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  • FVC History Edition - June 28, 2024 - 1930s Harrison hotel a magnet for tourists

FVC History Edition - June 28, 2024 - 1930s Harrison hotel a magnet for tourists

🌦 High 21C

Good morning!

You may have noticed The Current looks a little different today. And I am so excited that it does.

Since The Current began, we have been working to tell stories about the vast and varied history of the Fraser Valley, from canoe chases to historic houses. This is the first time we are making a dedicated space for those history stories.

At the end of each month, you will receive the FVC History Edition, a newsletter full of historic photos, facts, and stories. Our main story today is a gruesome whodunnit by Tyler, and is open for all our subscribers to read. Future stories will likely be locked for Insiders only—so if you like what you read today, consider supporting us with a membership.

I can’t wait to take an extensive tour through Fraser Valley history each month. I hope you are excited too.

– Grace


The Powerhouse Murders

In 1915, the BC Electric Railway’s Fraser Valley substations were rocked by two murders six months apart. 📷️ Vancouver Daily World via newspapers.com; Tyler Olsen; Robert Bushby

We could start at the end, with the opening of a trap door, the plunge of a chair, and the breaking of a neck.

We could start in the middle, with an accused killer going free or with the discovery of a headless body.

But let us begin at the scene of the first murder, at a famous railway substation that once helped connect the Fraser Valley to Vancouver.


June 22, 1907: Agassiz and Chilliwack residents voted to buy a new gas-powered boat to ferry passengers between the two communities [The Fraser Advance]

📝 June 8, 1917: An Abbotsford exam on the Theory of Music and Harmony was postponed because the boat carrying the examination papers from England was torpedoed en route [The Abbotsford Post]

🐄 June 25, 1924: Fraser Valley dairy farmers gathered at the Dominion Experimental Farm for a meeting, stock parade, and luncheon [Agassiz Record]

🎣 June 7, 1944: Five Stó:lō nations petitioned higher levels of government to remove ‘relentless’ fishing restrictions [Chilliwack Progress]

🖱 June 26, 1985: D.W. Poppy’s new course on ‘computer applications’ saw more than 200 students sign up for the next school year; it would teach word processing, spreadsheets, and data retrieval [Aldergrove Star]

👀 June 5, 1992: Chilliwack parents wondered if dozens of perverts really were roaming the city, or if school programs were simply making their children more paranoid [Chilliwack Progress]

New in history

🚒 A restored trailer and pump were reunited with a 1940s Rosedale fire truck last month [Chilliwack Progress]

🛩 A collection of model airplanes were donated to the Langley Museum of Flight, and then sold to raise funds for the museum [Langley Advance Times]

👻 Two BC sisters have been touring the province in search of haunted history, visiting places like Hope, Lytton, and Maple Ridge [Hope Standard]

Vancouver wrestling promoter George Fitch (second from left) and Vancouver wrestler Emil Klank (second from right) were among the many visitors to Harrison Hot Springs Hotel in the 1930s. Here they are seen with Fitch’s daughter Kathleen Merritt (left) and her husband Rex Merritt (right) in the gardens behind the hotel in 1934. 📷 Vancouver Archives AM1088-: CVA 1088-20

1930s Harrison Hot Springs Hotel a coveted destination for Vancouver vacationers

Today, Harrison Hot Springs is a sought after destination for both staycationers and long-distance travellers. Tourists in 1934 felt the same.

Harrison’s appeal came from the nearby hot springs, which settlers found in 1858. (Indigenous people had known of the springs for centuries. The Halq’émeylem name for the hot spring is Qwólts, boiling water, and the nearby village was called Qwó:ils.) The settler discovery of the hot springs spurred the creation of a burgeoning tourism industry. The St. Alice Hotel opened in 1886, with 25-cent daily access to the springs themselves. When the hotel burned down in 1920, the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel rose in its place.

The opening of the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel in 1926 coincided with the opening of Lougheed Highway over Mount Woodside. The highway connected Agassiz and Harrison with Vancouver, and marked a new era of tourism for the lakeside town. The Harrison Hot Springs Hotel secured water rights to the hot springs that year, according to J.J. Woods’ The Agassiz Harrison Valley, which allowed for the hotel to siphon 121,000 gallons a day for use in the hotel’s baths and 1,000 gallons a day for drinking, and gave hotel visitors access to the hot springs between 6am and 8pm.

By 1934, the hotel had become an established destination for Vancouverites and others. That year saw a delegation of Washington hoteliers visit the resort, as well as Vancouver’s local wrestling legend Emil Klank and wrestling promoter George Fitch.

Klank was a common visitor in Chilliwack at the time. He faced off in matches under the “new rules” of wrestling, where everything except the “deadly strangle hold” was on the table. Fitch, a promoter for the Vancouver Boxing Commission, was also a frequent Fraser Valley visitor.

The hotel continued to evolve through the years. At the end of the Second World War, the hotel transformed into a spa for convalescent servicewomen. In 1946, the hotel debuted a billiard room, ballroom, tennis courts, bowling green, riding stables, and golf course. Today, the Harrison Hot Springs Resort boasts spa treatments, hot springs pools, and an upscale dining space. Locals, meanwhile, can enjoy the springs at a public facility.


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These hand-drawn paper dolls featured clothing options popular in the 1950s. 📷 The Reach 91.56.221; 91.56.229 2; 91.56.230

Handmade paper dolls, circa 1950s

Hand-drawn by Jessie (Abernethy) DesMazes in the 1950s, the wardrobe options available to these paper dolls are in the hundreds, including bathing suits, casual wear, stylish afternoon frocks, evening gowns, jackets, skirts and trousers. Jessie’s sister recalled: "As a teenager Jess spent many hours closeted in her (our) bedroom working on these. She copied styles of the movie stars of the day that she saw in movie magazines." Each design is unique and meticulously cut out.

This artifact is courtesy of The Reach Gallery Museum.

In this section of The Current’s History Edition, we want to feature stories and photos of everyday life throughout the Fraser Valley’s history. But we need your help to do it. So pull out your photo albums, scour memory lane, and send us your stories about times gone by in the Fraser Valley.

While you think about your personal connections to Fraser Valley heritage, check out our article featuring your one-sentence histories of the valley for inspiration.


This ad was featured in the Agassiz Record on June 18, 1924.

This could be you! If you want to support The Current by advertising in next month's edition, email [email protected].

Free admission: The Chilliwack Museum is offering free admission to its new exhibit over the Canada Day long weekend. The travelling exhibit, Refuge Canada, looks at Canada’s place in the global refugee crisis, and will be at the museum until Sept. 30. Details online.

Bats in the belfry: The Kilby Historic Site is hosting an exciting evening with bats on Saturday, July 6. Bring a chair and learn more about mother bats and their pups as they emerge from their roost. Tickets at the door. Details online.  

Books and borscht: The Mennonite Heritage Museum in Abbotsford is hosting two author events in July. Elma Schemenauer will be speaking on Thursday, July 18, while Loretta Williams will share her book talk on Thursday, July 25. Call 604-758-5667 to register, as space is limited. Details online.

Life in Agassiz: The Agassiz Harrison Museum shows kids what life was like in early Agassiz on Thursday, July 18. The program will teach kids how to use a washboard, make jam, churn butter, and play historical games. Register online.

Local archaeology: Kids can learn about local archeology at the Agassiz Harrison Museum on Thursday, July 25. The one-day event will teach them about archaeology in the Harrison River Valley and how to set up a dig site. Register online.

Have a history event to tell us about? Fill out this form to have it highlighted here.

Catch up

Here are some of our favourite history stories from The Current, exclusive only to Insider members.

That’s it!

Thanks for reading Fraser Valley Current today ♥️ 

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