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Island History Notable: Dalys Barney unearths mysteries from the past
We discuss finding old bottles and all the places called Wellington
Dalys Barney creates the Van Isle History Explorer blog, a history site about coal mining, Nanaimo, family history, book reviews, and whatever else Dalys fancies to put on there.
Dave: Why did you start the blog?
Dalys: I wanted to have a platform for my writing in a little bit longer format than what I felt was appropriate on Facebook. I do maintain a Van Isle History Explorer Facebook page. And shorter things, I might put them on the Facebook page, especially things that maybe I have accompanying photos for. But I wanted to have a space for longer format things that were really text driven.
Dave: Have you had good feedback from the blog?
Dalys: I’ve had some people leave comments, and it’s been really nice, especially on the piece, “The Wellingtons of Nanaimo,” about the different Wellingtons around the Nanaimo area. People seem to really like that one.
Dave: What’s “The Wellingtons of Nanaimo” piece about?
Dalys: There’s Part 1 and 2 of that blog post. And Part 1 is called “Old and New,” because there were two iterations of Wellington relatively close together. It started in one place and then the townsite really ended up developing in a second place.
And then Part 2 is “South, East, West, North, and South Again,” because there are different areas around Nanaimo called South Wellington, East Wellington, West Wellington, North Wellington, and then a separate South Wellington. So, the South Wellington of today is the second South Wellington, and that’s actually where I grew up. Which is, if you’re familiar with where the Bungee Zone and WildPlay Element Park is, that’s South Wellington.
Dave: Can you tell me about your plans for a longer project?
Dalys: Yeah, I thought it would be something for the blog, but then it evolved into something much, much longer. It’s about bottles, like soda bottles from Nanaimo. My dad’s a bottle collector and the catalyst for [starting the project] was that my husband dug up a couple of old bottles in Ladysmith, and I was kind of comparing what he had dug up to what my dad has in his collection.
And then I started researching the bottles and then it just it snowballed. I ended up putting together a little booklet. All together I think it’s about 45 pages.
Dave: What does the book cover?
Dalys: I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Rumming bottle. It’s got a crossed pick and shovel on it. It’s very iconic for Nanaimo because those are miners’ tools. W.E. Rumming had a soda company in Nanaimo. There used to be several of them. It’s just kind of something that’s gone by the wayside now with the big giants like Coca-Cola and Pepsi taking over the whole market.
But in a different time, there were more independent bottlers locally. I kind of trace back what was going on and then try to situate the different bottles through time.
Dave: Cool. Super interesting.
Dalys: I learned a lot. Bottles were originally hand-blown. Each was unique. Then they started being made by machines. And I started to learn this one is made by a machine versus this one, that’s blown in a mould.
There’s no book really like that out there for this area that I’m aware of. I think people would be interested. Rumming sold one bottle that had really iconic imagery embossed right on the bottle: the crossed pick and shovel, but you also see ones with the Bastion on it. It was iconic and had that local feel. All from a local company, and people like that stuff, right?
And I think it’s starting to come back a little bit, like Phillips Soda Works in Victoria is now bottling soda on Vancouver Island. Now there’s all kinds of flavoured sodas and things like that. People are starting to maybe break away from the big names a little bit more, which is kind of nice. Maybe there is hope yet for independent bottlers to find a little slice of the market.
Dave: What interests you about exploring history physically?
Dalys: I’m a big reader and also enjoy reading with my kids, who are seven now. We will read some history-related books that are tied to the area and it’s really neat to go out and visit that place, especially if there’s something tangible still there to look at. It really connects you with history and helps you to visualize a little bit easier what the past was like.
As an example, there’s a young adult novel called Trapped by Coal, which is set in Extension, and we read it with the boys and then we did kind of a two-part trip. We went to Extension and there’s a little miners’ park there. We also went to Morden Mine, where the headframe and tipple still stands.
It’s one of the only tangible things from the coal-mining era that you can visit and look at. That was really interesting, it’s really meaningful for the boys to see what we read about.
Dave: What do you hope people take away from your blog?
Dalys: I think the biggest thing for me is the idea that if I can inspire other individuals or other families to get out there and explore Vancouver Island or Vancouver Island’s history in a way that they might not have done before, that’s great.