In 1977 the city of Quesnel wished to celebrate their 50th birthday in 1978 and a committee was struck with Betty Motherwell as chair. After much deliberation it was decided to hold a picnic for all the people who have lived in Quesnel for 50 years or more.
The B.C. Rail company agreed to send the Royal Hudson steam train and coaches to Quesnel to take 150 pioneers from town to the Australian picnic site, near the Yorston’s pioneer ranch, May 13, a Saturday.
Tickets were $2.50 per person and the committee advertised the event, which included tours of the train on Friday afternoon, the trip south, the picnic and the return on Saturday night.
A list was made as tickets were sold and it didn’t take long before the committee realized they had underestimated the response, as more than 200 tickets were sold.
Of course, there had to be entertainment so the Old Time Fiddlers filled that role to overflowing.
Ray Murray of Brownies Fried Chicken (where Rasmussen accounting is now), supplied the food at no cost.
Many dressed in heritage costumes.
At Kersley, near the old Rome Ranch, Doc Holley and his scalawags on horseback, held up the train in Bill Miner style as Doc demanded money and jewellery. Joyce Swanky grabbed for his pistol; Doc jerked his gun back and the front sight cut Joyce’s hand badly.
The outlaw Doc, now Dr. Holley announced that he was on call at the hospital and the wound required stitching. Joyce would never hear of missing the fun. A bandage did the trick as the train reached the Australian Picnic site where tables and benches were set up and the feast began.
Many of the pioneers made the most of the chance to renew old friendships until it was time to steam north to Quesnel leaving and taking many happy memories. Several citizens recall that day.
The full list of passengers is at the Quesnel Museum.
Andy Motherwell is an amateur historian and regular Observer columnist.