Kay Gordon ‘Soup’ Campbell, pictured in 2012, is being remembered for his love of his community. (ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS FILE PHOTO)

Soup Campbell leaves behind a legacy in Port Alberni

A small parade of vintage trucks and Model A Fords took to the streets on Sept. 5

When a small parade of vintage trucks and Model A Fords drove from the Industrial Heritage Society’s building to Kitsuksis Road and back on Sept. 5, 2020, everyone agreed: Soup Campbell would have loved it.

The colourful procession was a salute to K.G. (Soup) Campbell, a fervent supporter and quiet builder of community who died July 26. He was 86.

Four of the 25 vehicles had been Soup’s, including a Model A his wife Susan drove at the head of the pack, and the distinctive red, white and black crane truck that has new owners and a lot of memories.

“It was amazing. He would have loved it,” said Kate Campbell, Soup’s daughter. “It’s very emotional. He loved this kind of thing: he loved old cars, he loved old guys. He had a long connection to the town and he really cared about a lot of this stuff.

“It would have meant a lot to him.”

READ: Curators of Alberni’s industrial past

Kate made the trip from Courtenay to ride in the procession. She grew up around Soup and his trucks. “I have an interest in them because ever since I was a kid I helped fix them; stood around and held the tools. But it was Dad’s passion.”

“It was fantastic,” said Soup’s son, Bill Campbell. “It’s really touching to see all his friends doing this for him. It’s nice to have a bunch of his beloved machines in the parade.”

Campbell drove a bright orange Elco Double-A flatdeck truck that Soup restored. “It was one of the ones he was most proud of. He did a beautiful job restoring it. He liked them all. Each one has a story.”

Like ‘Desperate,’ a Double-A dumptruck that hitched a ride on a flatdeck for the procession. “It’s heavy duty; it looked terrible but it ran really well,” Bill said. “It was very loud though. Each of them had a personality.”

Soup Campbell operated K.G. Campbell Contracting from 1979 until his retirement in 2018. According to his family, Soup brought the first hydraulic cranes to the Alberni Valley, and they were seen at various construction sites around the Valley for 40 years.

Cliff West helped organize the procession. He was a longtime friend of Soup’s, and had known him since they were young. “We used to ski up Mount Arrowsmith in the old days, when we had a rope tow and had to walk in from the highway,” he related.

“That’s when I first met Soup.” Soup used parts from his first Model A Ford to power the rope tow, West said. The motley crew of skiers would hike up Friday, pack in the Model A motor and wheel on Saturday and set up the rope tow, then have half a day of skiing Sunday before they would have to disassemble the rope tow and pack everything back out again.

“This is a salute to a person that did a lot for this valley. When he got involved in an organization, he gave 110 percent, whether it was the railway, McLean Mill, the whole works: he was involved pretty much to his last day.”

People came from Victoria and Ladysmith for the cruise, IHS volunteer and historian David Hooper said. Soup Campbell was a founding member of the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society and was responsible for the look of the industrial heritage of the city, from the roundhouse behind Smitty’s to the second floor of the train station, and the water tower along the tracks on Harbour Road.

“He was quite inventive; a tinkerer. Sometimes things worked and sometimes they didn’t,” said Hooper.

OBITUARY: Kay Gordon ‘Soup’ Campbell


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Bill Campbell, Soup Campbell’s son, drove the bright orange Elco Double-A flatdeck truck that Soup restored in the memorial parade on Sept. 5. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)

A small procession of vintage cars and trucks rides down Third Avenue on Sept. 5 in honour of Soup Campbell. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)

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