Tag Archives: Powell River

Vimy 100

This post is an email from my father. When I visited Vimy Ridge I had no idea our relative John (Jock) MacGregor commonly known as Uncle Mac fought at Vimy Ridge I knew of his service since high school but never knew he fought in this historic Canadian battle until I returned from my trip abroad. 

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MacGregor V.C.: Goodbye Dad: Biography of the Man Who Won More Awards for Valour Than Any Other Canadian Soldier
MacGregor V.C.

This weekend marks the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The ridge had long been held by Germany with the Allies trying unsuccessfully to capture the ridge several times. This was the first battle where Canada’s troops were together under Canadian command.

We have a relative who played a key role in winning the battle. He was John (Jock) MacGregor who later married Granny Newman’s (nee Louisa Amelia Nelmes) niece, Ethel Flowers. To the family they were Uncle Mac and Aunt Ethel and lived in Powell River, B. C. Their oldest son, Jim, wrote a book about Uncle Mac’s life titled MacGregor VC.

Sargent John MacGregor V.C.

Sergeant MacGregor was in charge of “C” Company and at 5:30 am on April 9th, 1917 he led them through light snow flurries to the attack. Their objective was an enemy trench line 700 yards away through heavily defended terrain as shown in the pictures. Part way through, they were pinned down by machine gun fire. Sergeant MacGregor told his men to take cover as he went on ahead and singlehandedly took out the machine gun nest, killed the crew and captured the gun. He then led “C” Company to their enemy trench objective. Sergeant MacGregor then fired three white flares that signified their success. They had secured their objective in 30 minutes, a few minutes ahead of time. The opening battle was won – soon followed by Canada taking the ridge.

We visited Vimy last June and I have included some pictures of what it looks like now. It is peaceful, green and eerily beautiful. How they could advance against the well entrenched enemy is beyond me. I checked with an historian there and he confirmed that “C” Company was the first to reach their objective.

Uncle Mac went on to more heroic deeds. He ended up being Canada’s most decorated WW1 foot soldier. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the Military Cross with Bar, and the Victoria Cross (our nation’s highest award).

I have a hard time relating the quiet, soft spoken man I knew with the man revealed in his war record. In fact, I didn’t know much of his war history until I started doing Family History.

Canada’s success at Vimy is often credited with our country coming of age and taking its place as an independent nation. Uncle Mac played an important role in it.

There is much more about him and the battle on the internet and I have a file on him.

The pictures are of the battlefield (seen below), the modern concrete version of one of the trenches, and one of the allies tunnels. Since the ridge battle lines were stable for a couple of years, both sides built tunnels. The tunnel was right where “C” Division prepared to go out and over the top of the trenches.

Bob Dall

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Post Script:

While I will be watching the ceremonies on TV. I really enjoyed walking around the imposing monument alone in the rain. I was awestruck by it’s beauty in quite contemplation.

The recreated trenches made out of concrete (instead of sand) at The Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France.
A new sign showing “Dead End” in the tunnels of the The Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. I felt the sign was very apropos for the purpose of the tunnels and the troops waiting for battle inside.
The trenches had names of local area that were familiar to the soldiers so they didn’t get lost on making there way around the battle field at The Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France.
Artillery shells created a bumpy landscape at The Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France.

Andy Clark shoots The Patricia Theatre

Photographer friend Andy Clark of Reuters News Pictures visited the Patricia Theatre after I told him about my recent visit and he shot this amazing photo story.

He also wrote about his time in Powell River on the Reuters Photographers Blog.

Truly amazing what happens when you scratch the surface and look at the history of a community. I was just happy to help get this little gem of a theatre some much deserved recognition and hope it has many more years of opening nights and afternoon matinees.

Cheers Andy!

Powell River Historic District Plaque from the Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada

Read the Plaque:
The Powell River Townsite

Dear Roman Mars

You would love the Powell River Townsite.

The Powell River Paper Mill established in 1909 (current owned by Catalyst Paper)  and was the bellwether for the establishment of the town.
The Powell River Paper Mill established in 1909 (current owned by Catalyst Paper) and was the bellwether for the establishment of the town.

Ever since the Concrete Furniture episode I have been a faithful listener of 99 percent invisible. It was in your podcasts that I learn about your Read The Plaque mantra along with Secret Staircases and loved every episode before, after and in between.

See Roman I am a lover of quirky info. My curiosity is only second to my love of photography. So when Wikimedia Commons had their photograph a monument drive in September I though hey let’s look around and find what’s available.

There was nothing on the lower Sunshine Coast which is Sechelt, Gibsons and Pender Harbour, but there was in the upper Sunshine Coast ; the historic townsite of Powell River and it had not been photographed for the project for the commons.

Then Joel showed up…

Joel looking at a map of Powell Rivers Historic Townsite during our photographic walking tour.
Joel proving guys do look at maps during our walking tour of the Powell River’s Historic Townsite.

Then Joel showed up. Who is Joel? He is my best friend and the guy who taught me about photography. He just moved back to Sechelt after 6 years in China.

I called Joel and said, “Want to go to photograph old building in Powell River for Wikipedia?”

In more words then less Joel said sure why not… He had not been there in years and we haven’t gone out shooting together in more then 10 years.

We researched about the Historic Townsite,  got up early and hit the road.

Own backyard

We arrived at the Powell River Townsite and parked at the The Old Courthouse Inn had a awesome breakfast at the Edie Rae’s Cafe. We met the owners Kelly Belanger and JP Brosseau who as it turned out were having breakfast right beside us.

They gave us the historical walking tour pamphlet provided by the Townsite Heritage Society of Powell River.

What we found through our walking tour was just short of amazing and I barely knew the history of something in my own backyard.

What I really liked about the Townsite of Powell River was how much of the town was in one way or another connected to an architectural ideas presented on 99 Percent Invisible.

A heron sits on a log in front the YOGN 82 which is one of the 12 ships floating concrete and steel ships that comprise a floating breakwater around the Powell River Mill.
A heron sits on a log in front the YOGN 82 which is one of the 12 ships floating concrete and steel ships that comprise a floating breakwater around the Powell River Mill.

1. The floating ships that comprised the breakwater of the mill were originally world war one and world war two era concrete ships reminded me of the Razzle Dazzle  (Episode 65). (although not painted as such) These type of concrete ships were made as such for the easy construction although they were heavy and not economical after the war effort to operate.

Evening sunlight streams through the row housing of Cedar street in Powell River. Row housing in the evening light on Cedar St. in Powell River, British is typical example of a residential area of a company built town from the early 20th century.
Evening sunlight streams through the row housing of Cedar street in Powell River. Row housing in the evening light on Cedar St. in Powell River, British Columbia is typical example of a residential area of a company built town from the early 20th century.

2. The towns preplanned layout has a number of housing designs for couples, family’s and the single mill worker and yet not a single Cul de Sac (Episode 29) was included in the design.

Hand painted signs on the utility box covers at the Patricia Theatre.
Hand painted signs on the utility box covers at the Patricia Theatre. The main power line and the organ motor had separate power boxes. The organ motor power box now runs the digital projector required by the motion picture studios in the theaters 2012 conversion.

3.  The Hand Painted Signs (Episode 74) of Patricia Theatre and the hand painted utility box covers. You just don’t see that much quality put into a utility box anymore something that Parks Canada noted on his visit and was pointed out to us on our tour of the theatre.

A walkways leads from the residential area of the Powell River Townsite down the the hill towards the Paper Mill.
A walkways leads from the residential area of the Powell River Townsite down the the hill towards the Paper Mill.

4. As we were walking down the hill from towards the mill. We came across a Secret Staircase ( Episode 75 ). I immediately stopped and said to Joel. I heard of these before. Roman talked about pathways and staircases between properties. This one of course was a shortcut to the paper mill. But it had all the hallmarks of a secret staircase built (I am sure) with the rest of the town in the 1930’s.

Picture of a sign infront of the St. Joseph's Catholic Church in the Powell River Township
One of many signs and plaques around the townsite.

5. The plaques and signs  They are everywhere! The Townsite Heritage Society of Powell River has really done a great job on signs plaques and overall history of the townsite. So I implore you to Read the Plaque. Or better yet take a picture of it and submit it to the Read The Plaque website a collaboration between Roman Mars and Alexis Madrigal.

Every building a new story

Photo of the The former Bank of Montreal Building now called Studio 56. The build was being renovated in 2013 for use as an art space and community gathering spot.
The former Bank of Montreal Building now called Studio 56. The build was being renovated in 2013 for use as an art space and community gathering spot.

Every turn we took we encountered an new building and a new story behind it. The old Bank of Montreal building that is now an art studio called Studio 56.

Photo of Townsite Brewing location in the Powell River Townsite.
Townsite Brewing (named after the Powell River townsite) moved into the building in 2011 and selected this building for it’s beautiful brick work and industrial design.

The most fun we had was at Townsite Brewery which was originally build as the post office and customs house for the community. It has a beautiful brick art deco patterns and because of the brick and steel construction was the perfect location to house a craft brewery.  Also they make amazingly well crafted beer.

So… You should really check out the Powell River Historic Townsite if you ever have the chance Roman.

Regards

Robert Dall
Faithful listen and season 3 support of 99% invisible.

Epilogue: The larger picture

Although I knew Wiki Loves Monuments was happening world wide I never really thought about all the other people uploading photos. I just thought this would be something nice to do in my neck of the woods with a photo buddy I haven’t seen in a very long time. But viewing the stats for the month was impressive.

Worldwide Stats for the monument:

Canadian Stats:

*Although quantity doesn’t always equal quality in my mind

It was great to participate in such a worldwide altruistic movement. It was also great to enjoy a day in the sun exploring a part of the Sunshine Coast I knew very little about with a friend I hadn’t seen in years!

My adventures in the historic Powell River Townsite seeded Andy Clark’s photo story on the Patrica Theatre. He also wrote a wonderful post for the Reuters photo blog as well.