From 1908 until 1980, Ocean Falls was one of the largest communities and industrial facilities on the coast of British Columbia. Throughout its life it was a company town dedicated to the production of pulp and paper. Almost all activities in the place were governed by the mill whistle. At its peak, from the mid-1940’s until the mid-1960’s it was the home to three thousand relatively prosperous people, a thousand of which worked in the mill.
It had the highest annual rainfall (170 inches or 430 centimetres) of any community in North America. It was isolated and accessible only by boat or floatplane. Over the course of its life over seventy thousand people lived in Ocean Falls, some for only a few hours. For those that stayed, Ocean Falls left an indelible and usually positive imprint.
Most of the town and all of the mill are now gone. Only about twenty permanent residents remain. Memories of a way of life that no longer exists become stronger as the physical infrastructure disappears. The remaining “Rain People”, those that called Ocean Falls “home”, have a clan-like bond.
Brian McDaniel lived in Ocean Falls from 1953 to until 1968, between the ages of five and twenty-the golden years for both Brian and the town. As the son of one of the town’s two doctors and later as a student returning from boarding school and university, his perspective of the place was that of both an insider and an outsider.
As an insider, he was the resident of a house at the centre of the town, an inquisitive student, a boater, a lover of the outdoors, an athlete and a member of the town’s famous swim team. As an outsider, making periodic visits from “downtown” to work in the mill he developed an appreciation that the place he called home was unique and its stories were worth preserving.
With a sense of history that is deeply personal, Brian traces the trajectory of Ocean Falls from its unlikely gestation at the beginning of the twentieth century to its sad, bizarre and even comical demise at the end of the same century. Drawing on archival material, personal histories, local newspapers, various “studies” and interviews with his fellow Rain People and others who had a significant impact on Ocean Falls, he captures the spirit of the town and the historical context in which it briefly thrived.
Supplementing the text are many photographs, maps, plans and sketches that graphically depict a way of life in a remote coastal company town that has all but disappeared but which represents an important part of British Columbia’s heritage that must not be forgotten.
Brian moved to Ocean Falls as a five year old when his father took a job as one of the town’s doctors. He stayed until he was twenty but spent the final five years as a student who returned from boarding school or university to work in the paper mill or on the booming grounds. He began collecting stories and notes about Ocean Falls as a high school student and continued to do so for the next fifty years. This book is the result of those efforts.
Brian has resided in Cobble Hill, British Columbia, for forty years. He is a general practitioner of the law on Vancouver Island. He and his wife Peggy have three children and six grandchildren. This book is a legacy for them and the Rain-people. This is his first book.