Inspired by photos and artifacts from local logging camps of the 1940s and 50s, artist Manzanita Snow has just completed a new mural in Port Clements.
The mural, painted on the inside wall of the Cookhouse restaurant at Gas Plus, shows a logging camp dining hall, packed with hungry men, coffee pots, kettles, plates of cookies and fried chicken, and two larger-than-life cooks.
Gas Plus owner Stephen Foster said he had wanted to do something to celebrate Port’s history in the space, and started discussing his ideas with Ms Snow, who worked at Gas Plus for a time.
That led to research at the Port museum, where Clint Tauber dug up photographs taken years ago at dining halls and kitchens, as well as actual dishes and implements. The photos came from logging camps at Juskatla and Louise Island.
Ms Snow said the black and white pictures gave her a vivid idea of what life must have been like for the men in the camps.
“I was surprised by how plain everything was and how bedraggled the men looked,” she said. “It really looked like they were working like slaves.”
In those days, the food available on the islands was much more limited than it is now. Ms Snow said milk came from cows in Port Clements, there was no fruit, and the kitchens served up lots of carrots and potatoes, which grow here and store well. The meat menu probably consisted of local chicken, venison and fish.
Ms Snow said she reflected on her recent experience working on the oil rigs of northeastern BC while she was painting the enormous piece.
“I thought about my own camp experience,” she said. “You’re all one big family out there. The kitchen and dining room is the centre of your life, that is your home.”
Mr. Foster said he’s hoping the mural will give visitors another reason to stop in Port Clements, or keep them there for even a few minutes longer.
“Every little thing you do like this in a community this size is going to make a bit of difference,” he said. “It’s going to become more of an economic engine, tourism.”
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