Monday, June 26, 2017

Going back six decades

Yesterday I had the chance to revisit some of my very early history at Kimberley, BC, where I lived for four years until 1951. When I was just six months old my father took a job as a mining engineer at the Sullivan Mine in Kimberley.  He was just 26 years old, recently graduated from UBC and released from the army after WWII, newly married with a wife and a baby, (me).  

My sister was born in Kimberly in 1948 and our little family lived there at 80 Howard Street until a stupid and tragic accident at the mine took my father's life in March of 1949.  My widowed mother lived in Kimberly with Jan and me until 1951, at which time we left Kimberley and moved to Vancouver.

I have some memories of the house on Howard Street and some photos of my sister and me in front of the house. So I was pretty excited to see if I could find the house and perhaps even recognize it. Well it turns out that the house has been torn down and a small hotel built there. It's actually really close to the centre of town, probably prime real estate now. But, although there are some new buildings, there are still lots of really tiny houses that date from the period when I lived there. These are modest houses with one bathroom and two bedrooms on small lots, built probably in the 1920s or the 1930s.

The house across the street came the closest to my memory of the house I lived in. It has a lot of stairs going up and a porch along the front. This one has the added roof to keep the snow off the stairs. It's not a house we'd care to live in now, although you could probably buy it for about $100,000.

Yesterday afternoon we took a train ride into the old Sullivan Mine. I wanted to see where my dad had worked and where he lost his life. I've never been in a mine before and I have to say that it wasn't a wonderful experience: cold, dark and noisy. On the left you can see the train heading into the opening to the mine. And on the right our tour guide, who was miner for decades, explaining how the blasted the ore out and loaded it into cars.

These photos are of the powerhouse for the mine, where power was generated for all the mining activities. 

This belt ran the compressors and it was operated by water for many years. it still functions. The belt is made from continuous strands of hemp rope.

The Sullivan Mine continued operating for decades; it closed down permanently in 2001 and since then Kimberley has reinvented itself as a recreational centre featuring festivals, a theatre company,  and a faux Bavarian ambience. It has a nice family ski hill, miles of paved bike paths, and lots of kayaking and camping and canoeing. It's actually a really beautiful area, the second highest town in Canada at 3700 feet and the air is gorgeous. This is one of the covered bridges built across the creek in the centre of town.

We spent two nights at the Trickle Creek Lodge at the bottom of one of the Alpine ski hills. It was a great place to stay and we enjoyed dinner there last night.  Here's Harry enjoying ribs and a salad at the bottom of one of the ski lifts as the sun sets.

We spent the evening fantasizing about what it would be like to move to Kimberley. This often happens to us when we travel; we think about selling up and moving. Once we get home, reality surfaces though. We liked a lot of things about Kimberley: the fresh air, the cute little downtown, the Alpine meadows. But I think it would always remind me of the losses from my early years.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

On the road--through Grand Forks, Creston, and Cranbrook

The past couple days we've been travelling through some really beautiful but isolated parts of the province. Most of the time there's no cell service at all, except when passing through towns and villages, which are not that close together. We've been going up and down over mountain passes and through lovely river valleys and along lakes. The Kootenay Rockies includes several mountain ranges: the Monashee, the Columbia, the Purcells, the Selkirks, and the Rockies, all running basically north and south. In between the ranges are lakes and broad valleys with gorgeous farmland.

Here is some of the country we've seen.

Both Grand Forks and Creston are agricultural areas quite close to the Canada-USA border. They have a population of around 5,000 people and a small downtown area.  Highway 3, the Crowsnest Highway runs through them both. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Grand Forks, right downtown beside the old courthouse, now housing an art gallery and tourist information bureau. It seemed quiet but there were big trucks rolling through all night long.

That evening there in the Rotary Park across the street there was live music, country of course, and a farmers market the next morning. This is obviously the cultural centre of the town.  

Next morning we pushed on to Creston, another agricultural area, even more remote. Although it does have a movie theatre on the main street, seemingly catering to the teenaged audience. We met a young woman in a restaurant there who grew up in Victoria and has lived in Creston for four years with her husband and two young daughters. While she likes some things about the life she says the weather is difficult because it's too hot in the summer and there's too much fog in the winter. It also gets a lot of snow, as evidenced by sets of stairs around town that are covered by metal roofing to keep the snow from piling up.

This stairway led down to the field where the Creston Farmers Market was going on. We purchased our usual bag of cherries plus some dried cherries and dried Italian plums for the road.

Yesterday it was on to Cranbrook, the largest city in the area which features the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel with many restored CPR and other rail cars. Here are a few photos from that fascinating experience. Many of the cars had been modernized in the 1950s and 1960s and the amazing inlaid woodwork was painted over with light green paint. The restoration work is really fabulous. 

Can you imagine someone covering up this beautiful work with green paint? Here's a before and after photo of one of the cars. The one on the left was modernized and the one on the right is the other side of the same car after it's been restored.

We also saw an American railway car even older, from Spokane, built in 1907. Unlike the CPR cars, these were all made of wood and there are very few examples left.  I like the photos showing the really old parts of these before they've been restored.

Apparently a few of these rail cars were saved because they were purchased by families to use as summer cottages.

This last photo is a part that has been restored showing the inlay and the stained glass windows.

Today we're taking a rest day in Kimberley, a town where I lived as a young child. I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Greenwood and Phoenix

We left the Okanagan on Thursday morning and headed east along the bottom of the province, traversing mountain ranges that run north and south. On the way we stopped at the city of Greenwood, apparently the smallest city in Canada, with a population of around 700 people. It was incorporated in 1897 as the main smelting city of the area and has kept its city status despite the drop in population.  

There are a few stories associated with this place. One relates to my stepfather Charlie, who was born here more than a century ago. His father was a geological engineer employed at the Phoenix Mine near Greenwood when things were booming. We stopped in at the historical museum and the woman there was quite familiar with the name C.M. Campbell. Apparently they have quite a few of his photographs in their archives.

The town of Phoenix is reported to have had  4,000 people in 1911 and at its peak had 16 hotels and a professional hockey team. When copper prices dropped in after WW I, most of the inhabitants left and never came back. The company closed the mine some time later and in the 1920s wrecking crews arrived to haul away the churches, halls, stores, skating rink and hospital--all of which were dismantled and re-erected in other communities. The only thing remaining there now is a plaque and a graveyard.  

We didn't go up to the old townsite but we spent some time at Greenwood, where there are some buildings of about the same vintage. This is the Mellor Block from 1901 which housed the telegraph office and the first post office.

This fine home was built by an alderman on Greenwood's first city council. 

This was the original courthouse built in 1903. The basement contained three prison jail cells. It is now used as the City Hall.

And below is the Windsor Hotel built in 1899, home to one of the longest operating pubs in B.C.

But there's more to the story of Greenwood. It was also mostly abandoned after the price of copper dropped in 1919. But in 1942 the boarded-up town was transformed into an internment camp for 1,200 displaced Japanese Canadians. Many of the old buildings were used as living quarters for internees. The Mellor Block, pictured at the top of the page, contained one of the four community baths.

The next chapter in the story relates to the movie made from David Gutterson's novel, Snow Falling on Cedars. In 1988 Greenwood was the site of much of the filming of the movie, purported to be Amity Harbour, a fictional town located on one of the San Juan Islands.  Take a close look at the painting on the side of this building. It says "Amity Harbor, the strawberry capital of the San Juan Islands."  

And here's another one featuring Pacific salmon. Pretty strange to see these details hundreds of miles from the Pacific coast.  Many of the old buildings' interiors were also used in the movie.

A couple of final photos of this intriguing place. These two photos are of the Guess Block, built in 1899. It originally housed the assay office.  You can see the sign from the movie, Pacific Grill.  Harry's there at the coffee shop that operates there now talking to one of the residents.

And finally a photo of the interior of one of these buildings, apparently owned or rented by someone who collects old toasters and electrical appliances. The door was locked and we had no idea whether it's meant to be a museum of sorts or just a shrine to a personal collection

Since our visit to Greenwood we've stopped in Grand Forks and Creston, both agricultural towns.  I'll post a bit about them tomorrow, and I'll also show you some photos from the fascinating Rail Car Museum in Cranbrook. We're limiting our driving so we can spend a bit of time in these different places.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wine tasting on Naramata Bench

Some photos from our day of wine tasting today on the beautiful Naramata Bench overlooking Lake Okanagan. This is the outdoor patio at La Frenz with its million dollar view.

Next stop was Terra Vista, which focuses on grapes from Spain. I enjoyed tasting the wine and visiting with the dog, while Harry enjoyed chatting with the guys who grow the grapes and make the wine. Because he's the driver, he doesn't do much tasting but he does like talking with the guys about the vats and the equipment and the land.

We had lunch in an orchard at Joie, a farm and vineyard with wonderful wood-fired pizza served al fresco.  And they had a Border Collie puppy for me to visit with. What could be better?
Harry liked the dogs but also the 1942 Ford truck. 

It was a fabulous day and tomorrow we say farewell to the Okanagan and head east to continue our trip towards the Kootenays.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Water and wine

Water and wine are the two things that we've been paying attention to the past couple of days here in Penticton. Water, because this year there's been big-time flooding here and Okanagan Lake is higher than it's been in sixty years. Flooding started in May and was predicted to continue into July.

The beaches along Okanagan Lake don't really exist now as the water is right up to the sidewalks. People are advised not to swim or let their dogs go in the water because it's contaminated from sewage and septic fields. All along the edge of the beach are piles of sandbags and fencing.

People tell us it's starting to recede now but we see lots of places where the docks and the benches and trees along the beach are still under water.  Lots of people are contstantly pumping out their basements but the water table is so high that water just seeps back in. Hopefully now that the warm weather has arrived there will be evaporation and the waters will continue to recede and things can return to normal.

Because of the rain the hills are much greener than normal and it seems there's a magnificent wildflower bloom. The air here smells so sweet and fresh.

Now on to the wine part of this post. We've spent the last two days cruising some of the dozens of wineries in the area. Harry tastes the red and I taste the white and we've been collecting a few bottles. This was the view from a place we had lunch yesterday at Burrowing Owl Winery just south of Oliver. It was serene and delicious but rather pricey. 

Today we decided to do things differently and stopped at a grocery store to pick up a sandwich and a salad plus some olives, cheese, dip and crackers. We ended up at Sage Hills organic vineyard north of Summerland, where we purchased a bottle of cold Pinot Grigio and sat outside sipping and enjoying our picnic lunch. (For the observant ones, the wine in the photo is a rose, which we decided at the last minute to take home with us rather than open for lunch.)
Tomorrow we're heading up to the Naramata Bench, home to some well-respected wineries and we have a list of suggestions from the young woman at Sage Hills to guide us. There are so many to choose from and we're not the greatest researchers. And there's only so much wine that can be tasted in an afternoon. Thank goodness Harry is my designated driver. He usually has only one or two sips.

Here's a last photo of one of the lakes that we've been driving past. It's because of the water here that wine industry flourishes, of course. They really are connected.