A big painting of the Battle of the Plains of Abrahams greets you when you walk into the Boettgers’ apartment in Selkirk Gardens.
Clancy Boettger acquired it after hearing the story that his ancestor were part of the battle, when the British defeated the French outside Quebec City.
“My mother told me the story,” he said. “Then 10 years ago, an uncle who was 96 who I never met before told me the story, so I figured there was something to it.”
Boettger is one of the Revelstoke’s greatest characters. A retired railroader, long-time active member of the Elks and an avid fisher, hunter and athlete, he always has stories to tell.
Boettger was born in June 1929 in Salmo. His family owned a dairy farm and his father Fred worked in mining and logging and was away a lot, leaving his mother, Maude, to mind the farm and the kids.
“My dad told us, ‘I don’t want your mother doing chores, or else you’re in big trouble,’” Boettger recalled. “We were pretty dedicated. We looked after our chores and took care of our mom number one.”
Growing up, Boettger worked on farms around the Kootenays. “I had very little schooling, but they passed me every year for my days of work,” he said.
When he was 17, he walked into the railway yard in Trail and lied about his age to get hired. He was put to work around the yard for two weeks.
“He would work me so hard, I didn’t have time to eat my lunch,” he recalled.
After two weeks, the foreman asked if he was ready to quit. When Boettger said no, the foreman gave him a full-time job.
He worked around the yard, then as a fireman on trains. He was transferred to Nelson and in 1950 he came to Revelstoke, where he didn’t know anyone.
“I went to the show Saturday night, went in for a first drink of beer. I met the gang right there and from then on, I stayed here,” he said.
Revelstoke was a much smaller place back then and Boettger explored the area in his car; he was one of the few people to own a vehicle at the time.
He married a woman named Eleanor and they had six kids together. The marriage didn’t work out and after they divorced, he married Frances Prosser, a widow with four children of her own.
Photo: Clancy Boettger with his 360 point elk he hunted near Golden. ~ Photo contributed
With that many mouths to feed, he worked hard on the railway. “I never sluffed on the work part. I was known as a mile hog,” he told me.
Sadly, Frances died of a heart attack when she was 53 and Boettger was 56. 18 months later, he called a woman named Ruth he’d met while stationed at Rogers Pass a few years earlier. They went on a date and that was that. They’ve now been married for 28 years.
“She’s another beautiful women. She does a great job,” he said fondly. “It’s nice where you have a situation where you don’t have any arguments.”
Boettger is a sports nut. He played hockey, travelling around with the CP Rail team, and was an avid baseball player. He started as a kid, when he and his friends would ride their bikes to games around the West Kootenays. Years later, he was on the local seniors team that dominated the Interior league.
Possibly his biggest passion is hunting and fishing. He first picked up a fishing rod at the age of six with a man named Jack Tremble, who would trade fish with his family in exchange for other food.
“I said to him, ‘Take me fishing,’ so he did,” said Boettger.
He skipped church to go fishing and after catching his first rainbow trout he ran home to show his parents. “My mother scolded me for being dressed up to go to church and going fishing,” he said.
He and his friends would sneak out of the house early Sunday morning’s to go fishing instead of going to church. His one big memory of that time is when they laid some fish on the railway tracks to dry. When a train came up the tracks, it hit the fish and came to a dead stop. The train crew had to scrape the fish off the tracks. “If they could have caught us, they would have drowned us,” said Boettger.
He became an avid hunter, and still is. His big prize was a 360 point elk that he hunted near Golden. He was on his way back from Field on the train when he saw the herd of elk near Palliser. He got back to Revelstoke and jumped in his car to go find it. As he was driving down the highway, this great big elk crossed in front of him. Boettger jumped out of the vehicle, tracked the animal down to the railway tracks and got his prize.
Now 87, he still hunts and fishes. He’s been a member of the Elks for more than 50 years and was named the Revelstoke Citizen of the Year in 2009 for his dedication to the community.
He loves living in Revelstoke.
“If you end up being a stranger in this town, it’s your own fault,” he said. “This town has to be the friendliest town there is.”