By the time visitors are welcomed back to the R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum, several of its exhibits depicting local businesses in the early 20th century will be enhanced with life-size cutouts of proprietors and employees created from archive photos.
Among the vintage storefronts which will have received a more lifelike treatment is the Salmon Arm Observer office exhibit. Standing behind the counter is a life-size cutout of Egnar Sandahl who worked as a pressman for the paper beginning in 1913.
Museum curator Deb Chapman chose Sandahl for the Observer office because the photo of him was sharp and easy to enlarge, and ‘because he was the cutest.’
The image of the slim, smiling young man printed well for the life-sized cutout, but Chapman wanted to be able to offer museum guests more information about the new face of the newspaper exhibit.
Chapman and her research assistant Don Paterson got to work combing the archives for information about the former printing press operator. Chapman found that Sandahl and his sister Sigrid lived and worked in Chase before accepting jobs with the Observer and relocating to Salmon Arm in 1913. He was not in Salmon Arm for long but while he was here, archival photos and newspaper clippings show Sandahl’s work for the Observer and also mention the treatment of a broken ankle he received on the diamond, ending his baseball season. There are also records of him playing clarinet in the Salmon Arm and Chase community bands.
Records show that Sandahl moved to Victoria after his time in Salmon Arm. In 1917, he enlisted in the Army and his sister and her husband immigrated to New Zealand. Chapman’s research put her in touch with relatives of Sandahl who still live in New Zealand today. Sandahl did not see overseas service in the First World War, but he did prove himself as a survivor after a brush with the Spanish Flu in 1918.
The flu pandemic of more than a century ago will figure majorly into the stories the museum will tell after it can reopen following the current pandemic. Chapman said they plan to dress the interpretive actors at the village in history-appropriate masks, and research into the 1918 flu’s affect on the area is ongoing.