Michael Myhal affixing a new rope onto the S.S. Minto whistle after it broke due to overwhelming response by the public. The whistle is part of an ongoing fundraiser for the Nakusp and District Museum during the summer months.

Overblown response to museum whistle fundraiser

Residents and visitors have been very enthusiastic about blowing the noon whistle at the information centre.

The rope that serves in blowing the S.S. Minto whistle at noon every day broke due to an overwhelmingly enthusiastic responsefrom the public.

For a month now, the opportunity to blow the S.S. Minto whistle at noon has been open to the public, for a suggestedminimum donation of $5. Museum director Sharon Montgomery blew the official start to this fundraiser on Monday, July 11and Nakusp’s Mayor Karen Hamling was one of the first people to answer the call for support. Many tourists and locals alikehave taken advantage of this opportunity in the weeks since.

Among the folks who have taken part in this endeavour are local Shannon Heppner who rung in her sixtieth birthday, DaleQuigley of Enderby, BC his 45th, and Neil Laffra of Burnaby, BC his 68th. Tira Niquidet from the Visitor Centre also tookadvantage of this opportunity, as have a number of others so far. This will certainly make for a memory not easily forgotten orsurpassed, for the low sound of the whistle that fills the entire valley every day at noon on the days the museum operates iseven more powerful up close. It serves as a reminder of a time when the entire fleet of steamships were a regular sight on thelake.

The whistle was removed off the beloved S.S. Minto, now a quintessential symbol of Nakusp, prior to its “viking funeral” by theBC Hydro on the Arrow Lakes, along with some other artifacts, which are also available for viewing at the museum. For a time,it was believed lost, until a couple of decades ago when, according to Ken Williams of the Nakusp Archives and Nakusp RailSociety, it was located at a mill in Castlegar where it had found a second career as a shift-change whistle.

A concerted effort of concerned Nakusp citizens made it possible to bring back the whistle and install it in its current locationabove the Visitor Centre a couple of decades ago, but for the first while it was not employed in its current capacity.

Montgomery noted that when she arrived on the premises in 2002, the whistle had been “dead for at least 10 years.” Underher leadership, the museum acquired a new compressor and got the whistle to work in 2009. Subsequently, even thatcompressor was found to be long over its working life expectancy and condemned as of 1970 by Dr. Anchikoski’s father, upona visit to the museum.

Montgomery notes, “He said, by next time he would visit, we had to have a new compressor.” Montgomery set out to fundraisefor a new compressor and, one year and $2,000 later, the museum was outfitted with its current one through the graciousfinancial contribution of the CBT Community Initiatives and from one of the museum volunteers who brought it over fromVernon.

The S.S. Minto was built in 1898 at the Nakusp Shipyard and was in service until 1954 when roads and vehicles replaced railand ship transportation. Janet Spicer noted that at the time, “the valley was under siege by BC Hydro,” and most Arrow Lakescitizens were concerned for the impact on their livelihood by the imminent flooding of the Arrow Lakes Valley upon theconstruction of the Hugh Keenleyside Dam on the Columbia River, upstream of Castlegar.

“That was not a time to ask for donations,” and sadly the S.S. Minto ended up at the bottom of the very Arrow Lakes it sofaithfully served for over five decades.

If you would like to participate in reenacting a part of Nakusp history and lend a hand to the museum’s fundraising efforts,please contact the museum at 250-265-0015.

 

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