Rhianfa Riel Of Crimson Tine Players

Rhianfa Riel
Rhianfa Riel

Rhianfa Riel had her home painted a deep purple, and the front door yellow. “I like to come home to bright colours every day after work,” she told Linda and me during a conversation in our home. Initially it seemed a tad bizarre but we would learn that her decorating preferences are not motivated solely by a fondness for radiant colours. They reflect an aspect of her life that most of us would attempt to keep secret.

Rhianfa and her husband Martin moved to Princeton in 2008 after working at a youth camp on Gambier Island for 8 years. In time they were hired by the Copper Mountain Mine. “That gave us the opportunity to have our own home,” she said smiling broadly. “It was something I had thought would never happen.” With 2 children (twins), a stable income and a comfortable home, their neighbours likely considered them a typical middle class family. The positive, upbeat aura about Rhianfa makes this an easy assumption. There was however, a troubling shadow constantly lingering over the family.

I was diagnosed with chronic depression in 2004,” Rhianfa said. “For years I felt victimized, frustrated, angry, and impotent to do anything about it. At times I was overcome by rage.”

Most of us know little about depression. It’s tempting to believe it’s a condition we can overcome by an act of the will and adopting a positive mindset. “It isn’t like that,” Rhianfa assured us. “Depression isn’t a choice. It isn’t just a bad day. It isn’t something you can talk yourself up from or out of. Mostly it’s a feeling of great sadness that clings to you and tries to pull you down into a dark hole.”

Listening to her, it became evident to me that depression has no compassion, no willingness to accept a truce, and no redeeming qualities. It crops up when it chooses and runs amuck in the mind. It can ravage a day, even a life.

For Rhianfa the healing of her life began with medication. Then she found a couple of knowledgeable, understanding counsellors. Also, several allies were already standing by her. “Martin believed in me. He listened and he told me he loved me. He is the reason I was able to deal with the rage. Also, my faith in God buoyed me up. It taught me I was loved unconditionally.”

Martin & Rhianfa Riel at their front door.
Martin & Rhianfa Riel at their front door.

Even now, depression comes to do battle with her psyche and emotions virtually every day. Fortunately she’s not apathetic or complacent.

Several years ago I joined the Crimson Tine Players,” she told us. “It’s an outlet for tension and creativity.”

They write the scripts and make the costumes and props. “We do 2 big performances each year. Also occasionally we present a murder mystery at the Vermillion Forks Restaurant. We write the scripts for that ourselves.”

Rhianfa Riel looking out the stage curtains. (photo supplied by Rhianfa Riel).
Rhianfa Riel looking out the stage curtains. (photo supplied by Rhianfa Riel).

Theatre has become a mainstay, a means of giving back. Every 8 weeks she takes 4 youths to watch a live production at the Kelowna Arts Studio. They pay their admission, she buys the gas.

This year we joined Theatre B.C. and entered the OZone Festival. We performed “Rabbit Hole”, a Pulitzer prize winning drama. It was serious and quite difficult, but we did well.”

She is president of Crimson Tine Players and sees it as an opportunity to challenge herself and help others develop confidence and social skills. “I’ve never been in the forefront of anything before. Now I’m meeting people from outside my comfort zone, from every philosophy and walk of life. Theatre is a great way to explore our potential. Anyone can learn to act.”

Rhianfa has practical counsel for individuals besieged by depression, discouragement, loneliness and other difficult conditions. It is, in fact, excellent advice for all of life. She said, “don’t fight it alone, and don’t give up. Eat well, sleep well, exercise, be with people, and chase sunshine. Practise kindness for no reason but kindness. Pray, or find some way to feed your soul. And, allow yourself to be loved.”

At the end she said, “I hold on to my family, to the love I have for them. I make that my reason to keep going. When it gets hard I thank God the hard days aren’t every day.”

A purple house and yellow front door probably aren’t essential for healing, but getting help and taking action are.

Princeton Music Festival A Success

When our friends Terry and Lis Friesen of Abbotsford visited here this past Saturday, they commented on how busy Princeton was. They did not know this was the weekend of the Princeton Traditional Music Festival. Linda and I enjoyed it for a few hours on Sunday.

Jon Bartlett, one of the main organizers of the festival.
Jon Bartlett, one of the main organizers of the festival.

I met Jon Bartlett. He and Rika Ruebsaat are the visionaries and primary organizers who make the festival happen. Jon told me the attendance for the weekend was an estimated 2,000. “It’s about the right number,” he said. “It allows for interaction between performers and the audience.”

There were 2 main stages, with canopies to shield performers and audiences from the sun. Saturday was a scorcher. Should have been a boon for sellers of ice cream and drinks.

"Liberty" performing.
“Liberty” performing.

We particularly enjoyed “Liberty,” a band from the interior of B.C. Cousin Verna’s friend, Bob Cameron (Cam) played the guitar in this group. They featured Irish music.

The Vancouver Morris Men, clad in white, performed a series of vibrant dances on the street. They required more space than was afforded by a stage. Accompanied by several musical instruments, there was a lot of strenuous kicking of legs, waving of large white handkerchiefs and some well timed verbal outbursts. A riveting performance. The Morris is a traditional British dance.

The Vancouver Morris Men
The Vancouver Morris Men

One non-musical event was offered by the Okanagan Valley School of Massage. This was a half hour massage by donation. Our friend Sharlene had come with us and took advantage of this service. It seemed to be the highlight of her day. I asked if she was a new woman. Virtually vibrating with pleasure at the memory of the experience she said “yes!”

For further information about the festival and Jon and Rika, see my blog a couple of weeks ago. (“Princeton Traditional Music Festival”).

Pow Wow Celebration Of Life

Lauren Terbasket thoughtfully explained the Pow Wow
Lauren Terbasket thoughtfully explained the Pow Wow

The Lower Similkameen Indian Band Pow Wow last year featured a beguiling pageantry of colourful regalia, swirling dancers, gifted singers, booming drums, symbolism, and a continuous line up for fried bread. Wanting to at least somewhat understand the cultural significance of the event, Linda and I recently invited Lauren Terbasket, one of the primary organizers, to our home. She arrived with her father John Terbasket, a respected band elder, daughter Tiinesha and granddaughter Nia. We learned that there are layers of meaning that would easily elude uninformed guests.

Held at the Ashnola Camp Ground on the Labour Day weekend, the Pow Wow is the second biggest in B.C. About 250 dancers and singers are expected this year from places like Alberta, Saskatchewan, Washington State and Montana. Spectators will number up to 2000.

Many had kind of lost the connection with our culture,” Lauren began. “But it’s coming back and this is a good feeling.” She reflected a moment and smiled. “It’s a social event, an opportunity to meet people, a celebration of life. We celebrate peace, interact with family, and talk about hunting, fishing, and life events. Our objective is to bring life to the people. Even if people don’t have much in life, when they come they sense the energy and the happiness. They feel drawn to the singing and dancing.”

When Linda and I talked with dancers and singers last year, they invariably mentioned the time required to do the intricate beadwork. “The beadwork is all different,” Lauren explained. “Often it has a history, possibly of the family. It may represent a dream, a vision, or a life event. The regalia and the dancing are judged in a competition. Prizes are awarded.”

When I asked who organizes the Pow Wow, Lauren said, “it’s mostly the Terbaskets and Allisons. Our family has 15+ members on the committee. We all pitch in at the event. My sister Karen is a trained chef so she runs the kitchen. Janet, an RCMP officer, assists with logistics and security. Kathy looks after admissions to the grounds. Wendy does the books, keeping tabs on the competition totals. (A 6th sister Geniene, an attorney, was killed in an automobile accident.) Community members contribute raffle items, clean and cook. We appreciate the community’s contributions.”

A Masters Candidate in education, Lauren views the Pow Wow as an opportunity to influence future leaders. “We teach the young ones certain protocols. How to conduct themselves honourably in public, be polite, socialize in a healthy way, and respect elders.” A lot of the singers and dancers go on to become council members and chiefs in their bands. The Pow Wow is a place to develop connections and public skills.

Photo credit to Cecilia Ralston. This photo was supplied by Lauren Terbasket & was taken about 4 years ago. Left to right: Tiinesha Begaye, John Terbasket, Krishon Terbasket, Lauren Terbasket
Photo credit to Cecilia Ralston. This photo was supplied by Lauren Terbasket & was taken about 4 years ago. Left to right: Tiinesha Begaye, John Terbasket, Krishon Terbasket, Lauren Terbasket

Band leaders understand the importance of starting the children at a young age. “If they’re exposed early, they dance,” Lauren told us. “We help them with beadwork to get them started. Older children help younger ones.”

Lauren’s eyes sparkled as she looked at her granddaughter sitting on Tiinesha’s lap. “Nia is 4 months. We’re already working on her regalia. Someone will hold her for the dancing.”

Nia &  her great grandfather, John Terbasket
Nia & her great grandfather, John Terbasket

Moving on to another aspect of the Pow Wow, Lauren said, “In the past our standing was measured by what we could give. Not by what we possessed. We are teaching the children the importance of giving back. When my grandson Krishon dances, he is giving of his energy and lifestyle. He will also give away some of the money he wins in the competitions. Some families will give gifts like blankets and food. It brings honour to their families and blessings to the community.”

She emphasized that the Pow Wow is an alcohol free event. “Bringing alcohol would be disrespectful. You represent your family and community. If someone shows up with alcohol, they will be asked to leave. Well, maybe they will be fed first, then escorted out. That hasn’t happened in recent years.”

During the weekend, the organizers and other band members work 18-20 hours a day. “Even though we’re exhausted,” Lauren said, “we feel a joy from giving to the community. The blessing is a big, beautiful family that truly understands the importance of giving.”

Superbly organized, this high octane, family friendly Pow Wow is an opportunity for the Similkameen community to join the band in celebrating life. The organizers invite everyone to come and enjoy this event.

John Terbasket Learned From Elders

John Terbasket
John Terbasket

Part 1 of 2. John Terbasket’s early life could have warped him to be bitter, angry, confused and addicted to alcohol. In a lengthy conversation with Linda and me in our home, he spoke candidly about his life as a member of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, the people, experiences and understandings that made him a respected role model and leader rather than a disgruntled derelict. He expressed pride in his family and people, but didn’t attempt to gloss over the issues still confronting the band.

My father was an alcoholic,” he told us. “When I was about 7, my mother died. I went to live with an older sister, then with an uncle and aunt. At age 10 I stopped going to school and started cowboying for my Uncle Barney Allison.”

Wanting John to get an education, at age 16 Uncle Barney sent him to a residential school in Cranbrook. “They ran it like a prison,” John remembers. “At night young children cried and I tried to comfort them. We weren’t allowed to speak our language. If we did, they gave us a toothbrush and made us clean 3 flights of stairs.”

Later the residential school experience gave him an understanding that helped him as a band leader. “I went to a reunion 15 years after leaving the school,” he said. “Many of my former classmates had become alcoholics. Some were dead. I saw that the residential school had left the survivors feeling lost.”

John married Delphine at about age 20. Many of their friends were enmeshed in an alcoholic lifestyle and for a time they followed the same path.

Fortunately he was blessed with several excellent role models. His uncle Barney Allison told him, “You don’t have much education. You will have to work. Take whatever job you can get and learn as many trades as possible.” John accepted this advice and for some years worked in logging, orcharding and cowboying.

At age 30 he agreed to take his brother and sister-in-law to AA meetings two evenings per week for a month. “When the month was over,” he said, “they stopped attending, but I continued. I remembered how it had been in our home because of my father’s drinking. Sometimes there were no groceries. I didn’t want our children to grow up like that. My wife and I both turned away from alcohol.”

His Uncle Bobby, also a successful rancher, told him, “things are going to change. We will need people with an education.” When the band offered to send John to the Cody International Institute in Nova Scotia, he accepted. Not long after, he was appointed to be the band’s first administrator.

I came out of the orchard to be administrator,” he said. “I didn’t have the experience or knowledge to make things happen. The Elders helped me get a more clear vision of what was needed. Also, Uncle Barney had been elected band chief. He had a vision for our people. He got things started.”

John grew in the understanding that the residential schools, in denying children their language and culture, had stripped away their indigenous identity. “People were confused,” he said. “They didn’t feel they were part of either culture. They turned to alcohol to escape the memories of abuse in the schools. When they had children, they didn’t know how to be parents, so the confusion was passed to the next generation. There was dissension between those who had been in residential schools and those who had not.”

The Elders advised him “you have to help our people with sobriety before you start bringing in a lot of money. Then the money will be used for good purposes.”

Realizing he had much to learn, John listened carefully to the Elders. “Initially we emphasized education and jobs,” he said. “Then we began to understand that to become resilient and confident, young people needed to become immersed in the culture of our people. That would give them an identity they could be proud of. Five years ago we revived the annual Pow Wow at the Ashnola Camp Ground. A lot of our young people are participating.”

John Terbasket holding his great granddaughter Nia
John Terbasket holding his great granddaughter Nia

Now 78, John is grateful for his family and appears thoroughly grounded philosophically and emotionally. He credits his uncles and the Elders with enabling him to have a part in the positive band developments. Next week: the Ashnola Pow Wow.

Hedley Miner’s Cabin

Information plaque at Hedley Heritage Museum
Information plaque at Hedley Heritage Museum

It’s known in Hedley as “the Miner’s Cabin,” and we speak of it with considerable respect, almost reverence. Who the miner was, nobody appears to know. He vanished many years ago without leaving a trace, other than the cabin. Not even Hedley historian Jennifer Douglass, my usually well informed and reliable source, could enlighten me.

The lack of knowledge about the phantom human being who built this cabin niggled at me. I wondered what sort of man he might have been, and what had drawn him to this remote, mountainous area? I decided to record my best guess as to his character, history, ambitions, values, and eventual demise. He deserved a solid name, so I called him Bert. No one locally ever learned his last name.

I’d heard of men being sent by their family from England to Canada because their unruliness embarrassed them. Bert may have been such a man.

Considered a “Black Sheep” by his wealthy English family, Bert might have been shipped to Canada in the hope a new beginning in a young nation would enable him to grow in maturity. The family supplied him with a living allowance initially and he was therefore known as a “remittance man.” I’d heard my father speak of such a man in an Ontario lumbering camp.

Stung by rejection and abuse and apprehensive of intimate relationships, Bert made his way to British Columbia. Wanting to redeem himself in the eyes of his family, he became a lone wolf prospector, tramping in unexplored areas in hope of coming upon a yet undiscovered rich vein. It would be understandable if a strong willed man with gold fever decided to take his chances and work independently. In Hedley, six hotels, a red light district and a number of flourishing businesses had sprung up to service the miners working deep underground on Nickel Plate Mountain. Certainly a man could believe that by working alone he might stumble across an undiscovered vein that would make him incredibly wealthy.

Exploring the difficult mountainous terrain he lost the fat and flabby muscles of his previous decadent lifestyle. He became determined, rugged and resourceful. With the help and advice of a friendly trapper, he constructed the cabin near the base of Nickel Plate Mountain.

If Bert was indeed an independent prospector, his quest for the mother lode was almost certainly in vain. Had he struck it rich, even his secretive, private nature could hardly have prevented the strike becoming known. Maybe it didn’t matter to him at the end of his days though. An old bearded man, lying on his hard bunk at night, he could find ample satisfaction in knowing he had not frittered away his life with self-indulgence and dissolution.

************

While Linda and I were in the Museum last week scouring the albums for early pictures of the cabin, Gerry Wilkins came in. He’s pretty computer savvy and has devoted hundreds of hours to researching Hedley’s past. I said, “Gerry, do you know anything about the Miner’s cabin?”

He replied, “It was moved to the Museum from the corner lot where the motel is. I was involved in moving it. Before that it was on Vince and Audrey Flynn’s property, next to the motel.”

He then led me into the bowels of the Museum where there is a computer in a cramped office I didn’t know existed. Examining Fire Insurance Map records, Gerry concluded there was a record of the Miner’s Cabin in 1908 and also 1937. He discovered one photo of a cabin that has similar windows and also logs of similar dimensions.

Photo of a cabin of that era (courtesy of Hedley Heritage Museum
Photo of a cabin of that era (courtesy of Hedley Heritage Museum

Since those early days, the cabin has endured the ravages of cold winters and hot summers. Two years ago the Museum Society had the roof replaced. This summer the walls were repaired. Wide cracks had developed between the logs. These were covered with 2 inch wood strips and sealed with caulking, inside and out. Windows were also either repaired or replaced, and the door was rebuilt. The work was done by journeyman carpenter Terry Sawiuk, with the assistance of Bill Day and Josh Carter. These three local men put in many hours of volunteer time. The cabin will long remind present and future citizens of Hedley’s once vibrant, swashbuckling past. I’m sure Bert would be pleased at the now spiffy appearance of his erstwhile home.

Terry Sawiuk, Josh Carter & Bill Day with the Miner's Cabin
Terry Sawiuk, Josh Carter & Bill Day with the Miner’s Cabin

Princeton Traditional Music Festival

Jon & Rika in front of their home in Princeton, BC. Joyfully expressing in song their enthusiasm for music.
Jon & Rika in front of their home in Princeton, BC. Joyfully expressing in song their enthusiasm for music. (click on photo for close up)

Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat don’t receive even token remuneration for the hundreds of hours and enormous energy they devote to the Princeton Traditional Music Festival. Listening to them talk about the event and the underlying sizzle of excitement in their voices, Linda and I realized there must be compelling reasons behind their uncommon dedication. Jon gave us at least a glimpse of this when he said, “We want to recover the traditional music of B.C. Music that reflects the experiences of men in logging and fishing camps, of miners, Irish immigrants, French Canadians, and many others.” For them much of the reward stems from the joy they see in musicians and attendees.

Both Jon and Rika are immigrants to Canada. Rika came as a child in 1952. Jon arrived at age 21 in 1969. Their pre Festival lives could hardly have followed a more apt trajectory as a preparation for the present significant enterprise.

As a young woman, Rika’s first career was in theatre. “I began studying theatre at UBC,” she recalled. “Before I was done though, I quit the program, went to England and hitchhiked around Europe. I connected with a bilingual theatre group and we performed in Europe and Canada.” For her it was “an absolute passion, totally engaging and transformative.”

Jon had been a paralegal in England, frequently investigating railway accidents. He also did pre-trial court work. On arriving in Canada he initially followed a similar career path. Later he supported himself, in part, by singing in Gas Town.

Each had a consuming interest in music and this led them independently to the Vancouver Folk Circle. It was here that their relationship and collaboration began.

Jon Bartlett & Rika Ruebsaat
Jon Bartlett & Rika Ruebsaat

Initially it was a relationship of respect and suspicion on my part,” Rika said. “Jon was demanding and challenging. You couldn’t just say something. He expected you to explain. I found that attractive.”

For Jon, Rika met an important expectation. “I couldn’t be with someone who wasn’t political,” he said.

Their story suggests they were restless, always seeking involvements they considered important.

We thought there would be a big change,” Jon said, “a revolution.” He meant a revolution in the thinking of Canadians. “We were hoping for people to wake up and realize we need to work together to make the world a better place. We were looking for decency in public life. We wanted people to accept responsibility for their own actions and not just fall into something. To make a choice. The revolution didn’t happen.”

Combining their talents they forged a potent partnership, performing on stages across Canada, including school class rooms. For some time they sang and told stories “from around the province” on the CBC radio program, “North by Northwest”. They also wrote 2 books. One was short listed for the prestigious Roderick Haig- Brown prize and also the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing.

They settled in Princeton and in 2007 were invited to perform on the Racing Days Weekend. “We had so much fun,” Rika remembers, “we wanted to do a festival. Over the years we had connected with a world wide circle of musicians. We invited our musician friends to come.”

Although they don’t get paid, over the years their friends have responded enthusiastically. “We do fund raising,” Jon said. “Also we receive some support from the town, the Gaming Branch, the RDOS and the federal government, but not enough to pay performers. We provide billets and we also give them food vouchers to local restaurants.”

For the musicians, it’s a total immersion,” Rika observed. “They love it. It provides an opportunity to perform music that comes from the community, the kind of music you make with your family. It’s music you might hear through the wall.”

Linda and I were deeply impressed by the sense of mutual respect, the commitment and the incurable optimism we saw in Jon and Rika.. They were lavish in their praise for the committee that has worked with them since early this year to make the coming festival a huge success.

Although it’s named the Princeton Traditional Music Festival, it really is for the entire Similkameen Valley. Actually, the province and beyond. There will be at least 140 performers, joyfully singing, playing instruments and telling stories. It’s a major musical event, running from August 19 to 21. Admittance is free. A great gift to us all!

 

 

Donald Trump Phenomenon

Similkameen Valley (photo Similkameen Valley.com)
Similkameen Valley (photo Similkameen Valley.com)

Does the Donald Trump phenomenon have any relevance for us in our peaceful Similkameen Valley? Certainly many of us have been perplexed by recent U.S. political developments. We wonder why American Republicans cheered on a bigoted loud mouthed renegade billionaire as he brazenly shouldered aside more experienced, more reasonable candidates in the pre-election primaries.

Donald J. Trump
Donald J. Trump

The U.S. political and social environment has been in a state of uncertainty and flux for a number of years. Some Americans fear their leaders aren’t capable of coping with critical issues such as the frightening domestic racial strife or international terrorism. Already during the Obama versus McCain election campaign in 2008, Peggy Noonan, conservative leaning Wall Street Journal columnist suggested there was a sense of unease in her country.

In “Patriotic Grace” she wrote, “I think a lot of people are coming around in their hearts to a belief the wheels may be coming off the trolley, and the trolley off the rails.” She then added, “I think in some fundamental way, things are broken, and can’t be fixed, or won’t be any time soon.” She may have been foretelling and reflecting the present American mood when she said, “I believe we have to assume something bad is going to happen, 10 times, or 100 times as bad as 911.”

Trolley Car (enwikipedia.org)
Trolley Car (enwikipedia.org)

Governments in America and Canada have ballooned to the point where dialogue with the electorate is scant, virtually non-existent. Political leaders almost inevitably promise open, transparent government. Then, just as inevitably, they find reasons to ignore the wishes of the people who entrusted them with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the nation.

In America and Canada, governments have for some time been relentlessly re-engineering significant societal structures. They have entered into overly cozy relationships with multi-national corporations. According to Tom Parkin (Toronto Sun, July 17, 2016) “There’s been a lobbyist explosion in Ottawa. Over 8,000 lobbyists are plying their trade there.” Many of these represent corporations.

One result of corporate pressure is the (yet to be ratified) 12 nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Once ratified, this agreement will allow foreign corporations to sue any level of government if they believe regulations are likely to limit their profits, either in the present or the future. According to organizations like the Suzuki Foundation, we will lose much of our ability to protect the environment that is so crucial to our well being and that of future generations. Doctors Without Borders have expressed alarm that the TPP will adversely impact affordability of pharmaceuticals.

Peggy Noonan says, “there is a sense that the old America in which we were raised is receding and something new and quite unknown is taking its place, a sense that our leaders have gone astray. Some young people don’t know if they have a future.”

Donald Trump has skillfully tapped into the growing sense on the part of some, that the American dream is fading and losing its once magnificent, compelling allure. He has urged Americans to believe that a festering corruption at high levels is frittering away the nation’s greatness. Even if he is right, does he have the experience, ability, or wisdom to fix what he believes is wrong with America?

Trump has certainly not attempted to disguise his disdain for the practises and policies implemented by Republican and Democratic presidents over the years. His supporters seem determined to vent their anger and disgust by voting for someone, possibly almost anyone, who promises a new approach to governance.

As voters we at times over react against a leader or party we have come to distrust and even despise. This happened in the 2001 B.C. election when we gave the Dosanjh NDP only 2 seats because we had been angered by the previous Premier, Glen Clark. It is possible, at least in part, that support for Trump is rooted in such a reaction.

Peggy Noonan states “Political leaders can know what our priorities are only if we tell them, again and again.” This week I have written our local MP Dan Albas stating my concerns about the TPP, and also the profligate squandering of funds by some Senators. Even in the Similkameen valley, we can help keep the wheels on the trolley, and the trolley on the rails. We can be far more forceful in communicating our expectations to all levels of government. When a nation is governed well, bigots like Donald Trump will find fewer receptive minds.

A Surprise In Midlife

Ingrid Percival of Keremeos, BC
Ingrid Percival of Keremeos, BC

When Ingrid Percival of Keremeos, BC was 42, she received the surprise of her life. Recalling it in a conversation with Linda and me last week, she smiled, still experiencing a touch of euphoria at the memory. “I became a teenager again,” she said.

Ingrid was born in Germany in 1941, when Adolph Hitler’s Wehrmacht was trampling Europe. “My father was in the military,” she said. “I never really got to know him. After the war my parents divorced and my mother married a British soldier. When I was 8 years old, we moved to England.”

For Ingrid it was an early event in a series of challenging life circumstances. Her face grew serious. “My childhood wasn’t happy. When I told my mom what my stepfather was doing, she didn’t believe me.” This didn’t change when the family emigrated to Canada in 1953.

Some youths retreat to a street existence to escape the emotional quagmire at home. Ingrid possessed the staying power to complete high school, an early manifestation of the spunk and resilience she would require to survive future daunting circumstances. Upon graduating at age 17, she immediately fled from home, a young woman seeking sanctuary and happiness.

She believed the sun was finally shining on her when she fell deeply in love with Bill, a man serving in the navy. Although he loved her, he wasn’t ready to settle into a longterm relationship. He moved away and she was devastated.

Wanting stability and love, at age 19 she accepted a marriage proposal. The promise of happiness was short lived. She soon realized her husband had a serious alcohol addiction. “It wasn’t a good marriage,” she said. “Eventually we got a divorce.” Her face relaxed. “It didn’t leave me bitter. God has always given me the ability to forgive. The marriage did give me 4 good children.” In the midst of turmoil, she had that rare capacity to see a blessing.

She had a stable job with B.C. Electric (now B.C. Hydro) and became a purchasing agent. “I wasn’t dating,” she said, “but I did ask God if there would be a man for me again.”

Her life unexpectedly took a positive turn when she attended a seminar for purchasing agents in Vancouver. “Everyone was already seated when a man walked in,” she recalled. She looked at him and thought, “It can’t be!”

It was Bill, the navy man she had fallen madly in love with as a young woman. At the coffee break she went to him and said, “Hello Bill. Do you remember me?” He said, “How could I ever forget you, Iny?” It was at this point in her account that she said, “I became a teenager again.”

Their lives had been on a parallel track, she told us. “Like me, Bill had married an alcoholic. He was a purchasing agent. Also, at that time he was in the midst of a divorce.”

They again fell in love and this time he was ready. Ingrid and Bill were married and, in spite of a disastrous joint real estate venture, were happy together.

We had 19 wonderful years,” she told us. “At Christmas 2005 Bill died of lung cancer. He was the love of my life.”

Once again her life was in turmoil. “It was tough,” she said, “but I decided to carry on. I went into volunteering. I began working in the kitchen at the Senior Centre when they put on dances. I drive for Volunteer Drivers. I also work at the Food Bank. In the beginning, I did it because I didn’t have to think. Now I do it because I like helping people. It’s satisfying.”

Ingrid found strength to move on emotionally. “I used my mower to cut the sage and weeds on the vacant lot across the street,” she said. “I tried to give away some irises, but no one wanted them so I planted them on the lot. I painted 2 rough benches and placed them there. People began noticing. An old hydrant and a lamp pole were dropped off. Also owls and figurines. It isn’t just my project anymore.”

Ingrid Percival in the  "Secret Garden"
Ingrid Percival in the “Secret Garden”

When people walk by now she sometimes hears them say, “I didn’t know about this garden. It’s beautiful!”

Ingrid Percival garden

The midlife surprise is still a deep well of joy for Ingrid. Now she also derives meaning from “our secret garden,” which gives pleasure to others.

Model A In Princeton

Model A in Princeton, BC
Model A in Princeton, BC

It was a delight to see this 1928 Model A in the Princeton A & W parking lot on Sunday. I asked Tim, the owner, if I could get a few pictures. He said, “Sure, most people don’t ask.” He said it had taken more than 8 years to re-build. I gathered it was a job of finding parts, making those that weren’t available, and assembling them. A labour of love. I should have suggested he stand by the car. That was a case of negligence on my part.

IMG_2836

Seeing Tim’s creation mentally took me back many years. My Dad owned a 1929 Model A (basically the same as the 1928 according to Tim). Our family made the move from rural Manitoba, not far from Steinbach, to Abbotsford, B.C. in that car. There were six of us in the car, Mom & Dad, my sister Vi, myself plus two young guys who I assume helped with expenses. A large trunk containing all we owned was strapped to the rear of the car. I don’t think the young guys were able to take anything except for the clothes on their bodies. That Model A didn’t let us down, not even a flat tire. Thanks Tim, for the photos and the memory.

Hedley Fire Department 1912-2016

Hedley in the early years Photo from Hedley Heritage Museum Society
Hedley in the early years
Photo from Hedley Heritage Museum Society

A number of the homes in Hedley were constructed at the time Henry Ford was building his iconic Model T and Model A cars. Early records indicate that for the volunteer fire fighters, protecting these dry wooden structures with scanty equipment presented a mammoth challenge.

According to the now defunct Hedley Gazette, when a fire broke out in the Red Light district of Hedley in 1912, the hose wasn’t long enough to reach the blaze. The only means of combating the fire was to take shovels and throw snow against adjacent buildings. Five structures burned down that day. Museum records are a bit hazy on details but the town apparently purchased a longer hose and used a home made “pull cart” to transport it. Even so, that same year the New Zealand hotel burned to the ground.

Fire hose pull cart - the first one didn't look as attractive as this one.
Fire hose pull cart – the first one didn’t look as attractive as this one.

In 1956 three hotels burned down. These were the Hedley, the Commercial and the Great Northern. According to the Spotlight, the entire business district burned that year, except for one service station.

When Linda and I first visited Hedley in 1976, we watched incredulously as 4 men raced along Scott Avenue, determinedly hauling a pull cart and attached hose to a chimney fire. A former Fire Chief, Ralph McKay, told me recently one man always ran behind the cart to pick up pieces that fell off. In 1984 Hedley purchased a used 1973 Ford truck after the Red and White store burned.

Approximately 10 years ago small cash strapped communities were amazed to learn that insurance underwriters required fire trucks to be less than 20 years old. They threatened to jack up premiums if we dug in our heels. Hedley citizens did just that. Surely an acceptable used truck could be had for far less money, some said. In spite of diligent searching though, no acceptable used truck was ever found. Premiums rose astronomically jolting us like a high voltage lightening strike. In a third referendum we caved in and agreed to borrow funds for a new truck.

Having come to the attention of the Insurance Underwriters Survey, a thorough overhaul of the system and equipment was added to the list of new requirements. According to Vicky Hansen, former office manager for the Hedley Improvement District, “much of the equipment was obsolete, training needed to be upgraded, a duty officer must be designated for each day and members needed to report when they went out of town.” She then added, “I had just been hired. My first day on the job I wrote a cheque for $350,000 to buy the new truck.”

The truck was delivered in 2010. When Terry McFarlane, the new Fire Chief learned that Graham Gore had an air brake ticket, he asked him to join the department. Qualified drivers were in short supply. Graham, age 70 and volunteer pastor of the local church agreed. Then, because no one was doing it, he began reorganizing the department. Being retired and having been in business, he was just right for the job. He was soon named FD manager, a volunteer position.

Graham Gore retires as Hedley Fire Department Manager
Graham Gore retires as Hedley Fire Department Manager

Now, after 6 years of diligent service, at age 77, Graham has recently stepped down. In a telephone conversation this week he said that in pressing for a higher professional standard, he had built on the work of former Assistant Chief Larry McIntosh. He also praised current Chief Terry McFarlane as a good decision maker.

Veteran fire fighter Andy English said “Graham upgraded the training, bought dress uniforms for public occasions, brought in a device so we can fill our air bottles locally, and much more. He has instilled a high level of professionalism. We have a sense of pride.” Assistant Chief Doug Nimchuk said “Graham had no experience with fire fighting but he studied the manuals and learned to do training. We respect his integrity. He doesn’t do a half job.”

Graham Gore’s zeal for the department, his unstinting push for a professional standard, and his positive, uplifting attitude will not be easy to replace. Acknowledging his contribution, one fire fighter said, “to keep up the standard, we’ll all have to step up to the plate.” If early fire fighters could obtain a day pass from the other side of the Great Divide to view modern equipment and training programs that now exist even in Hedley, they’d almost certainly clamor to sign up.

Doug Nimchuk Assistant Fire Chief, Terry McFarlane Fire Chief, Graham Gore retiring FD Manager, Derek Lilly former Fire Chief
Doug Nimchuk Assistant Fire Chief, Terry McFarlane Fire Chief, Graham Gore retiring FD Manager, Derek Lilly former Fire Chief