Tag Archives: History

Preview: History’s Our War combines genealogy with war veteran stories

I’m a huge fan of genealogy series. Whether it’s Who Do You Think You Are? or Finding Your Roots, I can’t get enough of the tales of family from peoples’ pasts. I was excited to learn more about Lark Productions’ latest, Our War, which follows the descendants of Canadian war veterans as they learn what their family members did during the First and Second World Wars. Many stories have been forgotten; even more, have never been told.

Debuting Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on History Channel, the four-part Our War is a real-life genealogical investigation that reveals the past through a younger generation.

In the first installment, we follow Stephanie Watts, who is on a mission to learn more about her great-great-grandfather Samuel. Other than some scant information about him serving as an Army band member in the First World War and some photos, his life, and his role in the war are a blank. The quest begins in Calgary, where Stephanie, who is Caucasian, reflects on learning, as a child, that Samuel was Black. Then it’s off to learn more about a missing Memorial Plaque, also known as a “Death Penny,” in his name and given to families of those killed in the First World War. With help from Militaria Auctioneer Linda Baggaley and War Memorabilia dealer Marvin Taylor, Stephanie learns the story of the Death Penny and how rare they are.

Meanwhile, in Winnipeg, Chris Black is looking for some answers of his own. His grandfather, Edward Walter Drost, was injured in Anzio while fighting in Italy during the Second World War. One of Chris’ last conversations with his grandfather has led Chris on a quest to learn more about a word Edward uttered: Camino.

Then it’s back to Stephanie, who learns Samuel’s birthplace, and the circumstances he grew up in before coming to Canada on the promise of land in the Prairies from history teacher Christian Mbanza (above right, with Stephanie). It’s fascinating to learn about Canada circa 1907, when Samuel arrived in small-town Alberta, determined to make a go of it and to see Stephanie’s reaction when she’s presented with documents she’s never seen.

In the second episode, airing Friday at 10 p.m. ET/PT, a teenage descendant of legendary Onondaga runner Tom Longboat learns of his ancestor’s valiant, yet little-known, actions during the First World War.

Our War is an incredible, and exciting way, of telling the stories of these Canadian heroes. Fingers crossed there is another season of Our War to come next year.

Our War airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on History Channel.

Image courtesy of Lark Productions.


Preview: Big Timber lumbers into Season 3

Like watching truckers navigate icy road conditions on the West Coast of Canada and Southern Ontario, viewers love to watch people fell trees. From Mud Mountain Haulers to A Cut Above, the genre continues to be popular. Hence Season 3 of Big Timber.

Kicking off on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on History, Big Timber once again tags along behind logger Kevin Wenstob and his team of family and staff as they work deep in the heart of Vancouver Island. As in past seasons, rising costs and debt threaten to derail Kevin and his crew. And, like Season 2, cameras capture Kevin as he takes to the water to collect valuable timber for his mill.

The hook this time? Kevin reacting to the ever-evolving industry by spending $1 million to purchase a huge saw, expand his dock at Hook Bay and experiment with a new way of salvaging logs. And with the price of wood at an all-time high—cedar in particular—you’d think all would be gravy. Not so. Deadlines and weather have a way of ruining Kevin’s day, and there are many moments in Episode 1 where Kevin is unhappy.

As much as I love the time spent at the mill or on the water, my favourite part of Big Timber is up on the claim in the Vancouver Island range, where Coleman, Kevin, Tom (and, in Episode 1, veteran logger Luke) are in their element cutting, sorting and shipping lumber down the hillside. With logs past the point the grappler arm can reach, Coleman and Luke utilize a choker, a thick wire used to haul logs closer to the road. As usual, errant branches, a steep hillside and slippery conditions are a recipe for twisted ankles or broken limbs. It’s dangerous and fun to watch.

Big Timber airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on History.

Image courtesy of Corus.


Preview: History Channel goes hunting for gold in Deadman’s Curse

Growing up, I loved to read about treasure. It was in a copy of Children’s Digest that I first learned about Oak Island and the supposed treasure buried there. (They’re still looking for it on that other History Channel show.) I’m still fascinated by these tales of lost loot, and the people who search for them. And History Channel’s latest is a doozy.

Deadman’s Curse, debuting Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History Channel, follows a quartet determined to find gold in Pitt Lake, B.C., despite the supposed curse associated with it. In the first of eight episodes, prospector Kru Williams, mountaineer Adam Palmer, Indigenous explorer Taylor Starr and her father, Don Froese, recall the legend of Slumach’s lost gold mine.

The story goes that Slumach, an elderly Katzie First Nations man, died on the gallows in New Westminster in January of 1891. Before he died, Slumach is alleged to have uttered the words, “Nika memloose, mine memloose,” or “When I die, the mine dies.” For over 100 years, many have tried to find the mine, to no avail. Well, that’s not quite true. According to Walter Jackson, he discovered the mine in 1901 and, weighed down with too much gold to carry, buried it. Jackson died after returning home, but not before writing a letter to a friend with clues to the spot he buried the gold. It’s gone undiscovered ever since.

My biggest beef with series like these is they’re packed with stories, conjecture and assumptions, and frustratingly light on actual discoveries. Deadman’s Curse begins with plenty of backstory and research done by Kru and Adam sufficient to pique my interest, especially when Adam seems to have a line on a copy of Jackson’s letter. Meanwhile, Taylor does research into Slumach, who he was, and why he was hung. These two storylines are compelling, and really add legitimacy to Deadman’s Curse and what the producers are trying to achieve.

And, by the time the first 44 minutes are complete, enough information has been unearthed for the group—and me, the viewer—to continue the quest.

Deadman’s Curse airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History Channel.

Image courtesy of Corus.


History and Hungry Eyes Media present a groundbreaking exploration of Canada’s Black history in BLK: An Origin Story, premiering February 26

From a media release:

HISTORY® and Hungry Eyes Media Group announce the groundbreaking four-part docuseries, BLK: An Origin Story, premiering Saturday, February 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The limited series, consisting of four 60-minute episodes, reveals the deep historic impact of Black presence in Canada. Executive produced by Jen Holness and Sudz Sutherland, BLK: An Origin Story is helmed by Hungry Eyes’ award-winning production team, who takes viewers on a nationwide journey through time to discover the untold story of Black people in Canada and their legacy, which dates back to 1608.

BLK: An Origin Story is steeped in riveting, enduring, and multi-faceted historical Black Canadian narratives. Each episode transports viewers to a different Canadian location, and provides chronologically significant insights into the consequences of Black presence in the areas. Featured outposts include Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec. The series also highlights the legacy of Black contributions to the larger story of Canada itself, dating back to when explorer Mathieu de Costa first set foot on shore, more than 400 years ago. BLK: An Origin Story acts as an immersive and informative chapter of Black Canadian history, elevating remarkable Black Canadians previously unacknowledged in mainstream social, academic, and cultural circles, normalizing their unique stories as a matter of general record. 

BLK: An Origin Story elevates the unsung heroes who substantially contributed to Canada’s nation-building and to Black Canadian history. The series shines a spotlight on the origins of diverse and deeply entrenched Black Canadian experiences, which range from being transported, escaped, or freely traveled within Canada. Part history book, part geography lesson, each of the four episodes leverages compelling footage, art, locations, archival materials, and interviews from some of the country’s best known and under known experts of Black Canadian lore, facts, and pedagogy. The list of authors, academics, musicians, historians, community leaders, activists and elders include George Elliot Clarke, Lawrence Hill, Charmaine Nelson, El Jones, May Q Wong, and Stephanie Allen, among others. 

Episode Synopsis:

Episode 1: Three Epic Migrations, One People (NS)
Descendants of The Black Loyalists, Jamaican Maroons and The Black Refugees represent Canada’s largest Black population today. Their incredible story begins in Nova Scotia in the 1700s and challenges our understanding of what should be considered a distinct society.

Episode 2: John “Daddy” Hall (Owen Sound, ON)
Born free of an Ojibwe father and an escaped-slave mother in Upper Canada, John “Daddy” Hall fought in the war of 1812, was captured and sold into slavery. Thirteen years later he makes a daring escape and finds his way back to Canada.

Episode 3: Hogan’s Alley (Vancouver, BC)
Before Urban Renewal, before displacement, and before dispersal, there was life. For many years Hogan’s Alley was the heart of Vancouver’s Black community. But that community began in the 1850s, when James Douglas, (the father of British Columbia) invited Blacks to settle Vancouver Island in an effort to stave off American annexation.

Episode 4: Little Burgundy (Montreal, QC)
Tucked between Griffintown and St. Henri in Montreal’s Sud Ouest is Little Burgundy, home to a Black population led by Black men who worked in Canada’s railway industry as sleeping car porters. They were the first Black trade union to organize in North America and were among the leaders in the struggle for civil rights.

BLK: An Origin Story is produced by Hungry Eyes Media in association with Corus Studios for HISTORY. Executive Producers are Jen Holness and Sudz Sutherland. For Corus Studios and HISTORY, Kathleen Meek is the Executive in Charge of Production, Rachel Nelson is Vice President of Original Scripted, Factual and Kids Content, and Lisa Godfrey is Senior Vice President of Original Content and Corus Studios.


Preview: History’s Big Timber hits the water in Season 2

Debts and detonations. That’s a key message delivered in Thursday’s Season 2 return of Big Timber on History.

The reality series once again rides alongside logger Kevin Wenstob and his team of family and staff as they work deep in the heart of Vancouver Island. This time the stakes are even higher than before. Aside from pulling down and shipping timber—and the dangers and drama associated with that—mounting debts at the mill, and possible bankruptcy, cause Kevin and his crew to forge into uncharted waters. Literally.

During the last timber season, Kevin purchased a new claim and heads there … with a little help from his mini ‘dozer and grader. With snow too deep to cut much-needed red cedar, Kevin is on the financial ropes, especially after receiving some mail from the government. As with many documentary series of this type, drama is presented via situations like the aforementioned two problems—usually just before a commercial break and often ad nauseam—and I have to bite my tongue and soldier through the storytelling trope to get to the good stuff.

Thankfully, Big Timber is full of good stuff—like Kevin plotting to use a beloved old boat in the timber process—and I’m looking forward to watching the full season.

Big Timber airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.

Image courtesy of Corus Studios.