John Charters

John Charters – interviewed August, 1993

My name is Nicole; I am the researcher for the Castlegar and District Heritage Society. It is the hope of the Society that by recording interviews with the pioneers and those familiar with the history of our area, the society will create a permanent historical record for all to enjoy.

Would you consent to be interviewed by me on this basis?

JC: Certainly

NB: Your name is?

JC: John Charters

NB: The date is August 5, 1993

NB: Mr. Charters, what year were you born?

JC: 1916

NB: Where were you born?

JC: Vancouver

NB: And you went to school there?

JC: yes, first in a one room school in Barnet out on Burrard Inlet and then later as a teenager, I went to North Burnaby High School, in Burnaby, of course. Then I took my B.A. Degree at UBC and my B.Ed Degree at UBC and Victoria.

NB: Did you start to teach before you were in the services?

JC: No, I had started in medicine and then when I went overseas I came back and I looked at seven years of medicine and decided with a family I couldn’t manage it so I went into education. For a long time, it was a matter of regret that I hadn’t pursued medicine, but in more recent years and perhaps on more mature consideration, I have enjoyed my teaching career greatly and I think it was probably the right thing.

NB: What year did you come to Castlegar?

JC: In August of 1947.

NB: Did you come here to teach?

JC: That’s right, I came here to teach grade nine.

NB: You were only supposed to stay one year. What prompted you to stay?

JC: It’s interesting, isn’t it? Castlegar, when I came here was a very small town, maybe 1500 – 2000 people, and it was quite rural. I suppose the thing I liked most about Castlegar was the sense of intimacy and friendliness of the whole situation. And Castlegar can be, as I have indicated before, habit forming, people come and don’t realize that they are being hooked. You can get hooked on Castlegar, that’s quite correct.

NB: Did you bring a family here?

JC: Yes, I came here with my first family, my wife and my son and daughter Tanya and Jack, in reverse order.

NB: You started writing for the Castlegar News in 1952 under the alias E.G.O.

JC: E.G.O. Now this particular E.G.O. has three periods; the letters E.G.O. and the word EGO is the Latin for “I”, so by my putting in periods they thought it was someone’s initials and they never could figure it out.

When Les Campbell died, the publisher came out of the closet. Until then, it was a secret for 20 years, and it made for some very interesting, quite revealing, conversations as a consequence. I can remember, at the request of the editor, going to the Village Meetings and there was one character on Council at the time who was a real loudmouth, a loud and abrasive individual. So I wrote a column on loud and abrasive people but never mentioned names, and then later, after the paper had come out, I met this individual on the street and he said, “I was reading that fellow E.G.O. and I agree with him exactly”. So people never see themselves as they are. (laughter)

NB: In the column you were writing, “JUST LOOKING, THANK-YOU” in one of your first columns in August of 1952, you wrote about a Carnival coming to town. You seemed quite concerned. Was that because of your feelings of responsibility to Castlegar.

JC: Not so much to Castlegar, but perhaps to my own kids at school. I was a father figure to some of these kids and some of the carnies I’d seen and I wasn’t too happy about the kids associating with them. I also teed off against a hypnotist, “the great somebody or other”. He did a hypnotist show in the activity room at Stanley Humphries and he had these young people doing all these crazy things and people were saying this was nonsense. In this particular instance he had people on stage doing various kinds of things and he said: “I want you to do something. Hold your hand out to the other people on the stage: and this guy sitting next to me started to raise his hand. So the power of suggestion is very strong. Anyway, I didn’t like what was happening to my children and the next day I asked how they felt and some had very severe headaches. This is not a good thing, using people to make fools out of them. I was trying to act as the community conscience.

NB: What prompted you to write your first book REFLECTIONS AND RECOLLECTIONS?

JC: I don’t know, ego I guess. In part, a number of people had said: “I’d like to see some of those old columns again” and eventually I said: “OK, let’s give it a whirl”. Some of my favourites, I sort of chose a cross-section of the few I had written. I think there are about 200 in the book.

NB: Why the switch all of a sudden?

JC: You mean in the head? Well, that’s where I said I came out of the closet. There was E.G.O. JUST LOOKING, THANK-YOU. You know how you go to the store and someone comes, and you say: “I’m just looking, thank-you”. That’s what I was doing, looking at my community and it’s people while hiding under this pseudonym. But when Les died the bond was broken and I wrote a column on Les revealing that I was EGO, in a eulogy to him, and we start off anew.

NB: Did you receive a lot of flack over it?

JC: Again, as I say, by that time it would have been 20 years later and that loud fellow was probably still convinced that I was talking about someone else. (laughter).

NB: Did you receive a lot of flack over it?

JC: Again, as I say, by that time it would have been 20 years later and that loud fellow was probably still convinced that I was talking about someone else. (laughter)

NB: So do you write for the Castlegar Sun now?

JC: When the CasNews collapsed, I was on holidays for all of about two months and people kept saying: “Why don’t you write for the Castlegar Sun” so eventually my ego got me again.

NB: Do you think you will keep writing for the Sun?

JC: Oh yes, I enjoy it. It’s like anything else. If you don’t practice you start to get rusty and the words are harder to come by. Writing forces me to think, it keeps me alive. If you don’t get your ideas down, then, they’re like smoke, they’re gone.

NB: Do you see another book in the future?

JC: Yes, the other book in the future has been sitting thee for ages and ages and ages. It’s a book that I will probably call Tamar and the Dragon Tree. It’s really a kind of a child’s fantasy. I’m having some difficulty finding someone for illustrating the thing. It is about 2/3 written but if I had someone to take off and get the pictures, it would stimulate me, but, the real reason is I’ve got to get the seat of my pants off the seat of the chair. But, as I said, this is a child’s fantasy, and, I being a typical school teacher, it has little lessons stuck in it. The thing that delights me is the fact that adults or at least some adults like it. That is a good sign, I hope.

NB: When you arrived at the C.P.R. Station you were met by Mr. King, Sec.y-Treas. of School District No. 9. Did you always feel that sense of community bonding?

JC: Castlegar has grown, and, like any other when things grow the parts get farther and farther apart and you don’t have the same sense of intimacy.

Bureaucracies have grown and bureaucracies always lock one off from people. But, essentially, Castlegar is still a friendly place in spite of all these false cubicles we have built up around ourselves and there still exists that sense of community.

NB: Have you seen a lot of physical changes in Castlegar?

JC: It’s really very difficult for you young people to realize how much Castlegar has changed. The changes are quite massive. For example, when I got off at the Station in ’47 it was back farther, and, of course, there were no surrounding buildings. There was Mitchell’s Feed and the Coal Depot when you looked down the tracks. The hotel was across the street an you could see that and there was at least one, maybe more, of the pool halls still looking as disreputable as they did then. There was St. Rita Church, with a typical little whit steeple beyond there. Still going down 13th Avenue, you could see the old Community Hall down on the corner where 13th meets Columbia Avenue. It was probably the biggest building in town. With the exception of Columbia Avenue would be dirt roads or gravel roads. Beyond Columbia Avenue, everything tricked off into nothing. Maple Street, now 4th Street kept on going to Eremenko’s Park. It was a long street to where they’re building the new temporarily called Twin River’s Park. That’s where people had their picnics. For awhile they had one of those big Auto Views. It’s gone now, of course. Seventh Avenue was interesting. It started somewhere up about 2nd Street and as a dirt road and by the time it got down here by the Island, it was a cow track up the hospital hill. But, you didn’t go straight; there were at least three deep gullies, real deep gullies en route. When the river rose in the spring, the area down below would all be flooded so that there were deep ponds. There were no tennis courts because that area was flooded, too. Of course there was no Police building and no Forestry. There was nothing, not even the Laundromat. Sherbiko Hill has been cut down and filled in since that time. It was very dangerous, for there were more accidents on the hill than anywhere else in town. People would start down the hill and then realize it was steeper than they thought. If you go up on the right hand side you’ll notice there’s quite a cut in the bank. That came down and then dropped quite steeply on the other side. To give you an example of how dangerous it was, a mother and a daughter were driving down Sherbiko Hill one day. Apparently for no reason, perhaps they hit an icy patch, they slid off the road and hit a telephone pole. When people ran over to see if they were okay, the two people found sitting upright in the car not moving. Then they opened the door, the rescuers found them to be both dead. The banging against the telephone pole had broken their necks. I don’t know how many accidents occurred on that hill, probably caused in part by its’ steepness and blind approach. That has been greatly changed. Of course, there was no hospital. The hospital didn’t cine fir 20 years after we came. I can still remember where the Bank of Montreal was, and just on this side was Dr. Goresky’s home and office. He had lovely gardens and everyone admired them.

I mention in that column on Fourth Street where they now have a garage and a chocolate shop, there a big high hill. Part of the hill where they have the Apartment Buildings. It has been cut way far down. It’s hard to realize now I could walk around and tell you, for example, at the railway crossing next to the Castleaird Plaza, there wasn’t a crossing then. The railway came around in a U and where that road is now, there was a gigantic ravine down through where Safeway is. It’s all filled in now. You look at it now but you don’t see it.

NB: Was there a lot of noticeable tensions with the Sons of Freedom?

JC: Yes, I guess thee were. When we were leaving Vancouver to come here there was a lot of burning and blowing up and so forth. People practically kissed us good bye because we were going into this “dangerous place” where people were getting blown up. It was as if we were going into a war zone, and that was the feeling down there. I never saw, or maybe I did, at a distance, a building burning. I have never seen a nude parade in all the time I’ve been here. The activities of the Sons of Freedom were more remote, not in the town, on the outskirts, but, there was a fair amount of resentment, I think, between the local citizenry and the Sons of Freedom which reflected badly on the Orthodox Doukabours generally, and that used to get my back up. People would say “the Doukabours are doing this and that” and I’d say “no” it’s like judging the whole community by the actions of one. Nonetheless, there was an over-lapping note of resentment, with people wondering when these characters would be wondering out loud if the red rooster would fly over your house and that’s scary.

That is an old threat going back to ancient Russia when the peasants would say to another they didn’t like “the red rooster will fly over your house”, which, was a threat of arson, often used against landowners, also. It didn’t originate here but in medieval Russia.

NB: Was it segregated or were they starting to come together?

JC: There was a certain kind of unconscious segregation depending on what group you moved in. There were some members of the community who were quite anti-Doukabours. Others were quite friendly. Castlegar was sort of center for these people to come in and do their shopping. I am sure there is less now and there are certainly a lot more Doukabours in business and other activities now in the town. When I came here, for example, I don’t think any Doukabour kid had ever gone on to University. By the time I left ten years later a number were going to university. On the other hand, parents had much more family control among the Doukabour families at that particular time. Their kids were the best behaved anywhere.

NB: There was a survey done on Columbia Avenue to persuade the government to open a paved road to Trail and you had taken part in this, have you?

JC: Well, that was a kind of a joke. Yes, a request was made in the early 50’s at the High School for a teacher and a couple of students to go down and monitor the traffic on Columbia Avenue. It had to be the most boring job I had ever done in my life. The boys and I sat on the roadway by the present laundry mat (Caldsets) and practically went crazy with boredom because there was no traffic. Now there has been a fantastic change. Now you take your life in your hands in crossing the road, but, then there was absolutely none or scarcely any traffic. If a vehicle came up or down the road, it was in ten minute intervals. It’s hard to realize now how little traffic there was on that road, except when the Cominco shifts changed. Some boys came up to see what we were doing, so I said: “Why not drive back and forth and give us some traffic”. (laughter)
So the bicycle traffic increased greatly on Columbia Avenue. That was our part in encouraging the government to build a new highway. The road at that time was bad once you got out of Castlegar. It was twisty and turning. It ran along the edges of hills. It went up and down and all over the place. In the summer, there were great clouds of dust and in the winter there were huge ruts. Columbia Avenue from here to Trail was something else.

NB: So it was very hard to travel?

JC: It was tough travelling, yes.

NB: Did a lot of people use the water then?

JC: When I first came here, again, the railway was the thing. Then the Highway came over the summits, which is by Rossland. It is a very tricky piece of work to travel. Otherwise one would go through Kettle Falls, U.S.A. (insert from B. Charters). On the summit road there was a dreadful hairpin turn that even a regular car had to back up in order to make the rest of the turn. Very interesting in winter and in a Greyhound.

Not too many years after, they found several automobiles lost over the mountain side. Cars and occupants simply vanished. It was almost as fast to get on the train to go to Vancouver. And, of course, the road from here to Nelson was very difficult and not a very good road. Many people used the train in that trip on a regular basis.

NB: What was the last voyage of the S.S. Minto like?

JC: it was quite something. I took my two children for this particular round trip. The Captain was very good and allowed the children to come up and “steer” the vessel and my small daughter to blow the whistle. I still remember that the Minto had a good dining room in the style of the old C.P.R., long before your time. When we went dining at the C.P.R. there were linen table cloths, silver flatware and vessels for dining; propertly white-uniformed waiters, and the food was excellent. It wasn’t for everyone, but it was a real experience, and, was quite reasonable. (Insert from B. Charters: there were excursions for the children on the Minto on the weekends. Betty Price talked about it and she talks about the old beer parlour and her brother challenging everyone to fights outside the pub. She would be babysitting in the upstairs of the Station watching him challenge everyone to fisticuffs. The kids would go down to the dock on our side (West Robson) and the Chinese cook would invite these kids into the dining room and he would give them pie and whatever while the Minto caught up steam all the way to West Robson, all of a half mile, but it was a great adventure.

For 10 cents a trip from Castlegar to Robson was the thing, but again there was the sense of community. Things were less formal, less sticky and they would go to Nelson and back for two bits. If there was a hockey game, but don’t forget that two bits (25 cents) was quite a lot back then, but it was a great thing. You would have a whole day off in Nelson and come back for twenty five cents and that would take one not only from here but to and from Trail.

NB: In one of your articles, you mentioned that Castlegar had one of the best School Boards in B.C. Has that changed?

JC: Castlegar School Board, when I came here, reflected the community. The Board members were not paid. It was a voluntary occupation though if they had to go on some conference, their expenses would be met. Other than that, people gave their time. Again, the whole operation was not weighed down by government bureaucratic red tape. I’d rather not say anything more about it, but people today are tied up with red tape and government monkeying. Philosophically, I’m strongly opposed to it, and we’re gradually losing our democratic rights.

NB: Was it common practice for the Board Members not to be paid?

JC: Yes it was, and for some years after it was voluntary operation. Working on the School Board was probably regarded as a bit of an apprenticeship for higher political ambitions. Through this a person would get a certain amount of experience in a public situation, and, if you get your name known and then comes an election you could run for office in a larger situation.

NB: So it was good for exposure?

JC: Really good for exposure.

NB: And you retired in 1978?

JC: You’ll have to ask Bunny that.

NB: What grades were you teaching?

JC: When I retired, probably Senior High School. Don’t forget when I started, I was teaching all grade nine and when I came here there were three classes in the High School. The next year there were four. It has been growing ever since, of course. I started over at the Robson Hall; had 40 or so kids in a place that was squeezed for 20, and I do mean squeezed. I remember a couple of kids were sitting on nail kegs. You couldn’t walk down the aisle between the ancient desks, you sidled down. The blackboards were so ancient that you practically had to dig your initials into it. It was a good experience. From there I went to the old Robson Hotel which is gone now and from then until after Christmas we moved to the Doukabour Hall in Castlegar. Next year (’48), we went to Raspberry; they had four classes. They tore out the teacher’s living quarters in between the class rooms and then they put in a portable room beside it to make the four class rooms. There was no such thing as a Science Lab so I made one in the basement on the dirt floor and that’s where it started; a basic education.

NB: What did you do for entertainment, recreation, dances?

JC: There were dances and the school was expected to put on a concert.

NB: So everyone really involved themselves?

JC: There was probably more volunteers then.
The old arena was strictly a volunteer operation; the present public library started off in a basement. Helen Davis’s basement, and then moved to the old community hall where we practically froze to death since we had practically no heating. But because it was a small community, people were more prepared. You help me and I’ll help you.

NB: So if there was a fire or something, then people would help each other out?

JC: Yes, there was no regular Fire Department. It was strictly a volunteer operation.

NB: What was the Police Force like?

JC: The police, at that time, would have been the R.C.M.P. The Provincial Police had been disbanded earlier and the R.C.M.P. took over sometime just before the war. If you came here, the Police Office would have been (insert from B. Charters: “Wasn’t it on Columbia Ave. in that private house?” I simply can’t remember, it’s possible it was, but, there was no police building as such and there would be probably about two policemen.

NB: Did they have to cover the same area as Mac Andrew?

JC: No Mac Andrew had to cover a much wider area. But they still had to cover a large area, and, don’t forget at that time the Sons of Freedom were busy. But, the police and the main office were in Nelson so that the police resources were pretty badly stretched.

NB: When you were teaching in the Robson School, were there any tricks the kids played on you, like moving bricks?

JC: Bunny is leading you into this. (laughter) Oh yes, that was fun, but again that was the community intimacy. It was different, you see, as things go. Bunny is referring to the “disappearing brick game”. The post that held up the deck of the Raspberry School was a brick column and one day a brick went missing, and, some concern was shown about this. The next day another brick and the next another brick and so on. It became a sort of epidemic and George Magwood, who was the principal at the time said: “We have to get here earlier” but it didn’t make any difference. The bricks still disappeared, and try as we might, we couldn’t find out where the bricks were going, but they were going. Talking to the kids later, I learned that they would cause a bit of a diversion to draw the teacher’s attention away, then steal the brick. As soon as we lost interest, and having put a wooden post in, that was the end of the brick caper. But another caper always made me laugh. We had our staff room, which was really little more than a broom closet. One day we heard a rumbling like an avalanche outside the building, and, because it was very steep there, and, at that time also there were two biffies. George Magwood and Bill Schkwarck, John Munlap and I hustled out to see what was going on outside, just in time to see a rock rolling by the school. Another one came down; looking up the steep hill, we saw there were several kids up there, and were the instigators of the rock roll. You have to imagine George Magwood, he was very tall and very thin, had one leg shorter than the other and a beaky nose and a very bald head. In fact he looked something like an eagle. So there’s this tall George with the beaky nose and the bald head yelling “BOYS COME DOWN HERE”, so the boys came down very sheepishly. “AND PLEASE EXPLAIN WHAT YOU ARE DOING”. Well sir, we are studying the laws of gravity. (laughter). “We wanted to see how far down the hill gravity would take these rocks”. Some of those rocks, of course, hit the building and made a terrific racket. So George listened to this imaginative explanation and asks solemnly. “How successful were you”? “Well, we got some rocks right down to the roads”. “Well, I must commend you boys, on your scientific interest, however, now that your experiment has ended, it is only fair that having dislodged these rocks from the hillside, that you should take them back to where God put them in the first place”. Then, as an after thought – “And while you are at it you can build a cairn in commemoration of this experiment”. They struggled up that hill for about three weeks, every noon with these darn rocks and that’s the kid of spirit I remember. And in our makeshift lab in the basement we were making hydrogen using an Erlen meyer flask. It is dangerous and I went over and over the precautions to be taken so to avoid an explosion. Allan Jacobsen, son of the School Board chairman, Mickey Jacobsen was a bit of a scatterbrain, but a nice boy. We got started and no sooner had we begun than “whamo”, the top blew out of the flask. Fortunately, Allan hadn’t pushed it in tight enough, otherwise the flask would have exploded. Some kind of lesson had to be established, so I said: “Allen, since you have not only endangered your own eyesight, but the physical attributes of others around you, therefore, I want you to see what it would have been like had you been successful in exploding the flask”.

So I took a bandage and covered his eyes, so he was blind and for the rest of the day Allan was led about the school by his classmates. That was one of the best lessons of his life. They all will remember it.

NB: Was courting a lot different back then?

JC: Yes, courting, that’s a very good word. Yes, but how would you say in a way it was different. There was still the same interest between one sex to the other.

NB: Would it be customary for the boy to meet the girl’s parents?

JC: Much more formal. (insert from B. Charters: There was a great deal of bias regarding the Doukabour families and the so-called “Anglikey”. They weren’t encouraged to intermarry at all). But it did work both ways, and, is interesting that you bring that up. At that particular time, it was all right for a Doukabour girl to go out with a non-Doukabour boy (an Anglikey). No matter who they were they were always called Anglikey: English, Italian, or Portuguese but they were mostly of English extraction. But for a Doukabour boy to go with an Anglikey girl was frowned upon by the parents. It was not good. So people now forget that there was this bias. It was because they wanted to keep the name in the family. Besides only a Doukabour girl would know how to properly take care of a Doukabour boy, they thought. Actually it was kind of a status symbol at that time to marry into an English family.

NB: Mr. Charters, you are always getting your picture in the paper and awards and medals, you were decorated in the war for gallantry and recently given a medal for Canada 125.

JC: Let me make a quote from the soldiers: MEDALS COME UP WITH THE RATIONS! Rations are your food which comes up to the front lines for everyone. Every once in a while someone from the back lines says we have to give a medal to someone so send a medal up with the rations, so that then I got mine.

NB: I think that everything that has been awarded to you has been because you have deserved it and I think there is much more coming your way.

JC: You’re too kind. I attribute any success to my dear wife.

NB: Your involvement with the Heritage Society, you are the founder, or one of the first to get it going along with Mrs. Charters.

JC: Perfectly by accident. But, yes with Bunny’s assistance, yes.

NB: What you have done for the community with the Heritage Society, I don’t know how anyone could properly thank you in any kind of words because what you have done is an absolute godsend for any of us who have anything to do with the Society.

JC: Well, thank-you very kindly, but, I guess you might call it “enlightened self interest”. When I came here I fell in love, like Mr. Zuckerberg, with the island and the thought of the island becoming another building site, was abhorrent. I guess I felt that I owed Mr. Zuckerberg a debt to carry on what he did as a public thing. He regarded the island as something to hand on to people after his death. Maybe he was misdirected by his family, but he did have an ideal for that particular island. So there you have it, Enlightened self interest.

I couldn’t have lived with myself and seen the island go. (insert from B. Charters: also it was being vandalized very badly).

NB: I guess it would turn into a haven for every transient around.

JC: That’s right (insert from B. Charters: and in addition to that Gil Zuckerberg
was one of the Trustees, for the island.) The island was left in trust to the grandchildren who had no interest in the island at all and Gil, his son, was one of the trustees for this for the grandchildren. He alone would come and check the island and try and make repairs to the Chapel House. I guess between us we did our best. It really got going when the Rotary Club said: “Let’s have a project” and made the island that project. (insert from Mrs. Charters: who persuaded them to make it their project? I don’t know, Bunny.)

NB: Would you have had a hand in that?

JC: Yes, I guess. Once again a matter of enlightened, self-interest. I saw it going to hell in a hand basket and we as a club were looking for a project, “let’s open up the island for a bit”. I was put in charge, for opening my mouth. (insert from B. Charters: but each time Gil came and replaced the windows he would be scarcely out of town when the vandals would be over there and breaking it and throwing the furniture out the upstairs windows and that sort of thing.)

NB: You also had a part in the project of the C.P.R. museum.

JC: You know that goes back much longer than ordinarily realized. We started sort of left-handedly when the city gave us the authority to negotiate with C.P.R. while the city stayed in the background. While the Executive Heritage Society saw what it could do with the C.P.R., the C.P.R. wasn’t making any commitment at all and said: we have no plans. We will let you know when something comes up. However, we kept pecking away at it and Betty Price was very good at it. Eventually they started talking about building a new station so we realized that if they were going to build a new station, they would have to get rid of the old one. So in the last three years, we had quite a number of meetings with their representatives, who were quite ready, I suspected, to deny that they knew anything about it. They didn’t have the authority to say, “when it comes up you can have it”, you see. The C.P.R. never gives anything away. Whoever the representative was, we’d take him out to dinner and talk to him about the station. As the time got closer, you could feel the vibrations that they were going to make a move. Finally they committed themselves and once they committed themselves, they were in a tremendous rush to do the job. Thanks to Dr. Bill Sloan who was a member of the Heritage Trust, at that time, again to Betty and some friends I had in the Heritage Trust, we swung this Heritage Trust grant for $45,000.00 to move the station and do some basic reconstruction and development, if the City would match it. And, that was the catchy part. We had the $45,000.00 from Heritage Trust if the City would match it. I had gone up to see her and the mayor was very concerned because there were members on their Council who were strongly opposed to it. It was going to be a tight vote, particularly because a couple of councillors who supported it would not be at the meeting. So there it was, divided down the center. So I said to the Mayor, if you need some support, I’ll be at home. Give me a call. I got a call and went down to the building when the Mayor said: “We would like you to explain the need for the rescue of the Station:. I used the loss of the Minto as my starting point. We had lost the Minto, I said, because there was nobody to save it. We had lost a part of our heritage and it was gone forever. We had now an opportunity to save this station which is the nucleus of our community and the money is there to do it if the City will match it. It was not necessary for the city to provide actual funds. They could do the same as on the island, where very little actual money went into the job and they used much of our volunteer labour as part of that grant for themselves.

What was supposed to be a five minute explanation therefore turned out to be half hour harangue. I can remember getting very mad and saying to the council “AND IF YOU LET THIS ONE GO THIS WILL BE THE LAST THING ME AND MY EXECUTIVE WILL EVERY DO FOR THE CITY AGAIN” and I left. I played a bit of politics because I said to certain council members, (no names mentioned) “so and so, you were very strongly in support of the society when, I remember what you did, etc. Next morning one of the most adamant of those against the station came up to me and said: “We did it! We did it! It was unanimous”. It was a great victory and a turning point for the Heritage Society. If we had lost that Station, it would have been a tragedy. And another thing, that meeting was held on a Wednesday or Thursday evening and the C.P.R. was going to bulldoze the building on Monday – we were that close. The station was essential to the community. If we would have lost that we would have lost our city focal point. The City grew around the Station and the Minto was its’ connector, but the station is where we live.

NB: How do you feel about the Downtown Revitalization?

JC: Well, I am all in support of it. I think our town was an awful mess. We had an awful lot of planners and not a lot of planning at City Hall. As a consequence our plumbing and our lighting was in a state of confusion. Now having seized the situation, they’re doing a find job. It looks great.

NB: Well, as this interview is coming to an end, I’d like to say that your passion for writing and telling people about Castlegar is greatly appreciated and will go from generation to generation. Without a person like you in Castlegar, I don’t think the true beauty of Castlegar would ever be exposed and I hope that every town has a Mr. Charters.

JC: Thank-you very much.

Interviewed by Nicole Bouvette