In the 1950s and 1960s the Ocean Falls Amateur Swimming Club produced outstanding swimmers far out of proportion to the size of that small, isolated coastal community. The town of approximately 3000 residents won a remarkable 26 national swimming events.
Located at the head of Cousins Inlet in the Great Bear Rainforest, Ocean Falls was originally a seasonal village to the Heiltsuk. Known for its overabundant rainfall and easy access to fresh water the area caught the attention of the Bella Coola Pulp and Paper Company in 1903. Soon after a crew of 25 men arrived began clearing the land for a townsite.
By 1909, Ocean Falls was starting to take shape an by 1928 the community had a 20-yard four-lane indoor pool which was built using local beer parlour profits.
In 1950, a man named George Gate was hired as the pool’s manager and volunteered as the swim coach after hours. The club became a mecca of Olympic-calibre swimmers. Over a 14 year period one of the Ocean Falls swimmers was on every Canadian Olympic, Commonwealth, or Pan American Games team. Under Gate’s direction the team won 26 national competitions and half the Olympic team in 1964 was from his club.
On May 31, 1980 the mill at Ocean Falls was closed and the last employee left.
Want to learn more? Try these sites:
- First Nations Land Rights and Environmentalism in British Columbia
- BC Sports Hall of Fame
- Ocean Falls Museum
Posted by Susan