BILL MCQUARRIE PHOTO Jennifer Butler signs a copy of her book Boom & Bust at the Telegraph Cove boardwalk.

Boom & Bust: a history of the resilient women of Telegraph Cove

It took nearly four years to locate and interview the women to write about their experiences.

It is not often you meet a writer as engaging as Jennifer Butler, author of Boom & Bust, a story that brings together the fascinating tales of the ‘resilient women of Telegraph Cove’.

Butler does not write from the distant perspective of an outsider looking in but as a woman whose great grandmother, Mame Wastell, the pioneering woman who along with her husband, Duke, purchased the 300 acres that became Telegraph Cove. It was also a place where Butler’s grandmother, Emma, and her mother, Bea, grew up, and where Butler spent her childhood summers.

This is not a book decrying the life of the women of the Cove, but instead it is a fascinating tale that weaves together the lives of these women in away that describes and brings to life, the contributions as well as the sacrifices they made in this remote coastal community of Northern Vancouver Island. Boom & Bust provides a new and captivating perspective of what life was truly like in an isolated coastal mill town.

When asked why she wrote the book, Butler’s face lit up as she began describing the need to capture and document the stories of these women. It took nearly four years to locate and interview the women and then write the stories of their experiences. According to Butler, there was never a moment of regret or second thought about the immensity of the project she had taken on.

The book provides a completely new way to see inside small, independent and remote coastal mill towns. It is about family experiences, at times, marginal living conditions and how, despite the isolation, world wars, the Great Depression, and the booming 50’s and 60’s, life changed forever in Telegraph Cove.

After reading the book one comes away with a respect for the contributions these women made, especially for their efforts at ensuring the family held together through the good and bad times. You also come away with a different appreciation and understanding for the history of Northern Vancouver Island. Butler does not rewrite history but simply and expertly describes that history through the voices of those not heard until now.

Those voices, according to Butler needed to be heard, but as she explained, “The legacy must go beyond the story-telling.”

In consideration of that legacy, Butler has decided to donate all the royalties from the first printing of her book to: The Campbell River Hospital Foundation, for equipment needed for women’s health and: The Campbell River, North Island Transition Society, that provides shelter for women and children of the North Island.

She went to describe how she, “wanted to find the type of organizations that women, who lived in Telegraph Cove over the 20th century, might have found of use…had they existed back then.”

Boom & Bust, published by Touchwood in Victoria, is available at bookstores or online at Amazon.ca

– Bill McQuarrie article

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