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Dateline Cowichan: Cowichan caught in a deep freeze

Pictures of the Past Jan. 31, 1969. Weather: Very cold, Winter up until now as long and cold as ever remembered There are millions of birds around today, and just come into sight are three swans — have our “mutes” found a friend or have we visitors?  Jocelyn goes down to the front with bread for “our” birds, and they appear as if by magic around the corner, so the other three are something special. The binoculars prove them to be swans but the dusk is too great to allow good enough visibility for beak colouring.  Jack arrives home and has a look, Jocelyn comes up after finishing the feeding, and the three majestic creatures start to coast down the river. But life is not so simple they are encroaching on the “mutes” territorial rights and something is going to happen. The male swan must have told his lady to stay-put before he headed out into the river. Being a mute he had only his wings and movements to prove himself, but this he did with all his might, and as quick as a wink those three visitors were scattered and separated upon the river bank towards the flats.  Now of course we could see their colouring and if this were not enough we could hear the claxon call of their unique breed, we were viewing three trumpeter swans.  Our pets kept them apart until after dark but next day they were happily eating 200 yards or so up the river — not on the territory of the “mutes.” They, plus, mergansers, ring-necks, ruddy ducks, pintails, wood ducks (very rare we believe) and hundreds of other wild fowl who had been pre-empted by solid ice at their usual lakes and ponds, they stayed over one week. —from the diary of Lois Phillips, observed from the mouth of the Cowichan River, at the foot of Mt. Tzouhalem - courtesy Lois Phillips
Pictures of the Past Jan. 31, 1969. Weather: Very cold, Winter up until now as long and cold as ever remembered There are millions of birds around today, and just come into sight are three swans — have our “mutes” found a friend or have we visitors? Jocelyn goes down to the front with bread for “our” birds, and they appear as if by magic around the corner, so the other three are something special. The binoculars prove them to be swans but the dusk is too great to allow good enough visibility for beak colouring. Jack arrives home and has a look, Jocelyn comes up after finishing the feeding, and the three majestic creatures start to coast down the river. But life is not so simple they are encroaching on the “mutes” territorial rights and something is going to happen. The male swan must have told his lady to stay-put before he headed out into the river. Being a mute he had only his wings and movements to prove himself, but this he did with all his might, and as quick as a wink those three visitors were scattered and separated upon the river bank towards the flats. Now of course we could see their colouring and if this were not enough we could hear the claxon call of their unique breed, we were viewing three trumpeter swans. Our pets kept them apart until after dark but next day they were happily eating 200 yards or so up the river — not on the territory of the “mutes.” They, plus, mergansers, ring-necks, ruddy ducks, pintails, wood ducks (very rare we believe) and hundreds of other wild fowl who had been pre-empted by solid ice at their usual lakes and ponds, they stayed over one week. —from the diary of Lois Phillips, observed from the mouth of the Cowichan River, at the foot of Mt. Tzouhalem
— image credit: courtesy Lois Phillips

A little bit of snow and subsequent accidents held up traffic on the Malahat for an hour on Christmas Day.

But imagine what the winter-weary folks of Cowichan faced in 1950 when 63 inches of snow fell during the first three weeks of January with temperatures plummeting as low as 13 degrees below zero. The official reading taken at city hall was five degrees below.

These temperatures were recorded using the Fahrenheit scale, where 32 degrees is the freezing level. Thermometers at private residences registered between six to 13 below zero with Mrs. Mutter, a 43-year resident, registering 13 below at her Somenos Road property. Duncan townsite resident Al Streich registered eight below. At Cowichan Bay, Capt. Don Peck used three boats and a barge to break through the five-inch thick “ice-field” that stretched 200 yards beyond the Peck float.

“Unfortunately,” observed the Leader, “old records of the late W. H. Lomas, who was first official weather observer in the district while acting as Indian agent, are not available, but it is established that he officially recorded a reading of 13 below in February, 1893.” His diary shows that for several days before his “13 below”, his entries had simply read “colder”.

1950: unions

Most of the staff at the Duncan’s King’s Daughters’ Hospital had become unionized over the previous year, and the hospital board, its executive and labour relations committee had spent considerable time dealing with labour matters.

1950: frostbite

Totem Lunch co- proprietor Don McColl came home with a severely frostbitten big toe after six hours of looking for a much publicized skiers’ paradise on Mount Brenton. With him on his expedition into the wilderness was Mr. Clayton Wright.

1950: sewer

Plans for the first unit of a sewer system to be built on the east side of the City of Duncan took concrete form when Hugh Brockington, a civil engineer from Vancouver was instructed to prepare plans and estimates by Mayor J. C. Wragg.

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