Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Old Hometown ain't what She used to be...

After a completely non-active rest day yesterday, and a kind of magical hail storm and lightening fest, I was ready to get out and re-explore my old haunts and see what befell me as I rolled down memory lane(s).

I rolled down KickWillieLoop (real name) to Kal Lake to see if my cousin was about.  He has just finished rebuilding his place on the lake.  I remember his dad, my Uncle Jack building the original house in the 50's or early 60's.   My cousin had taken the originial house down to the footings and completely redone the place.  From the outside the new landscaping and the immaculate finish on the house look great.  No sign of my cuz, so I headed west into the Coldstream.

Years before, I had operated a garbage route throughout all of the area that I was riding.  I rented a 1952 Chevy Truck from my wonderful neighbour Jack, and proceeded to pick up everybody's garbage for what I remember as 25 cents a can.  I always maintained that I was making more money when I was 16 than at any other time in my life.  Every Saturday, I collected garbage and had more than enough adventures with burning trucks, broken axles, and overloaded garbage cans.  The good news was that I learned to work for myself, and if not reliably at least consistently did the job.  The bad news is that I also learned to drive too fast and took far too many chances with that truck and my loads.  I will always be grateful to my neighbour, Mr. Fifer, who never questioned the dents and damages to the truck, and always had my running for the next weeks' run. I think that i did that job for over two years, and managed to finance my first car.

The old neighbourhood has been built up, changed, and gentrified to a great extent.  The hills that I used to shoot pheasants in are not filled with half million dollar homes.  I clearly remember my parents telling my to put some of my garbage money into real estate.  I remember thinking that lots at $2500.00 was way too steep for me.  (I have lost count of the number of lessons which nostalgia and reminiscence will bring forth.)

As I said a few days ago, I am really pleased with the improvements that the purchaser of my Mom's home has done.  The place looks great with shakes, a new roof, and double glazed windows.  The lawn  which I whined about mowing is non-existent, and and all of the house has a fresh paint job on the trim.  I hope that both Mom and Dad are able to appreciate that their home is being taken care of.  My Dad built that place single-handedly, after working 60 hour weeks as a carpenter, and of course growing up I had no appreciation for the sacrifices made by both of them in order to raise my sister and I in a warm and cozy home.


Riding through the Coldstream was a trip down memory lane.  Not only did I have  lots of mind stories about the lanes, alleys and roads as they impacted my growing garbage route, but I also had a number of paper routes which meandered through this area.

I passed my Sisters' Elementary School, and it looks like a new one has been built to replace the original school.  Not far after that, I passed a line of gravel trucks, and wondered to myself if anyone of those was the one that I used to drive for the paving crew.  Of course there is the rational part of my brain and memory works that needed to remind me that I was driving those trucks close to 45 years ago.  There must be something about the Okanagan sun and blue skies which brings out the nostalgia in me.  The job was good, the guys that I worked with were good, and if it weren't for the far too many beers that we consumed to offset the heat, I might still be a paver.  I was appreciative of that Coldstream family which  gave me a job for a coule of summers and falls, and introduced me to the black arts of asphalt paving.

I continued on towards Lumby, and passed the Coldstream Ranch.  My dad and I had hunted in many nooks and crannies in the ranch, bringing our bird dogs  right up to the nose of those pesky pheasants.  Dad and I knew where those cock birds hung out, and of course Dad had hunted these bushes before the war when he was a kid, so we always were successful.

I passed Henry's Store, and just on a hairpin corner, I thought about pulling over and taking a picture of the original house that I think that my Great Grandfather Smith owned while he was ranching in the area.  The old house is still occupied, and the Victorian style frontage is heritage plus.  I did not stop and take a picture of the house, but I did stop further on and take a picture of what I think is the old Smith Ranch property.  My dad had told me stories about the ranch that his mothers' father had knocked out of the bush, and I am pretty sure that I had the correct site.  Thankfully, my cousin lives nearby, and she has a good handle of the location of the old ranch property.




In the first decade of the 20th century, my great-grandfather farmed these fields and tried to sustaing a ranch.  From my understanding of family history, the ranch grew and was sustainable, until the First War came along....Three of my grandmothers' brothers enlisted in the Great War, thinking that they would spend a few weeks in Europe and smarten up the Boche.  All three of them were killed, and needless to say the loss of the three boys impacted the Family in a horrible way...

As I headed towards Lumby, I thought about my Family and how this life altering event impacted my Grandmother and helped to forge her view of the world, and how she would eventually raise her family.  I came to Lumby, a small community with a long history.  My family and I had spent many days in Lumby, and I still have a second cousin on a farm outside of town.

I saw a sign for a community Saturday Morning swap meet, and I thought I needed a coffee.  Sure enough, the small gathering of folks was the kind of event that we see on many Summer mornings in small communities throughout Cananda.  People wree selling organic products, jams, jellies, used books, knitting, and most importanly for me, coffee.   I had a great conversation with an old fellow who was selling lots of neat stuff.   I was eyeballing a Mexican Poncho for $5.00, but having bought a Hells Angels T Shirt at  the Stugis North gathering, I needed to remind myself that I was riding a moto.  It turns out this fellow was a retired carpenter, and he had worked in Kitimmat and had family in Chilliwack.  We talked about retirement and travelling, and clearly he had a few years of experience on my, and I wondered to myself if my daughter would be working with me to sell my stuff 10 years from now.  He said that he spends his winters in Arizona, and likes Yuma, and asked me if I had been there. I remember the dunes of Yuma, and I was not sure if I had passed by there tow years ago, or 35 years ago, but I knew the area that he spoke of, through the veil of time, so to speak.

I chatted up an older lady of Grandmother status who was selling chocolate chip cookies, which immediately hit my ears.  I asked her if she knew my relatives, and of course she did.  She told me a long story about how people used to visit together in the '50s and then some relatives from Alberta sent over a dissambled rifle to her family.  It seems that her younger sister was in the next room to the would-be hunters when they decided that the correct way to test the assembled weapon was by putting a cartridge in the weapon.  The lady said that she talked to the funeral director who looked after her sister, and "her head was blown away".   As the lady told her story, I could not help but wonder if this  horrible memory had framed up this lady's whole life.   I think her comment that "nobody visited anyone anymore" (after the incident) summed up her life view.  I thanked her for the chocolate cookies, and wished her well, but I did not see much hope or forgiveness in her eyes.

A Lumby Saturday Morning market...

I headed out of Lumby, and headed southerly down the backside of Lumby until I saw some shilohettes of what was very familiar to me.  I recognized the end of a lumber mill, and the skeleton of what was once a vibrant operation:



It is uncanny how the piles of rubble and machinery are so similar to the dying days of the Mill in Tahsis.  I don't  pretend to fully understand the soft wood lumber industry, nor do I get the Free Trade deal, and I understand that fallers need to feed their babies and Log Truck owners need to pay their fuel bills, but my gut tells me that we are making a huge mistake with respect to the lumber industry in BC.  No bloody wonder my kids have to go to Alberta to get work..

As I said, maybe someone understands what is happening to our trees and our raw resources, but I am at a loss to understand why mills are razed and mill workers are a dying breed.

II headed back towards Vernon, and met with my cousin and her ride(s).....







I wonder how many cc these guys are.   My cousins have been around horses all of their lives,and of course they understand the big brutes.  As far as I am concerned they are too big for me, and I have clear memories of a big black trying to hang me when I was a kid.   Besides, I didn't see any attachments for panniers and lights, so I will let the girls stick with their rides...

Had a good visit with my cousin and we talked about memories and family stories as only good relatives can do.  We have known each other all of our lives, and it is a good feeling to connect with a Family member who  remembers the good old days, and who has survived them with grace, not to mention that she is the spitting image of her Mom, a dear Aunt who never saw me do wrong, and was always there for me.

I headed towards Kalamalka Lake, but I wanted to take a bit of a side trip to check out some nagging thoughts that I was having about my three dead Great  Great Uncles.  I was not sure if they had been buried in France, or whether there were headstones in the small local cemetry.  I took a turn off the main road and travelled into the cemetry.

I never found any headstones of the three boys, but it was a good experience to see that the nunicipality is maintaining the cemetry, and that there have been some recent burials.  I walked the rows and thought about my relatives, about the beauiful setting amongst the ponderosa pines, and the gravity of the final resting place for some many Okanagan pioneers.  I recognized names which of course brought forward memories: a former employer, two former teachers, and lots of familiar family names of kids that I had gone to school with, and folks that I recognized as stalwart. community members of a time that has gone by....Of course, all of the granite and marble headstones had carved messages for those that had passed, proclaiming undying love and affection.  Many stones celebrated that the dead and buried had been great fathers, husbands, grandfathers and Men.....

At the risk of getting too analytical or spend too much time belly button gazing, I was pleasently uplifted by a classy grave which was surrounded by a well-built iron fence.  The grave area was clearly looked after, and it was a collection of different messages to the relative who had passed on.  The messages were upbeat, celebrating life, and acknowledging that death is the inevitable end to life.  I knew that in the back of my mind it has been bothering me that my good friend, Maria Duwlit, in Tahsis, had passed away yesterday.  In a way, she was my Tahsis Mom, and I worked with her for a number of years.  She told me wonderful stories about being a street nurse in Berlin during the war, when she was 16 years old.  She was a treasure, I hop that she passed without pain.... As I thought of her, and accepted the fact that I could not get back to her funeral next week, I saw the following sign wired to the iron fence encircling this celebration of life.


I think this message from a loving relative says it all,and I was again convinced that my wanderings are directed by a Higher Power.  I am very grateful for the fact that I have been able to live my life fully and I will continue to "storm the Gates of Experiences."