By Beth Boyce Curator,
Museum at Campbell River
Campbell River was home to many interesting characters in its early days.
One such character was well-known figure Charles Neuberg, better known locally as Dutchie, who was remembered as a short man with a large moustache. Originally from Saxony (before it became a part of Germany), he spent 40 years in the Campbell River area as a logger and general handy man.
To many, however, he was probably best known as a musician.
Dutchie played at all the local dances, in the Willows Hotel, and at the Quinsam Hotel, where a sketch of Dutchie graced the wall for many years. He played a unique instrument known as a harp guitar, pictured here. There are many stories told about Dutchie and his musical performances; in one instance, Dutchie and his instrument were attacked by an angry ram while on his way home from a dance!
Sadly, when Dutchie died in October of 1949, he had no family and the harp guitar was believed lost. That is, until several weeks ago when the museum was approached by the current owner of the guitar, Alpha Barr, who wondered if the Museum would be interested in acquiring it for the collection!
Barr, a long time Nanaimo resident, had purchased the harp guitar several years ago from former Campbell River resident, Palmer Winquist. Winquist had acquired the instrument from a woman whose identity is currently unknown. The story of how this woman came to own the harp guitar is an interesting one. Sometime after Dutchie’s death, his house was scheduled to be burned down by the Campbell River Fire Department. This woman was aware that the instrument was still in the building, so she asked if she could go in and get it before the house was burned. The rest, as they say, is history.
Barr had just put the harp guitar up for sale at Arbutus Music in Nanaimo when, luckily for us, her son found photographs online of Dutchie and the harp guitar on the Museum at Campbell River website, where many of our archival photographs have been digitized and are available to search. Barr immediately put a hold on the instrument at Arbutus Music and called the Museum, so that we could have the opportunity to purchase it for the collection.
We are so grateful to have such a unique piece of Campbell River’s heritage safely deposited at the Museum! We wish to sincerely thank both Alpha Barr and Richard Leighton of Arbutus Music for making this possible.
We will soon have Dutchie’s unique old harp guitar on display for everyone to enjoy!