Nelson students joined a protest at the Nelway border crossing in 1969 over U.S. nuclear testing in the Aleutians.

COLUMN: In 1969, West Kootenay students protest at border crossings

From Nelson Daily News archivist Greg Scott

From the archives of the Nelson Daily News in October, 1969, compiled by Greg Scott

Dateline: Oct. 2, 1969

About 450 West Kootenay students joined students across Canada Wednesday in blocking the U.S.-Canada border in a series of protests over the planned U.S. nuclear test in the Aleutians today.

Two hundred and fifty demonstrators from Selkirk College, including 12 faculty members, blocked Paterson border crossing between noon and 1 p.m. About 200 Nelson students from Notre Dame University, the B.C. Vocational School and L.V. Rogers Senior Secondary School blocked smaller border crossings at Nelway and Rykerts.

The day was not one to encourage a demonstration by the students at Nelway — rain, cold, few cars — but this did not deter the group. The students sang, danced and chatted with one another and with an American border guard.

Some signs read “Practice Makes Perfect,” and “Herr Nixon’s First Mistake,” and “Environmental Anarchists.” There were no arrests at any of the border crossings and police said that at all points were orderly and peaceful.

Dateline: Oct. 4, 1969

The whitefish kill in the West Arm of Kootenay Lake has reached almost one million and wildlife officials are considering a temporary closure of fishing for the species. As yet cause of the massive kill has not been determined and it is continuing in the West Arm. The mysterious disease was first noticed in early September when there were scattered reports of fish dead on the beaches.

Recently some property owners in the Arm have reported as many as 60 rotting fish every 10 feet of shoreline. After a month of concentrated study, fisheries experts are still in the dark about the cause. However they have ruled out bacterial and parasitic infection and are concentrating on the possibility of a virus.

In spite of local pleas that the government initiate a massive clean-up campaign to get the rotting fish off the beaches and out of the water, no steps have been taken other than the intensive testing program.

Dateline: Oct. 9, 1969

A 32-year-old Armstrong man, who took his first flying lesson last spring, landed his wife and three children safely on the Kootenay Skyway summit Wednesday afternoon when his single-engine leased aircraft ran into bad weather and visibility was reduced to zero.

“I’m glad I had a good instructor – the forced landing on the highway didn’t even disturb two of my sleeping children,” he said.

He had just received his pilot’s license in August and was returning to Vernon from Cranbrook when the clouds closed in and he had zero visibility and couldn’t see the highway until he was 100 feet above it.

Luckily there was no traffic. Highway crews working at the summit of the Salmo-Creston highway claimed the pilot was lucky to even see the road as the ground visibility was very poor.

Dateline: Oct. 27, 1969

Roman Catholic parish members of Nelson Sunday evening participated in a church ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Cathedral of Mary Immaculate. Most Reverend W.E. Doyle, the bishop of the parish, read the occasional sermon in the packed cathedral, honoring the men who in the past helped build the church on the corner of Ward and Mill Streets.

The 40-minute ceremony saw a plaque unveiled honoring seven men who played important roles during the early days of Nelson in organizing the Catholic religion in the city and building the church. The church was built in 1898 and was formally opened Oct. 22, 1899.

Dateline: Oct. 29, 1969

The woman the Royal Canadian Legion has chosen to represent Canadian motherhood at Ottawa on Nov. 11 is left with a glittering array of 14 medals won by her two airmen sons. They are the source of sorrow and a source of pride, for both sons were killed.

But to Mrs. Wilhelmina Gray of Vancouver, formerly of Nelson, Jack Gray’s Aircrew Star is as much an object of pride as his brother’s Victoria Cross. Hampton Gray was the son who won the Victoria Cross and was mentioned in dispatches. He ran up an outstanding record as a wartime navy pilot. Mrs. Gray, however, reminds visitors that he other son was absolutely fearless and a top athlete.

Mrs. Gray will place one of the official wreaths at the Legion’s national remembrance ceremony in Ottawa on Nov. 11. When she does so, her presence will evoke memories in many parts of Canada


In 1969, Wilhemina Gray, who lost two sons in World War II, was chosen as Canada’s National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother.

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