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Throwback Thursday: Pemberton: a Community

Throwback Thursday: Pemberton, a Community

Pemberton may have been isolated, but it was never unfriendly. The homes of the early pioneers were almost always set up to welcome guests, including strangers.

The arrival of the railway allowed for visits of family and friends, and even the family of friends. In fact, in the warmer months there could be so many people visiting that some would have to sleep on hay in the barn.

One traveler who spent the winter of 1923 in Pemberton with a friend later shared some stories. “Mr. Perkins, a former packer, at that time a successful hunter-trapper, used to invite us to lunch occasionally at his cabin in town. He was an excellent cook and I guess he thought we needed a good meal now and then. We stayed overnight with a couple named Fraser, who ranched successfully about a day’s hike from town. The Fraser’s were the epitome of western hospitality, and I have never forgotten the few short hours that I enjoyed their acquaintance.”

Not only were those visiting for short periods welcomed into homes, but teachers who spent months at a time in the town were hosted as well. These teachers usually knew no one in the town and were taken in by residents of the Valley for the duration of their stay.

The houses were often very reflective of this friendly atmosphere as well. Significantly more care was put toward the interior of the house than the exterior. It was less about appearances, and more about comfort. The inside trappings were a combination of “settlers’ ingenuity” and the arrival and improvement of the train bringing supplies.

The welcoming attitude was not reserved solely for outsiders either. Families would visit one another on their trips to collect their mail, or in the winter months when the isolation was felt even greater. Others who lived farther away, like Gladys Dermody, would have to resort to sitting by the Lillooet River, hoping someone would walk by. Sally Purden, who moved down from Vancouver, once said that if she saw two people outside her family in one day, she was lucky. It was only the twice-weekly visits from her friend Rene Oman “that saved [her] from going completely wacky.”

Some families hosted weekly neighbourhood gatherings to listen to the symphony orchestra on their dry-cell radio. Some even held dances in their homes, when they weren't in the Boys Club. There were also football games and horse racing in Mt. Currie that people would carpool to, with picnics afterwards.

Some of the early organizations in town were also responsible for creating events to bring people together, such as the Boys Club (Pemberton Meadows Athletic Club) mentioned above. In addition to hosting dances, they would also put on the May 24 Sports Day. The Women's Institute helped plan the Fall Fairs, agricultural shows held at the Pemberton Meadows School. This was an event almost everyone in the surrounding areas attended. In 1922 someone from the Department of Agriculture even dropped by to judge the exhibits. There was prize money for the winners, and the local MLA would hand out trophies as well. After the events were over, local Ernie Carson would hold tea at his house for everyone present.

Pemberton may have been isolated, but the people went to great lengths to make sure it was not lonely.

This year Pemberton is turning 160 years old as a place name on European Maps so to honor this the museum is putting out a series of Throwback Thursday blogs.


Masquerade Party - Mrs. W. Brotherston and W. Fowler.


Fall Fair - Pemberton Meadows School 1929


 Sport Day May 24th - 1940s


1917 Picnic Group across from the Pemberton Trading Store. Seated, l-r; Lena Harris, Mrs. Ernie Sampson, Violet Harris, Bert Perkins, Hardy Thompson (2 yr old), his mother Edna Harris Thompson and her daughter Verna Thompson; kneeling from l-r; Nat Baker and his house keeper, George Thompson, kneeling behind his family; standing l-r; Una Harris, Ernie Sampson, Williams, (Mrs. Ernie Sampson brother) Edwin Harris, Jessie Harris, Rene Ronayne, Jack Ronayne (behind Rene), Edith Harris and Vincent Harris.


Women visiting Gladys (Mrs. Ed) Ronayne in 1934. Back row, from left: Tessie Ronayne, Kathleen Ronayne, Lilian (Mrs. Lloyd) Shore. Middle row, from left: Mrs. Red Mahan, Gladys (Mrs. Jim) Dermody, Teresa (Mrs. W.M.) Miller, Vivien (Mrs. Jake) Lokken, Sidsel (Mrs. "Sandy") Ross, Bertha Collins, Mrs. Broadfoot. Front Row, from left: Rene Oman, Gladys Ronayne.

This year Pemberton is turning 160 years old as a place name on European Maps so to honor this the museum is putting out a series of Throwback Thursday blogs.

To get a real feel for old time Pemberton check out this video, one of the earliest ones in our collection. This is a home made video of Pemberton in 1955-59 taken by Fred Thomson of Prince George. Fred was a friend of Ed and Nancy Gilmore and worked as the station manager for the Pacific Great Eastern Railway at Pemberton in the 1950's. The video was filmed in 8mm and was converted to VHS and then to digital. There is no audio. The clips show Pemberton residents enjoying a parade and sports day, hiking, boating, baseball, swimming, and images of the train rolling through downtown.