YOU ASKED: I was wondering if there are any pictures of the old Royalite refinery that used to be out by the Kamloops Airport. Also, what year did it shut down and what was the reason? Thanks for your time.
— Trevor Anderson
OUR ANSWER: The refinery closed in 1983 under the ownership of Gulf Oil Company.
It began life in 1954 as a Royalite Oil facility but changed ownership twice in its early years — first when British American Oil (B/A) acquired Royalite and second when Gulf Oil Company bought out B/A.
The 1983 closure came about as the country was still feeling the effects of an economic recession. Kamloops was one of four communities to lose refineries that year as Gulf Oil consolidated its operations. (Calgary, Montreal and Point Tupper, Nova Scotia, were the other sites.)
As for photographs, we don’t have good news to report on that front. Kamloops Museum and Archives manger Elisabeth Duckworth says the municipal archives collection contains several old company newsletters that may contain some images but she’s not aware of any actual photographs of the refinery from its Royalite days.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any. A lot of people worked at the refinery, so it’s likely some Kamloops residents have images in their private photo albums.
We hope those images eventually find their way into the City’s archives collection.
In the meantime, if any Daily News readers would like to share personal images of the oil refinery, we would love to see them and post them to our website and Facebook pages.
UPDATE ON McNAIR PARK — Back in March, our Readers Reporter dug up some fascinating history behind an old, wooden sign on Mount Lolo Road, northeast of Kamloops.
The old sign is all that’s left of a Cold War-era radar station whose employees used to live onsite in a trailer park — affectionately named McNair Park in honour of Second World War flying ace Robert (Buck) McNair.
Our story found its way into the hands of Buck’s son, Bruce McNair, not long after.
He lives in Thailand and hasn’t been to Kamloops since 1976 when he helped open McNair Park for the employees.
In an exchange of emails, we asked McNair to tell our Daily News readers about his memories of visiting Kamloops that year.
“I was a UBC law student at the time and was thrilled at the opportunity to escape lectures, books and endless hours poring over old law reports,” writes McNair.
“I do not remember the date but it was one of those glorious sunny days we used to get in B.C. I had a little, two-litre Ford Pinto . . . As I boomed along slightly over the speed limit on that straight stretch just before Hope and heading up to Kamloops, I noticed a large Ford parked at the verge with its trunk open. Soon I was being waved down by some very self-satisfied Mounties, who were practising with their new radar speed gun. That set me up for a fiery speech later at McNair Park.”
McNair remembers the Mount Lolo employees as a “warm-hearted” group. “Canadian Air Force bases were widely known for their hospitality no matter where in the world they were located,” he said.
The actual unveiling of McNair Park was a short affair — a few speeches and it was over, he remembers.
“I have wondered over the years what had happened to the park once the Pinetree Line was dismantled,” added McNair.
“I am pleased that the Tk'emlups band has decided to leave the old sign in situ as a reminder of the fine work the RCAF did over the years at radar stations from east to west.”