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ARCHIVES: A look back at the Queen’s 1971 visit to Castlegar

The Royal Family visited 50 years ago
Trail Daily Times, May 6, 1971.

The Trail Times story of the day on May 6, 1971 will not only carry readers back in time to the Queen’s visit — the story so thoroughly describes the event that some readers may feel like they too, were there. The three-page rundown by Trail Times field reporter Jim Swettenham not only captures this unique moment in time, it personifies the significant role community newspapers play in documenting local history.

Thursday, May 6, 1971

Queen Braves Wind-Driven Rain

by Jim Swettenham Times Staff Writer

CASTLEGAR — Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Prince Phillip and Princess Anne braved the elements Wednesday afternoon (May 5, 1971) and fulfilled the aspirations of an estimated 10,000 persons as she made a scheduled 45-minute stop here.

Despite wind-driven rain and cool temperatures, citizens from a wide-area of the Kootenays came out in strong numbers to witness the Royal Visit.

The Royal Family had spent most of the day in the Cranbrook area visiting historical Fort Steele, the Pioneer Village, museum and riding on the train “Dunrobin,” where Prince Phillip moved to the cab of the locomotive and gave a couple of toots on the whistle.


Major Gordon Bristowe, RCAC, Canadian Equerry to The Queen said the Royal guests “seemed to enjoy their visit to Cranbrook, where it rained at the airport, but oddly enough, not at Fort Steele. And as far as the flight over here goes, it was a very good one.”

Even prior to the Queen’s departure from Cranbrook at 3:20 p.m. the excitement and tension in Castlegar were picking up with every passing minute.

Master of ceremonies Dick Wayling was asking people to “think sunshine” as a variety entertainment session was being prepared prior to the arrival of the Queen.

During the singing the light rain that had been falling seemed to subside for about a half hour before the weather brought a brief, but steady rain.

A few last-minute changes were made as officials had to extend a cordoned-off area near the steps of the college, where the Queen was to sign the college register.

While this was being done, about 2,000 cubs, scouts, brownies, girl guides, and cadets had been assembled and were marching away from the college area to line the parade route, where they would wait and greet the Royal guests as they drove past in covered cars.

The inclement weather had unfortunately forced the female section of the Doukhobor Student Choir to don overcoats covering their pretty pastel coloured pleated dresses, which normally add extra beauty to the choir.

The 104 members of the voice choir opened with a selection in Russian and then sang “Amazing Grace,” a popular song recorded by Judy Collins.

The choir, under the direction of SHSS teacher Peter Samoyloff, was without the services of 17-year old Elaine Zeabin, a three-year choir member who was seriously injured in a multi-vehicle accident in Castlegar Saturday night.

The choir was singing in wind-driven rain from the south-west as Royal I made one pass over the Ralph West Airfield (Castlegar Airport) and came back, flying directly over the college and then around to land into the wind.

A crowd of about 5,000 greeted the Queen at the airport with a roaring cheer that was clearly audible at the college, over a mile away.

On hand to officially welcome the Royal guests were Don Brothers, minister of education and MLA for Rossland-Trail and his wife, Mayor and Mrs. Colin Maddocks of Kinnaird, Mayor and Mrs. Murray Little of Castlegar, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Lightle of the Castlegar-Kinnaird Centennial ‘71 Committee, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph West and Mr. and Mrs. Sam Muirhead of the airport committee.


The Queen, dressed in a light blue hat and pale blue coat, Princess Anne, in a daffodil yellow hat and coat, and Prince Phillip in a brown, tweed suit, filed past double columns of cadets as they made their way from the plane to waiting cars that transported them along the mile-section of road to the college.

Shouts of “here it comes, here it is” were heard as the Royal cavalcade approached the college.

A roar of cheers went up as the lead RCMP car appeared from a vantage point on the college steps, the bobbing of umbrellas indicated people were keenly excited and waving hands and flags as the Queen drove past.

Upon arriving at the foot of the college walk, the Queen was greeted by Frank Beinder of Rossland, chairman of the Selkirk College Board and Mrs. Beinder, Mayor and Mrs. Maddocks and Mayor and Mrs. Little.

The Queen, escorted by Mr. Beinder, stopped before walking about 10 feet to chat with a number of people lining the cordoned-off 30-foot wide walkway to the college steps.

RELATED: Castlegar remembers Queen Elizabeth with ceremony


“She was most interested in talking to the youngsters and was asking where they were from and how far they had travelled,” Mr. Beinder said. “She spoke very positively when introduced to several federal, provincial and municipal government officials. She wanted to know, again, where the mayors were from, how far away they were from and what they did in their community,” Mr. Beinder added.

Mayor F.E. DeVito of Trail was given a brief opportunity (to tell) the Queen of the smelting operation that was located in Trail.


“She commented on the designs of the chain of office worn by Mayor Arnold Lauriente of Warfield, to which Mayor Lauriente replied, “well, maybe someday we’ll be able to talk about it.”

The Queen gave him a big smile, nodded and walked on.

The list of dignitaries in addition to Mayor and Mrs. DeVito and Mayor and Mrs. Lauriente were Mr. and Mrs. Randolph Harding, MP; Mr. and Mrs. Burt Campbell, MLA; Mr. and Mrs. Bert Herridge, former MP; Mayor and Mrs. Louis Maglio of Nelson, Mayor and Mrs. A. P. Morrison of Greenwood, Mayor and Mrs. L.C. Haas of Montrose, Mayor and Mrs. W.R. Wiggins of Kalso, Mayor and Mrs. E. A. Harding of Nakusp, Mayor and Mrs. R. Fairhurst of Silverton, Mayor H.R. Mills of Slocan and Ald. Rev. and Mrs. W. Beckstead of Fruitvale.

At the college steps the Queen chatted with a few members of the Sing-Out Trail group.

Margaret Tinsley, 15, said “The Queen saw my Sing-Out badge and asked me what it was. I told her that I was with Sing-Out Trail and we were here entertaining the people before she arrived, to which she replied, ‘that’s nice.’ She also asked me if we had been here very long and whether or not we were wet.”

Jeanne Bursaw, 13, of the group said she had asked the Queen if she could shake her hand, to which Her Majesty replied, “I don’t have a free hand.” She was carrying an umbrella and handbag.

“Princess Anne said to us, ‘you are mildly dressed for the weather,’” the group said, and as for Prince Phillip, “he just smiled at everybody, but he didn’t say much.”

Prince Phillip did have a bit of fun with some members of the Nelson School Band as he mimicked the girls in the clarinet section and asked them if the rain would cause their instruments “to make a bubbly sound.”

On the college steps, the Queen, Prince Phillip and Princess Anne stood for O Canada, played by the “bubbly sound” of the Nelson School Band.


Following O Canada, the Royal visitors signed the college guest register.

Her Majesty and Princess Anne were then presented with bouquets of yellow roses by David Lightle and Lisa Martini, two youngsters from the Castlegar-Kinnaird area.

“Never in this peaceful, beautiful valley has there ever been such as momentous occasion as this,” Mr. Wayling said, directing his comments to the Royal guests.

The Doukhobor Student Choir was presented to the Royal guests, and led by a choir member of one year, Fred Samarodin, 18, sang three verses in Russian and one in English of the traditional Doukhobor hymn In Honor of Peace and Freedom.


In a prepared text, choir director Peter Samoyloff, said, “Stanley Humphries Secondary School Doukhobor Student Choir is honored to have the privilege and opportunity to sing for you today. We are especially thankful to sing for Your Majesty for it is your great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who enabled our forefathers to settle in Canada in 1898.”

“We wish you a happy and successful tour of our truly beautiful British Columbia. It is our hope that Your Majesty and Family shall return again.”

The Queen was then presented with a miniature spinning wheel by 20-year old Marion Kalesnikoff, a three-year veteran of the choir.

The gift, with an eight-inch-in-diameter wheel, was handmade by 56-year old Peter Makortoff of Grand Forks.


Barb Makeiff, 17, of the choir presented a set of thee handcarved birch and cherry ladies to Prince Phillip, who joked with her and asked, “could you carve those?”

A hand embroidered silk Doukhobor shawl, the work of Mrs. Nick Shkuratoff of Winlaw, was presented to Princess Anne by 22-year old Mike Sookerhoff of the choir.

The Princess accepted the gift, looked at it, obviously amazed at the excellent work and said, “I must cover it before it gets wet.”


The entire Royal Family appeared quite intrigued with the choir and gifts.

The Queen accompanied by her Royal party then made her way past a group of Legion members and members of the 54th Kootenay Battalion and a group of senior citizens.

She stopped and spoke to several of them, including Mrs. Violet Irene Blakeman of Nelson, who will be 88 in July.

“I told her that I remembered her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria in London and she seemed very interested.”

Mrs. Blakeman received official recognition in 1970 from Lt. Gov J.R. Nicholson after she swam the Kootenay Lake in 1969 at the age of 86.


Other senior citizens who were addressed by the Queen included Mrs. Fred Pratt of Nelson who said the Queen mentioned it is “too bad it is so wet.”

The wife of the president of the Nelson Senior Citizens Organization, Mrs. John Andrews, said the Queen asked, “are you all born in Canada?”

“I looked around and said, ‘no not all of us, but I am.’”

The Royal party then made its way back to Royal I at the Castlegar Airport to continue to Penticton for a civic dinner and overnight stay, the only one away from the royal yacht Britannia on the 18-day Royal tour.


Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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