Trade Customers click here
← Back to Book Main Page

Preface by Howard White

Telegraph Cove ranks as one of the notable man-made landmarks of the BC Coast, a tiny notch in the desolate Vancouver Island coastline between Kelsey Bay and Port McNeill almost totally encircled by an elaborate system of boardwalks and wooden buildings built on shorefront pilings. It is a tour de force of barnacled architecture, a kind of accidental gumboot theme park. A first-comer to Telegraph Cove feels just a tiny bit like a first-time visitor to Venice: the natural landscape has been taken over by a structure of great elaborateness, but there is scarcely a clue left as to who made it and to what purpose. The mystery is made more enticing by the feeling something remarkable must have gone on here, to have left such remarkable remains.

In the following pages Pat Wastell Norris answers the questions about "who?" and "why?" with gratifying completeness, and also confirms all suspicions about remarkable goings-on. It turns out that the rough-sawn mini-metropolis was built by her father, Fred Wastell, who needed something to do after the Great Depression interrupted his rather genteel existence as the son of a well-bred factory manager in nearby Alert Bay. Pat grew up there in a world of kelp dolls and killer whales with her younger sister and a very odd assortment of millworkers, coastal drifters and well-bred relatives, who goodhumouredly rolled up their sleeves and learned some very un-genteel survival skills. Remarkable events, ranging from her aging grandmother's mastery of gasboat handling to her mother's emergency medical heroics, performed aboard storm-tossed towboats on battered loggers and expectant mothers, were a daily occurrence.

Pat Norris' memoir of growing up wet does more than fill the intriguing blank left in BC Coast history under the name of Telegraph Cove; it provides us with one of the more charming and insightful portraits we have yet had of upcoast life between the wars, a busy and colourful period justifiably described as the golden age of the BC coast.
-Howard White