Annual Conference Conference memory: Water bomber “waves” to attendees in Port Alberni

Conference memory: Water bomber “waves” to attendees in Port Alberni

Submitted by BCHF Director and Honorary Life Member Ron Hyde

This memory of the 2000 Annual Conference in Port Alberni was submitted by BCHF Director and Honorary Life Member Ron Hyde: 


One of my morning rituals when having breakfast and reading the Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers is to clip any Richmond obituaries for the Richmond Archives — something I have been doing for six or seven years.

On the morning of January 7, 2018, there was an obituary for Laura McLean, a member of the McLean family that donated the McLean Mill at Port Alberni, which is now a National Historic Site.

Laura was active in the community of Port Alberni all her life and was undoubtedly connected to the Alberni District Historical Society. Her family’s story is a good reminder of the impact that people can have when they think of preserving history, for example by donating an old historic sawmill that is now a well-visited National Historic Site.

Reading Laura’s story reminded me of a unique experience we had at the 2000 BCHF Annual Conference in Port Alberni. This was the first conference my wife Maureen and I attended after joining the BCHF a few months earlier.

The McLean Mill was one of the local tours that was part of the conference; at the time, the mill was just getting ready to open to the public. On another tour at this conference, we visited Sproat Lake and toured inside one of the Martin Mars Water Bombers [which are based on the lake and used for fire-fighting purposes]. The bomber pilot asked what else we were seeing on this trip, and when we mentioned that we were going to McLean Mill the next day, he said he was taking the Mars Bomber to the Qualicum Air Show the next day, and if he saw us he would wave to us.

While at McLean Mill, we heard the drone of a plane, and we all rushed to a clearing and waved and waved as the Mars Bomber approached and then, to our amazement, flopped from side to side, giving us all a wave with his wings.

This experience is the kind of thing that makes BCHF conferences hosted by smaller communities so great.

A Martin Mars Water Bomber moored at Sproat Lake, Port Alberni, in October 2006. Photo by By Alex Juorio; originally posted to Flickr as Mars Water Bomber, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7422118