Jack Morris and Noel Bacchus
Over the years there have been numerous individuals who have had a great effect on the Moyie’s fate. Members of the KLHS board of directors, volunteer workers, National Historic Site staff, and restoration crews have all contributed to the preservation of this amazing piece of history. To name all of these people would take page upon page of names and we owe a debt to them all. However, we would like to bring attention to two of these people—Jack Morris and Ken Butler.
In 1954, with the CPR facing increasingly high maintenance costs, declining Kootenay Lake traffic, and improved road conditions, rumours circulated that the Moyie was nearing retirement. Jack Morris, at that time an alderman and President of the Board of Trade, and his friend Noel Bacchus, wrote a letter to the CPR, stating that Kaslo would like to purchase the Moyie and turn it into a museum.
Kaslo and Nelson learned that the Moyie would be retired in April. The Nelson Junior Chamber of Commerce started a campaign to purchase the Moyie. Their plan was to turn it into a dancehall and restaurant. The CPR had stated publicly the Moyie would go to the group with the money and ability to preserve the ship. Jack decided to send out a SOS for funding one evening when he heard that the BC Legislature was having a late night sitting. Jack got his old friend Noel out of bed and they telephoned Randolph Harding, MLA. Jack asked for $10,000 for the Moyie project and Harding, a CCFer, relayed the request across the House to Socred Premier WAC Bennett during the sitting. A few days later Bennett telephoned Jack and suggested a $7,500 government grant, provided that Kaslo could raise $2,500. Through various fundraisers, under the leadership of Jack and with the determination of the small town of Kaslo, they were able to raise the needed capital. On March 26, 1957, Randolph Harding wired Jack with a simple message “grant of $7,500 approved yesterday”.
This was just the beginning. The Moyie was sold to the village of Kaslo and in June 12, 1958, the Kootenay Lake Historical Society was formed and incorporated with Jack Morris at the “helm” as President. Jack has “navigated” the Moyie through stabilization, restoration, and other projects far too numerous to mention. He and a group of dedicated individuals have “steered” the Moyie to the condition she enjoys today.
Jack remained active and involved in the operation and planning of the S.S. Moyie National Historic Site right up until his passing on Feb. 8, 2005. Jack’s energy and enthusiasm left a profound impression on all who knew him.
Ken Butler was hired Nov. 15, 1988 as Project Manager for the Moyie. At the time the Moyie was in dire shape due to the effect of the elements over the years. The hull was sagging between the cribs, the planks on the foredeck had rotted, canvas had ripped and moisture was working into the deck and bulkheads. The KLHS had launched a Save Our Ship (SOS) campaign to raise funds to do repairs and restoration.
Ken Butler turned out to be the perfect candidate for the position. With years of experience in construction and engineering, he approached the task at hand with gusto and leadership. The impact of Ken Butler is seen everywhere on the Moyie site. To list all the restoration activities undertaken during his tenure would fill numerous pages, so we will revisit only some of them.
The first phase under Ken was Stabilization. A steel support cradle was built and installed to prop up the Moyie and protect her hull against rot. A fire sprinkler system was put in place. Next was Preservation: new canvas decks were laid down, repairs were made to the hull elements and boiler supports, and two lifeboats were refurbished. In July 1989 the Moyie was declared a British Columbia Historical Landmark. Then a new Visitor’s Reception Centre based on a CPR station was constructed, as were washroom facilities for local beach users, and a wheelchair accessible wharf and walkway. Next were such interpretative elements as the interior of the ladies’ saloon, the foredeck, the transom, boat deck handrail, the galley, the staterooms, the men’s saloon bar, an after-hours information kiosk, interpretative street signage and many other projects.
Ken was a leading light in the time of the Moyie’s return to the elegance of her glory days as the “Sweetheart of the Lake”. He, like many others before and since, truly “bonded with the boat”. His love of the Moyie insures that she will be enjoyed by generations to come.