The Beachcombers are firmly associated with Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast. Although the popular TV series is long over, it remains indelibly imprinted in the memories of Canadians who grew fond of the quirky stories of the scenic seaside village on the edge of Canada, away from big city life. Who can forget Molly’s Reach, the old café, now an architectural icon in Gibsons. And the Persephone, the old tow boat now on display in the center of Gibson’s Landing, restored by the volunteers of the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives. Many memories are also preserved in the museum which displays artifacts and memorabilia from the TV series. Visitors to the museum in early September will see a much expanded exhibit on The Beachcombers including material from the Molly’s Reach set.
The popular series, sold to over 60 countries around the world, ran for 387 episodes from 1972 to 1990. It was a Canadian “original” and one of the first major Canadian series that did not follow an American prototype. The series was also unique in that it unabashedly let the world know about Gibsons. The town played itself, so to speak. The show was also at the forefront in presenting First Nations culture and actors, including guest appearances by Chief Dan George, the famous Squamish elder best known for his role opposite Dustin Hoffman in the film “Little Big Man.” Dan George passed away in 1981.
Bruno Gerussi, one of the main characters
Molly’s Reach was home for Molly Carmody and her grandchildren, Margaret and Hughie, for their boarder Nick Adonidas and his log salvage office, and for Nick’s partner Jesse Jim. Nick, the Greek beachcomber, was the main character played by Bruno Gerussi, an Italian. Born in Medicine Hat, Gerussi attended Banff School of Fine Arts and joined the Stratford Festival in 1954 to become a respected Shakespearean actor at Stratford and London. Besides the Beachcombers, he starred in other TV series, including a celebrity cooking show. Gerussi passed away in 1995 at age 67. A book of his life, “Bruno: Love in the Kitchen,” was written by his partner Nancy Morrison.
Robert Clothier, played crusty old Relic, Nick’s arch-rival. He too was a veteran stage and TV actor. Clothier was born in Prince Rupert in 1921 and studied architecture before pursuing sculpting and theatre in England. He passed away in 1999. Constable John Constable, played by Jackson Davies was another memorable character in the series. He now lives in Tsawwassen but visits periodically and participated in Gibson’s recent Sea Cavalcade event. Davies aptly notes that the series over 19 years is a historical time capsule.
Gibson’s Landing and its denizens, as well as the unsurpassed natural beauty of the area, were key to the success of the original show. Thousands of tourists still come to Gibsons to see where the series was filmed. An attempt was made to revive the series without Gerussi and Clothier, filmed in 35 mm, called “The New Beachcombers,” addressing real-world changes on the coast including the demise of the beachcombing industry, the invasion of weekend tourists, and development exploiting the beauty of the place.
The Persephone, on exhibit in Gibson’s Landing
The Beachcombers created a strong sense of place, and life in Gibson’s Landing, although changed by the march of progress, has retained much of its small-town ambience and now harkens back to the past with icons from the series, like Molly’s Reach and the Persephone.
Robert Clothier, "Relic"
The Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives has a variety of artifacts and archival materials including props and signage from the Beachcombers set, Relic’s toque and running shoes, Nick’s beachcomber regalia, a menu from Molly’s Reach, scripts from some of the early shows, a Jack Harman bronze bust of Robert Clothier, many photos and other memorabilia. A statue of Relic’s grandfather holding a stick of dynamite greets visitors to the museum’s upper floor. Like the series itself, the museum reflects on what is of value from the past. The Beachcombers series is an integral part of the history of Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast.
A recent petition calls for a renewal of the series which is owned by CBC. See www.tvarchive.ca/petition/
Robert Clothier by Jack Harman