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While trying to start the machine Barnes collapsed with a heart attack. He was found by his daughter Bertha. As the town grew, business moved up Front street and over to Main street. Things were now on the decline for the grand old structure on the hill. In October of a fire in the upper section caused moderate damage, but not enough to stop the reception party for the wedding of Bertha Grace Barnes, daughter of the hotels owner, the widow Sarah Barnes, to Johnny Beaton, an engineer on the Kettle Valley Railway.

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The hotel had repairs made. The widow Barnes leased the hotel to the De Grubbs of Oroville. But bad times fell on the region and she had to take it back. By the s it was sold and out of the Barnes holdings. On October 7th, fire destroyed the historic structure, Penticton's finest hotel was consumed by flames. Today its rival, the B. Hotel, still operates on historic Front Street in Penticton. Located on Main Street, it was started in October and opened its doors for business in In , the Drossos brothers purchased the hotel.

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Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the Three Gables Hotel on February 29, Sicahous, s Compiled by Harvie Walker Editor's note: Passages contained in quotes reflect the expressions of William Edgar Walker with regard to his employment, first as a coal-passer, then as fireman, on the S. Walker also worked on the S. Now beached at Penticton, it serves as a museum. Sicamous, affectionately known as the "Queen of the Lakes" was the pride of the Interior lake boats that plied the Okanagan, Kootenay and Arrow Lakes at the early part of the 20th century.

My father, then in his early twenties, with a strong back and much in need of a job, hired on as a fireman in the hot and not so elegant engine room of the Sicamous. There he shovelled the tons of coal needed to fuel the boilers that supplied the steam for the engines that made her the fastest steamer on the lake. Over the years he often spoke of his days on the lake boats with a degree of nostalgia, and a certain admiration for a time in his life that he clearly enjoyed, in spite of the back breaking work of hand shovelling tons of coal in a hot, noisy and coal-dusted environment.

While he seldom spoke of his difficult early family life in Summerland and the hardships that his mother, my mother and he endured during the Great Depression, he often reminisced about his lake boat experiences. One such event that he often related was about the time he fell overboard and almost drowned.

These writings are based upon audio tapes recorded in by his father, and on family stories related over the years before his death in He has submitted several articles to the OHS reports. During the early spring, the Sicamous was often used as an ice-breaker to break a passage through the lake ice that usually formed between Summerland and Penticton most winters, and sometimes when the whole lake froze over, as it did in the winter of The steel hull and the shallow five and a half foot draught of the Sicamous, allowed the captain to "take a run at the ice", pushing the ship's bow up over the solid ice and using her weight and forward momentum to break it.

By repeating the process over and over, they would eventually make their way to dockside at Penticton. The ice-breaking procedure was hard on paddlewheel planks which would often be broken by the ice. They would sometimes have to be replaced en route, since the broken planks caused so much vibration in the paddlewheel that "it would shake the dishes off the dining salon tables". They were breaking ice the day my father fell overboard. While he was screwing down the grease cups, he did not notice that they were about to hit the hard ice. So when the ship heaved, he was flung into the water in front of the paddlewheel among the large blocks of ice churning around it.

As the paddlewheel continued to turn, he grabbed onto one of the paddle planks. Holding his breath and holding on for dear life, and being buffeted by the huge blocks of broken ice, he descended into the freezing water. After what he described as "a whole lifetime", the paddlewheel completed a half-turn, and he finally surfaced on the stern side of the wheel. Fortunately, the captain in the wheelhouse had seen him fall in and disappear into the depths, so he brought the wheel to a stop as my father surfaced.

Using a boat hook, the crew members rescued him from his "close call with a watery grave" and took him to the ship's galley, looking like "a half-drowned rat". There the Chinese cooks warmed him up by filling him with everything hot that he could eat and drink. One of the cooks prepared a huge bowl of boiled onions that he said would keep my father from getting a cold. He said that he guessed it worked, because he suffered no ill affects from his accidental winter dip in Okanagan Lake. Water in the Okanagan Valley, being highly mineralized, deposits a scale build-up on the boiler walls, similar to the shell-like layer that accumulates in Okanagan tea kettles.

Boiler-wash was carried out at the head of the lake, at Okanagan Landing. It required a second steamer to come alongside to supply water and steam from the ship with its fire "pulled". The operation tied up two vessels, so getting the job done as quickly as possible was important. As a consequence, the boilers were often still very warm when the work took place. My father said that the scalers would hose each other down with cold water, so that they could work in the exhausting heat and cramped quarters.

While the boiler-scaling was hot, back breaking work, the two crews still found time for friendly ship rivalries and practical jokes. One such activity were the cockroach races that pitted each galley's roaches against the other's. Another activity was staging a variety of eating contests. My father said that in an egg eating contest, he once won the contest by eating a total of 23 fried eggs. He often lamented, that he was just one short of two dozen!

And, that often led to his story about the winter of , when a sudden cold-snap in mid-February froze the Sicamous into the ice at the wharf at Greata Landing Ranch near Peachland. Between February 12, and April 21, , the Sicamous and its crew were frozen in at dockside, unable to complete their round trip back to Penticton.

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  4. By remaining on board and still being on duty, the crew continued to get paid. So they sat out the "mini ice age" until the ice melted enough that they could open up a passage to Penticton and return to their home port. My mother, with my infant brother, sat it out in Penticton, worried about my father's forced absence and her running out of money, fuel and food. My Uncle Nick Rossi came after several weeks and took my mother and brother to his place in Summerland where they stayed until the ice break-up.

    They were among the S. Sicamous' first passengers on her long delayed return trip to its home port at Penticton. On one trip down the lake, the Sicamous' freight included a shipment of baby chicks from a Kelowna hatchery. Great confusion ensued in a desperate scramble to round them all up. My father said that when it was over they were still missing about a dozen chicks. When the Sicamous docked, the man who had ordered the chicks was waiting to pick them up and, when he and his two sons lifted the shipping crate from the freight wagon, the bottom fell out again and a second round-up took place in the freight shed.

    He said he assumed that the farmer who ordered them, either never counted the chicks he got, or that perhaps the hatchery had added a dozen extra for "loss in transit".

    In any case, nothing was ever said above the freight deck about the first chicken round-up and the loss of a dozen of the "rodeo stock". So they used the Sicamous to take people and the limited car traffic of the day across the lake while keeping a channel open through the ice. One time the cargo included two donkeys, as well as several cars, all crowded onto the freight deck.

    Not happy with the noisy and confined surroundings, one of the donkeys broke its tether-rope and began kicking anything within kicking range, denting car fenders and completely demolishing the wooden running board on one of them. Eventually, it became wedged between two cars. When one of the freight crew grabbed for its halter, the donkey bit him. With the mule stuck between the cars, the crew was able to crawl under the cars and get a rope around its legs and belly, so that the rest of the crew could drag it away from the cars.

    It was then tied securely to the deck for the rest of the trip.

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    Six days a week, leaving at a. That was, if the train from Sicamous was on time, and if the winds were favourable and the lake free of ice.


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    Some round trips in the winter took as long as 23 hours. The flat curved steel bow and shallow draught of the Sicamous made it possible to run her up on shore to unload cargo and passengers. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays the Sicamous made mail stops at all the designated stops along its northbound route.

    My father tells of the captain being flagged in at Whiteman's Creek where four men were standing on the wharf.

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    The stevedore shouted for them to get on board as quickly as possible because the boat was running behind schedule, to which one of them responded, "No, we're not taking the boat. I just want my friends who are here from Quesnel to see how big it is! He said the Chinese cooks provided excellent food and second-helpings, even though it was "against the rules".

    On Fridays, they got the homemade ice cream left over from the dining room, with encouragement from the cooks to "eat up boys, it won't be any good tomorrow". The crew dining room seated twelve, so there was usually a rush for first seats at meal time. He worked a "four hours on, eight hours off, and four hours on" schedule, so he had time to kill while they were tied up at Okanagan Landing.

    He said they had lots of time for cribbage, and that one time he played 21 games in a single day. It was the captain's strict rule that no gambling for money was allowed during any of the card games.

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    The Vancouver daily newspapers were brought to the Okanagan via the Kettle Valley Railway and were put onboard at Summerland. Two extra papers were included, marked "Crew Of The Sicamous", perhaps as a guarantee that all of the other newspapers would get to their destinations promptly. But it did not perform very well when the ship's 32 volt electrical generator was operating. The crew had to provide the batteries which cost about nine dollars. So everyone was supposed to "put five cents in the jar" each time they used the radio.

    Like every general store in those days, the store owner at Okanagan Landing sold tobacco and candy and everything else, including the needed radio batteries. The boat crew got into the habit of telling him that they only had seven dollars in their battery-jar for a new battery. For some time he fell for their tale of woe "because they were good customers", and would take seven dollars for his nine dollar batteries. Eventually, the story finally became too threadbare, and one day the storekeeper said, "Boys, the battery game is over". From then on, the batteries were nine dollars again.

    My father said that service clubs, school groups and various teams travelled on the Sicamous, giving it a festive air. One such group was the Blakeburn Pipe Band, which would travel to various events in and around the valley.