Remembering the Crow’s first Griz – a look back at the early Griz Days

John Kinnear shares some of his memories of Fernie's winter festival in the early days.

The Crow enjoying Griz Days.

The Crow enjoying Griz Days.

By John Kinnear

Not long after moving to Fernie in 1980 I noticed The Free Press carried an ad announcing a Griz Days Committee meeting at the Olde Elevator. Being new to town curiosity got the better of me and I attended only to find out that since 1978 Fernie had been hosting this crazy winter festival with all kinds of fun events. It smacked of zaniness, my kind of action, so I got into it, big time! And so of course did Mr. Crow.

The “Crow” was a character costume designed as a mascot for the now defunct Crows Nest Resources Ltd (now Line Creek Mine). Crow saw a lot of action throughout the Elk Valley for many years in parades and special events.

The first event the “Crow” hit that Griz Days weekend was the Friday night parade down main street which was a big one. It had black powder rifles going off periodically, half loaded firemen dressed in women’s clothing wandering the route menacing the crowds and a sheriff named Tiny Shatosky prowling the streets with a gun, a pouch of Griz pins and an attitude. The streets were packed with half frozen Fernieites and tourists who, for the most part, seemed amazed to see a parade in winter, at night, in sub zero temperatures.

The next day, Saturday, the Crow decided to visit the black powder shoot up Coal Creek as it was rumoured that his eminence, the Lieutenant Governor of B.C. was hanging around up there. These black powder goofs were something else again, all decked out in leathers, Crocket hats, powder horns and really big guns!

The Sunday started off quietly enough with a Lions pancake breakfast at the community centre. Later that afternoon the Crow made his way back to the centre where ice cold beer was on sale and the local loggers and tough guy miners were priming their egos for a serious arm wrestling competition.

Two mischievous local merchants who ran a cafe downtown called “Cravings” showed up at the community centre that day and set up a table and a sign that read “Whipped Cream Pies – $2 each.” It seems they had invited local dignitaries (i.e. councillors, mayors, mine managers, etc) to come and take a pie in the face to raise money for Griz Days. The dignitaries foolish or brave enough to show up were dressed in paper coveralls and seated on stools in front of the stage to await their fates.

During all the cream pie flinging and cheering a local RCMP appeared at the centre’s doorway most likely to check out the now well juiced crowd. Upon his arrival a young fellow at the back of the hall became visibly upset and being primed with the nectar of the glaciers, began haranguing the officer. It was obvious to the Crow and to others that these two had met before, no doubt very recently in a situation in which some illegality was involved. This RCMP, bright fellow that he was, decided to turn a negative into a positive and proposed the following to the upstart: “If you can raise $500 in the next half hour and turn it over to the girls I will take a cream pie in the face from you, in full uniform!” Well, a more inspired performance the Crow has never witnessed and when that half hour rolled around bang went the $500 down on the table and the upstart stood defiantly in front of the officer with an enormous cream pie in hand. The officer bravely folded his arms in front of him and prepared to meet his fate. The upstart drew back his arm, pie in hand, and then much to everyone’s surprise, including the RCMP’s, swept his arm, not overhand but underhand driving that pie right into the officer’s crotch! The crowd went wild.

As the Crow sat at home the next day reminiscing about that wonderful weekend and nursing a swollen right arm that Frank “Killer” Pilosio had wrecked in the arm wrestle the day before, he realized something rather funny. Not only had that RCMP officer taken money off of that upstart on their first meeting courtesy of a fine but he had managed to take him and all his friends for $500 more the next day! Long live Griz Days.

 

John Kinnear wrote for The Free Press for 10 years starting in 1995.