ABOVE: Lifelong Nelson resident Lois Arneson recently retired from the Welcome Wagon after 21 years. BELOW: The Welcome Wagon hostesses seen here with Arneson have 90 years of experience between them: Edna Whiteley (front left) spent 44 years with the organization while Frances Welwood (above left) has 25 under her belt. Arneson's replacement is Valerie Lidford (above right). Whiteley welcomed Welwood to town in 1969

Nelson ambassador greeted thousands

When you love the place you live, introducing it to others is a pleasure. And for 21 years, Lois Arneson did just that.

Third in a series of pioneer profiles

When you love the place you live, introducing it to others is a pleasure.

And for 21 years, Lois Arneson did just that: as a Welcome Wagon hostess, she was one of the first points of contact for Nelson’s new arrivals.

“It’s very interesting because you meet all sorts of people from all different areas of the world,” she says. “And a lot of them became friends.”

For the last three years, she welcomed all comers, but prior to that primarily looked after the baby program, and greeted newborns at the hospital — over 2,000 of them.

“It was maybe ten a month, times 12 months, times 18 years,” she says.

Arneson isn’t the only Welcome Wagon hostess with remarkable longevity: Edna Whiteley, who recruited her, did it for 44 years before retiring. Frances Welwood has been at it for 26 years.

Only Valerie Lidford is a recent recruit, taking over from Arneson.

“Welcome Wagon was always very pleased with us because we had such a stable workforce,” she says. “We enjoyed it, were all very keen about our town, and felt we were ambassadors promoting all the good things about Nelson, which we were happy to do.”

Arneson is a life-long resident.

Her parents, Bert and Jeanne Whimster, arrived here in the early 1920s. Her father was a printer at the Daily News, and then bought out W.H. Jones commercial printing in the bottom of the Madden Hotel.

“My dad belonged to every organization in town so they all had to have their printing done at H.M. Whimster,” she says. “He did very well and was very proud of his business.”

Soon after her birth in 1928, the family moved to 3rd Street in Fairview, where Arneson and her elder sister (well known in Trail as Muriel Griffiths) were raised.

They also had a “wonderful” cottage at Crescent Bay called No-Eats — which her father wryly named because there was always plenty to eat.

“He absolutely adored this cottage by the lake. The more people that came, the better he liked it,” she says. “So he had the place filled.”

The cottage was a popular destination for her friends, and as she and her sister got older, their families.

Both girls attended UBC. Lois graduated in 1950, then worked at the provincial health lab in Vancouver for a year, before returning to the Kootenay and commuting from Nelson to the C.S. Williams clinic in Trail by bus.

“There were many buses in those days between Trail and Nelson,” she says. “If you missed one, there was always another.”

After Arneson’s father died in 1951, her mother ran the printing business a further ten years, but when the Madden block was demolished to make way for a new Woolworth’s, she had to move to the rear of the Medical Arts building, where Kölmel Jewelry is now.

In addition to her long service with the Welcome Wagon, Arneson has contributed years of volunteer work to a myriad of organizations such as the Overture Concert Society, University Women’s Club, Touchstones Museum, West Kootenay Music Festival, and United Church.

(Although she took music and dancing lessons, she does not consider herself a musician: “I enjoy music, but somebody has to be in the audience.”)

Her retirement from the Welcome Wagon ranks was marked with a luncheon this month.

“I was born and raised here, my children were born and raised here, and their children were born and raised here, more or less. So I am very fond of my little town,” she says. “It was a wonderful job. I think this is a special place and love telling other people about it.”

Just Posted

Applications sought for annual Nelson heritage award

Deadline for submissions is Oct. 30.

Playmor Junction daycare expansion faces opposition

Neighbours upset with rezoning application, citing traffic, noise and concerns about future uses

Trafalgar Thunder take gold in Oliver

The Thunder knocked out the top seed in the semis en route to gold

Patrick Mackle running for mayor of Kaslo

Mackle is taking on incumbent Suzan Hewat and Andy Shadrack

VIDEO: Candidates at Nelson election forum

Mayoral candidates joined 18 council candidates for an evening of very short answers

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Ocean ‘blob’ returns to B.C.’s North Coast

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

Pot sales down by nearly 70% on Day 2 of legalization in B.C.

Several products on BC Cannabis Store are still sold out

B.C. jury finds man guilty of Japanese exchange student’s murder

Natsumi Kogawa was found at empty heritage mansion shortly after she was reported missing in 2016

Most Read