When residents heard shots fired at the Mt. Ida Cemetery, they called into town for the constable and the mayor.
Why the mayor? Back then, running the municipality was a part-time job. Mayor Cyril Thomson also owned the taxi service at the Lester and Thomson Garage, so both men loaded their guns and jumped in the mayor’s cab. It was a false alarm. The cemetery caretaker’s son, Willy Pidhirney, was playing with blasting caps.
When Salmon Arm residents simply wanted a new vehicle in the late 1920s, they also called on the mayor, heading for the Lester and Thomson Garage on the corner of Front and Alexander streets. The dealership sold McLaughlin, Overland, Chevrolet and Dort automobiles and “traffic trucks.” It was named for partners A.W. Lester and Cyril Thomson, but when the partnership dissolved and Lester left for California in 1923, the name and reputation stayed on.
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The same year A.W. left for southern climes, Cyril assumed the business and, in spite of the increased workload, also took on community work as an alderman, eventually serving on city council for five years. Then he set his sights higher and successfully made a bid for the mayor’s seat, a position he held for 15 years.
Thomson’s political career survived the disastrous fire of 1928, the Dirty Thirties and three years of international conflict. Times weren’t always easy.
Thomson employed mechanics and sold new cars on credit. When the 1930s hit, many Salmon Arm residents couldn’t meet their payments and Thomson’s relationship with them changed. He was a guarantor of sorts and was required to repossess their financed vehicles for non payment. The dealer resold the automobiles when possible, but was also responsible for paying off the difference between what was owed the manufacturers and what he could make on the sales. The Thomson yard was filled with unsold vehicles, so Cyril took on more work, reviving his taxi service.
Thomson was lucky to have married sweetheart Eva Bromhan after a courtship that included a dip in Shuswap Lake while skating in December 1908. There’s no doubt their parents found out about the plunge – because it was reported in the Observer and everyone read the newspaper! The chilly romance led to a wedding four years later. Five children were born to the couple but the family was heartbroken when nine-year-old Olive died of influenza in 1924, and 24-year-old Gilda died of cancer in 1946. The Thomsons were well- matched.
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They were both born in England. Both painted, he in oils, she in watercolours. They volunteered to help community groups like the social and dramatic club. Eva designed and sewed the costumes and Cyril painted the sets. One of the perks of being an auto dealer and an alderman was driving the former May Queen, Joan Tester, with her princesses during the 1925 May Day parade. Looking closely at the photo of the decorated car shows Eva in the front seat.
Cyril Thomson passed away in England in 1972. His ashes were returned to Salmon Arm to rest with Eva in the old section of the Mt. Ida Cemetery.
The former mayor of Salmon Arm will be featured in the 13th annual Mt. Ida Cemetery Tour, Sunday, Oct. 14. The cost is $10 and space is limited to 35 guests. Call R.J. Haney Heritage Village & Museum at 250-832-5243 to book your spot.