Camel barn to movie house: The history of The Log Cabin Theatre in Lillooet | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Camel barn to movie house: The history of The Log Cabin Theatre in Lillooet

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June 22, 2021 - 7:30 AM

The history of a building once used as a camel barn which later became a Lillooet's movie theatre has been catalogued by a local historian.

Kevin Goforth’s family has lived in the Lytton and Lillooet area for over 170 years. His grandmother was born in Lytton in 1858. The town is one of the oldest communities in the province. Goforth has become an expert on stories of Lillooet’s past.

Nine years ago, Goforth started a page on Facebook. He now has about 3,500 members, over 2,000 photos and thousands of stories. He says he started the page because he doesn’t want the history of Lillooet to be lost. It also is a place where the community can share memories.

A local favourite topic for reminiscing is The Log Cabin Theatre, which opened in 1939 under private ownership. The building had been constructed for use as a camel barn.

“In 1862, Frank Laumeister purchased 23 camels for $6,000,” Goforth said. “They figured they could replace the other pack animals with camels to carry prospectors’ supplies into the mountains and up north. They thought because each camel could carry up to 600 pounds, travel up to 70 kilometres per day and go six to 10 days without water, they would be the best thing going for the Gold Rush.

"The camels were very temperamental. They would bite and kick anyone that moved and they smelled terrible. The old prospectors said the camels would eat everything from a pair of pants to a bar of soap but mostly ate grass and sage brush along the routes they traveled.”

Goforth says the camels arrived in Victoria, and once on the mainland they headed to Lillooet along the Port Douglas Trail. Their next stop was Barkerville. The project came to an end when then Judge Begbie issued a government order outlawing the camels from the Caribou Trail. By 1863, the camels had been retired completely. The last known surviving camel died in 1905.

“A camel barn was built in Lillooet to house the 23 camels shortly after they arrived here,” Goforth said. “The barn still stands to this day and was once The Log Cabin Theatre. The last movies were shown sometime in the 1980s. It has since been used as a furniture store, then an information centre. Today it is owned by Lillooet Glass and Tire and is currently being used for storage.

Like so many residents of Lillooet, Goforth has many memories of growing up going to The Log Cabin Theatre. He and his brother would deliver papers for money which would be spent on Saturday matinees.

“We delivered papers for the Vancouver Sun,” Goforth recalled. “We would get an allowance and every Saturday we'd go to the matinee for 35 cents. We’d get a large soft drink for 10 cents and a bag of popcorn for five cents. So all we needed was 50 cents for the entertainment on a Saturday afternoon.”

When Goforth was a teenager, the people who owned the theatre were Al and Pearl Beachem. He says because of the spilled popcorn and candy on the theatre floors, the building was full of mice, so Pearl had two cats in the show hall to catch them.

“Sometimes it was more entertaining watching the cats chase the mice in front of the screen,” Goforth recalled. “The cats she put in were one male and one female so before long there were kittens running around. One evening I went to a movie with my older brother and his girlfriend. As we were watching the movie, a kitten jumped into her lap and fell asleep. She fell in love with it and took it home.”

For more historical stories about Lillooet and area, or to join the conversation, go to the Lillooet Stories of The Past.


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