Chrome Island c. 1930s

Chrome island - photo Leslie Williamson

I received the email below from a Ms. C. Burke in October 2010, and she passed on the information to me that her mother had related about the early days at Chrome Island lighthouse. I am sorry I did not get it published earlier, but I was working on getting this site in operation before I added a lot of new writings.

I can vouch that 100% of the manned stations on the BC coast are still maintained in pristine condition as mentioned in the story below – the keepers are proud of their work and their stations. – JC

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My mother has dictated some memoirs to me of her summers at Hornby Island Lodge 1, which was built by her parents, R.L. (Bob) and Mary (Molly) Hunt. They purchased all of Tribune Bay in 1925 and created the resort.2 I will be publishing Mom’s memoirs to a blog. Here is an extract pertaining to the lighthouse, from which you may quote if you wish, preferably with reference to her name, Jean Hunt.

Chrome Island at the "A"; Comox and Courtenay in the bay far above

“Well, Old Man Savoie, having been mentioned, I’ll explain this diminutive entrepreneur. He acquired the title Old Man in order to differentiate between him and his four grown sons, one of whom had his father’s Christian name. He (the old man) ran the Water Lily to Courtenay and Comox on Vancouver Island twice a week, taking with him orders from the housewives. Well, taking orders from anyone actually, at ten percent commission. He also would motor into Tribune Bay by appointment and take us over to Yellow Rock  at the south end of Denman Island. This is where the foghorn and lighthouse were, complete with Indian petroglyphs on the yellow rock.”

“This complex was unbelievably sanitized by the lighthouse keeper. One could eat off the floor of the foghorn house. Men didn’t know what to do with their cigarette butts. Throwing them into the water was too simple. Eventually they always settled for their pant cuffs.”

“The keeper was a widower whose wife had died after a lengthy illness. An emergency signal from a lighthouse is four blasts on the foghorn. But in this instance the sea was so rough in the narrow channel between the rock and Denman Island that it was four days before help could manage to land. After his wife’s death, the keeper continued to manage an immaculate house. His pies always had a “YR” (Yellow Rock) on the top crust. He grew an astonishing amount of vegetables, made his own wine, and dust? What dust? He was a fine figure of a man and a very kind person, who loved children but didn’t have any of his own. He packed me around on his shoulders until I outgrew this form of entertainment.”

“He met one of our guests one summer; I think when I was 12. She was a spinster, very nice lady, imminently suitable wife material, which is what she became. He wasn’t that far from retirement then, and she was his contemporary, so it was tragic but it wasn’t surprising that their son was born handicapped and lived a very few years. They had given up the lighthouse and moved to Vancouver to be close to treatment and doctors for their son, but to no avail. Such a pity.”

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Ms. Burke continues . . .

I am not able to judge the accuracy of Mom’s memory. She hasn’t recalled the name of the keeper, but from your database it looks like it must have been G. Allan Couldery.

As you see, Mom called it Yellow Rock. Did the name change to Chrome Island, or was it always that, with Yellow Rock being only a local nickname? I see you show it known also as Yellow Island.

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OK readers, does anyone know the answer to Ms. Burke’s question? I have heard it called Yellow Island and now Chrome Island. Yellow Rock? Why “yellow”? I would love to hear from you on this. – JC

And by the way, does anyone have any photos of the petroglyphs on the island that I could post here? – JC 

2011-10-20 Photographs below of the petroglyphs are from the present keepers on Chrome Island (see the lightkeeper list here).

 

2011-10-11 Another reader, Doug Chinnery, posted a comment below, and included a link to some of his photos of the petroglyphs, plus a possible reason for the name Yellow Rock.

For your information, there is a good book available on this area of Vancouver Island brought to my attention by my friend Carol Jeffrey. It is called Images and Voices of Lighthouse Country for which you can see a review here.

FOOTNOTES:

The GeoBC website of the BC Government says:

“Chrome Island adopted 10 July 1923 on 92F, as recommended by BC; not Yellow Island as labelled on BC map 2A, 1913, and on BC map 2D, 1923. Chrome Island confirmed 2 June 1949 on 92F/7.”

 

“The buildings of the old Hornby Island Lodge were saved from destruction by community effort and now serve as an outdoor school site for the Comox Valley”.- About Hornby Island

 

Ms. Burke said “My grandfather sold the property to Keith Stonehouse.”

Keith, a veteran of World War II, bought the Lodge on Hornby Island and ran it for 28 years. Their warm hospitality is still fondly remembered by many people in the Vancouver area and elsewhere. Soon after they sold in 1978, the Lodge property became Tribune Bay Provincial Park. After leaving the Lodge, Keith and Bertie built a waterfront home on Hornby and Keith began to indulge his lifelong passion for horses. For three decades, he bred, trained and raced standardbreds under the Lunar Rock Stables banner.- Standard Bred Canada  

Ms. Burke continues “I’m not sure but I believe the property was actually donated by the Stonehouse family rather than sold. Or it may have been sold for something nominal like $1.00. It was very difficult to find much information about Hornby in those days. The archives would be a good resource.”

Lighthouse inspection, Yellow Rock!

 I have some good pictures of the Hornby property, which I’m keeping to myself for the present. I’m sending one my grandfather labeled, “Lighthouse inspection, Yellow Rock.” You may use it if you wish with acknowledgement, though it doesn’t show anything of the lighthouse! And true to form, it just shows the backs of people, for which my grandfather was famous.

2 thoughts on “Chrome Island c. 1930s

  1. Good post! I’ve heard many of the older locals here on Hornby call it Yellow Rock. I’ve included a photo of the yellow lichen that may have given the rock its name.

    Also in the web album is a photo of the current keeper who’s name I forget now. He and his wife are really lovely people and welcome visitors.

    The tower was built on top of many of the petroglyphs but there are a few left that I was able to photograph. Also take note of the incredible hillside of flowering herbs, Absolutely stunning on a nice spring day.

    Here is the link for some photos:
    https://picasaweb.google.com/116316947479367230214/ChromeIsland?authkey=Gv1sRgCKzWsre7lue2yQE#slideshow/5662235366943707394

    • Thanks Doug, and thanks for the link to your photos, especially the photos of the petroglyphs. I wonder if those flowers were there when the name “yellow” became attached to the island? The keepers now are Roger and Leslie Williamson, whom I worked with before I retired.

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