It was a sunny Saturday morning, May 13 with a light breeze making a jacket still necessary for the more than 120 invited guests and well-wishers assembled in front of the new Lytton Chinese History Museum on Main Street.
Lorna Fandrich looked after last-minute details, and her husband Bernie checked his MC notes, then the Opening Ceremony/Ribbon-Cutting was happening. Bernie welcomed everyone, and shared the story of the Museum’s inception. He spoke of how the couple bought the lot initially to park rafts during the early days of Kumsheen Rafting. Upon learning that the site was originally home to a “joss house,” Lorna decided to create something on the site acknowledging the history of the place.
Lytton residents have watched the construction evolve over the last year, starting with Bernie moving rocks into place along the back edge of the site, to the pouring of the concrete, and over the winter months, the building taking shape into the beautiful place we see today. Lorna acknowledged the work of contractor Andy Maus, who worked every weekend after coming home from his “regular” work week on the job on the coast.
The agenda included greetings from author and historianLily Chow; David Chong, formerly from Lytton, whose older brother Peter was a former Lytton merchant, their family residency in the village going back to the late 1800’s; Lytton First Nations (LFN) Chief Janet Webster; Mayor Jessoa Lightfoot; and John Haugen, representing the Tribal Council and LFN.
Haugen held the audience rapt as he shared stories of how the creation of the Museum brought a number of events full-circle. He drew parallels between four Honorable women: Bernie’s late sister Betty, her daughter Tawnya, Lorna, and Chief Janet; and the importance of women in making things happen with passion and creativity.
He finished his speech with a presentation of two circular framed Chinese prints for the Museum, a red rooster represented in a wall-hanging, and a salt lamp.
Once those presentations were made, it was time for the official ribbon-cutting: Lorna called instrumental helpers to the deck in front of the beautiful double-doorway, and the ribbon was cut by former resident David Chong.
In order to finish the opening, the building had to be blessed with an official Lion Dance, performed by the Shaolin Hung Gar Kung Fu Association. The crowd was mesmerized as the two-person Lion wove, twisted, leapt and swerved around the entryway of the museum.
Placed strategically at the centre of the top step was a head of lettuce; which the Lion took into its mouth, broke up, and “spit” out at the crowd during intervals of the dance. The Grand Finale saw the creature go into the building, then back out again to perform a special lift, making it rise above the crowd, rolling down a special good fortune message for the building.
It was a fabulous and memorable ceremony, ending with a burst of confetti exploding above the crowd, and blown in a brilliant glittering display over the crowd, while Lorna held the doors open and invited everyone in.
Guests were amazed and excited to see the beautiful displays set artistically inside the three-room facility. The larger room included the “shrine” for burning incense and meditation in the centre of the room. Carefully placed glass cabinets displaying artifacts from daily life of historical Chinese residents, (many of the pieces purchased from the personal collection of Al Dreyer), filled the room while allowing space to view and appreciate each piece. Two smaller rooms displayed more pieces, as well as photographs and newspaper articles from the past, detailing events that happened in the Lytton community.
Acknowledging the important place of the Chinese people in the history of our community, the Chinese History Museum is definitely worth the $8 entry fee, and is a treasured addition to the Village of Lytton.