Whaletown General Store as “Petrie’s Trading Post,” 1945 CIMAS Album – Photographs and Stories, Whaletown 1931–1949

Andy Ellingsen Remembers Cortes Island Past – Part One: 1940’s & 50’s

By Roy L Hales

His first memory of Cortes Island is of the Ellingsen family moving their log float home to Von Donop Inlet in 1945. His stories go back decades further. Mike Manson, whose name is preserved in Mansons Landing, was his maternal great grandfather. What was life like in the 1940s and 50s? In this morning’s program we start a series in which Andy Ellingsen remembers Cortes Island past.

Illustrations of Community

” … We used to turn out every Sunday for the Union Steamship coming in at Mansons Dock … The community came out to the Post Office to pick up their mail and of course they all came out to the dock to help unload the freight and move it up to the store. … There was always a community gathering at that time …”

“… There were dances held in the community hall fairly regularly. In the 1950s, there would be a dance held there maybe every six weeks … My dad was an accordion player and played music for the dances … It was easier for my mom and dad to take us to the dance than to find someone to babysit us … When we got tired, we slept on the stage, or the back room … In the summer the dances would typically go on until four or five in the morning, when it started to get light and people could see their way home … “

” … There was always work-share back and forth between people, because quite often … its not hard to build a house if there are two or three of you but it is not easy to build a house if you are by yourself … When it comes to raising walls, it is handy to have a second or third person … “

“Back in the fifties and up into the seventies, there were a lot of community work bees to do something at the community hall or … for example, in the early sixties we got together and put in a community telephone system. We got the telephones for nothing from BC Telephone, they weren’t using these old wind-up ones anymore, but we could still see a value … Enough of us got together that we thought we will string wires all over the place and …” (Listen to the podcast)

Also In The Podcast : 

  • Logging on Cortes & the West Coast in the 1930’s -50’s
  • How MacMillan Bloedel came to Cortes Island
  • Andy’s grandfather Sigurd Ellingsen
  • Numerous anecdotes about life on Cortes: Andy’s childhood memories; his brother Bruce and sister Shirley; Early families in Von Donop Inlet; A visit to the Squirrel Cove Store; The island’s community halls; Work-share anecdotes from what is now Linnaea Farm
  • Local personalties: Elmer & May (Freeman) Ellingsen, Harry Middleton, George Freeman, Ken & Hazel Hanson
  • Why the Ellingsen family left Cortes and moved to Vancouver in 1957

How Large Companies Took Over Logging

“In the mid fifties the BC Government changed their forest management approach and a lot of the provincial forest was allocated to large companies to manage rather than BC Forest Service managing them. I guess what they were trying to do was cut down the public service obligation … tree farm licenses and forest management licenses … which my dad [Elmer Ellingsen] felt was not good for the small independent loggers …”

Top photo credit: Whaletown General Store as “Petrie’s Trading Post,” 1945 CIMAS Album – Photographs and Stories, Whaletown 1931–1949. Courtesy Cortes Island Museum & Archives

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