Archive | October 2009

Walmart Coming to Town – a blessing or a curse?

The topic of Walmart coming to our community is a hot one.  While one philosophy is that it will draw the shoppers from north of here to shop in Campbell River instead of going to Courtenay, those who are not fond of the retail giant are concerned about how it will effect other local businesses.  Super Value is slated to close at the end of the year, and the Walmart Supercentre is only just on the horizon. 

Walmart Supercentre

Walmart Supercentre

It doesn’t seem that anything will stop the progress now – as the earlier protests were centred around its effect on the estuary, but somehow that issue was skirted around and now Home Depot has found a home in the spot where Walmart was first intended to be.

I have put in a link to an article ‘The Price of Walmart Coming to Town’ that is an indepth analysis of the pros and cons of having this type of retail business in any community, and would be of interest to anyone who doesn’t mind reading a few pages. (It’s a little long).  http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/Savemoney/the-price-of-wal-mart-coming-to-town.aspx

In short, the author concedes the point that Walmart will create jobs in the short term, but wonders at what cost in the long term – pointing out that often a Walmart will take away business, and therefore jobs, from other established retail businesses that can’t compete with its low pricing.  The jobs that are lost may be replaced by the ones created at Walmart, but, the pay rate is generally lower there, than at other stores.  This in turn reduces the spending power of retail employees in the town and when people don’t or can’t spend, all businesses suffer.

I recently spoke to the woman who represents Welcome Wagon in Campbell River.  She makes about 40 visits per month to new residents – so people are moving here and that is why our real estate market is still booming – however, she doesn’t have as many businesses participating as she used to.  This is due to them closing.  Does it make sense at this time, for an enormous retail business to open here?  Apparently, the one slated for Campbell River is supposed to also offer groceries.  It seems we have enough grocery outlets already, with Zellers and Shoppers Drug Mart having expanded already into that area.It will take a year or two after Walmart opens I suspect, for us to see the outcome of its presence here in Campbell River.  Let’s hope it is a positive outcome.

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Granddaughter of Chief Billy Assu alive and well and living in Port Hardy

Jessie with her paint brushes

Jessie with her paint brushes

You never know where you might meet a fellow Campbell Riverite, or find a piece of Campbell River history.  Although she spent most of her life in Port Hardy, Jessie Roland, now in her late ’70’s was born in Campbell River, one of the daughters of Mary Assu – who was a daughter of the first wife of Chief Billy Assu of Cape Mudge, or ‘Uncle Billy’ as everyone knew him.  I learned all of this over breakfast during our holidays in September, when we stayed at the bed and breakfast that Jessie owns and operates in Port Hardy.

Jessie has often been encouraged to write about her colourful life, but she is a self-proclaimed procrastinator and may never set about accomplishing the task.  She agreed though, to pass on some information to me for Ezabu and the following is a brief synopsis.

Jessie, whose Native name is ‘Nigei’, meaning mountain, grew up in Seymour Inlet on a floathouse.  Her father, Nils Gunderson was a logger from Norway, and her mother Mary homeschooled the children.  From an article written about Jessie and her family in the ‘North Islander’ from May 1980, I learned that her mother also took in laundry, washing it in a gas powered wringer washing machine.

When she was eight years old, the family moved to Port Hardy so that Jessie and her two sisters,  Joyce and Queenie, could attend the one room schoolhouse there.  She completed Grade Nine, then rather than finish highschool by correspondence, she and her sisters went to Vancouver.  In those days, the Union Steamships were still operating, and the girls would visit home taking the 24 hour boat trip from Vancouver to Port Hardy.  She recalls that the ships were very elegant and it was great fun, with them stopping at every port of call along the way.

During the summers Jessie worked as a ‘whistle punk’ (signaling the movement of logs) for the Johnson and Stuart logging company on a small island in Quatsino Sound.  She was the only woman working in the camp, but felt comfortable as she had grown up around logging.  After high school, she went on to Normal School in order to become a teacher.  After teaching for two years in Port Coquitlam, she took a trip to Europe and travelled around with three other teachers for a year and a half, during which time she also worked as a supply teacher in London, England.  ‘Innocence abroad’ is how Jessie describes her time there.

Upon returning, she once again went to work as a whistle punk, this time on Nigei (her namesake) Island, and here she met York Roland, a logger, whom she married in 1956.  Jessie continued teaching while raising their son and daughter, then one day was approached by a woman who admired her flowers and asked if she could do arrangements.  Word got around about Jessie’s talent and by 1969, she and her husband York had opened a garden centre, which she ran successfully from her home for many years.

She began dabbling in painting in 1990, taking her first lessons.  As no one up to that time had organized any sort of art show to display local artists’ work, Jessie took up the task.  The show was held at the Quarterdeck Inn and was a great success, with Jessie herself selling 13 paintings.

Jessie with one of her paintings

Jessie with one of her paintings

Today, Jessie continues to produce scenes of the area, painting in watercolour and sketching in pencil. Her work is on display in her large home and her bed and breakfast guests, who come from all over the world, can enjoy her gallery.

When asked if her mother’s Native heritage has influenced her thinking, Jessie said that it has, in the sense that she firmly believes that everything in our life is there for some reason.  Certainly the path of her life is one where either through design or by coincidence, opportunities came her way that she made the most of, and Jessie is clearly a capable business woman who has been able to fulfill herself both spiritually and artistically.

North Island College Student Wins Scholarship to Study in Germany

Renee in Dusseldorf

Renee in Dusseldorf

When she was  laid off from her job at Finning Canada last January,  Renee Williams never would have dreamt that she would find herself studying in Europe only a year and a half later.  Renee is pursuing her diploma in Business Administration at North Island College in Campbell River and found out that she could spend a semester of her studies in another country.  Excited by the prospect, Renee applied for the scholarship to study in Germany.  “I chose Germany”, she said, “because my mother’s family comes from there, and I took a year of German at university, so figured I wouldn’t have too much difficultly getting around.”  Renee was interviewed by the college here, and much to her delight, won a scholarship to study at the International School of Management (ISM) in Dortmund, situated in northwest Germany.  Renee is currently the only Canadian student attending the university in Dortmund in the business courses.

At Oktoberfest

At Oktoberfest

Renee has been in Dortmund for almost two months now, and will be home on time for Christmas.  The school there organizes trips for the students and she has already been to Munich for the famous Oktoberfest, to Dusseldorf and Koln where she went on a Rhine River cruise and she caught a performance of the Cirque du Soleil in of all places, Hamburg.  There is an organized trip to Berlin and another to Amsterdam coming up which she doesn’t plan to miss.

The majority of the students at the university are Spanish speaking, but all courses are taught in English. 

In the 'hands' of Dortmund

In the 'hands' of Dortmund

Renee has signed up for Italian and German classes and is learning Spanish from her new found friends.  Sounds like she will be ready to do some international business upon her return!

Chum Challenge 2009

Yours truly having fun

Yours truly having fun

The annual Chum Derby at Brown’s Bay brought many anglers out this year despite the rain, and Saturday was a great day for catching those fighting dogs. 

Derby participants

Derby participants

 

 

 

 

It drizzled all day, and the fish seemed to like it, literally leaping out of the water all around us.  We caught six, and it looked as if others were doing even better. 

First catch

First catch

Just before we decided to head back, I had a real fighter on my line, that snapped the line and took the hook, hoochie, flasher and all… might have been a winner, if I had been able to hang on to it!

 

Stephanie reeling one in!

Stephanie reeling one in!

At weigh-in as of Saturday afternoon, the heaviest so far was 16¾ pounds.  Paricipants were lined up at the weigh scales having to stand in knee deep water as the tide was so high, it had washed up over the dock, just where the three docks converge at the weigh scale.  Right around weigh in time (3pm), the rain really came down but lots of hardy fishermen (and women) were braving it.  (Could be that the three beer for $10 at the beer tent was helping some people to shrug off the weather.) 

At the weigh-in

At the weigh-in

Luckily, Dick’s Fish and Chips were there again this year, temporarily set up in the floating restaurant, and somehow, having crispy hot fish and chips and hot chocolate seemed like the perfect way to end a long and soggy day. 

Sunday looked even more promising with the sun coming out.  Good luck to everyone, and look forward to hearing the results!!

That Fantastic Fungus – the Mushroom!

It’s time to take to the woods in pursuit of that wily, but oh so delicious mushroom.  Chanterelles appeared early this year, possibly due to our hot summer, followed by a quantity of rain.  I went through our first bunch very quickly – they are so good with everything and so versatile.  Bake them with salmon, sauté them and enjoy them as a side dish or with other vegetables, add them to an omelette or throw them into a soup.  The Museum at Campbell River has posted a recipe on Ezabu for pickled chanterelles you could try. If you have some leftover, dry them in the oven and keep them on hand.

Chanterelle mushroom

Chanterelle mushroom

 Not everybody is good at spotting these highly sought after stars of the mushroom world.  While they have a rich yellow colour (see photo), like many other fungi, they can hide under and around logs and undergrowth, yet are often found grouped together, so once you stumble upon them, you just might end up with a bagful.  Some people make a job of it and take bagfuls into the dealer in Campbellton who I heard this year is paying $2 per pound, which doesn’t sound like much, but recently a nephew of mine made close to $200 in a day picking mushrooms.

Where did he find so many?  Aha!  There is the crux of the matter.  While they may be numerous in some areas, those in the know aren’t likely to reveal to you exactly where this might be.  We have our favourite spot, and the only clue I will give is that it is somewhere near John Hart Lake. 

 The Campbell River Museum recently hosted a mushroom walk through the Beaver Lodge lands and both days had maximum attendance.  Watch out for these oppportunities, as identifying mushrooms is a skill well worth requiring. 

Aside from chanterelles, there are lovely little edible mushrooms like Angel Wings growing on the sides of logs that are translucent white and tender.  angel-wing-mushrooms1

 

I had the fortune to take a mushroom walk with botanist Ian Forbes back in the ’80s and still remember learning about these tender treats then. 

Cauliflower mushroom

Cauliflower mushroom

Pictured here is a real winner – the cauliflower mushroom, that to me looks like a brain and generally grows at the base of a tree.  Our daughter Stephanie, who is a chef, assured us that it is quite edible, so we tried it and are still upright, so this is a mushroom to be trusted.  It has a very delicate flavour, so you wouldn’t want to overwhelm it with anything too powerful like tomato.  It is easy to be fooled though, and in ‘Mushrooms of Western Canada’, they will tell you that even experts are never one hundred percent certain whether or not a mushroom can be eaten.

 I trust my hubby, who seems to have a nose for finding mushrooms (and this is not to confuse him with the truffle hunting swine of Europe).  We can be driving along, and he will say “I think we should stop here”.  Sure enough, we park, walk a few feet into the woods and there they are, chanterelles in all their glory.  As he also has the gift of spotting their golden heads, he picks them (which means using a small knife and cutting the stem) and I follow along dutifully with the bag.  There is a white variety that are also very tasty, but again, you should know your mushrooms before you attempt to eat them.

So if you want to get out in the woods this fall, either find a local expert or take your guide to mushrooms with you and have fun hunting for fungi!