January 1917: Influx of ‘undesirables,’ dangerous skating on the lake, zero city debt

Historian Greg Scott's column examines incidents from the past.

Greg Scott is a columnist for the Nelson Star.

January 1, 1917

City police court records for the past year show an increase of 42 cases over 1915, the number being 300 as against 258 for the proceeding 12 months.

It was expected by officials that the cases for 1916 would have been greatly in excess of the number owing to the attraction to the city of a floating population of undesirables, drawn hither by the increasing improvement in local conditions, which the police it was thought would not be able to keep moving without recourse to police court proceedings.

This, however, has proved not the case, although a certain element from outside points has drifted to the city, during the earlier part of the year.

This has been reduced to practically nothing by the efficient surveillance of the police force and it is said that Nelson now has a reputation among the brethren of the underworld of being a good place to keep away from.

January 8, 1917

It appears to have been definitely settled that the Kootenay Lake tourist hotel at Balfour should be taken over by the Dominion Hospitals Commission for the treatment of wounded soldiers.

Orders have been received, it is understood, to pack up the furniture of the building in readiness for the changes necessary to make the hotel suitable for hospital purposes.

January 9, 1917

For the first time in its history, the city of Nelson faces the new fiscal year without owing a cent to the banks. Such was the report of the city treasurer placed before the last meeting of the 1916 council.

It was pointed out that at the beginning of the year the city had a bank overdraft of $26,000 and that during the year it had borrowed an additional $10,000, all of which had been paid off before the close of the fiscal year.

It was the unanimous opinion of the council that never before in its history had the city been in such sound financial position. (Note: $26,000 in 2016 dollars amounts to $471,000)

January 15, 1917

Owing to heavy ice the Crow boat had considerable difficulty in making the city wharf last night, taking two and one-half hours to cover the last three miles of the trip.

The worst portion of the journey was between the shipyards at Fairview and the city. In spite of the fact that the boat had an icebreaker attached, it was only by slow stages that the officers and crew succeeded in forcing a passage through the ice.

The cold snap, which began during the latter portion of the week and tightened considerably yesterday and last night, is responsible for the sudden formation of ice on the west arm, which had broken up sufficiently Wednesday to allow the boats to resume operation between Proctor and the city.

The mercury in the city last night registered as low as 8 degrees (minus 13 Celsius).

January 23, 1917

While skating on the lake about two and one half miles east of the city two members of a skating party broke through the ice, narrowly escaping drowning.

They were in advance of the party, which consisted of 17 persons, and were about six feet apart when, without warning, the ice gave way and precipitated them into the water.

The speed with which they were skating when the ice broke, caused both to fall forward on the ice, which again gave way under their weight.

This occurred several times, but fortunately the floating blocks of broken ice kept them from completely sinking beneath the surface.

By keeping to the edge they managed after several attempts to reach firm ice and climb out.

They then skated to a local house. The spot where they went through presented no difference in appearance from the firm ice they had been skating, which was at least six inches thick at the edge, but had evidently been worn thin from beneath by the action of the water.

Such spots might in all likelihood be found anywhere in the lake.

 

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