Backward Glances
Backward Glances is a series of articles originally written for the Lake Country Calendar (and later, the View in Lake Country) by Richard Gibbons.
Backward Glances
Fruit Picking in the okanagan
Summer seems to have again ended with a bit of a bang; in this case a clap of thunder, and the rain sorely needed by our forests. The transition back into work and school is all too sudden as potato salad and barbecued hamburger goes off the menu to be replaced by mashed potatoes and roasts done in the oven. The joy of tree-fresh cherries and peaches is quickly replaced by amazing varieties of apples, both old and new. Apple orchards are now decorated by the big red bins as harvest begins.

I was thinking about our beautiful Okanagan orchards and how important they are to both our economy and the ambience of the valley. Somehow though, their relative importance within this community has changed dramatically over the decades. The Okanagan is now

much, much more diversified than it was in the ‘50s and ‘60s.  Back then most people were involved in forestry and agriculture, more specifically, fruit crops. In those days the majority of families owed at least part of their living to producing or processing fruit. A lot of the time growers worked full or part-time at other jobs while still tending to their orchards. Mom worked for many years in the packing house but also worked our orchard while Dad was away. By far the biggest employers were our packing houses: the Oyama, Woodsdale and Winfield houses and Winoka at the Centre. In season, hundreds worked as packers and sorters, shippers and receivers, and in my case, box boy, the bottom of the totem pole. Managers like Cliff Fallow and Gordon Shaw were icons in the local industry. The work was hard, and while it didn’t pay very well it provided some badly needed cash to survive the approaching winter.

At ground level orchardists worked long, hard hours hoping and praying for a good crop, no hail and decent prices. That combination of good fortune was often elusive and crop insurance didn’t exist. As harvest approached, growers tried to build a roster of pickers, from both local and sometimes itinerant French Canadians. In the few years after 1956 it was not uncommon to see Hungarian refugees picking in local orchards. Many of us remember years when there weren’t enough pickers so the School Board made it permissible for students to miss school and help bring in the crop. One year when we were let out of school I picked for Matt Kobayashi in an orchard on OK Centre Rd. East, earlier owned by my uncle Allan Gibbons and later by Cliff and Lena Gunn. I wasn’t a great picker but being in an orchard on a beautiful September day sure beat being in class. The trees of the day were veritable giants, requiring at least a twelve foot ladder and sometimes a fourteen footer. Picture that against a contemporary apple tree that now could be picked from a step ladder.

Today most production is handled by “Winfield House”, the only survivor of the Packing Houses in this area, and big growers who run their own packing lines. While many locals are still employed they comprise a mere fraction of our area population. The old fashioned, labour intensive apple box was long ago replaced by the highly efficient bin that holds more than twenty boxes. The old box-making jigs and box-making machines, along with the once common hand trucks, have been retired to museums. We still hear French spoken in our orchards but increasingly the language heard is Spanish, used by the hard working Mexicans.

Picking cherries and other crops provided many local kids, like me, the opportunity of making money by dint of hard work. Now, as then, the tree fruit industry is a challenging way for growers to make a living, with escalating costs, uncertain market prices and growing international competition. Another challenge is land development which increasingly puts growers and home owners in conflict. When a grower needs to put a spray on his crop at 6:00 a.m. when the winds are calm, it may not impress the newly arrived transplant from the big city. Planners profess a commitment to agriculture but their recommendations frequently suggest a greater interest in growing the tax base rather than in growing fruit.

Food production is essential to our local economy and the mere presence of our orchards and vineyards makes the Okanagan a more attractive and better place to live. So remember, make sure you’re buying local produce and think of the good old days when fruit production built this valley.

Source: Richard Gibbons’ column, Backward Glances, was originally published in the The Calendar.

Backward Glances
eaton’s catalogue
Every so often we receive gifts that are extraordinarily special, and many of the most appreciated don’t come with a hefty price tag. They usually come from very special people.
Some of my gifts this year were the much treasured  photo album my sister Sharon gave me on my birthday, an unforgettable week with our grandson Cameron this summer and most recently, a prized book from [Lake Country pioneer] Anne Land. The book was the 1948-49 Eaton’s catalogue and it has provided a most enjoyable trip down memory lane.Within those 577 pages is a remarkable snapshot of life in Canada fifty* years ago.
Each page is packed with a myriad of products far, far more than any contemporary catalogues offer. It’s like receiving catalogues from Sears, Canadian Tire, Princess Auto and a few others, all in one. I would guess that there were few things used in the average home that could not be ordered by mail, and given the substantially rural nature of Canada then, it’s easy to understand the importance of this big, colourful book.
It tells a tale of a much simpler lifestyle. Items on offer include cream separators, feed grinders, wire fencing and everything needed to build a hay wagon or horse drawn sled. Most of the basics for mom’s medicine cabinet are offered as are complete kitchens, sink included. Notably absent are any form of electronic gadgets (television was years away) and most of the convenience items we now take for granted.
 

Back then the catalogue was a “wish book” for everyone in the family, but things were not cheap. It makes me realize why Santa’s bag of gifts was smaller then. Most kids today have Christmas lists that previous generations could not have envisioned. Economics have changed, big time. As best I can gather from Statistics Canada, family income at the end of the 1940s, with a “stay-at-home” mom, was in the area of $100.00 per month. An average wage earner today brings home $2,600.00 per month* and increasingly, there are two “bread winners”.

No one would suggest that the comparison could be made so simply, but for fun I’ve created a Christmas wish list buying items from the old catalogue but using a multiple of “twenty” to reflect today’s pricing. It makes me understand why most families didn’t have a fraction of what are now considered necessities. Here are some of the “updated” prices.

Let’s shop for mom first:
A Sunbeam mixer for $1,120.00; a nice bathrobe for $320.00; a winter cloth coat for $900.00 or perhaps a lovely watch…the wind-up kind…ranging from $260.00 to $800.00.

For Dad let’s check out these:
A decent suit was $1,000.00; a sweater for $100.00 or a topcoat at a reasonable $700. 00. How about a slide action shotgun for $2,300.00?

Junior would love:
A new pair of CCM hockey skates (one of my favourite Christmas gifts ever) for $480.00; maybe a Lionel electric train for a paltry $800.00 or, here’s a bargain, a $20.00 Monopoly game. Yes, it’s been around that long. I guess the CCM 3 speed bike might not fit the budget at $1,360.00.

Sis has on her list:
“Electronics’ this year, so we’ll add a single speed, mono gramophone to her list for $440.00 or a basic mantle radio for  $700.00. Instead of her own computer how about a nice manual typewriter for only $1,500.00?

I think you get the idea. “Stuff” wasn’t cheap. On the practical side a pop-up toaster was $740.00; a kitchen stove ( wood burning) was $2,000.00; a “state of the art” wringer washer even more.  A refrigerator was actually priced at $298.00 which is an astronomical $5960.00 using our factor. So much for the “good old days” and small wonder that we appreciated gifts so much more back then.

Thankfully the best gifts in life of family, friends, good health and good memories still can’t be purchased from a catalogue, the mall or on the Internet. They’re still free.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Richard Gibbons’ column, Backward Glances, originally appeared in the Calendar.

Backward Glances
remembrance day
November 11th is fast approaching. For some, it’s just a day off with scant regard for what it really means. For the “boomer generation” and those who have followed, the tragedy of war, although never forgotten, seemed so long ago and somehow both far away and detached from the very privileged and civilized Canada of today. The meaning of Remembrance Day is well understood by those who served, whether in World War II, the Korean conflict, in peacetime or peacekeeping. And the horror of war is certainly not forgotten by those who lost a family member, as our family did.

I never knew my Uncle Jack. John Nelson Friesen, youngest in our Mom’s family, died in action in Burma when his aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff on a mission behind enemy lines. The date was April 1st, 1945, and his last letter home was to our mom congratulating her on my birth. He was much loved by all who knew him and I’d never heard Dad speak of anyone other than Mom with such affection. Jack loved to sing, to hunt and fish and had promised Dad that when he came home they would buy an orchard together.

Jack FriesenOur family, like our McCarthy cousins, has always kept the memory of Uncle Jack very much alive.  It has made that war more personal for us, even though so much time has passed. The picture that appears here puts a very human face to our loss and the tragedy of war. No uniforms, no medals, just a smiling young man with his whole life ahead of him. It was taken at the south end of Wood Lake in the 1930’s and the young lady is our Mom.

It is sad beyond belief that once again young Canadians are dying in a far off conflict, serving their country and the world. History repeats itself as younger generations will grow up with their own stories of family loss. Whatever our position on the war they are fighting, we owe the members of our armed forces a tremendous debt of gratitude.

The Royal Canadian Legion’s Remembrance Day services at GESS each year provides our community the opportunity to remember and honour all of those who have served. They also present a Veteran of the Year award. [Some] years ago they honoured Ed Culley of Oyama. I had known and respected Ed for many years, without being aware of his war service. The ordeal he suffered as a long term prisoner of war in Singapore so many years ago was beyond comprehension. Since making Lake Country his home he has been a tireless worker for his community and for his fellow man.

I’d like to think that my Uncle Jack would have been a lot like him.

Richard Gibbons’ column, Backward Glances, originally appeared in The Calendar.

Backward Glances
a full cellar
News stories on the growing crisis in global food supply have to be taken seriously. We are told that even Canada, one of the bread baskets of the world, will be impacted, initially with rising prices. When we walk into our vast supermarkets with their counters and shelves laden with food of every description, it’s hard to imagine shortages.

With this backdrop, a CBC news item this morning about the flooding crisis … caught my attention. Many families are being told to evacuate their homes if they are not self-sufficient for as many as seven days. I thought about our own situation in like circumstance, and my mind drifted back to earlier days in this community and how much has changed since I was a kid.

Generally the generations up to and including my parents were remarkably self-sufficient, at least in the rural areas such as ours. Most families had a large garden and the larger plots of land then also allowed for growing many varieties of fruits, berries and nuts. Our attic would be covered with walnuts spread out to dry. I remember the taste of really fresh milk and cream from the cow we kept, and riding up the road on my bike to pick up our fresh eggs from Vivian Stone. With all of this, kids learned early not to say “I’m bored!” in summer or they’d soon be out weeding a few rows of garden, or cleaning out the chicken coop.

As the growing season waned the Mason and other types of jars came out and canning began. We had a cool cellar under the house and by fall the shelves would be filled with jars of every type of fruit and berry, tomatoes, pickles and relish, and wonderful jams. Sacks of potatoes, tubs of carrots buried in sand and a sack or two of turnips filled the small space. Dad would take boxes of apples to the Cariboo in the fall to swap for the turnips, one of our family staples. The Cariboo also provided the majority of our red meat as Dad always brought home a moose augmented by a deer or two. These went into a freezer locker in Kelowna as home freezers were virtually unheard of, and our Saturday trips to town always ended with a trip to the lockers to pick up the week’s supply of meat. Because of the infrequency of those shopping trips mom bought a lot of her basic foods in bulk. I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone buying a fifty pound bag of flour or bags of puffed wheat that would last for months.

Fall was also the time when Dad and I would fire up the old buzz saw to cut the winter’s supply of firewood. Once the wood was cut and stacked in the shed Dad would predictably say, “That will feel pretty good this winter.” Our folks had grown up during the Depression and had learned early that a cellar laden with food and a full wood shed was their idea of security against a long, cold winter.

While some people still retain these practices they are now the minority, while the  majority, like us, rely on the loaded shelves of the supermarket to provide our food and at the touch of a thermostat, our heat.

Maybe our folks were right when they’d say with satisfaction when the work was all done, “Well, that’s better than money in the bank.”

Source: Richard Gibbons’ column Backward Glances was originally published in The Calendar.

Photo source: Wikipedia

Backward Glances
Auld  lange
syne
Another Christmas so long awaited has come and gone; no more carols on the radio, nor cheery greeting cards at the post box. After devouring huge plates of  turkey and dressing, followed by pumpkin pie and rich pudding, all in about 45 minutes flat, I felt somewhat guilty knowing all the preparation the meal had required. The cooks must share something in common with the athlete who has worked and trained for long periods,  culminating in an event that may well be over in mere minutes. Mind you, win or lose the athlete doesn’t then face a table full of dirty dishes.

So now, with any remaining turkey in the soup pot, we realize that New Year’s Eve is upon us. Following usual laments of;  “How could the year have gone so quickly?” and, “I didn’t get half the things done that I’d planned.” we ask each other; “What are we doing for New Year’s Eve?” followed by …“I don’t know, what do you want to do?” Welcoming in the New Year is one of our annual rituals that seems to have changed, and even fallen on hard times over the years.

I may be wrong, but I get the feeling that many now celebrate rather quietly. Dinner and a movie is the choice of some, with others gravitating to the homes of friends or family for an evening of nibbling and sipping, with perhaps  a few card games or charades to enliven the countdown to midnight. Many claim not to bother staying up long enough to see the old year ushered out. What a change from the old days!

When I was young, New Year’s Eve was the community social event of the year.  In Winfield virtually everyone went to the Memorial Hall to party, dance  and socialize the night away. As kids, we loved the morning following, wearing the bright party hats and playing with the noisemakers that our parents had brought home from the party. For some reason, I remember Mom and Dad rising much later than usual, and not enjoying the noisemakers as much as we were.

I’m not aware that there are many such major socials in Lake Country anymore. If people party-in the New Year they’re more likely to be at someone’s home, at a pub or restaurant. The other day while reminiscing with cousin Faye Stowe about the old days she theorized the reason for this change. As she said, in our parents’ day most everyone in the community knew each other. My parents would join hers at a table that likely included the McCarthys, the Moodys, the Chatos, the Jardines and Fochlers and others. The nearby tables would be filled with more friends and family, acquaintances and maybe a handful of strangers. A New Year’s party or a community dance brought together virtually everyone who lived here.

Perhaps our lives are just too busy now, we’re worn out by so many pre-Christmas socials, or we just don’t know nor care to meet our neighbours. Whatever the reason, I envy that older generation who loved to dance and to party and to join hands with so many others at midnight to sing Auld Lang Syne.

Happy New Year everyone.

Richard Gibbons’ column Backward Glances was originally published in The View.

Backward Glances
writing letters

 

One of the most notable changes during my lifetime has been in communicating with friends and family.  We have largely moved to an electronic world from what was once “hard copy”.

Following the death of our parents my sister Sharon [Laing] assumed responsibility as our family historian.  I think every family should have one but I was relieved when she agreed to do it.  Left to me, the multitude of boxes laden with old photos, letters and documents would still be mouldering in our basement.

Sharon dealt first with the shoe boxes of old photos which she researched exhaustively to identify both the subjects and the likely dates.  I’ve already written of my joy in receiving an album which pictorially chronicled our family history starting with our grandparents.  This makes me wonder about future generations who more likely will receive, at best, boxes of DVDs or whatever.  These will contain not hundreds but thousands of unlabeled images of somebody, doing something, somewhere.

This winter my sister has turned her attention to old letters, particularly those written by our Uncle Jack Friesen during WWII.  He enlisted in the RCAF in 1942 and served as a flight officer until his death in April 1944.  His plane crashed after takeoff from an airfield, in what is now Bangladesh, on a mission behind enemy lines.   As a young, single man he left very little; a few war bonds, his old .22 rifle, a shotgun and a favourite fishing rod.  He also left something of great value to our family in the form of letters…boxes of them.

Sharon has read most of them, flagging those of particular interest, and attempting to arrange them chronologically.   These letters have proved to be a fascinating and compelling chronicle of a young airman’s life through those tumultuous war years.

As we read those stories I was struck by the difference between written communication then and now. Long and newsy letters, often written only days apart, described his travels across our country and ultimately across the world, through the eyes of a young man raised in rural Canada.  He wrote of seeing new places, his military training, meeting many new friends, mostly fellow servicemen, and some lovely young ladies.  With so many of our young service people again serving across the globe I wonder about their letters home.

Somewhere also in the boxes handed down by our parents Elaine and I found the letters we wrote home during the years we were away and when we travelled out of country.  Through the many years that my sister lived away she and our mom wrote each other every few days.  Mom would be so excited coming back from the mailbox with those letters which would be shared with all who visited.

Back then letters were how we communicated, but it seems the hand-written letter is now a thing of the past.  It has gone the way of the dodo bird, replaced by the ubiquitous e-mail.  Somehow I can’t imagine our children’s children sorting through reams of printed e-mails, cryptically typed using abbreviations and code words and sadly lacking in personality.

There is no suggestion of returning to the ways of the past.  It just seems that we are leaving less and less of our personal history.   Our family is very grateful for those wonderful letters from long ago written by a young man who never made it home to share, in person, his adventures.

Richard Gibbons’ column Backward Glances was originally published in The Calendar.

Backward Glances
Graduation
If we tried to characterize each month of the year in just a few words June might include words such as “endings” and “beginnings”, “hope” and “optimism”.  June is after all, the month with life’s most significant events… graduations and marriages. I’ll restrict my thoughts to graduations — weddings are a whole different subject.

An earlier column spoke of my kinship with fellow grads from the George Elliott class of ’62. Our coffee mornings every few weeks are filled with chatter about life past and present, and lots of laughter. When visiting Creekside Theatre I’m still drawn to the “wall of fame” photo gallery, now stretching the entire hallway. The class photo of the Grads of 2008, our fiftieth graduating class, will soon join all the others. As with all who have preceded them, their big night will include speeches and fanfare and the joy of having completed a long journey. Some may pause to reflect on all their years together, knowing that soon they will all go their separate ways.

Today’s graduation ceremonies are in huge contrast to those earlier days at our Alma Mater… sheer numbers for example. The current class of one hundred and thirty plus is in strong contrast to my small group of nineteen. Soon our local newspapers will be filled with photos of grad night, featuring students arriving in limos, classic and exotic cars, and other offbeat transport, from horse-drawn carriages to front-end loaders. The young ladies will be wearing gowns that could grace the pages of fashion magazines, and their male escorts will likely be in tuxedos worthy of James Bond.

Our generation usually arrived in the family sedan. Our “After Grad” party was at Coral Beach, then uninhabited, and my date and I travelled in the back seat of David Geen’s mother’s Vauxhall Viva, definitely neither limo nor exotic. We were just happy to have wheels. I suspect that some of the dresses worn by the young ladies were created through the magic of mom’s sewing machine, or had been borrowed from an older sister. There was nary a tuxedo in sight. My grad night was also my parents’ Silver Wedding anniversary and I remember them dancing to the Anniversary Waltz. I’ve no idea what my dad wore that night as I had already spoken for his one blazer.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is youth’s optimism for the future. Bios for new grads usually speak of exciting and rewarding careers as successful entrepreneurs. Few speak of working in business or service industries, sectors to which most ultimately gravitate. It was no different in my day as I think back to our own dreams and aspirations, and where we thought we were going. Reality is often something quite different.

Increasingly, today’s students recognize the need for post graduate studies and the importance of learning specialized skills. The job market has never offered more opportunity for diverse and rewarding careers. If I had one wish for the Class of 2008 it would be that they recognize their potential.

The decisions that our new class of grads now face will substantially influence the course of their entire lives. Thank goodness it wasn’t so overwhelming for me forty-six years ago.  As memory serves, my total fixation was finding a job, any job, that would earn money for my first real car. I say real car, my ’37 Chev. bought from Frank Arnold for $30 when I was fourteen, which had been sold to pay my insurance on the family sedan.

Some of my fellow grads had somewhat loftier goals in life. Laurie Arnold and Faye Stowe off for nurses training, Eleanor Brixton, Margaret Berry, Dave McCoubrey and Graham Dickie university bound. I suspect that most, however, had rather fuzzy notions as to careers and the future. I hope that a far greater percentage of the Class of 2008 have goals and concrete career plans.

Richard Gibbons’ column Backward Glances was originally published in The Calendar.

Backward Glances
Hunting

 

Owning guns was commonplace in rural homes of that era, not much different than having an axe out in the woodshed, and it’s a sign of the times that they’re now thought of mainly as weapons. As kids much of our play involved toy guns and I still remember the acrid smell from shooting my cap gun and dealing with an adversary with a well-aimed shot from my pop gun. Today I wouldn’t dream of giving my grandson a toy gun without asking permission of his parents, respecting our current association of all guns with violence.

Dad taught us early that guns, like other tools, were to be used carefully and with respect. My first Daisy Red Rider BB gun, purchased in Wenatchee, came with one rule, treat it as a real weapon or lose it. How many times were we warned to be careful not to shoot someone’s eye out, even though I never actually heard of anyone doing that. When we graduated to shooting tin cans and targets with our old .22 the rules went to a whole new level and a cardinal rule was that every gun, even when unloaded, was to be treated as loaded and dangerous.

Of all the gifts I’ve received in my lifetime, the most memorable was my first hunting rifle from my dad when I was fifteen. I’d “come of age” to hunt when I was fourteen, allowed to carry my cousin Murray Sheritt’s old Lee Enfield .303. My new rifle was one Dad had coveted for himself … but couldn’t afford! Few things other than hunting would have enticed me from a warm bed at 5:00 a.m. With Murray often joining us we’d try to be well back in the hills before first light. Unlike Dad, I would never become much of a hunter, I just loved being in the woods, and learning about the traits of animals and hearing stories of previous hunts.

We’ve just returned from another great holiday in the Flathead Valley of Montana, surely one of the most beautiful areas on this continent. Around Kalispell there are sports shops twice the size of Coopers, with guns and fishing gear occupying the largest space … racks and racks of shotguns, rifles, assault-style rifles and ammunition, all unlocked, as well as handguns of every description. Last year, on a similar trip to Sun River, Oregon, we’d noted on a visit to a WalMart that you could stop by and pick up a quart of milk as well as a Winchester 30-06 from their well-stocked selection.

I could never advocate anything other than further tightening of Canada’s rigorous gun controls, but I am still fascinated by displays of guns. Even though I will never again fire one they remind me of those long ago pleasures of hiking the hills, rifle in hand, enjoying the beauty of fall in the Okanagan.

Richard Gibbons’ column Backward Glances was originally published in The Calendar.

Backward Glances
the winmen
Even though we grew up in a small, rural community we still had our dreams and at least for some, the opportunity to pursue them. So it was, forty-five years ago, for three young men from Lake Country. I know their story has been told before but not from my personal perspective.

I think the story actually began at Rutland Senior Secondary where we attended high school prior to George Elliot Secondary School (GESS) opening in the fall of 1959. That was the era of sock hops, with kids often dancing to the music of bands comprised of students. One band that I remember well was called The Emeralds and their lead singer was a talented vocalist from Oyama named Steve Davis. Steve was of the Dungate family and he loved to sing. He was often a part of our United Church Choir and even wrote our GESS school song.

Three members of the first George Elliot grad class, the class of 1960, started to sing together at local events. The three good friends were Steve, Jack McCarthy and Don Christian. One of their first “gigs” was playing at the Oceola Fish & Game Club banquet. As well, they performed in the Kelowna Little Theatre production of “Guys and Dolls”, as did a lovely young ballet dancer who is now my wife. To jazz up their performances they sometimes got help from local vocalists Trish and Lynn McCarthy.

In 1963 Steve received an invitation from Chet Atkins of RCA Records to bring a group to Nashville, and thus The Winmen trio was born. In the spring of 1964 Steve, Jack and Don followed their dream to Nashville, the virtual music centre of the United States. They recorded four songs, with the biggest hit entitled A Nickel Piece of Candy. While it didn’t go “gold” it became what was known as a regional hit, which it certainly was in this area.

For our highly respected community builder and ex-newspaper publisher Jack McCarthy, those few glorious months in Nashville were mostly about the people they met and came to know. They were introduced by Chet Atkins to noted pianist Floyd Cramer and top guitarist Grady Martin who had formed their own label. Those two provided backup for their records as did one of the best known groups of the era, The Anita Kerr Singers.Those singers in turn went on to back up Brenda Lee, Perry Como, Roy Orbison and Willy Nelson among many other well known performers of the day.

Jack will tell the story of meeting “Jim the Janitor”, a very pleasant gent who was sweeping up around the recording studio. While attending a big music event they were surprised to find that he was none other than the legendary Jim Reeves. Jack also recalls one of his best beer-drinking buddies as Red Foley who wrote and recorded amongst others, the hit song “Old Shep”, later made famous by a guy named Elvis Presley. Another new friend was Sheb Wolley, best known for the somewhat offbeat hit, “One Eyed, One Horned Flying Purple People Eater”.  These were major recording artists, true characters…but down to earth enough to share their time with three somewhat star-struck young men from the Okanagan. Ironically, one song that our fledgling stars were offered didn’t immediately appeal to them. It was called, “Silence is Golden” which went on to be number one on the charts…unfortunately not for The Winmen.

The Winmen’s style was pretty much middle of the road with a repertoire of both folk and pop music. Alas, it wasn’t long before lack of Green Cards signalled the end of their Nashville experience and it was time to head back to Canada, even though they were still under contract.  Once home they were joined by a very talented rhythm guitarist from the Mission by the name of Bob Berger. The foursome entertained at such iconic clubs of the era as Izzy’s and The Cave in Vancouver, and performed at conventions in Portland as well as headlining at the Pacific National Exhibition.

In 1965 in Toronto, on Grey Cup Day, The Winmen decided it was time to pursue other dreams and so they disbanded. Jack and Don headed back West while Steve and long-time Winfield friend, Fred Larsen, decided to go it together. They went on to become The Hilites…but that’s probably another story.

Sadly, quiet, nice guy Don Christian died a number of years ago, and Bob Berger’s whereabouts and life story are not known. Steve long ago became Rhett Davis and he and wife, Laurie (Arnold), reside in Orlando, Florida, close to their children and grandchildren. Rhett continues to perform and his song I Am the Eagle won much acclaim. Jack McCarthy enjoys retirement on the farm that his father and grandfather owned before him. If any of his eleven grandchildren should ever ask; “What did you do when you were young, Grandpa?”, I hope he shares his story and this remarkable time in his life.

Richard Gibbons’ column Backward Glances was originally published in The Calendar

Backward Glances
george pretty
Pretty Road …. what an appropriate name for a road that provides a panoramic view down to Wood Lake and across to Wrinkly Face. I was saddened to hear that the family for whom it is named lost their patriarch on New Year’s Eve when George Pretty died at age 96. I hadn’t seen George for a number of years but in my mind’s eye he will always be a tall, good-looking man with a ready smile. He was a builder, in every respect of the word.

George came to Lake Country in 1932 as a young man, first settling in Oyama. When he married Neva three years later, my friend Dan Pretty tells me that George renovated an old chicken coop in the Jack Seaton Park area as their first home. Those were hard days, but knowing his ability with tools I suspect it became a very comfortable chicken coop. They lived for a while inOkanagan Centre before George built their family  home on Pretty Road … except there really wasn’t a road there when he started during the mid-40s. I remember that house well as it was up the lane from the “crooked tree”. As a kid I remember Charlie and Winn Christian sharing that road, with the McDonaghs at the north end and Bert and Tiny Ramsay at the south end, just off Robinson Rd, or Robby’s Hill as we know it.

Like most men of that era, he worked at a number of things, including being an orchardist, but I will always remember him as a carpenter and a builder. He built anything and everything, residential and businesses. He was also one of those employed on the Okanagan Lake Bridge in the 1956-1958 era. He and Neva sold their house in 1962 and moved to Oyama, ultimately buying and operating Crystal Waters as a campground.

Their first child was son Wayne, followed by daughters Daryl and Bonnie, with Dan as the little brother. After graduation the kids all moved on, Daryl to Australia for a visit, only to stay on for life, Bonnie to Calgary and the two boys to UBC for their degrees. Dan majored in Recreation but ultimately came home to Lake Country following in his father’s footsteps as a builder of fine, custom homes. Big brother Wayne helped to put Winfield “on the map”, winning a silver medal for Canada in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne rowing in the “Eights”. He went on to win Gold for Canada in the 1958 British Commonwealth Games and to compete in the Olympics in Tokyo in 1964. He gave our area national prominence as did one of his classmates, but we’ll save that story for another time.

I feel privileged to have enjoyed a friendship with Dan that has endured since we were kids. I would hike down the hill from our house on OK Centre Road East, through Caldow’s orchard and the thickets above the old spring, to Pretty’s. Then Dan and I would hike down the path through what is now AGM Steel to Lakeshore Inn for our swimming lessons and some play time in the lake. On more than one occasion we’d head home up the path in the afternoon heat, only to stop and look back at the inviting waters, and go back for another swim.

Our Museum Society is attempting to  document our area’s road names, and how they came to be. Each one has a story. This is a brief chronicle of one such story and the family whose name will continue to be a part of our history.

Richard Gibbons’ column Backward Glances was originally published in The Calendar.

Backward Glances
pretty road
On New Year’s Day we came home from a great day of snowshoeing with friends at Beaver Lake to a phone message from friend Dan Pretty; his dad had died the previous evening. George Pretty was one of the builders in this community when I was young, both literally and figuratively.  He was a carpenter and a builder and he was good at it, and so is his son.

One of the Lake Country Museum’s current projects is researching the origins of our longer established roads and the people for whom they were named. I well know for whom Pretty Road was named — for George and Neva and their family. Dan’s call made me remember back to childhood days of walking down the hill to Lakeshore Inn for swimming lessons and then some fun time in the water. I’d cross through Caldow’s orchard, then through the thickets above the springs before coming out at Prettys where we’d meet, then down the hill through the scrub where AGM now sits. But again I digress.

George and Neva moved to Lake Country and first lived in Okanagan Centre. Then George built their home, just up the drive above the “crooked tree”. There were very few houses on that road back then, McDonagh’s at the bottom of the north end,  Einnarson’s, Charlie and Win Christian’s, with Bert and Tiny Ramsay’s at the Robbie’s Hill end. There were only a few others whose names escape me. There were four children: daughters Daryl and Bonnie and  two sons, Wayne and Dan. The kids grew up before leaving to establish their own lives, Daryl to Australia for a visit that has lasted a lifetime, Bonnie to Calgary, the boys to Vancouver for education at UBC.

Wayne never came back but he will long be remembered for putting little Winfield on the map in a big way. He represented Canada in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, winning a silver medal in rowing. I’d like to share more of the story  about those Olympics another day…you may not have heard, “the rest of the story”. Dan’s major at UBC was in Recreation, a prerequisite as he explains it, to moving home and building fine custom houses. He and I also did some rowing, but I think our best result was a ribbon at the Kelowna Regatta.

In the 1960s, George purchased Crystal Waters campground which he operated for seven years (1964-1971).

Richard Gibbons’ column Backward Glances was originally published in The Calendar.

Backward Glances
Do you remember?
It appears to me that as we age our memories begin to perform very strangely.  We meet old friends and talk about the “old days” with amazing recall yet increasingly find ourselves standing in the basement, totally mystified as to what we went down for, or frantically looking through pockets and cupboards for the keys we’d had in hand only shortly before.

So I recently conducted my own not very scientific study into the depths of my own ability to recall ancient things while lying in bed struggling for sleep.  Wife Elaine has a different approach to the old sleep-inducing “counting sheep”. She tries to go through the alphabet with a country and city for each letter. Apparently she seldom has to deal with the letter “X” before sleep comes. So my recent variation of the theme was to  mentally travel “our” road from my youth, then known as the “Top Road” and now OK Centre Rd. East, from end  to end in an attempt to recall who lived there in the mid-50s.  So if you’re not an “old timer” around here, you may want to read elsewhere, and if you are an old timer, please feel free to let me know everyone I miss or get wrong. This is, after all, done from memory, not from research nor consultation.  My rules.

I let my memory start at the Oceola and proceeded south on the west side of the road. At that time the first house was Cooks, then Krampitz (?), Walter Brodie, our house, Ike and Lillian Hillaby, and my Aunt Marion and Grandma Gibbons at the corner of Davidson.  After Pollard’s orchard was Reuben and Helen Krebs, Nels and May Arnold, Herb and Vivian Stone, Shishido’s, Murray and Agnes Sherritt.  The home past Seaton was Brodie’s (sold to Hoogers then Greers), Gilbert and Jane Arnold, Urquhart’s, I’m blank on the next one, and down to Arnold’s Store at the Camp intersection. Next door were Art and Ethel Arnold, Ross and Lola McDonagh, the Rinas family, then, I think Draschenbergs.  At the top of the Gully were Wilf and Gert Gelhorn, then Mr. MacDonagh, with Gordon and Jesse Shaw tucked up well above the road.  I don’t recall anyone else residing on the West side until you hit the highway.

On the East side, heading North, the first home I recall was the Smith’s, then orchard (later Ray and Mona Hotitzki’s) until you got to Ralph and Madge Berry’s. At the top of the Gully was then Derek ………., on the other side of Berry were John and Ruby Green, maybe one of the Holitzki’s (?), then Lonnie and Evie Stowe, Westenberger’s and Les and Fern Chato. There was another family in there but I can’t remember their name at this moment. Then it was Fyfe and Margaret Sommerville with the Holitzki’s next to the present firehall. Same blank with the next houses before Alan and Edith Gibbons (later Cliff and Lena Gunn’s), the Edmonds, and the Jack Seaton’s. Next, I think, was Mrs. Leigh’s with Ken and Mildred Jardine in the back. I think it was all orchard then until you hit the beautiful property of the Koenig’s, now the Catholic Church. Then came “Pop” Dobslaff’s, Danie Miller, Charlie and Irene Hall, the Fred Hall’s, Mr. Cook senior, then a lovely lady whose name escapes me, but she made wonderful popcorn balls for Hallowe’en. Next were the Pow’s, then my grannie and grandpa Friesen, Earl and Lily Sherritt (later Budgen’s), before crossing Robbie’s Hill. The Jack Klassens were  on the old Robinson property, Chisholms then Davidson’s. Across from our house were the Canamera’s (later Caldow’s), then orchard down to Mende’s, then Frank Baxter and another one of the Cooks (whose house burned down in the early 1950s. And that was it.

Richard Gibbons’ column Backward Glances was originally published in The Calendar.