Sam’s wife stuck in outhouse

Ed Nicholson of the Ladysmith Historical Society shares his Chronicles of the Past column, looking at the news from 1912, 1937 and 1962.

Sam and Bess Guthrie with their two sons.

Sam and Bess Guthrie with their two sons.

June 1912

Mr. Charles Harris, a popular member of the Allen Players, has decided to retire from the stage and engage in upholstering, making a specialty of rocking chairs. It is reported that Mr. Harris has considerable experience in this area.

The city of Ladysmith offered $3,000 in prizes for the Dominion Day sporting events to be held July 1. Prize money ranged from $2 for first place in the boys eight and under Foot Race to $55 for the winners of the Indian Canoe Race. Other competitions included Boxing in Barrels ($5), two-man Mop Fight ($6), Upset Canoe Race ($10), Greasy Pole Climb ($5) and the annual 100-yard Miner’s Dash — with the winner receiving a  gold watch donated by J.A. Hartley.

J.A. Hartley, a local jeweller and watchmaker, also offered a Waltham pocket watch as a “Dominion Day Special” in the window of his store. The 21-jewel watch came in a special case and was reduced by $1 each day until it sold.

June 1937

Just in time for summer, the Wigwam offered bricks of Palm chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream for 25 cents each. Revels, cones and caramel freezes were also available at five cents each. On the same page, Spencer’s offered “summer outfits for boys,” which included all-wool tweeds in dice checks ($5.95), grey flannel long trousers ($1.95) and white duck pants (98 cents).

The boys could then try out their new outfits on a one-day excursion to Vancouver to attend a soccer game between the Mainland All-Stars and Charlton F.C. Cost of the trip: 75 cents for children and $1.50 for adults!

Sam Guthrie was elected in the June 1 election as the MLA for Cowichan-Newcastle, representing the C.C.F. party. Guthrie, a miner originally from Scotland, had been actively involved in the 1913 mining strike in Ladysmith. He served a two-year sentence for his role in this labour conflict. After his release, Guthrie took up farming. He was first elected as the member for Newcastle in 1920, representing the Federated Labour Party. He ran for re-election but was defeated in 1924, 1928 and 1933 before succeeding again in 1937. (Note: Guthrie left politics in 1949 after three terms in office and retired to North Oyster, where he passed away in 1960 at the age of 75.)

June 1962

During the 1960s, Mrs. “Bess” Guthrie wrote a column for the Chronicle entitled Sam’s Wife. Here is an excerpt from her column of June 14, 1962 (edited for brevity):

When Sam was blasting stumps near the house, he covered the windows with boards and made sure the boys and I were in a safe location. One morning, he was going to try and blow a huge cedar stump — nine feet in diameter —  just a few feet away from the west side of the house.

Sam dug a hole and put in 50 sticks of stumping powder. Sam thought that this time, it would be safer for me to sit in the outhouse, which was about 20 feet away on the other side of the house from where he was blasting. I thought it was an unnecessary precaution, but I didn’t argue. I left the coffee bubbling on the stove and docilely went and sat in the outhouse.

Then there was a terrific roar, and large chunks of stump, roots and rocks flew high up in the air, some of it rattling down on the roof of the outhouse. Sam shouted for me to come out.

“How can I come out?” I yelled back. “There’s a piece of stump blocking the door!”

It had sailed over the house and although scraping some of the shingles off the outhouse, just missed it and was half-buried in front of the door.

“My God!” I heard Sam exclaim when he saw it. He tried hard but couldn’t move it, so he ran to the barn to get a peavey and managed to move it enough for me to get out.

“Oh, Bess, that was close,” he said as he sat down and with trembling hands, wiped the perspiration from his face.

“Now don’t look so woebegone,” I replied. “Nothing did happen, so let’s go and get that coffee if it hasn’t boiled out all over the stove.”

We may have been ignorant “hicks from the sticks,” but in respect to our brothers and sisters in the city, we knew when it was time to take a coffee break.

Compiled by Ed Nicholson, Ladysmith Historical Society