago.

Maybe the Valley Voices page in this newspaper stimulates a conversation, disagreement or additional side-stories.

Maybe while reading the “Back in Time” page, we pause and recognize that 20, 30, 50 years ago “I was there.”

Maybe while composing pages of our own family scrapbook or photo album we are surprised to find, “I’m older now than my mother was then.”

During the middle 1990s, the Clearwater and District History Book Committee compiled and published a 501-page book, “Upper North Thompson Reflections.” This rich treasury has preserved names and dates, facts and faces, as well as short histories of schools, churches, the hospital, transportation, police, industries, clubs and hundreds of families’ memories.

Ida Dekelver also attempted to build up a museum collection. More than once these treasures have been threatened by flooding. Attempts to request historic status for the old log school house in Avola resulted in the discovery that unprotected historic sites can be changed in a few hours and while making improvements, changes to the original state mean that irre-coverable history could be lost.

What can be done then to preserve, protect, restore, collect, share and save the history, which disappears the moment one of our elders closes their eyes, or a building burns down, a family moves away, or a site is overturned? Is there a leader willing to form a non-profit historic society?

Is there a land location, a building, funding, insurance, staffing and items owners are willing to donate?

If only we had a museum.

If only we had an archivist.

If only there was a bank of audio and video, interviews and photos, letters and art work, yearbooks and maps.

If only there was a place to store these and ways to display them.

But first would come a way to collect them.

Perhaps one key to unlocking the vault of history is within our reach. It is online.

On Jan. 29, 2014, Hettie Buck, Suzan (Gorovenko) Miller, DeeDee Miller, and Jim Bartlett started a Facebook page.

Within a few days The Rich History of the North Thompson Valley and beyond…. grew to have 1,465 members!

The purpose of their efforts is stated: “To offer a place to share the rich history, culture. photos and other information that would be of interest to the members and their family and friends. It could potentially become a way to preserve some of the historical stories for future reference.

“In broad terms, we are thinking that this can cover an area from Barriere to Blue River or possibly Valemount. We hope it will be inviting, inspiring, memorable, historically focused and FUN!”

It is a “closed” group to promote a degree of security, meaning that a member may invite someone new to join. Each request to join is forwarded to the administrators.

“We are attracting a real cross-section of members from younger generations to older,” Hettie Buck explains. “It’s wonderful to see them all interacting and sharing history. What an inspiring way to share our region’s legacy and memories of the foundation building by early pioneers!”

Childhood pals are reconnecting. Old cars, hairstyles, clothing and equipment show popular trends. Buildings which are now turning back to mulch were once plumb and solid.

What an easy way to share photos, facts, names and memories! It’s free to participate, add, read, comment and enjoy.

It’s like a real museum display open 24 hours a day and available in your own home. Participants are local eyewitness guides ready to add info if you ask a question! What’s not to love?

“I’m so happy that it’s become so popular so quickly and so many folks are enjoying- ing it,” Ms. Buck’s welcoming voice invites. “I think it will become a very good resource for future projects and archiving down the road. We asked the members if they liked the idea of more exposure in the Valley Voices newspaper section and there was overwhelming agreement.”

You can join if you open your Facebook page, click on the top left space labelled: “search for people places and things” and type “Rich History of the North Thompson and beyond.”

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