March madness in Ladysmith – Chronicles From The Past

Ed Nicholson of the Ladysmith and District Archives shares the news from March 1914, 1939 and 1964 in his monthly column.

March 1914

After a long and tedious winter, most Ladysmith residents were delighted to see bright sunny weather at the beginning of March. Unfortunately, for drivers, the sunshine also brought out the local constabulary to enforce traffic. One of the first to be pulled over was Captain G.L. Watson, who was travelling 25 MPH past the elementary school. Watson, along with several others in police court that morning, was fined $25 by Magistrate Griesbach.

On March 5, 1914, Ladysmith said farewell to one of its most notable citizens. The funeral for Robert Rolston was held at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, where he had been recovering from a lingering illness. Rolston established Ladysmith’s first hardware store in 1904 in a building moved from Extension. Mr. Rolston was also president of the Board of Trade and a key member in the local Conservative Party. Mayor Dier called him a “man of generous impulses … and a moral pillar of the community.”  Chronicle editor Sam Carley wrote that “Rolston was a leader in everything that had as its object the advancement of the city.”

March 1939

Something was definitely in the water in the months before the outbreak of World War II. On March 3,  the Chronicle reported sightings of the legendary sea serpent “Caddy” in the Porlier Pass region. Victor Johnson and crew spotted the monster between Galiano and Valdez Islands on March 10. Passengers on a local ferry also described seeing “an undulating creature with greyish brown dappled skin who appeared to be feeding in the area.”

In the same week, Mr. J. Mee caught an octopus in the Ladysmith Log Company booming grounds. This prompted a heated debate among locals about what to call two “devilfish” when found together. There was some support for “octopii” or “octopie,” with “octopussies” quickly being rejected. With the help of Messrs. Merriam & Webster, a consensus was reached with “octopuses.”

Meanwhile, Ladysmith residents continued to complain to Ladysmith Village Council over the interference of power lines with their radio reception. Council was petitioned to move the lines underground.

March 1964

Twenty-five years later, March madness struck again. Commissioner Kay Grouhel was reportedly upset over men sitting on the benches outside the Traveller’s Hotel and “wolfwhistling” at women. Council decided to take no action, as they didn’t own the benches. Petitions circulated through Ladysmith protesting the loss of Transfer and Smelter beaches to swimmers and picnickers because of a new booming lease granted to Pacific Logging. Village Commissioner Tom Strang complained in council that swimmers were now “forced to use the rocks,” as the remaining beach area was fouled by “wood waste from the booms.” A bylaw was passed to protect the beaches. The Chronicle reported that Ladysmith pharmacist Tom Bertram’s cabin cruiser went up in flames only 100 yards from the dock. Tom, his brother Joe and Joe’s two children were not harmed in the explosion, but the uninsured boat valued at $5,000 was a total writeoff.

The final Chronicle issue for March concluded with reports of an unnamed town council that had passed a controversial motion of censure while their mayor was out of town. The councillors claimed that the mayor had overstayed his leave and neglected his civic duties. On his return, the mayor demanded to know who has proposed the motion.

“I did,” said a councilor, standing up in the chambers.

“You did, did you?” said the mayor, stepping out of his chair and confronting the member. “Then take that!“ With these words, he struck the mover of the motion in the right eye, knocking him to the ground.

The mayor then asked, “Who seconded the motion?” There was no reply.

“Then, “ said the mayor, “as there is no seconder, the motion was informally made and should therefore be struck from the minutes.” There was no further debate.

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