The flag on the SS Sicamous is flying at half staff these days, marking the passing of one of the people responsible for keeping the century-old boat a vital part of the Penticton landscape.
When he died earlier this week at age 94, Fred Tayler left a lot of accomplishments behind him. During the Second World War, Tayler was one of the soldiers who crossed the Rhine in 1945 on the Allies’ final push to Berlin. In the post-war years, he successfully continued his family’s construction business. But it was in 1987 that he joined with a group of concerned citizens on a project that would occupy him for the next three decades.
The SS Sicamous in those days was in a sad state. Abused and decaying, city staff were recommending that the boat was not worth being fixed and the tourist attraction should just be burned to the ground.
Larry Little, chief librarian at the Penticton Public Library, met Tayler in those days, when he was then a member of the museum advisory committee. Tayler, Little said, was instrumental in encouraging him to join the society that was forming to save and reconstruct the Sicamous.
“Fred was instrumental in not only what he did for the Sicamous, but what he did in helping organize that original group of individuals,” said Little.
Tayler was a key founder of the SS Sicamous Restoration Society, but he didn’t want to chair the board, according to Little, who also served on that first board. That honour went to Jack Petley.
“Fred really didn’t want to do those things,” said Little. “His skill, as he used to put it, was that he could do a lot of good things behind the scenes.”
Jake Kimberley was also there for those meetings, as the representative for Penticton council.
“There were other individuals with him that formed the society, but Fred was there just about every day on the Sicamous, making sure that things were done,” said Kimberley, adding he would like to see the city recognize Tayler’s dedication. “He wanted that boat restored to its authentic standard.”
Both Little and Kimberley agree that Tayler had a special touch when it came to procuring materials needed for the boat’s reconstruction.
“Fred was probably the best scrounger that I have ever encountered in my life,” said Little, adding if you needed something, you just had to give Fred a little time, and he would find it.
Tayler would visit construction sites and call on friends and contacts from his years in the trades in pursuit of what was needed for the reconstruction efforts.
“He knew everybody in town. They would say ‘Sure, you can have that’ and the next thing you know he got it all for free, so it didn’t cost us anything,” said Little.
Little and Kimberley continued to work on the Sicamous for years as well, but they both agree that Tayler was one of the boat’s most stalwart defenders.
“There are a number of people in our community that have made the Sicamous a reality. Fred is one of those glowing people that came to the forefront when it was necessary,” said Little. “He worked really hard behind the scenes, harder than most people realize when it came to keeping that gracious old lady where she is.”