The recently acquired Thulin family car, photographed in front of the Willows Hotel in 1912. MCR7453. Courtesy Museum at Campbell River

The recently acquired Thulin family car, photographed in front of the Willows Hotel in 1912. MCR7453. Courtesy Museum at Campbell River

No license to drive

A Look Back into the History of the Campbell River Area

By Erika Anderson, Museum at Campbell River

How would you feel if a car trip to Courtenay took a full day? In the not-so-distant past, travel by road was much less common than travel by sea.

The first vehicle owned and driven by a Campbell River resident was in 1912. The car was a Model “T” owned by Carl O. Thulin. At the time this was a hot commodity with its folding top, wooden spoke wheels, and plate glass windshield enclosed in a brass frame. There was no need for a driver’s license and no traffic, driving in Campbell River could have been any driver’s dream come true. Speed limits, which I imagine were difficult to enforce before the days when the local RCMP had vehicles, were 10 miles per hour in town, 12 miles per hour in wooded country and 25 miles per hour in open country. Although this may not seem terribly fast by today’s standards, it meant in open country you were travelling around twice the speed of a cantering horse.

Early roads in Campbell River were extremely narrow, covered with gravel, and fraught with hazards. In an article in the Campbell River Courier in 1962, Mr. Thulin talked about his car and early days of driving in Campbell River.

“There was a fairly good trail to McIvor Lake. It was one-way of course, so if you met someone you had to back up until you found a spot to turn.” He also described challenges going up hills when the gravity-fed gas tank, located under the seat, was downslope of the motor it was feeding.

Another obstacle was that there were very few roads at the time. With limited numbers of cars on the road and the high cost associated with road building, it was not likely cost-effective to invest too heavily in developing infrastructure for the new technology. With the creation of Strathcona Park, there was great excitement about opening the park up to more access, so a road from the Quinsam River to Buttle Lake, capable of accommodating motor cars, was built in 1915. It was difficult work, and the ambitious plans required clearing a 33-foot-wide path of timber and other vegetation, building ditches, constructing 131 culverts and four bridges (with one bridge spanning 150 feet!). In an attempt to beautify the access road to the park, they also planted plane trees, mountain ash, golden willow, Scotch broom and other species of trees, shrubs and flowers along the sides of the road. The work was never fully completed, however, due to the war. The road continued to have issues until the 1960s when the mine started up and the mining and logging companies completed the road.

It was 1921 before Campbell River got its first garage. I know my car wouldn’t appreciate nine years without an oil change, so as you can imagine, early Campbell River owners had to become amateur mechanics in order to keep their vehicles performing well. The Thulins were the first to open a car garage in Campbell River, which at the time serviced all six cars that were based in the community. As you likely realize, motor cars weren’t simply a passing craze but it’s fun to consider how drastically this technology has changed our community in the last 100 years or so.

Campbell River

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Village of Sayward)
Sayward elects new mayor and two council members

New mayor-elect Mark Baker and council members will be sworn in on Dec. 1.

The Strathcona Regional District received Safe Restart funding from the provincial government. File photo
SRD receives provincial safe restart funding

Allocation of funds to be determined by staff

Jessi Vanderveen (left), healthyway Assistant supplements manager, and Tara Jordan, CR KidStart Coordinator,  announce that Healthyway Natural Foods will match in-store donations to John Howard KidStart on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, up to $1,000. Photo contributed
Help John Howard KidStart on Giving Tuesday

John Howard KidStart needs your help this Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1. Two… Continue reading

Pathway To Freedom, a non-profit society based in Surrey, wants to open two men’s addiction recovery houses in Campbell River as early as next April. Metro Creative photo
Two new addictions recovery houses could be on their way to Campbell River

‘I just want to help. That’s my hometown. And enough is enough.’

Ian Baikie shows the new booths at the Harbourside Inn restaurant space, which is being converted to a community kitchen for Campbell River’s population of vulnerable people. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
PHOTOS: New community kitchen coming to Campbell River

Kitchen will provide a safe, warm place for vulnerable population to eat in downtown core

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Brenda Schroeder thought she was reading it wrong when she won $100,000 from a Season’s Greetings Scratch & Win. (Courtesy BCLC)
New home on the agenda after scratch ticket win in Saanich

Victoria woman set to share her $100,000 Season’s Greetings lottery win

7-year-old Mackenzie Hodge from Penticton sent a hand-written letter to premiere John Horgan asking if she’d be able to see her elf, Ralph under the new coronavirus restrictions. (John Horgan / Twitter)
Elf on the shelf an acceptable house guest, B.C. premier tells Penticton girl

A 7-year-old from Penticton penned a letter asking if she’d be allowed to see her elf this year

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Black Creek actress finds success in a virtual world

Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Most Read