Slocan Valley Stories: Vallican Rock and boat building in Slocan

George Doi reminisces…

By George Doi

I’m sure those living in Vallican and Passmore areas have heard the following story that happened in the late 1950s. When we first heard it from a logger in the camp, he described it in such a colourful way, with lots of expletives, that the whole bunkhouse erupted in laughter.

This incident occurred near the entrance to the Vallican road off Highway 6. There was a small orchard with a log cabin, below the road.

The gist of the story was that the man living in the cabin was suddenly awakened by a thunderous roar. Fearing the worst, he dashed out into the dark in his long johns and he ran squarely into an apple tree, knocking himself out.

Meanwhile the rocks were flying everywhere, bouncing across the highway with some stopping just inches from the cabin. Rocks were landing all around the sprawled victim and bigger boulders were knocking out the railway tracks and crashing into the Slocan River.

Today, if you were to look up the mountainside, about 150 metres up, you would see a cliff with part of the face broken off. The deep trenches that were left in its wake and the mutilated strips of forest have all disappeared and very little evidence of the avalanche remains on the ground.

Look below and you will see at least one innocent looking boulder resting peacefully in the open field, with tall grasses growing all around it. Did you ever wonder how it got there?

Boat building in Slocan

Some years ago, I read the story of T. Baba’s boat building business in Kaslo. I recall very vaguely Matsumoto and Sons, who were big time ship builders in North Vancouver in the prewar days, were also building boats while interned in Slocan City.

Dick Kawano, who I got to know and was working for them, told me to come and look so I did. But the only thing I could remember now of their plant is seeing a long steam box and a worker pulling out hot steaming wooden strips used as ribbings for the hull.

After a short while, I believe the Matsumotos moved to Nelson and continued their boat building business there. But sometime after 1949 when our movement restrictions were lifted, I think that is when they went back to the coast and started all over again.

I believe Adam Clough, the Slocan City businessman, bought several round bottom rowboats from Matsumoto for his tourist cabins that he built near the lake.

Dick rented one of Clough’s rowboats to pull in stray logs on the Slocan Lake. He asked if I would go out with him. He said that he could get 25 cents per log from the sawmill owner. He would pay me 10 cents and he got 15 cents.

I thought that was a fair deal considering he did all the legwork, negotiating for the price of logs and acquiring the boat.

So that afternoon we went rowing all over the lake looking for stray logs and pulling them into the log boom.

We worked late into the moonlight hours. We were having fun making money but I hadn’t gone home from the beach that afternoon to tell Mom where I’d be and what I would be doing so my enjoyment of working was mixed with deep concern every minute out on the lake.

I ran the entire 2 kms and got home near midnight. Mom was sitting and darning a sock. I saw her shoulders sag and a sigh of relief when she saw me. Right then my feeling of pride in earning $1.70 left me.

That was my first experience in beachcombing. I was about 13 years old.