The Community – Individual Stories
MILL (to the tune of "Old Rustic Bridge")
I was working one night in the old Dusty Mill
That stands on Britannia Beach
Twas there Munro dear, filled my heart full of fear
As he caught me asleep in the deep (at the switch)
Twas there I first met him, the light in his eyes
Made by insides go acreep
And, though wide awake, I still always quake
In the old Dusty Mill on the Beach.
The mill has a special memory for me. I was born Verlie Kemper at the beach in 1934 and my father Jack Kemper was a filter operator at the mill. Sometimes when he was working afternoon shift my mother would give me his supper in his lunch bucket and I would take it to him at the mill. Imagine - a girl of nine or ten going into the bottom door, climbing a couple of flights of those stairs to get to the floor Dad worked on (he knew what time to expect me) and delivering the lunch and then standing and watching the flotation operation at work. It was very noisy, dirty and fascinating - seeing the separation of the different metals. And then to come back out into the rain or the sunshine again.
Passengers for the ride up the skip
Britannia Beach to The Townsite.
1944. BCMM# 12578
The last day of school before Easter break in 1939, we got out of class a bit early. Being in high spirits we all decided to walk home, we straggled along the track joking as we went. When we arrived at the cable shed there was a large crowd of miners milling around and a great deal of excitement. A cable car had got half way down the mountain when the huge cable snapped sending the car speeding out of control toward the town. The brakeman had been able to jump free and there were no passengers.
The car slammed into the mill workings demolishing an entire building where amazingly no one was on shift at the time. Of course, we were all astounded at this news and almost ran the rest of the way into the centre of town. Everyone was gathered in the company store an when we all trooped in we were hugged and kissed and cried over as everyone had thought we were on the car that now lay embedded in a twisted mass of metal in the mill.
The aftermath of the skip crashing
into the Mill. 1939. BCMM# 13030
Celebrating May Day at Britannia Beach.
c. 1930. BCMM# 984.79.26
Can I tell you the first time it really struck me that this place was gone? They decided in ‘74 to shut it down because it was costing too much to get the ore out and it wasn’t profitable. And it took quite a while to mop everything up and get things out of the mine and that sort of thing. And one day I went to Squamish grocery shopping and when I came back the Mill, the concentrator, was dark. And I sat up on the bluff and I couldn’t come home because I was crying so hard. It was the saddest thing, I had never seen the Mill building without lights in it, and that’s when I knew it was over after being here for so many years.
Joan Ehler, As recorded on March 25, 2004.