Strike rumours were flying in Ladysmith in April 1913 – Chronicles From the Past

Ed Nicholson shares the top news from April 1913, 1938 and 1963 in his Columns From the Past column.

April 1913

In April of 1913, there was growing concern over labour unrest in Ladysmith. Meetings of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) on the second floor of Nicholson Hall were reported as “rowdy” and “boisterous,” and rumors of an upcoming strike to be called by the UMWA filled the air. Statistics from the Ministry of Labour indicated that coal imports to B.C. for the U.S. had increased tenfold from 1912. Other issues in the dispute were safety concerns over reports of dangerous gas buildups in the mine shafts, and the increased use of “Orientals” in the Cumberland and Extension coal mines. NOTE: Out of 690 men employed underground in this company’s mines in the spring of 1913, 432 were Orientals, and among surface men, the proportion was even larger. [S. Price. Local Mining Disputes on Vancouver Island: 1913.]

April 1938

The Ladysmith School decided to replace the existing Elementary/High School model with a new “3-3-6” configuration. The new method of organizing schools into Primary, Intermediate and Jr.-Sr. High School divisions was recommended by the Provincial Superintendent of Schools, Dr. T. Wiles. It was hoped that this arrangement would allow more flexible use of existing classroom space and help local boards to plan for future construction.

City councillors had a good laugh when they arrived for their evening meeting in the last week of April. A baby clinic had been held in the Ladysmith Council Chamber earlier in the day, and a note for the event had been left on the door — attached with a safety pin!

April 1963

Final results reported in the Chronicle for the 1963 federal election indicated that Colin Cameron, veteran NDP for the Nanaimo-Cowichan-Islands constituency was re-elected by a decisive majority.  The NDP party under Tommy Douglas had 17 seats in the House of Commons, with nine of them from British Columbia. The paper also noted that a Liberal government under Lester Pearson had been formed — ending the John Diefenbaker era in Canadian politics.

Tom Bertram, proprietor of the Ladysmith Drug Company, stopped off at his store early Sunday morning to pick up a golf club and found an unpleasant surprise. The company safe had been broken into and $1,100 in cash taken. The thieves dragged the 1,400-pound safe from the front of the store to the back and used a sledge hammer, an axe and a punch to smash open the safe door. The thieves left with the cash and a camera but took no drugs.

Early Good Friday morning, April 12, the Provost Dam gave way, sending 30 million gallons of water rushing down Holland Creek. The recently reconstructed dam was intended as a reservoir for the summer months when the water supply was low. Tom Strang, chairman of the village water committee, reported that the dam had been inspected in February and although unfinished, it was decided to begin filling the reservoir. Unfortunately, heavy rain in February and March resulted in an overflow. A section of the Comox Logging Road was washed away, but the Holland Creek Dam controlled the flood further downstream. Stocking Lake was used for temporary water supply in the Ladysmith area until the filters were cleaned.

Compiled by Ed Nicholson, Ladysmith Historical Society