It was a typical July day in Ashcroft — clear and sunny, with a temperature of 90° F — but the two people who stepped off the train at the CN station for a 15-minute stopover on July 14, 1959 were anything but typical.
Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh — who passed away on April 9 at the age of 99 — were on a cross-country tour of the country. It had been reported for weeks that their itinerary would see them stopping in local communities, and the July 16, 1959 issue of the Journal carried full reports of the royal couple’s visits to Ashcroft, Spences Bridge, and Lytton.
The CN station in Ashcroft had been renovated and painted for the occasion, with displays of Union Jacks, the Canadian Ensign, and provincial flags. The paper noted that despite the heat, more than 1,500 were waiting for the train. “People were everywhere on the CNR Station roof, on poles and fence posts, with both sides of the track lined several persons deep.”
Mr. Alf North, chairman (mayor) of the Village of Ashcroft, was there with his wife to greet the Queen and Prince Philip. Members of the Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary, as well as Boy Scouts, Cubs, and Brownies, were also present.
A cry of “Here’s the train” made “an awesome silence,” according to the paper, and all eyes were glued to the rear of the royal train. The Queen wore a white and gold two-piece satin ensemble with matching hat and a three-strand choker of pearls. The Duke of Edinburgh had chosen a grey lounge suit, and was “deeply tanned”.
The couple were introduced by Kamloops-born federal Minister of Justice E. Davie Fulton and met with Mr. and Mrs. North before Mrs. E. Crossley, described in the paper as a 90-year-old native woman, was presented by her daughter, Mrs. G. Martinson. “The Queen’s easy informality and gracious smile soon brought ready response from the nonagenarian.”
Bonnie Saito presented the royal couple with a bouquet of flowers. The Queen then requested a meeting with the CNR agent, Mr. W. Goheen, whose son Mervyn was a crew member of the royal yacht Britannia.
After their 15-minute stop, the couple boarded the train as the crowd cheered “Hip hip hoorah” six times and crowded around to get pictures of the departing royals.
More than 1,000 were waiting in Spences Bridge to greet the pair, and gave them a “very enthusiastic” welcome. The crowd included a considerable number of people — including more than 100 Boy Scouts and Girl Guides — who had travelled from Merritt. Miss Karen Draney of Spences Bridge presented a bouquet of flowers to the couple, and members of the Spences Bridge Lions Club passed out flags to all the children in attendance.
In Lytton, members of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Girl Guide and Brownie troupes in Lytton and Lillooet, members of pioneer families, and representatives of area First Nations — including Chief Dan Raphael — were there to greet the royal couple, who met the chairmen of Lytton (Mr. T. Taverna) and Lillooet (Mr. Franson).
The Queen was presented with a broach of “silver and native jade” in the shape of a tomahawk, which was made by Lillooet resident Ron Purvis and given to her by Doris Phillips. “Camera fans” were dashing among the crowd to take pictures, and the Journal notes that “One cowboy on the hillside couldn’t contain his excitement and a wild ‘Wha-who’ was heard. Immediately Prince Philip looked up over the crowd and smiled.”
The royals spent several minutes having “pleasant chats” with many of the children, pioneer families, veterans, and First Nations who were there. The paper concluded, “After they were gone everyone agreed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were a sincere and charming couple. Members of the press travelling on the Royal train said the stop at Lytton was one of the most pleasant on the trip.”
Earlier in their visit, the Queen and Prince Philip had been greeted in Kamloops by a “cowboy guard” of real cowboys. The Journal noted that “Among those of local interest forming the guard for the royal couple were Dave Perry, Percy Minnabarriet of Cache Creek; Philip Lulu of Cameron [Ashcroft] Ranch, Ashcroft and Laidlaw Gray of Stewart [Chattaway] Ranch, Ashcroft; Charles Baker, Loon Lake, and Henry Snyder of Upper Hat Creek.” Laidlaw “Rip” Gray was the father of Ashcroft Museum curator Kathy Paulos.