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Curator digs up old stories in Salmon Arm cemetery

This year’s tour features the Branchflower family of Salmon Valley
Salmon Arm Museum Described as a debonair “player” in his time Max Branchflower and an unidentified woman relax on the side of a Salmon Valley Road.

Looking for entertainment on a Sunday afternoon in October?

R.J. Haney Heritage Village curator Deborah Chapman is digging up stories again and offering her cemetery tour on the prettiest knoll in Salmon Arm.

The old section of the Mt. Ida Cemetery is where Chapman likes to talk about Salmon Arm’s early characters.

This year’s search for a new “character” started with a photograph in the archives. When an unidentified couple showed up in a computer search of Salmon Valley images, Chapman started asking questions.

The photo was donated by Florrie Farmer’s family, but who were the young people in the photo?

Phil Wright was the first to identify the young man sitting on a running board. “It looks like Max Branchflower. He was the only one with a car in his neighbourhood for years.”

Phil’s hunch was confirmed by Ray Carlaw, a pall bearer at Max’s funeral. There was no denying the haircut. It was Max’s but no one could identify the young lady Max was embracing.

The Branchflower plot is in the old section of the Mt. Ida Cemetery. Max died in 1969 but the historic records on him are slight.

Max loved to dance, he doted on his widowed mother, Mary Branchflower, and had a road named after him.

A quick search in the telephone directory did not turn up any relatives living in the area. Why? Although he had many, many opportunities, Max never married.

Chapman made some calls.

Gary Brooke spent hours in his grandparent’s home in the Mount Ida District and knew of Max Branchflower. He remembered Max taking Mary Branchflower, Brooke’s grandmother Lizzie Jackson, and other, “older” well-turned-out ladies on regular jaunts in his car.

Imagine four passengers in the back seat and three in the front seat of Max’s well-shined black Cadillac, touring to Vernon or Armstrong, all wearing their Sunday best – including hats and gloves.

According to Brooke they were gone for hours. What they were up to no one bothered to ask, but for many of the women in the district it was a highlight of the week.

Other locals remembered Max as being a bit of a ladies’ man – but with younger ladies. He usually dated school teachers, especially the ones who liked to dance. Daisey Hoadley’s name came up. Max dated her before she moved into Salmon Arm to teach.

But Alf Peterson, a regular member of the Old Time Dance Club, couldn’t remember Max and Daisey at the Club. Peterson did remember a Miss Scott. She was single and liked to dance too.

Who was Miss Scott? Alf Peterson didn’t know, except that she lived on Shuswap Avenue. A younger old-timer, Kate Bischke, had the answer. Gladys DeVera Scott was her great aunt. Kate Bischke lives on the Scott property where her great aunt, Gladys, had a mixed farm, and a second job, looking after her mother, Minnie.

Max was a “player” according to Kate Bischke. He was debonair. Not at a loss for words, she added Casanova and charmer to Max’s list of attributes.

“But you wouldn’t know if he and my great aunt were seeing each other unless they wanted you to,” she added. “Max was circumspect and very private.”

The couple went dancing, attended socials, and did the box lunch thing.

“They were betrothed,” Bischke added. Apparently there was an engagement and wedding ring, soldered together, in Gladys’ possession when she died.

Max and Gladys agreed that they would not marry until each was free of their obligations to their mothers. Gladys’ great niece was pretty sure Max wasn’t really the marrying kind and only proposed to preserve his reputation.

“My Gran, Eileen Scott Bedford, would say Max could sweep anyone off their feet.”

Bischke thought the future mothers-in-law, Minnie Scott and Mary Eliza Branchflower, didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye and weren’t terribly social with each other.

An absence of extended family gatherings left Max freer to take the Valley Road ladies on a spin every now and then. He likely figured there was safety in numbers.

“My great aunt was pretty sure they weren’t all old,” Kate Bischke added.

So what happened to Gladys’ rings? Gladys gave them to her great-niece Kate to pass along to one of her children. When the time was right, Bischke gave Gladys’ gift to her son, who used the set to propose to his wife. The couple had jeweler Dennis Quinn design a matching band and are now happily married.

The Branchflower story is just one of many happy endings told at the cemetery. Join Chapman for others at 1 p.m. at the Mt. Ida Cemetery on Sunday, Oct. 15. Space is limited so pre-register by calling the R.J. Haney Heritage Village at 250-832-5243. Cost per person is $10.