Village Life (1912-1982)

At the beginning of the plant’s construction workers lived in tents while the higher level personal were housed in small wooden buildings built further up on the hillside.

When the plant reopened in the 1920s the company town began to grow. Because of its relative isolation it was a close-knit community.

The nearest road was the Malahat Drive but when it opened in 1911 it was little more than a wagon-track that wound its way to Victoria. Although it did offer a means of transportation to Bamberton residents, a trip to the “big city” was a hazardous journey. In the early 20’s motorists drove on the “other” side of the road, in the British tradition. The narrow road was very winding and although it climbed to 1100 ft at the summit there were no guardrails. For the first ten years it had only a mud and gravel surface so the road often washed out in the rain and in dryer weather, clouds of dust covered both cars and passengers.

"I can remember my brother having to ride on the running board of our family car in order to shine a light toward the edge of the road so my father wouldn't stray too close at night or in foggy weather. I liked blowing the air-bulb horn, which was mounted on the door, and snapping on the side curtains to keep the rain out."
(BM)

"The Malahat Drive was narrow and there were few places where two cars meeting could pass. I can remember going down Tunnel Hill when a rear tire came off and we scraped along in a shower of sparks. I had to steer into the ditch to stop us."
(HT)

Despite its relative isolation by 1924 the Bamberton plant was producing over a million dollars worth of cement.

In the early days most supplies were brought in by company tug and barge.

"One day my husband who ran the company tug, was seeing to the scow, which was tied up alongside the towboat. All of a sudden, a rock came flying across the water and hit him on the back of the head knocking him out. If the engineer hadn’t come on deck to see why the boat was steering haphazardly he would have drowned."
(Helen Sweeney)

Single men lived near the shore in a bunkhouse that could house and feed 70 men. Many of the married men lived with their families in company homes built on the hillside above the plant.

"From our front-room windows we were able to look out upon a scene which in my opinion is unsurpassed in any part of the globe. At a point directly opposite our house the Inlet is set like an emerald in a band of silver."
(AB)

There were 27 houses in all and the rent ranged from $10 to $35 a month over the span of the plant's operation. Water was included in the rent, as the company owned Oliphant Lake and piped 400,000 gal a day down the hillside to the village and the plant. The company also provided any maintenance needed, and the village was always neat and well kept. There were also 3 company houses, south of the plant called the 'beach houses'.

"I lived in one of the houses close to the dock until I was seven. Our house had a big porch and I wasn’t allowed to go off of it by myself because my mother was afraid a cougar would get me."
(BM)

"I came to Bamberton as a bride in 1943.We lived in the middle of the 3 beach houses and I just about froze to death. I was sometimes stranded in the house because the creek that ran down beside us would flood."
(JD)

At the beginning of the plant’s construction workers lived in tents while the higher level personal were housed in small wooden buildings built further up on the hillside.

When the plant reopened in the 1920s the company town began to grow. Because of its relative isolation it was a close-knit community.

The nearest road was the Malahat Drive but when it opened in 1911 it was little more than a wagon-track that wound its way to Victoria. Although it did offer a means of transportation to Bamberton residents, a trip to the “big city” was a hazardous journey. In the early 20’s motorists drove on the “other” side of the road, in the British tradition. The narrow road was very winding and although it climbed to 1100 ft at the summit there were no guardrails. For the first ten years it had only a mud and gravel surface so the road often washed out in the rain and in dryer weather, clouds of dust covered both cars and passengers.

"I can remember my brother having to ride on the running board of our family car in order to shine a light toward the edge of the road so my father wouldn't stray too close at night or in foggy weather. I liked blowing the air-bulb horn, which was mounted on the door, and snapping on the side curtains to keep the rain out."
(BM)

"The Malahat Drive was narrow and there were few places where two cars meeting could pass. I can remember going down Tunnel Hill when a rear tire came off and we scraped along in a shower of sparks. I had to steer into the ditch to stop us."
(HT)

Despite its relative isolation by 1924 the Bamberton plant was producing over a million dollars worth of cement.

In the early days most supplies were brought in by company tug and barge.

"One day my husband who ran the company tug, was seeing to the scow, which was tied up alongside the towboat. All of a sudden, a rock came flying across the water and hit him on the back of the head knocking him out. If the engineer hadn’t come on deck to see why the boat was steering haphazardly he would have drowned."
(Helen Sweeney)

Single men lived near the shore in a bunkhouse that could house and feed 70 men. Many of the married men lived with their families in company homes built on the hillside above the plant.

"From our front-room windows we were able to look out upon a scene which in my opinion is unsurpassed in any part of the globe. At a point directly opposite our house the Inlet is set like an emerald in a band of silver."
(AB)

There were 27 houses in all and the rent ranged from $10 to $35 a month over the span of the plant's operation. Water was included in the rent, as the company owned Oliphant Lake and piped 400,000 gal a day down the hillside to the village and the plant. The company also provided any maintenance needed, and the village was always neat and well kept. There were also 3 company houses, south of the plant called the 'beach houses'.

"I lived in one of the houses close to the dock until I was seven. Our house had a big porch and I wasn’t allowed to go off of it by myself because my mother was afraid a cougar would get me."
(BM)

"I came to Bamberton as a bride in 1943.We lived in the middle of the 3 beach houses and I just about froze to death. I was sometimes stranded in the house because the creek that ran down beside us would flood."
(JD)

Another resident who had come from England as a bride in 1948 lived in another "beach house" north of the plant.

"I had brought my best dresses and china from England but when we arrived there was no road to our house. I had to carry what I could down a steep trail to the water. I was scared to be by myself and when my husband went to work I would sit way out at the very end of the dock because there were bears and snakes around the house. I was so homesick I kept asking myself why I had come to such a wilderness."
(LL)

The manager's house was the largest in the village, set in its own grounds, complete with a swimming pool. When Reg Haskins was the manager, he won a lottery, which consisted of a case of whiskey. He gave the whiskey to a local contractor in trade, to build the lower lawn. It was a perfect 7 iron long course. Perfect for Reg who was an avid golfer.

Bamberton gardens were dazzling pictures of colour. Garden pests were seldom seen, perhaps because of the lime dust that coated the area. When Robert Butchart, was the president of the Cement Company he provided seeds and plants free of charge and villagers were encouraged to grow gardens.

"As President of the Vancouver Island Horticultural Association, I must say, the people of Bamberton have taken to gardening and developed gardens that are a credit to Vancouver Island and the province."

By the 1920s there were enough children at Bamberton, to warrant a school. In 1924 Miss Irma Glyde Trowsse was hired to teach grades 1 to 8. She was paid $90 a month, and lived with her mother in a house adjacent to the school.

"The school had two vents on the roof and when it snowed us boys would have contests to see who could hit them with snowballs. The snow would melt from the heat inside and drip down on the girls whose desks were underneath that part of the roof."
(TB)

"Miss Trowsse, hated slugs and snakes and as a prank one of the boys put a snake in her desk drawer. We could tell when she opened the drawer she was trying awful hard not to scream. She just said in a really stern voice, “Whoever put this snake in my desk get it out immediately,” and boy did he move fast."
(EB)

Miss Trowsse taught at Bamberton until the 1960's, when due to declining enrolment the school was closed. She retired in 1969, having taught for 45 years and in her honour the cement company's haul road was named Trowsse Road.

In the early days, when summer arrived everyone from the village would take part in the annual company picnic. They would be taken across the inlet on company boats to a picnic at Deep Cove where lunch and tea were served. During the afternoon many went in for a swim and games and races with were held with the married men competing against the single men.

In 1927 the company built a Recreation Hall, which became the centre of the community's activities. It was a large building with a wrap around veranda, located at the end of the village street. Along side the building was a tennis court, constructed of cement of course. The dance floor was as large as that at the Empress Hotel and dances, variety shows, business meetings and other gatherings were held on a regular basis. Wednesday night was card party night. The Company sponsored Halloween Parties with fireworks, contests for the best costumes and goody bags filled with candy.

The Christmas Parties seem to be the favourite memory of all the village residents. All the children of families living in Bamberton, the company village at Tod Inlet, and the children of company staff members were invited. The company bought every child a gift, which was given out by the kiln foreman, dressed as Santa. The children and parents also enjoyed a wonderful turkey dinner with all the trimmings. A couple of days before the partial closure of the plant for Christmas, the Company also delivered a turkey to every family in the village.

When winter brought the snow and ice, children and adults alike, would pull their sleds up to the highway at the top of Bamberton Road. From there they would toboggan down the full mile past all the village houses to the garages at the end of the village street.

After the plant closed in 1980, the once thriving village became a modern-day ghost town. Ads appeared in the local papers and some of the buildings were moved to new locations. The Community Hall, the school and several of the houses have been given a new lease on life in the Cowichan area.

Click on images to enlarge

Malahat Drive early 1900's
Malahat Drive early 1900’s
Malahat Drive early 1900's
Malahat Drive early 1900’s
Company tug
Company tug
House
House
Beach house
Beach house
1940's
1940’s
Manager's House
Manager’s House
Bamberton's gardens
Bamberton’s gardens
School house
School house
Miss Irma Glyde Trowsse
Miss Irma Glyde Trowsse
The Trowsse home
The Trowsse home
News of Trowsse's retirement
News of Trowsse’s retirement
Company picnic
Company picnic
Tennis at the Recreation Hall
Tennis at the Recreation Hall
Party at the Recreation Hall
Party at the Recreation Hall
Santa at the Christmas party
Santa at the Christmas party
Tobogganing!
Tobogganing!
Ghost town after closure
Ghost town after closure
Christmas party
Christmas party
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