Vernon historian uncovers footage from small BC town in 1958

From Byrnes to Burns

The year was 1958 and BC was celebrating its centenary anniversary.

Parades and celebrations were held in every corner of the province, including the small northern town of Burns Lake.

Vernon historian and videographer Francois Arseneault has unearthed film footage from the town 200 kilometres west of Prince George and 350 km north of Vancouver as the crow flies.

“In small, remote villages, nearly everyone participated or watched from the sidelines. Colourful floats, marching bands, commercial entries all participated. The Rotary Pipe Band from Prince George made the journey to lend the skirl of the pipes and drums. There are likely some amusing stories from the day and their plenty of faces to recognize,” said Arseneault who is also the local military historian.

Burns Lake incorporated in 1923. It first inhabitants,of course, were the Carrier First Nation communities that spanned much of the Lakes District and beyond.

Burns Lake itself began as a small rest stop for travellers on their way to the Yukon Gold Rush. Many of those travellers spotted opportunities in the rich forestry, fur and mining opportunities in Burns Lake and the surrounding area.
The village acquired its name after Michael Byrnes, who was an explorer for the Collins Overland Telegraph scheme.

Arseneault said Byrnes passed Burns Lake around 1866 while surveying a route from Fort Fraser to Hagwilget.

“Recent research indicates that Byrnes was also a miner during the Cariboo Gold Rush and had staked a claim on William's Creek earlier, in 1861. On the 1866 trail map of the area, the name 'Byrnes' Lake appears; after 1876 however, the maps indicate it as Burns Lake,” said Arseneault.

The small town celebrated numerous milestones over the years including one of the largest graduating classes at Lakes District Secondary School celebrated with a dinner and awards ceremony. There were 10 graduates.

Arseneault is always looking for more information on the vintage footage he digs up, and he encourages people to add their input in the comments section on his Youtube page.

Arseneault has an extensive collection of vintage footage, and he is looking for more.

Anyone who may have old 16 mm or 8 mm film footage of the Vernon and Okanagan area is invited to email Arseneault at [email protected].

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