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Port Alberni man capturing region’s history one photo at a time

Jerry Fevens can often be seen documenting construction projects around the city
Photographer Jerry Fevens has a small work station in his living room where he files and uploads photos documenting progress and everyday life in Port Alberni. (PHOTO COURTESY JERRY FEVENS)


There is no doubt that photos sometimes express as much as words do, maybe even more.

Jerry Fevens has made his commitment to record the history of our Alberni Valley through his camera lens.

For many years, his lens has captured the old images of Port Alberni, which has brought us memories of the way these city structures and landmarks looked in the past and how the new ones have replaced them.

His passion for photography began back in Nova Scotia as a boy with a 127 Kodak, his first camera. He enjoyed taking pictures of wildlife and nature in general. Later on, while in Port Alberni, he developed an interest in recording the history of the Valley while working at the Somass Mill in the early 1970s.

“There, I took lots of pictures of that mill and the employees,” said Fevens. “I worked there for 35 years until my retirement when it was shut down.”

Fevens was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on July 29, 1948 and lived in lower Overton County.

“My dad was a professional fisherman who later moved to work for the government boat, and that meant that my mom had to look after us children by herself while he was gone for up to a month at a time,” said Fevens.

Young Jerry did his schooling in Hebron. After that, he got a job at the Grand Hotel as a busboy, a job he kept for several years until he moved to the Yarmouth Hospital and worked in the laundry room and in the kitchen area.

In the late 1960s, Fevens’ two brothers moved to Port Alberni and found jobs in the mill.

“Soon after, my mom, her three sisters and I came by train to the Valley for holidays,” said Fevens. “On that visit I decided to work in this area of the Island by getting a job as a fisherman with Lessie Anderson in Bamfield. I held that job for a year.”

He also adds that in those days it was easier to get work in any of the area mills. He was hired by the Somass Division on Feb. 25, 1972.

“I have taken many photos of mills and other constructions in Port Alberni during my years as a photographer,” he said. “Our local Shaw Cable has my pictures on display in the ‘Then and Now’ section of their programs. I think people like them!”

Nancy Wilmot, producer at Shaw Spotlight, says that Fevens has compiled a visual history of Port Alberni that isn’t available anywhere else.

“For decades he’s taken photographs of the changes in our community, of buildings before they were demolished, of new structures being built and of the façade changes that reflect changes in ownership and business name,” said Wilmot. “Some years ago he began sharing these photographs in his own access program on Shaw Spotlight. Since its launch, Jerry’s show ‘Then And Now’ has become a favourite with viewers.”

Fevens also wants people to see the new construction taking place in Port Alberni.

“Which, by the way, are many—especially this year,” he added.

Quickly, he went on to list some of the recently built or about-to-be built structures he has photographed, such as the Maitland Street Village Apartments, the new shelter, the new Bank of Montreal building, Wendy’s Restaurant, the new apartments on Burde Street (where the old ADSS was located), the newest Co-op gas station on 10th Avenue, the new apartments at Rainbow Gardens and more.

“I must say that I like to publish many of my photos and videos on Facebook to allow people who are not able to go around the city, as I do, to appreciate them,” said Fevens.

Fevens’ photos are indeed going around the world through the pages of his Facebook account. The photos include a wide variety of themes and subjects, ranging from people, animals, landscapes, forest, rivers, ocean and constructions.

His camera is always with him.

“Wherever I go, I am ready to shoot,” he said. “Last weekend I went to an (aerial demonstration) in Comox and I took over 250 photos! Take a look at them on my Facebook page. Thank you Port Alberni for enjoying my photos!”

Wilmot adds that Fevens’ audience grows almost daily.

“He’s become a regular fixture at events and building sites around town as he continues to capture the living history around us,” she said.

Orlando Delano writes the monthly Valley Seniors feature in the Alberni Valley News.