In 1948 in Sicamous, Gordon Mackie evacuates his maternal grandmother, Phoebe Ann Kelley, in a wheelbarrow in June of 1948. (Photo courtesy of the Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village)

This year’s flooding doesn’t rival 1948

Being tormented by mosquitoes stands out for Shuswap resident

Mosquitoes figure prominently when Gordon Mackie thinks back to 1948.

Mackie, a former mayor of Sicamous, will be 90 in July. He remembers well the flooding 70 years ago.

Shuswap Lake’s highest level on record over the past 100 years or so was in 1948 at 349.82 metres. A close second was 1972, with 349.69 metres. Previous to that, 1894 set flood records.

“We had mosquitoes like you wouldn’t believe. You couldn’t walk around anywhere,” Mackie says of 1948, explaining that people would put light oil on the water to try and curb the invasion. “That worked pretty good in those days. Most larvae couldn’t breathe really well through the oil. But there were miles of sloughs in the valley.”

DDT was also sprayed generously from an old army smoke machine, with no awareness at that time of its dangerous environmental effects.

To avoid the annoying insects, when residents ventured outside they would wrap newspaper, held in place with rubber bands, around their arms under their clothes.

“It would be hotter than a fire cracker,” he recalls. “It was a tough go. We didn’t have all the tools you do now.”

Related: Shuswap Lake just keeps rising

Mackie was living in Sicamous and his dad ran a tugboat.

“My dad took the tugboat to Salmon Arm… He was able to come right in and tie up at at the CPR fence.”

Salmon Arm seemed to be as badly flooded as Sicamous, he says, with the Salmon River stretching far and wide. Travelling the lake could be hazardous, “with debris coming down – driftwood and dead cows and everything else.”

Train travel was also affected. Mackie says everyone travelled by passenger train in those days, which went from Sicamous to Kelowna every day but Sunday. One day the water had risen so high that the train crew was afraid it would put out the firebox that created the steam power. As a result the train was shut down for a couple of weeks.

Related: Victims of devastating flood get financial relief

During the flooding, people would help each other out or fend for themselves, with little or no help from the government. Flood relief in 1948 came in the form of a metal box, about 16 inches long and 10 inches wide.

“It had first aid stuff in it… It didn’t arrive until everything had dried up.”

One of the bad things was the effect of the flood on fruit trees in low-lying areas, which would eventually die. Mackie remembers the garden at his family’s home.

“You could walk out with hip waders and you could see strawberry plants with strawberries on them, and fish swimming.”

Water was in the basement of their house for about two or three weeks, but dried up completely by the end of July.

Because people used septic systems which flooded, temporary community “biffies” were set up on high ground.

Mackie’s grandparents lived right on the channel, so they had to move out and stay at his home. A photo of Mackie was taken pushing his grandmother in a wheelbarrow.

“It was the handiest at that particular time. First of all I thought she could just climb on my back, but then I thought, that’s not very good, she’s an older lady.”

So he asked her if she could climb into the wheelbarrow.

“So we managed to get her in the wheelbarrow with her suitcase, and booked her out of there. I thought she was real old – late 60s maybe,” he laughs.

Related: 2012 – Shuswap flood risk still rising

Mackie said he thinks the main reason for the 1948 flood was a very cool, slow spring, which warmed up in mid-May and combined with hard rain. He isn’t predicting a 1948-style flood this year.

“Floods, they were just a natural occurrence, some years worse than others. ‘48 turned out to be a bad one, and ‘72 seemed a little worse,” he says, suggesting it might be because there weren’t as many buildings in 1948.

“My guess, and this is just a guess, I suspect we’re within a week of peaking on Shuswap Lake. It might get up to where it was in 2012 (349.44), but I don’t think it will make that much. That’s just my guess. Unless it should all of a sudden turn around and rain like crazy, then all bets are off.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

This 1948 photo shows a mill underwater, likely the Canoe mill, with the building to the left and wood piles in the background. (Photo courtesy of the Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village)

In 1948, the Salmon River flooded, the highest in written records. The photo shows the north side of the Salmon River Bridge, with water almost touching the base. (Photo courtesy of the Salmon Arm Museum )

In 1948 in Sicamous, this photo was taken from the CPR Bridge, looking south at houses flooded. (Photo courtesy of the Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village)

Just Posted

Three charities receive generous donation from 100 Men Who Care

The organization meets four times a year to contribute funding to local initiatives

Okanagan competitors to be featured in arm wrestling documentary

Arm Nation, featuring competitions from Kelowna and Penticton, will air on Oct. 20 on APTN

Former Vernon man guilty of Japanese exchange student’s murder

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

Contenders to return for Okanagan tour

Valdy, Gary Fjellgaard and Blu and Kelly Hopkins will perform at six venues

LETTER: Examine past record when voting

Summerland mayoral candidate Toni Boot approaches each issue in a fair and open minded manner

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

VOTE: Nature in Focus reader’s choice photo contest

The Penticton Western News Reader’s Choice photo contest

Who is running in Summerland’s election?

Introducing you to the candidates asking for your vote on Oct. 20

B.C. passenger caught smoking weed in a car issued $230 fine

Saanich police did a field sobriety test on the driver and deemed it safe for him to drive

Payette invites critics to ‘come and spend a few days’ with her

Governor General Julie Payette made her first official to B.C. back in March

More pot stores expected in B.C. in coming ‘weeks and months’: attorney general

Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth visited the new BC Cannabis Store in the province’s Interior

Telus launches charitable foundation to help vulnerable youth

The Telus Friendly Future Foundation complements other social initiatives by the company, including Mobility for Good

Police say suspicious death of B.C. artist ruled a homicide

Patrick Zube Aylward’s body was found in a residence on a rural road outside of Seton Portage, west of Lillooet, B.C.

Temporary roads being built in areas affected by landslide in northern B.C.

Emergency Management BC news release says Disaster Financial Assistance is available to eligible residents of the Peace River Regional District who may have been affected by the landslides

Most Read