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Jan Advocate 2017

THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 5 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 7 133 local newspapers of that era still considered acquisition of automobiles by local citizenry—and the development of their driving skills—to be newsworthy items. One local newspaper reporter derived particular enjoyment from a Merritt hotel’s acquisition at around this time of a Cadillac, and especially from the fact that the hotel manager “has been affectionately embracing the wheel during the past few days, and is making rapid progress as a driver, altho on Tuesday night at the depot he met with an unfortunate mishap, running into a Kettle Valley Railway car standing on the line, doing damage to the front of the auto.”6 Indeed, even with “skilful and careful driving”, it could take a long time to cover what are by today’s standards relatively short distances. The Nicola Valley News reported in 1916 that an “automobile party” endured a 20-hour trip from Vernon to Merritt (just over 200 kilometres on available roads) when “encountering heavy rains and heavy roads and considerable tire trouble”.7 As these reports reflect, transport could also be adventure-filled and somewhat perilous. A local newspaper reported in December 1915 an incident in which “Miss Ruby Howse while driving an automobile from Nicola to Merritt … chased a coyote along the road for a considerable distance.”8 The environment was wild and rugged. The Wild West element was confirmed by regular newspaper advertisements by the Douglas Lake Cattle Company Limited offering a reward of $150 for information that “will lead to conviction of anybody Stealing or Killing any of our Stock.”9 And this is not even to mention the insects that seem to have pervaded the area and in certain seasons induced citizens to remain indoors (rather than, say, brave the trek from Nicola to Merritt). The Nicola Valley News reported in the summer of 1916 that “the big mosquito drive has been on in the Nicola Valley this week and by their fierce attacks, in massed formation and individual sorties, are forcing the resident to entrench behind wire entanglements …. So savage were the pests on Tuesday evening, the rehearsal of the Merritt Choral Union at a local church was abandoned.”10 Presumably reinforcing their claim to separate courthouses, Nicola and Merritt were still seen in the day as independent settlements, as reflected by the care that newspapers took to chronicle the travels of citizens from one of those settlements to the other. The Nicola Valley News’ “Sunny Nicola” column of July 1916 noted, for example, that “Lawyer and Mrs. Grimmett came over to Nicola from Merritt at the week end, accompanied by Mr. Grimmett’s brother ...”11 (Of course, it may be that “Lawyer Grimmett” received special coverage as he was advertising his legal services in the same issue of the newspaper.12)


Jan Advocate 2017
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