“Tourism: A British Columbia Industry” (1940)


The film’s title frame illustrates the simple but effective graphics that would enhance the BCGTB’s 1940s travelogues. (Digital frame grab)

These are excerpts from a silent colour film, produced in 1940 by BC Government Travel Bureau. The film details the bureau’s activities in promoting BC’s tourism industry, and shows the diverse methods that were used to advertise the province. It includes scenes of office staff, advertising campaigns, design and printing of colour travel brochures, public correspondence, personal contacts, the promotion of automobile travel, and brief shots of a car ferry, a coastal steamer, a steam train, and an airliner.



Clarence Ferris, the BCGTB’s first filmmaker, sets up a shot on the grounds of the BC Legislature, ca. 1940. (Digital frame grab)

Of particular interest is a section on film production, which shows staff member Clarence Ferris (above) operating a movie camera and splicing film. A crew from Leon Shelly’s Vancouver Motion Pictures is also seen shooting the BCGTB-sponsored travelogue “Beautiful British Columbia” (1940, now lost).

Tourism: A British Columbia Industry is BC Archives item AAAA2909 at the Royal BC Museum.


Vancouver Motion Pictures crew at work on a BCGTB travelogue, ca. 1940. (Digital frame grab)




On Government Street, just south of Belleville (1966)

The author (aged 10) admiring the fence paintings outside the future home of the Royal BC Museum and Archives, 1966. (Terry Duffy photo; private collection)

The author (aged 10) looks at paintings on the fence surrounding the site of the BC Provincial Museum and Archives, 1966. (Terry Duffy photo; private collection)

∇  ∇  ∇  ∇  ∇

It was in the summer, 53 years ago, and my family was on vacation in Victoria.  I was 10 years old.  After many camping holidays in the BC Interior, closer to our Kelowna home, we were now travelling much further afield.  With Dad at the wheel of our Pontiac Strato-Chief, we towed our new tent trailer over the Hope-Princeton Highway, caught the ferry to Vancouver Island, and made camp at Goldstream Provincial Park.  My brother Terry, who’d received an Instamatic camera for his birthday, was documenting our family adventures on 126 slide film.

One afternoon, we visited the Royal London Wax Museum, which was still located at the south end of the Crystal Garden (now the home of the Old Spaghetti Factory).  Afterwards, we strolled over to the next block of Belleville, where the new Provincial Museum and Archives complex was being built.  The complex was taking shape behind plywood hoardings, which local artists had decorated with their paintings.


Paintings on the construction wall around the Provincial Museum and Archives complex on Government Street, 1966; Empress Hotel in background. (BC Archives photo NA-40542)

Paintings on the construction wall around the Provincial Museum and Archives complex on Government Street, 1966; Empress Hotel in background. (BC Archives photo NA-40542)


On Government Street, just south of Belleville, I stopped to admire a blue high-contrast painting of a rock guitarist.  Terry snapped my picture.  I was standing at the spot where the stairs would start down from Belleville to the gardens and the reflecting pond in front of the archives building.  I wish I could say that I turned to my brother and said, “I’m going to work here some day” — but I didn’t do that.  I had no idea of the role that the archives would eventually play in my life.

In 1977, as a Camosun College student, I walked down those stairs to research some course projects.  In 1978 and 1979, I was a summer student for the archives’ Aural History Programme.  I began picking up contract work, and for years that was how I made a living.  In between, I took some time to to study history and film at SFU.  In 1998 I returned to the BC Archives as an archivist on staff.  (It only took me 20 years to get a real job!)

In 2016 I was working at the front of the 4th floor of the archives stacks, just above the top of those stairs.  My work area was under the northwest corner of the archives roof, which you can actually see in the top right corner of Terry’s slide.  50 years had passed since he took that picture, and I was barely 15 feet from where I started.

In mid-February, 2017, I retired from the BC Archives and the Royal BC Museum.  As I expected, though, I started coming back the archives again, to research projects of my own.  I also volunteer occasionally, and end up back in the 4th floor stacks. After many decades behind the scenes, I can once again be a visitor to the museum – pausing just outside the fence, waiting to see what happens next.



Another fence painting outside the construction site. (Terry Duffy photo; private collection)

“The author, on the occasion of his 2017 retirement from the BC Archives.” No, it’s just another fence painting outside the construction site in 1966. (Terry Duffy photo; private collection)



A Visit to Nelson (ca. 1939)

This footage shows a visit to Nelson and area just before the Second World War. The clip begins with high-angle views of the city and its setting, followed by street-level shots of some local businesses. These include: Palm Dairies Ltd.; a building housing a Shell station and Nelson Transfer Co. Ltd.; West Transfer Co., with a moving van and movers at work in a residential area; Kootenay Motors (H. Harrop), another Shell station, beside the Greyhound Bus terminal; the Madden Hotel (and a streetcar); and another downtown hotel. The clips ends with shots of the Harrop cable ferry, and a scenic shot of a wharf with boats.

These are edited excerpts from silent 16 mm film footage shot by Vancouver filmmaker Alfred E. Booth (1892-1977). In the 1930s and 1940s, Booth travelled extensively in the BC Interior, shooting footage of the various regions and communities for his own company, Travel Films. The source film is the compilation reel “[Kootenay-Boundary area] : [footage and out-takes]” (AAAA1072), one of 39 film reels in the Alfred E. Booth fonds at the BC Archives, Royal BC Museum.

For more BC Interior and Vancouver footage shot by Alfred E. Booth, see these blog posts:


Peachtime in Penticton (ca. 1950)

“Sun on a peach!”

These travelogue excerpts show highlights of the Penticton Peach Festival, ca. 1950, including the parade, midway and rodeo.

The source film is Peachtime in the Valley: Penticton, British Columbia (BC Government Travel Bureau, 1949-51), BC Archives item AAAA2354 at the Royal BC Museum.

The film’s opening and closing graphic—a painting of ripe peaches on the tree, with the shores of Okanagan Lake in the background—exemplifies the simple but effective artwork that enhanced the BCGTB travelogues of the 1940s and early 1950s.

A Visit to Nakusp and Edgewood (ca. 1939)

This video clip comprises edited excerpts from silent 16 mm film footage shot by Vancouver filmmaker Alfred E. Booth (1892-1977) of Travel Films.  In the 1930s and 1940s, Booth travelled extensively in the BC Interior, shooting footage of the various regions and communities, including their amenities, businesses, and people. This footage was for use in films promoting the communities as travel and commerce destinations. In most cases, the completed films have not survived; but some of the raw footage and out-takes are preserved at the BC Archives.

The Nakusp footage includes views of the main street and residents, the retired sternwheeler S.S. Bonnington, the cenotaph, the Arrow Lakes Hospital, and activity at a sawmill. At 3:15 in the clip, there is a brief sequence shot across the lake in Edgewood. It shows the Arrow Lake Hotel, Edgewood General Store, and residents at the lakeshore for the arrival of the S.S. Minto. The latter shot is very brief in the original, so I have “stretched” the shot (to render it in slow-motion), and concluded with a freeze-frame made from the last image.

The source film is the compilation reel [Kootenay-Boundary area] : [footage and out-takes], one of 39 film reels in the Alfred E. Booth fonds at the BC Archives.

For more examples of BC Interior and Vancouver footage shot by Alfred E. Booth, see the following blog posts:

Meeting the Minto at Edgewood on Upper Arrow Lake — the last frame of a very brief shot. (Digital frame grab from V1995:01/016.01 item #2)

A. D. Kean and “Range Days”

In May 1914—105 years ago—rodeo competitor and photographer A. D. “Cowboy” Kean (1882-1961) made a deal to organize and manage the cowboy sports events at that September’s Vancouver Exhibition (today’s Pacific National Exhibition). Kean was just getting started as a motion picture cameraman, and he acquired the rights to film the exhibition as well. The rodeo events, marketed as “Range Days,” proved immensely popular, and he would go on to manage them at the 1915 and 1923 Vancouver exhibitions.

Unfortunately, most of the footage shot by Kean has long since been lost or destroyed. The brief 35 mm film fragment shown above, the only extant footage of “Range Days,” shows the rough-riding event at the 1914 or 1915 exhibition. These scenes were included in his one of his few surviving films, The North British-Columbians, “Warden’s Warriors,” 102nd Battalion CEF: Historic Departure (1916). The latter shows a BC regiment departing Comox, BC, for service in the First World War; a segment called “Scenes from the Land of the North British-Columbians” features footage of BC wildlife and a few sporting events.

Kean filmed numerous BC regiments departing for war service, as well as wide range of BC places and industries. During the period 1919-1923, he was official filmmaker for the BC goverment’s Patriotic and Educational Picture Service (PEPS).

He later spent almost four years making and promoting Policing the Plains (1927), a feature-length docudrama on the history of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. On its Toronto premiere in December 1927, the film was a commercial and critical failure, and was never screened publicly again.

Re-settling in the Toronto area, Kean became a well-known journalist, writer, and broadcaster. He was a reporter for the Toronto Daily Star, sold cowboy adventure stories to the weekend supplement Star Weekly, and was heard in radio talks and radio plays on CFCA, CFRB, and CBC Toronto.

For more about Kean and his fascinating career, take a look at the CHEK-TV/RBCM video short at my blog entry This Week in History: A. D. Kean, Cowboy Cameraman.


A. D. “Cowboy” Kean, age 34, with his movie camera, likely a British-made Williamson Kinematograph (ca. 1912). From the trade journal Moving Picture World, December 1916.


At play—and work—in the Central Okanagan (mid-1940s)

During the Second World War, the BC Government Travel Bureau launched an ambitious program of in-house film production.  The Bureau’s Photographic Branch shot 16 mm colour footage on Vancouver Island and throughout the southern Interior.  This material would be fashioned into several colour-and-sound travelogues highlighting the province’s major regions and local attractions.  Most of these films were finished and released in the early postwar years, when the filming program was also extended to northern and central BC, the Hope-Princeton Highway, the Alaska Highway, and the route of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway.

Some of the wartime footage appeared in The Okanagan Valley: British Columbia’s Orchard Playground (1943-47).  The edited excerpts above include scenes from Kelowna and Summerland, with glimpses of Peachland and Naramata.  They highlight the Kelowna Regatta and the packing of apples by female workers at a packing house.  For a description of the complete film, see BC Archives AAAA2464.

Excerpts from this and the other BCGTB travelogues of the 1940s and 1950s are featured on the RBCM DVD release, Evergreen Playland:  A Road Trip through British Columbia (2008).

Kelowna. Aquaplaning On Okanagan Lake, 1943.

Kelowna; Aquaplaning On Okanagan Lake, 1943. This photo was taken by the Travel Bureau crew while shooting footage for “The Okanagan Valley”. (BC Archives I-29928, detail)