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This page last updated February 27, 2015

© Michael Kluckner

Go to Willows Motel

Written/sketched in 2003: On the bench above the Cisco bridges, on the left bank of the river, stand the ruins of a resort known as Siska Lodge (Siska being the name of the Indian village a mile or two downstream). These days, you can miss it entirely if your eye doesn't catch the deep green patch of the acacia grove – a different colour from the bleached olive and black tones of the pines that typically dot the hillsides. Although all the buildings, except for the exquisite little barn in the watercolour above, are either reduced to piles of sticks or else (like the old lodge house) are roofless walls, the land is still neatly terraced, dotted with acacias, and irrigated for the current owner's vegetable garden.

At Cisco, below Lytton, the bridges of the two great national railways cross the Fraser River. The CPR surveys of the 1880s chose a narrow canyon there to take the river from the left bank across to the right; then, in the 1910s, the Canadian Northern Pacific (now the Canadian National) was forced to use a slightly wider spot just upstream to cross to the left bank on its way downstream toward Boston Bar. The site was much photographed, as in the hand-tinted one below, probably from the 1920s and published by the Gowen, Sutton Co. Ltd. of Vancouver, which inadvertently describes it as being on the Thompson River (which joins the Fraser at Lytton).



1949 photo by anonymous provincial government employee. The acacia trees that now are the only real indication of the old resort are visible to the left of the lodge.


I don't know who built Siska Lodge or ran it before 1961, but during the 1960s it was owned and managed by Fred and Florence Lindsay. As a lodge, according to correspondent Doris Tuohey, it was a "good colonial house" with "a good restaurant"--several acres with fruit trees and cabins. Both Lindsays--he as a writer and she as an illustrator--deserve also to be remembered for their published works.

 

Author's name obscured, unfortunately, by the UBC library cataloguing information!


Lindsay wrote and published Outlaws (1963), Cariboo Story (1958), Cariboo Yarns (1962) and Cariboo Dream (1972) – rollicking stories of the goldrush days illustrated with historic photographs and the drawings of Gwen Lewis. With Florence as illustrator, he wrote a children's book called Mouse Mountain. His obituary (Province, July 20, 1973, p. 9) noted that he had not only published a weekly newspaper in Quesnel but served as an alderman there, where he made "a few enemies and a hell of a lot of friends." He died in Vernon of a heart attack.


From Linda Weekley Stradley, 2015: I don't know for sure when Siska Lodge burned down, but my Social Studies teacher hired myself and another girl from Kumsheen to come out and clean his cabin in 1969, so I know it was still there then.  I married in 1973 and left Lytton, so I can't say I know when it met its end.

From Chuck Morris, 2013: Reading an excerpt about Siska Lodge I noted an entry by a fellow looking for pictures of the gas station and buildings at Jackass Flats. I too would be interested in this as we (Mom and Dad and three of my siblings and I) spent at least a year there. We went to school in Lytton and slept in one of the out buildings on the property.

When we moved from there we were going to Puntzi Mountain and Dad left our old Ford truck completely loaded with belongings, hidden behind the main building. When he and I had come down to get it many months later it was long gone.

For the short time we were there, somewhere in the early 60’s, I have many fond memories of playing in the bush. In fact, on the treed hillside behind the main building, about 20 or so feet up was a couple of old car bodies. We used to play in those as well (without fear of them freeing themselves and sliding down the hill!).

The earlier message, from Dennis Chappell: I’m looking for pictures of the Jack Ass Café and Restaurant south of Lytton.  I remember seeing it before it burned down, but that was a long time ago.

From Sharon Negraiff Ellis, 2013: I googled to see where the post card I have of Siska Lodge was again. I knew there is a Siska Native village near Kanaka Bar as I once had a dog (which I got from the former managers of Kanaka Bar ) Alexis & Bill. I named him Siska, as I think the dog was from the village. He was a beautiful malemute which at the time was too much to handle and went to a home on a Ginseng farm in Merritt. I have a photo of him I will have to dig out one day. I am attaching my Gowen & Sutton postcard of the Siska Lodge.

From Cliff Beattie, 2012: I just read your piece on vanishing places in the Fraser Canyon, Fred Lindsay was a very good friend of mine and the last time we visited at Siska Lodge we were sitting at the kitchen table and Fred was Missing his wife Florence, he had a big bag of silver coins on the table and said help your self he didn't want them anymore so my friend that was traveling with me and myself spent the afternoon trying to cheer him up, we did not take the money but left him a little more happy than when we found him. I have most of Fred's books I am missing Mouse Mountain though but would like to find a copy. After I moved Fred to the Vernon area he offered me the motel for free and I have kicked my ass ever since for not taking him up on his offer, by this time Florence had passed away.

Note from Robin Hickman, 2008: I live in Salmon Arm, as have members of my family since 1907 when my great grandfather, A. A. Brooke, homesteaded here after moving from Switzerland via Manitoba. He was a watercolour artist and painted illustrations in diaries he kept of his life since his early teens. His father was also an artist who made his living by painting landscapes of Switzerland and selling them to tourists. The reason for this was that he was banished to Switzerland by his father from England for having fallen in love with a family maid, my great, great grandmother. It was with some amazement that I happened upon your website after doing a Google search and found many ties to our family. My father, Bob Hickman, contracted to Charlie Nakamura during the 1950's and up until the bankruptcy of the Nakamura Mill in 1961. Further, my grandfather and grandmother, Harold and Nellie Brooke owned and operated Siska Lodge in the 1940s and 1950s. My uncle, Ronnie Brooke, lived his early years at Siska Lodge and is the holder of the diaries painted by A. A. Brooke. My family visited them several times at Siska Lodge in the 1950s, stayed in the old hotel and had many adventures on the river, railway trestles and area.

Collection of David Pollock

Note from David Pollock: I have a business card dating back to the 30s from Siska Lodge. I carry it in the glove box of my '35 Plymouth Coupe along with an envelope of miniature postcards of the canyon. The car is a twin to one my uncle used to drive the canyon route in the 30s and one day I intend to cover the same ground with it. I remember dining at Siska.... the potatoes were "off" and I have never forgotten the flavour. I think it burned down about 1965.

Some of the photos in a postcard set by J.C. Walker, Chilliwack. Collection of David Pollock

Note from Patrick Smith,  2008: I have been researching my family roots and was brought to Vanishing BC as my Grandfather lived in Walhachin Back in the  early 1900's I cant say for sure when but it would have been prior to 1929 as my uncle Henry was born then but in Kamloops I do know that my grandfather worked the railway an was possibly section foreman for that area from about 1931 until when I have no idea.Interestingly upon researching my family I came upon a little history of my wife. The Siska lodge was owned and managed by a Fred Lindsay which is her Great uncle. She has a book "Mouse Mountain" signed by Fred and Florence Lindsay in 1964 to all his Poulton nieces and nephews my wifes father passed the book on to her. So just a neat little piece of history.


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Willows Motel (& others nearby)

Abandoned motel cabins near Boston Bar airstrip

Written by me 2002: Most of the tourist places in the Fraser Canyon are closed and look incredibly forlorn, if they still exist at all. The Kanyon View Motel just north of Boston Bar is one wreck (that I may paint one day), and this old motel with cabins, just to the south of the Boston Bar airstrip, is another. All the tourist spots in the Fraser Canyon, in my recollection, had magnificent weeping willows--enormous yellowy-green trees swaying gracefully in the hot wind--but the ones here were probably the best ...

From Diana Azevedo, 2014: Just wanted to let you know yet another old highway side piece of the fraser canyon's history has been burnt down. The old Kanyon View Kabins motel/auto court just a couple minutes outside Boston Bar were mysteriously set on fire in the middle of the night. The main building here is the only one burnt down.
Before:

And after:



[From Bob Brown, March 2008: The glass house at Boston Bar was also done by Dave Brown as his brother Bill owned the property. It was an auto court called Kanyon View, I think the building housed a type of generator. (This note about the Kanyon View came because of a query on the Sanca glasshouse page). And from David Pollock, 2009: Just to confirm that the generating plant at Kanyon View was a diesel unit and was housed in a glass block building visible from the highway.]

... I was inspired to go looking for it because of a comment made by Grace Darney in response to a statement I'd made about the Totem Motel, a fine establishment in Lytton. She wrote:


"I stayed at the Totem Hotel in Lytton myself last year while visiting my aunt and uncle who are residents in the hospital's extended care. When they were moved into the hospital it was the first time in 25 years that they'd had a roof over their heads that didn't leak, regular meals, running water etc. You can see their abandoned shack along the Trans Canada about 15 or 20 minutes out of Boston Bar, on the right. There are a dozen or more willows, and what were once motel cabins [above], but they had no money to keep things up, no money to dig a well, and so let the place decay (they hauled water from a neighbour). Bill picked up scrap metal along the highway for a living, but over the years a vast amount of it stayed around the property. His tulips still come up between the pieces of metal. Last year I took a few nostalgic photos of the main cabin that they lived in for many years, with the willows drooping over it and yellow tulips in the foreground. What it needs now is ten trucks to remove the scrap, the buildings pushed down, and to be sold."

Update from Grace Darney in June, 2003: "Aunt Marianne died last December, and Uncle Bill died in March. We held his memorial service a couple of weekends ago and many people talked about how he kept the sides of the highway cleaned of metal trash. Some photos were on display, showing his garden as it was when they first moved there, a very different look from how it was last year. The property was sold to a young couple from Alberta." And, "In the 1930's, Bill and his two brothers built many rock walls in North and West Vancouver, and also in Shaughnessy."

Sharleine M. Haycock (nee: Bergot) Youngest daughter/stepdaughter of Bill, describes how Bill and Marianne were happy just to live their lives as they saw fit, without any outside interference or help from their extended family. They were well known up and down the Canyon, especially at Alexandra Lodge, where they often ate dinner and where Bill would entertain guests with his accordion. They bought the motel in the mid to late 1970s from a man named Couteau who had been running it as an antique shop, and never themselves ran it as a motel.

Winnifred Marianne Walker (formerly Bergot of Powell River) nee: Wakelin, January 15, 1912 - December 4, 2002, and William Albert Frank Walker, May 20, 1916 - March 23, 2003. "William and Marianne were married in North Vancouver, November 24, 1958 and ironically, that is where they both died. They had come full circle"--Sharleine Haycock


Bill Walker playing his beloved accordion at Jade Springs Cafe in Lytton on November 24, 1998. Photo by Sharleine Haycock


I went by there in early June, 2003, and saw that the site was being cleared up. Apparently it has been bought by a young couple from the Prairies who may reopen it?

Note from Cheryl Lea: My neighbor told me he had been surfing your site and came across the pictures of an old motel by the airstrip near boston bar and the write up of a "young alberta couple" who had purchased said property. He wondered if that couple was us. It is. I was thrilled to see the pictures and read about some history of our property. We are in the process of cleaning it up and making it liveable. It is a huge project and will be a work in progress for awhile. Mr. Walker certainly left a lot behind! It was interesting to see the picture of Mr. Walker playing his accordion because my Dad also plays that instrument! It is a beautiful piece of property and I would imagine it was stunning when it was well taken care of. My husband Ed and I haven't made any solid decisions on what we will be doing there but we are looking forward to building this place back up to what it must have been at one time. Everything needs a big dose of TLC!!! I would love to hear more about the history of our property. If you have any suggestions on where I could look I would appreciate the help. I love your pictures. That is exactly how the cabins looked.

Update from Cheryl and Ed Lea, March 2008: I thought you might like to know that we have continued our clean-up project and have made progress. We are now living in the main house. Ed has done a fabulous job renovating the building. The property doesn't look the same now that the scrap is gone. The willows still blow in the breeze and the cabins are still there. One of them is still the same, one we started renos on and the other needs to be torn down. The roof fell in a
couple of years ago. The multitude of spring flowers is still a sight to see. We have become friends with Sharleine Haycock and she has been out to visit. She is amazed at the changes to her parents' home and is an encouragement to continue renovations.

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Artwork and text ©Michael Kluckner, 2001, 2002