Archive for the ‘Road Lore’Category

The ‘T & T’

When the T&T  Texaco station opened in the late 60′s,  the island was starting to grow and a ’gas station’ was a welcomed addition.   At the junction of North and South Roads, at the top of the ferry hill, the “T&T” soon became pretty much the center of automotive activity for over 30 years.

Originally opened by Ted Easthom and Ted James, the T&T was the place to go if you wanted to know anything about anything on Gabriola.    Sid Skinner bought out Easthom in the seventies and he and Ted James enjoyed the social part of the business as much as the automotive side.   They knew where just about everyone lived and what they drove.    Before the RCMP became a permanent fixture on the island, it was common for folks to call the T&T and ask  “have the cops left the island yet?”    Since they had the only tow truck, the police routinely called the T&T after hours to request their towing services.   That itself was risky business, since the tow truck driver was often in no condition to drive himself, and tales of towing mishaps are still told amongst many longtime islanders.    They did many good deeds, delivering heating oil to many folks down some bad winter roads and long driveways, and extending credit when they knew they may not get paid any time soon.    On Christmas Eve it was traditional for many regular customers to drop in with bottled gift and enjoy a holiday laugh or two with some real island characters. 


The old T&T building was the site of some automotive shenanigans and gave the island a flavour that is not so easy to taste anymore.

At the T&T one could enjoy a  cigarette and a cool beverage on any given afternoon and chew the fat with Sid and Ted between fill-ups.   Although many of the regulars could fill their own tanks if they wished, the T&T was full service (not necessarily fast).   Ted would often have to crawl out from under a vehicle to pump gas.    He would usually not have a smoke in his mouth at the time.  Usually.    It was not uncommon for one of the repair bays to be half full of empties.   On the odd occasion, when the boys had been ‘distracted’ at closing time, Ted would arrive at the station early in the morning to find the lights and gas pumps on, and the doors wide open, having ‘forgotton’ to close things up the night before.   He would check the cash register and find it untouched from the day before….business as usual.  Times were a little different then.


The sign that was once a landmark at the junction of North and South Road was rescued by a local mechanic and now stands on Carr Blvd. close to his shop.

With some serious competition re-opening another gas station down the road, things went downhill in the 21st century and Sid turned the business over to his son.  Ted James left the island, moving to Prince George, and  Sid died suddenly of a heart attack –  not far from the T&T.   The property was eventually sold along with a neighbouring parcel, and redevelopment began.  What had been a scrapyard became a strip mall – which many  islanders see as an improvement .  


In an attempt to fit the local motif, the shed 'style' of the slightly revamped old T&T garage was repeated in the design of the new development in the background. Is that an architectural shenanigan?



09 2010

Orlebar Point


From Bells Landing, Orlebar Point is silhouetted against the south coast.

One of the most scenic places on the BC coast, this point has been on the front page of the national papers –  for reasons other than it’s beauty.


Where Berry Point Road meets Upper Berry Point Road is where one politician met the end of his career.

Orlebar Point is at the end of Berry Point Road – now.     Apparently the Berry Point road allowance used to run directly to the point – that is until a certain high-powered politician took a liking to the location and somehow managed to purchase it from the province and amalgamate it with another lot  -  when nobody from Gabriola was looking.   What was intended as a fine beach access, became part of a residential waterfront lot  where former BC Cabinet Minister Dave Stupich built himself a home.    It was beautifully done, and even included a desalinization plant.  Many local tradesmen worked there off and on for months and when the news broke a few years later that Stupich had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar (misappropriating funds from a charity bingo) the island was buzzing with stories about the place.   The media decended on the island and choppers brought in RCMP investigators.   It was a big scandal,  and Gabriola Island made headlines, as Stupich – a former Provincial Cabinet Minister AND  federal Member of Parliament faced some damning charges.


Some nice rockwork graces the entry to Orlebar.

Mr. Stupich was eventually convicted for his actions, and sentenced to serve some time under ‘house arrest’.    The court, however, recognizing that confining the disgraced politician to a luxury home on arguably one of the nicest locations on the coast, was hardly a tough sentence.   The court required that the time be served at Stupich’s daughter’s house in Nanaimo.  Now, to me…that makes Nanaimo a penal colony for Gabriola Island, and I take great delight in telling that particular part of the Stupich saga to folks from the Harbour City (much to their chagrin).    Most Gabrioloids love it – unless perhaps they voted for the man.

It is worth noting that the fellow who originally blew the whistle on Stupich rented a modest place  on Gabriola for a while as the case was coming to a close.    Jacques Carpentier had worked for one of the  charities involved and discovered the discrepancies in the books.   Jacques kept good records and had collected lots of paperwork from the Nanaimo Commenwealth Holding Society (NCHS)- which was run by Stupich – a powerful man in the NDP at the time.   When he started asking questions, his life was threatened and he soon went public.   The RCMP then began a forensic investigation.  When the case ended with a conviction, a large box of paperwork was returned to him by the RCMP, representing the evidence he had presented.   He left Gabriola shortly thereafter.

The Stupich home  has changed hands now, and –  questionable ethics aside - Orlebar Point remains a beautiful place to visit, and the entire south coast is spread out before you.   The tourists love to take pictures there – usually with their backs to Orlebar. 



These views from Orlebar Point are much different than the ones Mr.Stupich got while serving his time in Nanaimo.


08 2010

Gossip Corner

s rd at martin

This corner has a very 'south end' feel to it, winding between a farm and a bay.

The old Gary Oak on South Road, near Martin Road is the centerpiece of Gossip Corner, where folks met to get their mail and shoot the breeze.  Before North Road went all the way to Silva Bay, South Road was the route to take and one of the early stops for Gabriola’s postal delivery was at this corner in the road, just steps away from the head of Degnan Bay.     Someone built a bench under the oak tree and it became a regular meeting place for the south-end folks.   It didn’t hurt that there were blackberries and fruit trees nearby either, and the old MacDonald farm (perhaps not the one of nursery-rhyme fame) was right there as well. 


Maybe someone will repair the old bench at Gossip Corner - so folks can sit and talk about it.

It is a good bet that the earliest settlers on the island liked that area too.   One of the few petroglyphs found along the shore is only a few meters away, suggesting that the rock-carver likely spent plenty of time in that area, where good soil, fresh water, great fishing,  and a sheltered bay - rich with clams and oysters - are all close by.


08 2010

Sir William and St.Catherine


If you manage to find this sign, you could probably find the trail to the sea.

One notable (or notorious) Gabriola pioneer was Bill Coats, who has been described as a handyman, farmer, and entrepreneur. According to two books on the subject, he worked for the infamous Brother Twelve – a cult leader from the early 1900′s who bamboozled many gullible folks out of their money and operated a commune of sorts on DeCourcey Island. One of Coates ventures on Gabriola was an attempt to generate electricity on the island. He was close to completing his hydro plant, using the water from Hoggan Lake that he diverted over the bluff on his land, to generate the power. Of course BC Hydro had shown no interest in supplying the island previously, but immediately began putting up poles and wires when Coats got close to finishing his project, and beat him to the punch.   

Bill Coats came to own a considerable amount of land on the island, including the sandstone quarry above Descanso Bay.  When his son Clyde subdivided one parcel the family owned between Degnan Bay and Gabriola Passage – at the end of Martin Road – he named the resulting roads Sir William and St.Catherine, after his father Bill and mother Catherine. Obviously Coats Road bears the family name, but as yet there is no Clyde Road on Gabriola…just Clyde.      

public access

It may LOOK like a private drive, but that small lane is on a public road allowance that goes right to the beach, just steps away from Drumbeg Park.


08 2010

Petroglyph Way


short and straignt

Petroglyph Way, at the end of Crocker Road, is in the middle of lots of large acreages. The small trail that connects it to South Road is not visible in this image.

  This short road was put in in the late 90′s to serve three large acreages created after some of the fabled ‘Weldwood’ lands were sold and developed.   Since some known petroglyphs were not far away, it was expected that some would be found on this land.     When the logging took place, large areas of smooth sandstone -an ideal canvas for stone carvings -were exposed. Experts from the University of Victoria came up to search the land for any signs of the ancient graffiti.  They found nothing and approved the subdivision.  

The real trail  is a narrow dedicated right-of-way that runs from the new road, between the acreages, to the site of some of the island’s most accessible petroglyphs, on the land adjacent to the United Church on South Road.    Although the strip of land was dedicated by the developer, hands-on members of the  local trails organization (GALTT)  maintain the trail through it.   By connecting to South Road, the trail is an important link in a series of trails  that allow hikers and cyclists to get up and down the island and stay off the beaten track.

fine trail starts here

This trail leads towards South Road from Petroglyph Way

If you want to get a sense of how long it takes Gabriola to regenerate, take a walk down this trail.   The land it passes through was cleared of all marketable timber in late 1996.  All that remained standing were a scant few fir trees, some arbutus, and a smattering of alder and maple.     Fourteen years later, much of it is looking pretty lush.  One of the acreages is being turned into a ‘Small Species Sanctuary’  by its owner, who rescued it from being totally overgrown by the invasive broom – which he spent months pulling out by hand.   With some simple techniques – primarily seeding the open land with some grains/grasses,  the land is attracting lots of wildlife up and down the food chain, and becoming a gorgeous patch of gulf island ecosystem.   It is different than the old forest, but no less beautiful.


08 2010


‘Back in the day’ when there were less than a thousand people living here full time, everyone pretty well knew everyone else….and where they lived.   In the early 80′s, when a new family bought an old home on North Road from a local mechanic, there were no house numbers.   When describing their location to new island acquaintances, they found most  would exclaim at some point – “that’s Gus Hussey’s old place!”     When being introduced, neigbours would say, “these folks live at Gus Hussey’s old place.”    It became a bit of a family joke and after a couple of years of living at ‘Gus Hussey’s Old Place” they decided to give the place a name of it’s own that reflected the elements of the property, and they painted it on the old mailbox at the side of the road.

snailmail box

A few old mailboxes still grace the island's roadsides. Snail mail anyone?

  Very few of the old mailboxes remain, but they are reminders of a time when leaving your mail in an unlocked box by the road was the norm.   If the box was turned with the door facing the road, that meant there was mail to pick up, or mail had been delivered. 

I cannot write about mail on Gabriola without mentioning two of my favorite old-time islanders –  ’Wayne & Phyllis’ , who delivered the mail for many years (between smoke breaks).   Wayne, who taught mathematics at the College in Nanaimo for a time, was a small man with a deep voice that would be the envy of any radio announcer.   He and Phyllis were fixtures in the White Hart, where they practically owned a table.  Avid smokers, they were good at growing and curing their own tobacco as well.  They had a few good friends with whom they shared their harvest.   Apparently they would even deliver their home-grown tobacco  right to  your mailbox – a service frowned upon by Canada Post.    When you were checking your mail (perhaps for your government cheque), it was easy to tell if Wayne and Phyllis had been there yet;  there would be fresh spots of oil in front of the mailboxes where they had stopped their tired old vehicle.   Although they have long since moved away, I am sure many folks still remember them fondly.



07 2010

George Street and Whalley

 “I love blondes – no matter what colour their hair is”.

Many of Gabriola’s seasoned veterans will instantly recognize that as a quote from one of the island’s most colourful characters – Walter Krull. He built houses and barns and roads and just about whatever you wanted back in the days when tradesmen were as scarce as building permits.

When the Mander family did a small subdivision – Mander Estates – off Stalker Road, they decided to name one of the roads they created after the charming Walter. ‘Whalley Road’ runs off Stalker Road and was a dead-end until recently when Hyham Road was created to access some new waterfront properties that appeared as a result of the uncharacteristic subdivision of an old farm.

Whalley Rd. from Stalker

Whalley Rd, named after Walter Krull, runs off Stalker Road and connects it to the newly created Hyham Road.

Walter himself owned some land close to Silva Bay and did a small subdivision of his own off Marvin Road. When it came time to name the new road, Walter was not around to talk to the highways department inspector  – but his neighbour George Detweiller was, and now we have George Road.   That is a case of being in the right place at the right time…for George that is.



07 2010

Phase Four & the Firehall Trail

 When Wildwood Developments (and others) were busy cutting Gabriola into half-acre lots (before the establishment of the Island’s Trust) they were doing so in ‘phases’. The last phase took place off Berry Point Road and up Norwich hill to Chelwood. The “Phase Four” developers went for the tree-named streets (Tamarack, Balsam, Spruce, Hemlock, Larch,Jackpine). It was considered a bit ‘out of the way’ and took a little longer than some phases to develop.

go through this phase

If you know where to find them, lots of nice trails lead to Phase Four.

The name may not be the most romantic, but it stuck – perhaps because it was the last phase and because it was so easily identifiable. During a particularly robust boom in the early 1990′s, while land in that area was still pretty cheap, one prolific home builder – Gordon Stevens – bought several lots in Phase Four and built ‘spec homes’ for the burgeoning real estate market. Had he done so a few years earlier, that area may well have become ‘Stevensville’. A half dozen of his houses helped make up that little community that marks the last of the half-acre-lot subdivisions on Gabriola Island.

it's just a phase

If you get your mail here - you probably live in Phase Four.

Things may change for Phase Four if the Church Road – Spruce Road connection takes place. In the mid 90′s the entire subdivision was completely cut off from the rest of the island as a result of a particularly nasty windstorm that took down several huge trees along Berry Point Road. Effectively cut off from emergency services for over 24 hours, residents were justifiably concerned.  If the proposed extension of Church Road takes place, Phase Four will be much more accessible from the village of Gabriola.  

For many years – until the late eighties, and before Church Road existed, the ‘firehall trail’ cut through from behind the firehall  to the end of Spruce, across an eighty acre parcel of heavily forested private land – owned by Weldwood at one point.  When in good enough shape, the trail was used by the fire department, and anyone else who had decent tires, lots of clearance,  and a bit of nerve. It was  the local shortcut to and (especially) from ‘the Surf’ late at night, when one wished to avoid the main roads.   The trail went up and down hills and valleys and wound through the old forest – and through a few puddles that were big enough for fish.  One certainly did not want to meet a vehicle coming the other way.  Most trips on the  ’firehall trail’ were  an adventure.   Portions are still used for a walking and cycling shortcut today, but it is still on private property – for now. 



The forest is changing around this portion of the old firehall trail, as arbutus and alder start to take over....for now.



06 2010

Brickyard Hill

This long hill on South Road takes you over  Gabriola’s ridge, past Wharf Road and down to Brickyard Beach, where South meets Ferne Road.  The name came from the old brickyard that operated at the bottom of the hill and was a busy place in the first half of the 1900’s.  It  eventually ran out of material and a market for the bricks. The history of the brickyard has been recorded by more than one student of Gabriola history, and old photos show some of our early residents at work there.   When a  huge cement company bought out the company that owned the old brick factory, they got all the land with it.    It had no real value to them and eventually it fell into the hands of a former company exec, who was given the land as a retirement bonus of sorts.   He held if for a while but has since sold most of it in bits and pieces.

One interesting tale about the thousands of discarded bricks that were left in the area after the brickyard closed, involves an enterprising young Gabriola roofer- Steve - who saw an opportunity.    He paid locals cash for any and all the bricks they could bring him, and many ‘under-employed’  islanders  took him up on it.  They gleaned thousands of discarded bricks from the area around brickyard beach, and  Steve stockpiled them and sold them to the local builders and bricklayers  for a profit.    Many homes on the island (including Steve’s) feature reclaimed bricks from  the old brickyard in their fireplaces and hearths.

looking up brickyard from near wharf rd

Cyclists may second guess their choice of direction when they look up this hill.

Cyclists know the hill as a challenge to ride, and it is always discussed when debating the best direction to go when riding around the island. Many feel it is easier to go up ‘brickyard’ and get the climb over with (relatively)quickly, rather than the long hill from the Maples up to the south end fire hall. Try it both ways and see for yourself.


06 2010

Gabriola Sands

an isthmus and peninsula

Gabriola's most accessible beaches are right here, and they attracted some of the earliest recreational development on the island.

This little peninsula – complete with an isthmus – has some of the island’s nicest waterfront and it is no suprise that is was developed very early on in the history of the island.    City folks from Victoria and Vancouver  who were looking for a nice summer getaway back in the fifties and sixties discovered Gabriola and it’s relatively inexpensive waterfront.     This area was ideal, with nice beaches and moorage and not all that far away from civilization.   The Gabriola Sands development divided  up the little peninsula into many half-acre ‘recreational’ lots.   The fact that water was scarce in that area did not seem to matter, and many summer cottages  were built here.   Over the years most of them have become full-fledged homes with many swanky waterfront places barely visible from the road.  There are still many little summer cabins to be found as well, tucked away behind the greenery.

 It is a unique part of the island and a great penninsula to circumnavigate as a beachcomber.   At low tide, one can park at Gabriola Sands Provincial Park – known colloquially as ‘Twin Beaches’  – and follow the shoreline around from one side to the other.   There are the  two bays – Pilot Bay (the ‘pilot’ boats used to moor there waiting for freighters heading to Nanaimo Harbour)  facing the Georgia Straight,  and Taylor Bay facing Nanaimo.    You may get your feet wet if you miss the beach access and the tide sneaks up on you, but that’s not the end of the world.     Twin Beaches is the island’s busiest beach in the summer, and many spoiled locals bemoan the ‘crowds’ and head for more secluded spots.    Note: Over a dozen people could qualify as a ‘crowd’ on Gabriola.

If you want to get temporarily ‘lost’ on Gabriola, try driving around the Sands at night looking for an address.   Every street looks the same and one crescent seems to be everywhere in the green maze.  

looks familiar....

Have we been here before?

look familiar?

Does this look familiar?

which way?

Left or right?

 should have turned left..

We should have turned right...

we should have gone straight

We should have turned left....


05 2010