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Page last updated April 5, 2010

© Michael Kluckner

This page developed from Arlana Nickel's family photo collection of North Bend between about 1913 and 1923. The Mountain Hotel building still exists, much altered and deteriorated, and is the last of the public buildings that once formed North Bend's town centre. Photos by Aida Abray and others of North Bend people – some identified, some not – have been grouped together onto a separate page.

Due to the amount of material, there are 5 North Bend pages: Highline Houses, the Harry Lee house, the North Bend store/CPR Hotel, this one and People photographs & correspondence


Note from Arlana Nickel, 2003: "When looking for info on my Salish Indian baskets, I came across your Vanishing BC site. My grandparents and great grandparents lived in North Bend from 1908-1923. My grandmother purchased the baskets for her everyday use while living there. My mum who is almost 91 and her sister 88 recall much about North Bend. Their father Wm. Snowden was a CPR engineer. I only wish my grandparents' home was still there. It burned down a long time ago. . . . In Kamloops, [there is] the "Ideal" two storey concrete block house my Snowden grandparents purchased in 1923 after leaving North Bend. It was sold after my grandmother died in 1982 and we just bought it back and are in the slow process of restoring it since it was a rooming house for 18 years.

"I understand that the Mountain View [or Mount View] Hotel is still standing in North Bend, although abandoned. My greatgrandfather took over that hotel around 1908, called the 'Pig's Ear' by the locals.

"He was Jackson T. Abray, and . . . was the first police constable of Vancouver after the fire of 1886. Abray is one of the officers in the City Hall Tent picture. Jackson Abray came to Vancouver in 1885 after helping build water towers during the building of the CPR across Canada. His butcher shop burned to the ground in the great fire. He married Abigail Maude Martin in Vancouver in 1888 and Aida was born Aug. 3 1890 in Vancouver.

"He ran the Mountain Hotel in North Bend starting about 1908. He then went on to run the general store at Boston Bar and lived on a little farm there. Abray's daughter Aida M. Snowden and son-in-law Wm. R. Snowden (my grandparents) helped Abray from time to time with the Mountain Hotel until they moved to Kamloops in 1923. Their eldest child, Bonnie, my mother was born in Vancouver in Sept 1912 so they came to N. Bend after that. Pearl (1914), Lloyd (1917) who also became a CPR engineer and Rae (1923) were all born in North Bend [with former politician Claude Richmond's mother Annie, aka "Ma," acting as midwife]. The youngest, Betty, was born at the Battle Street home in Kamloops in 1926. An interesting note: Pearl Snowden at 5 years old was the North Bend May Queen in 1919. Her sister, Bonnie, was crowner since she had the next many votes. The "crown" was made of mock orange blossoms that grow abundantly in the area."

Most of the photographs below were taken by Aida Abray, who owned a "postcard camera" and used printed-on-the-back Kodak postcard stock for her pictures, some of which she sold. According to family legend, she developed the film underneath a blanket in her bedroom.



North Bend about 1910, looking east toward the Fraser River. The store doesn't exist on its final site at that time--the note on the store page about it having been moved from across the tracks to this location seems to be born out, suggesting that the move took place sometime in the 1910s or early 1920s. The Harry Lee house is just out of the picture on the right, and the Highline Houses out of the picture or behind the bush on the left.

The Mountain Hotel, probably c. 1910. L to R in front of the Lunch Counter Ethel Wilkes, Kathleen "Kay" Pearson, Aida Abray in the white apron and Duke McKenzie, engineer. Ethel and Kay helped Aida in the Lunch Counter. Aida and Kay remained the best of friends throughout their lives. Kay married engineer or fireman Fred "Happy" Southwell in 1912 and made their home in Revelstoke. These photos are almost certainly pre-1916, due to the wines and liquors sign--BC having adopted Prohibition late in 1916.

A travelling "coloured" brass band


Jackson and Maude Abray, with son George (l.) and son-in-law Bill Snowden with daughter Bonnie.

Aida Abray in the orchard behind the CPR Hotel, about 1910

The Pig's Ear

There has been some debate about the origin of a North Bend name, begun in a note from Ellen Fagan, whose parents and grandparents were North Bend residents and railroaders: "The cafe was known as the Pig's Ear." This prompted a couple of other people to say that the "Pig's Ear" was the bar in the Mountain Hotel. C.B. Peters contributed the following notes:

"The 'Pig's Ear' was an apartment building attached to the lunch counter that was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Venus who purchased it in the fall of 1948. There were a number of apartments facing the tracks and two of the tenants were Mr. Robertson, the vice Principal at the North Bend school and the Vaughan family. Upstairs were apartments situated off a central hallway. An amusing incident took place one New Years Eve when some wipers with the C.P.R. decided to leave their mark and soaked a pair of work boots in black engine oil. They proceeded, in the hallway, to walk the boots from the floor, up over the ceiling and back to the floor on the other side so as to make it appear that some under-the-weather fellow had lost his way by over-imbibing. Not too amusing for the fellow that had to clean it up. I see the hotel at Boston Bar is now using the name 'Pig's Ear', but the name originated in North Bend. North Bend was originally known as Boston Bar and was re-named North Bend when the C.P.R. was completed in 1885. (Some of the history written of the building of the C.P.R. under Onderdonk refers to North Bend as Boston Bar.) The name Boston Bar then crossed the river when North Bend was re-named.

"I called an old friend of mine to inquire about his memory of the 'Pig's ear'. We both hired on as call boys with the C.P.R. in 1951 and we knew most of the names of the different buildings in town as we called crews 24 hours a day working eight-hour shifts. He recalls calling crews in the 'Pig's ear', attached to Jack Venus's lunch counter as I explained in my previous e.mail. It is possible that the name 'Pig's ear' moved over to the North Bend Hotel in later years. The original North Bend Hotel was known as 'Fraser Canyon House' when it was built by Van Horne in 1886. We always knew the hotel as the 'C.P.R. Hotel' and I have never heard of it being called the 'Mount View'. The hotel and dining room was run by Mr. and Mrs. Pumphery during the late 40's and early 50's and we referred to the dining room as the hotel dining room. This name probably changed as the years passed."

From Arlana Nickel: "The locals called the hotel the Pig's Ear much to my grandmother's dismay--probably had something to do with the pigs her father kept behind the hotel."

By the time CB Peters and friends worked in North Bend in the 1940s, the Mountain Hotel had been converted into apartments. "Pig's Ear" is today used as the name of the bar in the Charles Hotel, across the river in Boston Bar, where there apparently (it's never been open when I've been by) is a mural including a portrait of locomotive engineer Harry Lee. There is the old expression, "you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear" – does it imply that the locals felt the Mountain Hotel was a dump to begin with, and therefore couldn't ever be a first-class establishment no matter how hard the proprietors tried?



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Artwork and text ©Michael Kluckner, 2001, 2002, 2003