This is the eleventh in the current series of interviews with VIPMA Members. Gilbert Gutfreund is fielding the questions; and Gilbert's surname is pronounced “Good Friend,” which is entirely appropriate, as he seems to be unfailingly friendly and cheerful. -- Greg Skala – Oct. 4, 2010.
Greg: Gilbert, you've always struck me as one of the busiest and hardest-working people I know. Could you comment on the change of pace that gold panning provides in your life?
Gilbert: Gold panning is a commitment to the beauty that surrounds me, and it provides me with gratitude and solitude.
Greg: Did you have any early interest in prospecting during childhood?
Gilbert: Yes, I did have an early interest in prospecting. Television, old movies, stories, family raconteurs ... all combined to inspire me when I was about 12 years old and in Scouts and Venturers.
I remember, from the age of six years old, having experienced the wilderness on family camping outings throughout the Province of B. C., and visiting Barkerville on numerous occasions.
Family gatherings also led me to Horsefly Lake, outside of Williams Lake, where one Summer I stayed behind with my Aunt and Uncle and helped rebuild a log cabin with a real, old, sawdust-burning stove.
Sights, smells, Nature, and all my immediate surroundings have all contributed and led me to numerous exploratory adventures throughout my growing years, right up to my current “tenure” on this Good Earth.
Greg: How did you find out about VIPMA and come to join our Association?
Gilbert: I first learnt about VIPMA from my wife, who happened to be a cashier at a local Super Store. She engaged two fellows at her wicket after overhearing those discussing gold panning outings. My wife took down all of the pertinent information, and I followed up on my interest by joining this organization.
Greg: Who has given you key assistance as a beginner at placer mining?
Gilbert: The Vancouver Island Placer Miners' Association has been instrumental and key in my development, as well as inspiring appreciation for all the knowledge and experience I have gained in the fellowship of other prospectors. I highly encourage all ages, individuals, and interest groups to experience VIPMA's wealth of information and hands-on experience.
Greg: Once, at a monthly VIPMA meeting, you shared some thoughts about the people you've met and the general camaraderie available within the ranks of VIPMA's Membership. Could you please share some of those thoughts again?
Gilbert: I am extremely fond of VIPMA Members and the way they support new Members. I have nothing but gratitude to the Executive and fellow Members for making me and other “newbies” feel welcomed into the group. Also, many Members have helped me along the way to better understand what gold prospecting is all about.
Knowledge is key, and experience is gold. From frontier days till now – what a learning and appreciative experience!
There are so many Members who bring professional experience and knowledge to monthly meetings. I have to thank all Members for including me in their round-table discussions and updates.
Special thanks are due to our VIPMA President, Bruce Chaytor, for accepting me as a respected Member, and for all his assistance, guidance, and efforts in supporting me as a Member. There are so many other Members to thank: Cal, Donna, Denis, Marty, Bill, Greg, Ron, Patrick, Doyle, Jeff, etc., just to name a few!
Greg: I know you've told me that you've felt inspired to return in kind for what you've received. How would you say that each of us can be helpful to others who share our common interests?
Gilbert: We can be helpful to others that share our common interests by encouraging young and old to participate, learn, and experience what gold prospecting is all about. Whether it's filing mining reports to the Ministry, learning gold panning techniques, registering a Placer Claim, or attending Club outings, it's all about helping along and kindling the gold panning experience.
Greg: Have you been able to interest any other friends or acquaintances in trying their hands at placer mining?
Gilbert: Since I've joined the Association, I've introduced several new Members, spoken to dozens of acquaintances, and have brought out prospective Members on day trips. Open invitations to experience trail-blazing, GPS co-ordinates, and gold panning tricks and techniques were all part of “the curriculum.”
Greg: Have you had a chance yet to dip your pan in any other parts of B. C. besides Southern Vancouver Island?
Gilbert: I have had the opportunity to pan for gold in other parts of British Columbia, especially in the Quesnel and Barkerville areas around Antler Creek, where I bought a shared interest in an old placer Claim. I have also panned on the Cottonwood, Williams, Hixon, Thompson, and Quesnel Rivers, to name a few.
Greg: What would you say are some of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for placer miners?
Gilbert: I am deeply concerned that there are a few vandals and destructive delinquents threatening our privileges to access gold panning sites, damaging and destroying our environment, and causing political backlash by forest companies to prevent or restrict access to forest lands that should be made accessible to special-interest groups such as VIPMA.
The Province of British Columbia should be more pro-active with tourism, preserving and elaborating on the gold panning and mining history of the various regions within the Province. Old ghost towns should be “re-discovered,” and our heritage should be preserved.
With new Ministry regulations, access issues, and other regulatory agencies governing our rights and freedoms, we as an Association must preserve our rights to access, nurture, and share our experiences with future generations.
Greg: Thanks for an interesting and up-beat interview, Gilbert, my good friend!