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The hotel murals of Jack Lines

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

One of West Kootenay’s least known attractions is an amazing map of the Kootenays and Okanagan in the pub of the Salmo Hotel, created in March 1955 by Vancouver sign painter Jack Lines. We know the date and the artist because he signed it.

I haven’t measured the map, but it takes up a good portion of the wall behind the pool table. (Unfortunately, the location of the table and way the room is lit make it very difficult to get good pictures.)

It has a red border, with the words “Salmo Hotel, Salmo, BC” at the top. The map itself is in yellow (for BC) and green (for Alberta) and stretches from Merritt and Princeton in the west to Claresholm, Alta. in the east, from Kamloops and Revelstoke in the north to just below the international border.

Included are towns, highways, secondary roads, Canadian Pacific Airlines routes, CP, CN, and GN rail lines.

The dominant images include a CP Rail train emerging from a tunnel, an elk with a mountain peak in the background, an Okanagan apple, a mountain sheep, a rather ferocious looking bear, and a sign declaring “Your smokes/Your camp fire/Prevent forest fires.”

The key — made to look like a billboard fastened between a pair of lopped-off trees — has an image of a woman sitting on a plank astride two logs and reading a map. It notes the scale is 3.8 miles to one inch.

The Salmo Valley is especially detailed, noting Salmo, Ymir, Erie, Nelway, Sheep Creek, Remac, the HB Mine, Emerald Mine, Rotter Lumber Co. sawmill, Hearn Bros. planer mill, Steeple Mountain — and the proposed Salmo-Creston cutoff.

Current hotel owner Marion Gora says the mural was painted when Frank Burger owned the building.

“This fellow came in to the bar. He liked to drink quite a bit. [Frank] ran him a tab and gave him free beer to do the sign. But he ended up drinking more than he painted. Eventually he was locked in a room upstairs and Frank would bring him a beer every once in a while until it was done.”

Salmo Sentinel, Sept. 6, 1962. The map was hardly the most accurate,

but made up for that lack of precision in many other ways.

Jack Lines painted at least one other mural in a local hotel, although neither the mural nor the hotel have survived.

In the men’s lounge of the Newmarket Hotel in New Denver was a painting of the SS Slocan on Slocan Lake. A photograph of it survives in the collection of the Arrow Lakes Historical Society.

Arrow Lakes Historical Society 1997-002-112

I speculated on the artist’s identity in the Spring 2017 edition of the Silver Standard, the quarterly newsletter of the Silvery Slocan Historical Society, wondering if it might have been Lula Mae Purviance, a painter who was the wife of hotel proprietor Henry Stege.

But it turns out to have been the work of Jack Lines. We know this because of an item in Ken Liddell’s column in the Calgary Herald on April 23, 1962:

The hotel burned down in October 1973, taking the mural with it.

Back to the Salmo map: it’s amazing that it has survived 63 years, although it probably helps that the hotel has remained in the same family for nearly all of that time.

But it was damaged in the early 1980s — by a local man wielding a powersaw. Marion Gora says he was drinking and playing pool when he got the idea of carving a brand onto the map. “It went right through the wall on the other side,” she says. “My husband was so upset. Furious.”

Following the chainsaw massacre, Marion’s husband took the map down and had it fixed, although she can’t remember exactly who did the work or how much it cost. But they did a good job — most people wouldn’t be able to guess the spot where the blade hit. “If you know where it was, you can tell,” she says.

Of Jack Lines himself, we only know a little:

• He was born March 13, 1911 in Ramsey, St. Mary’s, just outside Peterborough, England to Harry Lines and Emma Bedford.

• On the 1921 Canadian census, Harry, Emma, Jack, and younger brother Herbert are found living at 685 Garfield St. in Winnipeg. The census indicates the family immigrated in 1912 and Herbert was born in Manitoba around 1913.

• Jack served with the Royal Canadian Air Force where he attained the rank of leading aircraftman. He had a wife named Martha, but it’s unknown where or when they married.

• Jack was listed on the 1963 voters list in Vancouver, and in 1972 for Fraser Valley West.

• Jack’s parents both died in White Rock: Emma in 1963, age 74, and Harry in 1967, age 79. Harry retired in 1948 after 20 years as a civil engineer. His death registration was signed by son Herbert, who then lived in Ladner. But I have not learned when or where Herbert died.

• Jack died on Jan. 14, 1977 in Maple Ridge Hospital, age 65 of liver failure brought on by chronic alcoholism. His cremains were interred in the Maple Ridge Cemetery. At the time of his death he was living at 23672 River Road in Maple Ridge.

His death registration was signed by Mary Metzger of Maple Ridge, who indicated she was no relation to Lines, but lived at the same address. Mary herself died 7½ months later of a heart attack, age 62. Her death registration was signed by her husband Fred, who lived in Aldergrove.

Jack Lines must have done other murals, probably in other BC hotels. Let me know if you come across further examples of his work.

Corrected on Nov. 25, 2018 to read that Frank Burger owned the hotel when the mural was painted, not Steve Gora Sr. With thanks to Ray Pichette for genealogical details about the Lines family.

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