Saturday, June 07, 2014

"Totem Poles and Tea" by Hughina Harold
I'm always on the lookout for books to read about Coastal British Columbia. Finding them for my Kindle is a plus. I recently found and read Totem Poles and Tea by Hughina Harold.

Hughina, in her early twenties, had just graduated from Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria with a nursing degree and Victoria Normal School, but finding a job during the Depression was difficult. Through a classmate she obtained a position as a teacher with community nursing duties at Mamalilikulla on remote up-coast Village Island where the Anglican Church had a mission outpost and day school for First Nation children.

Alert Bay on Cormorant Island from the air.
In 1935, Hughina set off for Alert Bay on Cormorant Island as her first stop. She had many misgivings about the assignment, but was adventurous and open to new experiences. Village Island was a three hour rugged boat ride east of Alert Bay.  Here, Hughina lived in a very rustic float house with two older, dedicated English women who used their private funds to build a combined church and school, and refuge for children suffering from tuberculosis.

Totem poles at the Alert Bay cemetery.
The memoir covers the two years Hughina spent on Village Island and recounts her experiences with the two English women she called Guardian Angels (GA's), First Nations residents on Village Island, those in nearby villages needing her nursing services, and early loggers and their families eking a living from the lush forests along the many coastal islands and inlets.

Old cannery in Alert Bay.
I really enjoyed Hughina's book for several reasons: 1) foremost was Hughina's ability to put her experiences into a cohesive, well-written tale, 2) she made me feel like I was right beside her in that derelict gas boat being tossed about in Blackfish Sound, 3) I've been to Alert Bay by airplane, but would love to explore the area by boat someday, and 4) this is a slice of Coastal BC history that is quickly being lost.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. -- Margy


  1. I love reading books about Canada. I've just finished the third in the Sgt Windflower series set in Newfoundland. This looks like a good book to add to my list. Thanks for the reccomendation.

  2. I will make a note on the title of this book. Thanks for mentioning it as I love reading the history of anything BC.

  3. Linda - I'll check out the Sgt Windflower series. We are so excited. We are heading to Newfoundland and Labrador this August. Can't wait! - Margy