Wednesday, October 31st, marked the end of a unique and significant connection to the history of this community.
On that date Anne Land of Okanagan Centre died peacefully at the age of 104. Her life and death were significant in so many ways. It was possible for all those who knew and loved her to believe she could go on forever. The knowledge that she departed life as she had lived it, with dignity and acceptance, will bring some comfort to those she leaves behind.
Living to 104 is unusual; retaining health and a sense of humour until the end rarer still. I know of no one else in our community whose life spanned so many years. Becoming a centenarian is in itself very special. There have been others including my uncle Cecil Gibbons, who died here at the age of 101. Very recently another of my favourite people, Pat McCoubrey, celebrated her 100th birthday with close friends and family.
Much can be said about Anne’s life and what her loss will mean to her family and those closest to her. But another immeasurable loss for us all is the bridge that she has represented to our past. Uniquely, her long life was spent right here in the community of her birth, Okanagan Centre. While no historian, I feel a strong connection with and appreciation for those early pioneers who contributed long and well to building the community we enjoy today. She was one of them.
Anne Land’s parents, Jim and Jessie Goldie were builders, running an agricultural enterprise that was known throughout the valley. The Rainbow Ranche, as it was called, was Anne’s childhood home and has long been regarded as one of this area’s most historic locations. The Rainbow Ranche also became my father’s home when he first arrived from the Prairies in 1929 as a teenager looking for work. Dad regarded the Goldies as the finest of people who always treated him like family. Anne was the last person I could talk to about my dad and what he was like those many years ago.
She had a remarkable memory for local history that truly amazed. She had served on the Board of our LC Museum from its inception until quite recently. When our Board decided to initiate an historic walk through our community enabling people to learn about bygone days, a guide was needed. When I proposed the project to Anne she cheerfully replied: “Of course I’ll do it. I’ll get Mickie (Mick Wentworth) to help me”. She knew everyone who lived here in earlier times and recounted stories of their families and lives. I recall inviting Anne for a boat trip on Okanagan lake. She provided the most entertaining and informative commentary on the early days. I particularly enjoyed her stories of those who lived on the west side of the lake and how they regularly commuted across in small launches or rowboats. She was a marvelous storyteller.
A few nostalgic notes seem appropriate to provide historical context to living 104 years in one area. Just imagine the magnitude of change since the early 1920’s when she was a girl.
Back then travel was primarily on our lakes with paddle wheelers connecting the many settlements from Okanagan Landing to Penticton. The last and most famous of those was the SS Sicamous which was launched the year she was born. Rail travel through the valley was yet to arrive. In 1914 our road system was rudimentary and primarily traveled by horse and wagon. Motorcars were a recent innovation. Ford’s famous Model T, the vehicle that put America on the road, was produced until 1927, the year Anne became a teenager. It was in that year Charles Lindbergh made his historic flight across the Atlantic. Our valley’s telephone system was still in its infancy; communication was through the mail or by telegraph. Today we have cars that can virtually drive themselves. Same day access to international destinations is available from our local airport. With enough money we can fly into space. We can communicate instantly anywhere in the world. Anne witnessed the introduction and development of technologies previously unimaginable. In 1914 Canada’s Prime Minister was Sir Robert Borden and the year in which World War 1 began. We have just celebrated the centenary of that conflict ending.
In those times our now busy and rapidly growing communities looked dramatically different from today. My trusty 1934 Vancouver Sun Directory, all 2,628 pages of it, has only a little information on this area but it’s interesting. While by no means comprehensive that journal listed 92 names listed for Oyama, and 50 for the rest of the area, most of those being in Okanagan Centre. A reference to Winfield says: “Flag station on the CNR, 20 miles south of Vernon, Okanagan Centre is nearest Post Office”. In 1921 the Canadian Census showed these valley populations: Penticton 3979, Kelowna 2520 and Vernon 3685. Amazing how things have changed over the years of Anne Land’s life.
In the face of this overwhelming historical perspective I feel safe in saying that I can’t imagine anyone living through more change. It is for this reason as well as her dedication to our community and the retaining of its history that I feel such a loss with her passing. She was a lovely and unique lady whose life and story will be a permanent and important part of the history of this valley.
Rich Gibbons, Okanagan Centre