Fernie is located in bear habitat and so being bear aware is not just a good choice it is a mandatory precaution for the safety of bears and humans. It was thus with great interest that Edwardian Fernie came across the following two articles in The District Ledger of June 26, 1909. Being Bear Aware had a very different meaning in 1909:
The first story on the front page under the heading “Local News”:
“One of our tonsorial artists and a friend started out bear hunting last Sunday. While climbing a perilous ascent they heard a noise behind and on looking round saw one of the largest grizzlies ever seen. They swear it was as big as an ordinary horse. However owing to their position they could not get a shot at Bruin, who calmly stalked off into the bushes unconscious of the “close shave” he had escaped. More luck next time boys.”
The second story on the same front page under the heading “Shot a Bear – A Splendid Specimen Secured Not Far from the City”:
“A couple of nimrods brought down a fine specimen of a black bear not far from McDougall’s Mill this week. Photographer Spalding was there at the time and got several fine views of him before he was killed, which would be extremely hard to duplicate. Watch for the bear in Progressive Fernie.”
The articles make it clear that an Edwardian resident of Fernie had a relationship to bears that was very different from our current relationship. It is fairly easy to hazard a guess that in 1909 most Fernieites would have thought that the only good bear was a dead bear. It is surmiseable, and Edwardian Fernie has been told by old timers, that bear populations in this area were much larger than they are today. Edwardian Fernie remembers people recounting that bears were considered a problem that had to be eradicated. Farmers, ranchers and even gardeners always took precautions to protect their herds and crops from bears. Living in Fernie meant you were always bear aware!
A few notes about observations made in the articles: A “nimrod” in 1909 only had one meaning, that of “great hunter”. Today, because of Bugs Bunny who continually and ironically referred to Elmer Fudd as “a nimrod” we are more likely to understand a “nimrod” as an “idiot, moron or clutz”. There was no irony in the use by the District Ledger. Edwardian Fernie is aware there are modern readers who will prefer the modern interpretation of the word for what is described to have occurred in the article, but will remind that we must not be hasty to judge the past by modern ideals.
“Photographer Spalding” refers to the remarkable Joseph Frederick Spalding whose stunning photos captured much of early life in Fernie and in British Columbia. He was a brilliant photographer, a skilled artist and observer of life. For more about Spalding check out this link to a wonderful retrospective about a fascinating man: http://www.maltwood.uvic.ca/spalding/introduction.htmlt.
“Progressive Fernie” refers to a publication which was being developed at the time to herald Fernie’s growth and development with an eye to encouraging further investment in Fernie.