B.C.’s history has been given a voice.
Robert Budd’s new book, Echoes of British Columbia, captures interviews conducted by CBC Radio journalist Imbert Orchard and recording engineer Ian Stephen between 1959 and 1966.
“He (Orchard) went into a community as a novice — ‘Teach me, tell me a story,’” said Budd, who has compiled his favourite stories in Echoes of B.C.
“He allowed the interviewee to tell their story in their own way.”
Orchard and Stephens conducted 998 conversations totalling 2,700 hours of material. “They amassed one of the largest oral history collections in the world,” said Budd.
Among those highlighted in Echoes of B.C. is Bob Gamman, who had a cabin on the west side of Okanagan Lake and found a man frozen to death in 1909.
“How were we going to get him to Kelowna?” said Gamman in his interview.
“Well, tugboats run the lake, they’re hauling logs all the time. And we put him in a boat and I rode him out to a tug and told them to take this body to Kelowna and hand it over to the police.”
Gamman was born in Britain and was considered a remittance man, an individual who was given an allowance to leave England so they didn’t bring shame to their family.
“He had such a great style and attitude,” said Budd of Gamman.
“You get a sense of the camaraderie that came with getting adjusted to life in B.C.”
Another story in the book involves James Inglis on the growth of Lumby and the Flying Frenchmen hockey team.
“We were a French Canadian town so there was numerous of them, our French Canadians, and somebody had to nickname us something, so they called us the Flying Frenchmen,” said Inglis in his interview.
Inglis was born in Lumby in 1897.
“At one time, the board of trade published that I was the first white child born in the village of Lumby,” said Inglis.
Budd, who also wrote Voices of B.C., is impressed with how Orchard’s recordings focus on the average person.
“There’s so much character and so much to be proud of. A story from the Okanagan is different than a story you hear in the Kootenays or the Chilcotin,” he said.
Orchard’s recordings may lead to future books.
“There are so many interviews we haven’t touched. I hope people hear this material and think about their own families and their own histories. I hope they get a pride in their own communities,” said Budd.
Voices of B.C. includes three audio discs.