December 5th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 49
Looking Back - John Kinnear
Frozen Moments in Time
Looking Back
Crowsnest Museum-image 01733GUSH-NEG
Vince Guriel funeral procession-1941
So this year’s Crowsnest Museum and Archives calendar has been out for a while now and is it a dandy! Thirteen months of iconic Gushul images themed around the remarkable legacy of music and musicians here in the Pass.

We are indeed blessed in our combined communities to have first hand access to the photographic legacy of the Gushuls. The images chosen this year present a rich cross-section of instrumentalists and music related events that profile over a hundred years of musicality.

Whether in formal poses or candid shots, like the 1965 calendar photo cover of the Delrays, the Gushuls were expert in the use of natural light and composition. They recognized the importance of their work and never compromised as they carefully: “froze moments in time.”

Captions throughout the calendar help one recognize the importance and prevalence of musicians and musical training in the Pass, especially in the early years. I was surprised to learn that almost every community had its own opera house where cultural events of all manner were held. Ethnic and community halls were also central to most events for many years. The Polish Hall is an exact reminder of how important these gathering places were for cultural events, occasions that usually had music as the main event.

There was also of course the outdoor presentation of music which is depicted nicely in the calendar. Parades, funerals and even outdoor dance floors were common. I recall reading about the one that locals built in Il Bosc (East Bushtown) down below the Mohawk Tipple. Easy to build and no lighting or heat required. Just a lot of high octane lubricant and great musicians to stoke up the dancers.
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The April Gushul image caught my interest as a mining historian. It is a 1941 funeral procession with a marching band from Coleman coming down Bellevue’s 211th street heading for the Catholic Church. They were going to say goodbye to Vince Guriel, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, who died July 25th, 1941 in the Bellevue Mine from a fall of cap rock. Vince was 42 years old. and left behind a wife and three children. Large and small tubas and trombones are leading the procession. When I study the photo I can hear clearly in my mind the dulcet notes of a Chopin funeral march.

The August calendar image is of the West Canadian Collieries Band formed in 1911, a colorful uniformed band that was around for over thirty years. A 1939 image of the band I found in the Blairmore Enterprise newspaper lists Cyprian Guriel as one of band members. I suspect Cyprian was Vince’s son or nephew and the November calendar image of the Crow’s Nest Pass Symphony Orchestra lists Cyprian (Cyril) Guriel in the back row holding a small horn. The Czech’s were prolific musicians here and one is hard pressed not to find one or more in any of the photos.

The August image lists many well known musical names here in the Pass including -Paraska and Evan Gushul, both J.E. and Roy Upton, Frank McLafferty, Frank Beebe and Walter Moser. Other images are of some of the well known local bands like the Arcadians with Charlie and Jerry Slapak and the Blue Birds with Harry Setla and Aldo Vanoni. All in all a great calendar that will make a nice stocking stuffer under your tree.
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Recently I picked up a Fernie 2019 calendar produced by the Free Press and distributed free to three local charities to use for fund raising. It is entitled Fernie; Then and Now and it uses historic images deliberately blended with a modern version of the same image taken from the same location. The first time I saw this type of creative effort was in 2003 when Fernie published a centenary history book that included several blended images.

It was an opportunity for the photographer Steve Short, who was the main contributor of images to the book, to put a new perspective and some discreet colour into old black and white photos. When done properly these modified photos can be quite pleasing to the eye.

The new Fernie calendar image that really caught my eye was a November composition which merged the official 1923 dedication of the beautiful Fernie cenotaph statue carved by Emanuel Hahn with a present day shot. The statue is positioned in a spectacular setting in front of the chateau style Fernie courthouse amongst mature mountain ash trees. It really seems to bring life to the photo.

A couple of years back Vic Bergman sent me a blended image that really is exactly what this process is all about. Vic Bergman is a gifted photographer and outdoor enthusiast who keeps a great blog site with hundreds of wonderful photos. In his blog he states the following: “I also like experimenting with new techniques, whether it’s the way photographs are made, or how they can be processed on a computer. Photography is a means of personal expression and creativity, and I am constantly inspired by its challenges and rewards.”
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So it is no surprise the lengths to which Vic Bergman went to create the image he shared. The original is a Glenbow Archives photo taken inside the Mohawk Tipple by Gushul. In that original we see six men posing around what is called the picking tables or screens in the coal cleaning plant. Vic’s next step was to recreate that photo as exactly as possible which required him to position himself in the same spot that Gushul stood.

This is where it got interesting because in this rather dangerous place the platform Gushul stood on in 1945 was gone. Undeterred, Vic built himself a portable plywood one and harnessed himself to some steel window bars above it as it would be a two storey drop to the basement if the platform let go. So Bergman took some satisfaction in knowing that 70 years later he stood in the exact same place as Thomas Gushul to capture the same important shot.

Returning back to the Musical Memories calendar I should say that its message to all of us through these iconic pictures is one of acknowledging the remarkable history of music and musicians in the Pass. It brought to mind a fierce advocate of the importance of immersing your children in music. His name is Kirk Muspratt and he is now the reigning emissary for the success and rewards that that choice can result in.

In an interview with Herald reporter Anna Kroupina last April Kirk said: “If you give a young person the right garden to grow in, if there is something there, they will grow. But if there’s no garden, there’s no way. It creates opportunity, joy, beauty and fun.”
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Kirk left the Pass when he was sixteen to further his studies but as Kroupina stated in her piece: “has fond childhood memories of music in the mountains, an element that he credits as a critical factor in exposing him to music that led to a very successful and applauded professional career in orchestra”

Kirk shared a moment in time story with me last summer that revealed some of his first steps into the garden, so to speak. As a very young boy he grew up only a few houses away from mine on sixth street in Coleman (now 23 ave.). By his own admission he told me he was uncontrollable at three years old. His mother used to attach him to a harness and clip him to the clothesline to keep him from continually escaping.

So it was that one day his mother Helen approached my mother to babysit him for just an hour while she ran some errands down town. Kirk claims most neighbours eventually declined babysitting him because of his rambunctious behavior. When Helen returned later that day she was astonished to find that Kirk was sitting mesmerized in a chair in the living room and hadn’t moved from it the whole time she had been gone. The reason was that my mother Marie had sat down to the piano and played for him all the best songs that she had ever learned. By ear.

Some of the early seeds for his garden were planted. From performing in his Sunday shoes and plastic bowtie in elementary school to an acclaimed music director and orchestra leader. Anything is possible. As Anna so aptly put it in her April 18 article: “It may have been some 30 years since Muspratt left the Pass, but if the week-long Crowsnest Pass Music Festival that took place not long ago proves anything, it’s that the Crowsnest Pass still has the same talent, appreciation and passion for music that it did when the maestro was a little boy.”

Author’s Note: Copies of Musical Memories are available at the Crowsnest Museum, copies of Then and Now are available at the Fernie Museum or the Free Press in Fernie.
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December 5th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 49
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