Gary Hucul has ink in his veins. When he approached the Salmon Arm Museum board of directors in 2011, he asked for space on the site for a print museum.
The idea to build the Western Canada Printing Museum dedicated to print technology was hatched by Hucul, his brother Bernie, Denis Marshall, and Dave Harper.
Hucul had been encouraged by an earlier museum board when a foundation was poured for the Observer at the village in 1990. An inventory of the artifacts soon made it apparent the foundation was too small.
Hucul was disappointed when, 21 years later, a different board adopted the plan for the development of R.J. Haney Heritage Village and the Montebello Project and space wasn’t set aside for a print museum.
Hucul was counting on telling the evolution of the printing press and having a working letter press shop for demonstrations.
What changed for the museum board in the interim was that its resources were more finite and the plan for the village was to concentrate on developing a real-feeling community, not a collection of museums.
Hucul and his brother, had been collecting presses for decades, with Hucul’s shop full of printing history.
The brothers, like the museum at Haney, had off-site storage: a linotype stored by John Cubic, an El Rod strip Caster and Klish-o-graph stored by USNR, and two cases of wooden furniture at Leigh Day’s in Kelowna.
Of course Hucul was disappointed. He was quiet about it, but a little miffed that anything after 1929 would not be included in the museum’s display. His dream and the board’s plans for the village were not aligned.
To understand things from Hucul’s perspective it helps to know his history.
A co-owner of Hucul Printing Ltd, Hucul started his career with the Observer at a time when the equipment he was working on was becoming obsolete.
During his years in the industry, he had time to think while he was working. He thought about his antique presses and how best to keep them working.
Fast forward to 2016. I approached Hucul about including the scale model of the Observer planned for the Montebello project. The museum had its own press equipment thanks to a donation from Darryl and Jeryl Auten which they’d bought from Naramata Centre.
The Auten gift was about the same vintage as the Observer’s press that Hucul and his brother demonstrate in the Memory Lane exhibit at the fall fair each year.
I needed help so got to the point. I asked Hucul if he’d be willing to help me set up the print shop exhibit in the Montebello project.
“No,” he said abruptly.
I could tell I’d hit a nerve, so I smiled inwardly and tried another tactic.
“You know Hucul, if I set this shop up left-handed, it will feel wrong to you and you’ll be even more ticked,” I said.
Hucul stopped dead in his tracks. A look came over his face.
“All right,” was all he said.
We didn’t talk about the press for a few months and then I got a call.
Hucul was to the point.
“It is haying season and I don’t have time to work on your press, but I’d like to get it to working condition before moving it into the Observer exhibit space.
“What progress are you making on the building? When will you need to put the press in the exhibit? Will the floors be strong enough to support the weight?” Hucul asked.
I hadn’t hoped for a working press right away. Hucul explained to me that I wouldn’t want all the chemicals around in the exhibit area that he needed to work on the press.
So, after visiting the press and measuring it, I arranged for Rona’s Hiab lift to pick it up from storage and take it to Hucul’s friend’s shop. Rona’s manager, Eric Hodson, was helpful and friendly.
Then I got another call from Hucul.
The Naramata press was bigger than the one Hucul owned. He proposed we swap presses with him. It might even fit through the door without damaging the walls.
So I called the Autens. They were in agreement. It made sense to them that we have the authentic artifact in the Observer diorama. Jeryl only asked that the Naramata press’ history be preserved.
I called Hucul with the news. Everything was working out. Of course Hucul is still hoping for a print museum someday because, after all, he’s passionate about the ink that flows in his veins.
Thank you Hucul, for your contribution to the Montebello project.