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Beachcombers series marks 50th anniversary with heartfelt tributes at Molly's Reach

Back where it began: Some of the surviving cast and crew of the iconic Beachcombers TV show returned to Molly's Reach for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first episode airing on CBC on Oct. 1, 1972.
A.Jackson Davies and Cory Douglas
Beachcombers stars Jackson Davies and Cory Douglas speak about the show's legacy during an event on Oct. 1.

The formidable legacy of the Beachcombers television series was celebrated at events in Gibsons as the long-running CBC-TV program marked its 50th anniversary with a reunion of actors, crew members, and admirers on October 1.

Jackson Davies, who in 1975 joined the Beachcombers cast as RCMP officer John Constable, officiated at a reception held at the Molly's Reach diner alongside Gibsons City Councillor David Croal. Croal moved to Gibsons in 1979 to contribute to the show's production design and art direction.

Davies recalled his unlikely induction into a program whose 19-year lifespan made it a Canadian television legend. "I used to think it was my incredible acting that got me the part," he chuckled. "But it actually came down to what size jacket I wore. CBC had only one RCMP uniform, a 42 tall. Basically life is like that. We open the sliding doors, and [in a moment] we can go one way or the other way."

Some 60 guests crowded into the waterfront diner that served as the hub for Beachcombers storylines. Molly's Reach has remained a globally-recognized cultural landmark since the show concluded in 1990.

Davies was joined by fellow cast members Nancy Chapple (Margaret), Bob Park (Hughie) and Cory Douglas (Tommy). Charlene Aleck (Sara Jim) appeared via a video connection. "It's a happy 50th anniversary of the first time we aired, but also a respectful tribute to P.J. [Pat John], whom I love dearly," said Aleck.

Actor Pat John, whose character Jesse Jim was yoked in the log salvage business owned by Bruno Gerussi's character Nick Adonidas, died in July. His son Mat John is a member of the shíshálh Nation. John declared that the impact of his father's death prompted him to return to life on the Sunshine Coast.

"I see him [Pat John] everywhere I go in my hometown of Sechelt," John said. "I felt his presence while fishing and digging for clams, something my father loved doing out there on the water with me. When I listen closely, I can hear it: welcome home, son."

Cory Douglas, a former child actor, worked his first Beachcombers season in 1982. He acknowledged that the program's inclusion of First Nations actors placed it at the vanguard of Canadian television while it prompted Indigenous viewers to reflect on their own heritage.

"I have spent most of my life trying to find my cultural identity and finally admitting to myself that I am First Nations," he said. Douglas studied architectural engineering following his tenure on Beachcombers. "I'm back doing some work here in Gibsons [as a cultural advisor]. This is very much a second home for me, and there are pretty exciting projects out there. Truth and reconciliation, decolonization, and Indigenization are real, and I'm really excited to be back."

Paul Kamon, tourism recovery specialist with Sunshine Coast Tourism, acknowledged the positive economic and cultural effects of Beachcombers. Kamon announced that he, Davies and Croal are discussing the possibility of a community-wide Beachcombers anniversary celebration in June 2023.

Later, the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society launched its Beachcombers 50th Anniversary Contest Anthology at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse with a series of readings by contest winners.

The Beachcombers Ukulele Group Singers performed a selection of Pat John's favourite rock-and-roll numbers. Cathalynn (Cindy) Labonte-Smith presented Mat John and his family with a portrait of his late father painted by Okotoks, Alberta-based artist Russel Thomas.

The Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives has restored its Beachcombers display to mark the program’s 50th anniversary.

According to Davies, he continues to petition CBC Television to release the full extent of the 387-episode series for public broadcast or streaming.