Rare, recovered footage of 1930s steamship offers glimpse into Okanagan’s past IG News

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Rare video discovered by a historical studies group in Kelowna, B.C., offers a glimpse into life for European settlers in the Okanagan Valley nearly a century ago.

Earlier this month, the Okanagan Archive Trust Society unveiled a two-minute video of the SS Sicamous sailing on Okanagan Lake, which the organization says was filmed sometime in the 1930s.

The video is just a small part of a vast archive of film and photographs discovered more than a decade ago at the Kootenaz residence, many of which are still in the process of being digitized.

Brian Wilson, the society’s executive director, says the footage of the steamship was filmed by brothers Louis and Rudolph Popp, who worked as farriers and taxidermists in Vancouver and had also filmed other steamships in the province from the late 1920s to the ’40s. Had seen his journey in parts.

look | SS Siakamus Sails on Okanagan Lake:

Rare footage of old steam ship tells story of Okanagan’s past

Kelowna, BC In 2006 the Okanagan Archive Trust Society unveiled footage of the SS Siakamus sailing in the 30s.

“He chronicled all his trips to hunt large animals to create the dioramas he made for the Royal Museum [in Victoria]Wilson said on CBC dawn south,

,[The brothers] was from a privileged family in Vancouver who would come up and hire locals to take them out into the woods to hunt big game.”

Challenges of Digitizing Old Footage

Wilson says he received the SS Sicamous footage, along with hundreds of other old films, photos and other artifacts, from a man living on Kootenay Lake whom his friend had known more than a decade ago.

The man’s family were emptying their house in 2008 and said they had some archive material that might interest the society.

,[They were,] Definitely, a lifetime collection of movies from a Vancouver family and nobody seemed interested in it but us.”

Wilson states that all collection material was produced by the Pop brothers, and all are attached with labels indicating the year of production. Based on his 44 years of expertise in B.C. history, he says, he can verify that the SS Siakamus footage was filmed in the 1930s.

Aerial view of a large white steam ship displayed near a beach.
The decommissioned steamship is now displayed at Heritage Park in Penticton, BC, run by the SS Sicamous Marine Heritage Society. (SS Siakams Marine Heritage Society)

Wilson says he heeded the advice of Library and Archives Canada to store all the old artifacts in a freezer to preserve them, before handing them over to a video production company in Port Coquitlam, B.C., for digitization.

John Romine, CEO of Lifetime Heritage Films, says it took years of extreme care to revive the two-minute video of the SS Siakamus and other footage filmed by the Pop brothers.

Romine said restoring a film nearly a century old and not kept in optimal conditions can be a challenge.

“A lot of old films are in really good condition, but sometimes we see a film that has a mold attack because it’s been sitting in a damp place,” he said.

“Once the mold attacks the film…[it] Eats the emulsion.”

Most of the film Romine received from Wilson had shrunk due to aging, he said, and it was quite a challenge to flatten the shrunk film before digitizing.

He says he looks forward to digitizing more of Wilson’s century-old films, as they are valuable historical assets.

“You can’t put a price tag on that—the value is too high,” Romine said.

According to the SS Sicamous Marine Heritage Society, the SS Sicamous was launched by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1914 to transport more than 200 passengers at a time from Penticton, BC, to other communities around Okanagan Lake.

The five-tiered ship, now displayed at a heritage park in Penticton, had 30 cabins for overnight accommodations. Its last run was in 1936.

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