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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Kelowna Rockets?

This quiz challenges the knowledge of those who claim to be the biggest Rockets fans

12-year-old Kelowna resident celebrates birthday with help of community

The community greeted Kate Pauling with ballons, banners and gifts along her paper route on Friday

COVID-19: More infected passengers on planes flying to and from Okanagan and Kamloops airports

The BC Centre of Disease Control has identified numerous flights with COVID-19 cases

Land once belonged to Grand Chief Nicola

Summerland was once known as Nicola Prairie

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

Okanagan nordic centre loses out on 2021 nationals

Sovereign Lake near Vernon was to host 2020 Canadian championships, canceled due to COVID-19

COVID-19: North Okanagan spring leagues wiped out

Ladies softball, indoor and beach volleyball leagues shut down over pandemic

Most Read