The 55th anniversary of the Hope Slide this week has jogged some memories.
Gerald Pash, 75, remembers helping to put the first radio reports together on the terrible Hope Slide which occurred on January 9, 1965.
Pash, who now lives in Victoria, was a 20-year-old radio news reporter at the time, working for CHWK and living in Chilliwack when he became one of the first to get wind of what happened.
“After arriving at work at 5:30 a.m. I started the regular police checks up the valley,” Pash said.
He called RCMP detachments from Abbotsford to Boston Bar, checking for overnight incidents like fatalities on the 401, which Highway 1 was called in the mid-60s.
But on that fateful morning, the Hope RCMP watch commander told him there’d been a couple of small slides up the Hope-Princeton, and that they had sent a car to investigate.
“He called back a half hour later and we learned that the whole mountain had come down,” Pash said.
They had no idea it would be recognized as the most devastating landslide disaster in the country at the time.
“It is regarded as an event unequalled in the history of the province,” reported the Chilliwack Progress. “The slide was apparently triggered by the second of two small earthquakes which it is recorded had epicentres in the Nicolum Valley.”
Four travellers were killed in the disaster and two of the bodies were never found, despite a huge search effort led by Search and Rescue and local volunteers. Still missing are Mary Kalmakoff, 23, of Penticton, and Dennis Arlitt, 23, also of Penticton.
The slide site was later described as resembling a barren, lunar landscape filled with rocks.
CHWK had dispatched reporter Ed Wilson up to the scene, who managed to get an on-tape interview with Highways Minister Phil Gaglardi that they were able to package and distribute to broadcast news and several radio stations.
“It was a very busy day,” Pash remembered.
It took all day to put together the reports, using the technology of the day – a manual typewriter and large format reel to reel tape, among other obsolete tools.
“Ours were the first reports of the slide,” Pash said. “We wrote the first version of history.”
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