Profound Questions

Creston Museum Daily Dose of History, News & Articles Leave a Comment

These past few days, we’ve been talking a bit about self-isolation and how it’s impacted us. One thing I think we can all agree on is: we’re probably all getting a little bored.

Which might explain why I’ve been seeing things like the meme at the top of this page pretty frequently on social media. Isolation, apparently, leaves lots of time to ponder some very profound questions.

Which reminds me of an article I wrote several years ago in which I did just that. But before I get to that story, I’m going to ask: what are some of the philosophical things you’ve been pondering lately – and have you come up with any answers?

An “Ice” History of Creston

One of the really great things about working in a Museum is that it helps me answer some of the major philosophical questions of our time. Questions like, “What was the greatest thing before sliced bread?” and “What would Geronimo say when he jumped out of an airplane?” Or “What did people watch during hockey game intermissions before Zambonis were invented?”

Frank Zamboni came out with his first ice-cleaning machine in 1949, but it was several decades before such a beast appeared on the ice in Creston – our first Zamboni arrived in 1989. It was a second-hand vehicle, purchased by the local Minor Hockey Association and leased to the Rec Cetnre for $1 a year. It has since been passed on again; it now routinely cleans the ice at the outdoor rink in Lister.

So what did people in Creston watch before the advent of the Zamboni? That depends on how far back in the hockey-history of the Valley you want to go.

In the really early days, they watched nothing. Hockey was played outdoors, on Duck Lake, or Tin Can Slough (across Highway 21 from the bottom of Canyon Street), or, occasionally, on the present-day Rec Centre field when weather conditions were right. Ice quality was completely dependent on Mother Nature.

Hockey on Duck Lake

When the Civic Centre on Canyon Street was built in 1946, the indoor arena meant ice cleaning was required, but it was still pretty low-tech – and a lot less frequent than it is now. My good friend Ian, who has been involved in minor hockey in Creston for decades, recalls that a flood wasn’t done after every period, but only after the game was finished. During the intermissions, the ice surface would be scraped clean, then after the game it would be scraped again, swept with big brooms, and then flooded. The original flooding equipment was a 45-gallon drum on skids, with a pipe coming out the back with a burlap sack attached to distribute the water. Ian recalls Les Lund, George Holmes, and Milt Mann manhandling this thing around the arena. He also recalls that there was no concrete floor underneath the ice – there was the dirt, then the pipes in the sand over that, and a board floor over that.

Eventually, the Civic Centre acquired an ice shaver which was pulled by a Kubota tractor acquired from Albie Ingham at Valley Automotive. That ice shaver was nearly destroyed in the fore that demolished the Civic Centre in 1968, but Bob Lees, Alec McLeod, and Jim Ross salvaged it, took it down to the machine shop at the Brewery, and rebuilt it. It later found a new home in the current Rec Centre, along with the Kubota tractor, which did double-duty pulling a mower in summer. Unfortunately, the heat-blasted frame of the ice shaver was never quite up to snuff, so a new one had to be purchased.

Cal Maddess on the tractor, 1977 – photo courtesy Creston & District Community Complex

Prior to 1987, the Rec Centre wasn’t operated by Regional District, but rather by the local Recreation Association, and any capital expenditures were paid for out of the profits of the arena concession. The concession was run by volunteers, which helped. Those were also the days before every convenience store had lottery and scratch tickets, so minor hockey lotteries didn’t have as much competition for people’s gambling dollars.

Gordon Armstrong in the Rec Centre arena

Still, there wasn’t a whole lot of extra money. The local newspapers in the 1970s routinely ran articles stating that the minor hockey or figure skating or public skating programs were in jeopardy because the arena was out of money. Major purchases had to be pretty carefully budgeted – and prioritised.  A Zamboni was no doubt much lower on the list of must-haves than, say, keeping the arena open in the first place.

Thanks to everyone who has helped with the details for this article!

By the way, Geronimo probably wouldn’t have even had an opportunity to jump out of an airplane – they were still pretty new and rare when he died in 1909. And if he did jump, he’d have yelled “Help” like everyone else, because parachutes were even rarer than airplanes.

I’ll have to get back to you on the sliced bread thing.

Originally published March 2012