The paddlewheeler Minto operated on the Arrow Lakes from 1898 to 1954. It was burned in 1968. Photo supplied.

COLUMN: A look back at May 1968

Greg Scott: Touchstones of Nelson

MAY 1968

Dateline: May, 1968

A strike of interior members of the International Woodworkers of America which began October 4 of last year is over. Results tallied Saturday by both employers and employees indicated acceptance of a 72 cent, three year proposal. In Nelson at Kootenay Forest Products, men were back to work as early as Saturday afternoon, getting boilers ready to steam. About 40 hours are required to heat the boilers properly. Many more men have been called to return to work Monday but it is uncertain when the plant would be back to full operation. The settlement will bring wages to $2.98 per hour at the end of three years and bring interior worker’s pay close to Coast pay rates. A spokesman for the companies said in a statement that they lost “millions of dollars in sales” and IWA members lost more than $12,500,000 in wages.

Dateline: May 22, 1968

Kaiser Steel Corporation will go ahead on a proposed $25,000,000 coal operation near Michel, scheduled to be operational by late 1969. It is estimated that the construction would employ 300 men and, when completed, about 225 men would be required to run the operation. The plant will be built as a result of a government promise for a superport to ship $650,000,000 worth of Kaiser coal to Japan. The superport will be built at Robert’s Bank, near Vancouver. The deal hinged on the construction of the superport, able to accommodate bulk carriers of up to 100,000 tons for freighting to Japan. The port must be ready in 1970 when the contract becomes effective. The superport has been a contentious issue between Ottawa and B.C. with the two governments involved in a bitter jurisdictional battle over who should build and finance the Robert’s Bank superport with the Federal Government threatening expropriation of Provincial land. Prime Minister Trudeau states that this is not the course the Federal Government would want to follow, but the port has to be built.

Dateline: – May, 1968

The China Creek staking spree has become a stampede. Launched by speculation of high uranium content in the area, more than 160 claims have been filed in both nelson and Rossland in the past week. The rush on the Nelson side of the Columbia River began May 14, only one week ago, prior to that time no claims had been filed in the area. The rush to file claims apparently began when rumors circulated about assaying performed in the area. Reports were that assay results showed a high grade of uranium was present in the area, however, experts remain cautious on the chances of the report being true.

Dateline: May 24, 1968

Like an aged Viking warrior, the paddlewheeler Minto lies waiting on the Columbia River. She waits patiently for the final flame which will remove her from the world she served so well. When the Columbia River rises a few more feet, she will fall victim to the torch and ascend to some paddlewheeler Valhalla. The Minto, last survivor of a once great fleet, made its last run April 24, 1954 after the opening of the Kettle Valley rail route to Washington State. The glory years over, sold to a succession of owners, the Minto slowly rotted and wasted away, losing much of her former majesty and dignity. So with the coming of the high water, an era will die and the Minto and her sisters will be forgotten by all but a few in whose memories she will linger.

Dateline: May 29, 1968

Private ambulance service for residents of the City of Nelson and adjoining areas is being cut off Friday. Officials of Thompson Ambulance Service announced Tuesday that they will not provide ambulance service after May 31. Residents of the North Shore and other adjoining areas surrounding the city, if injured, will have to make their own way to hospital. City residents will fare somewhat better, for they will be served by the ambulance operated by the Nelson Fire Department. Thompson Ambulance first approached Nelson City Council in January 1967 asking if they could be relieved of the ambulance service or, at least, receive financial assistance from the city. They estimated losses of over $2,000 a year and over 170 calls outside the city. Council referred the matter to the Regional District where it lay for over half a year with no solution. Finally, after a defeat of a Regional District referendum by four of the five areas, Thompson announced that they can no longer operate at “even a break-even” point, and are obliged to cease ambulance service completely.

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