Tag Archive | Courtenay

Reunion to Play Fundraiser in Courtenay

As published in the Island Word, March 2016

Reunion BandCampbell River’s ever popular rock ‘n roll band Reunion will be back at it again, helping to raise money through a concert in Courtenay, the ‘Courtenay Spring Social’ on Friday, March 18th, 2016.   The band members are donating a show to help raise money for the Centennial Legacy Fund, which came into being during the celebrations of Courtenay’s centennial in 2015.

Reunion has a connection to Campbell River that goes right back to 1962, when some of its band members formed the Rogues, a popular highschool band. The Rogues were ‘almost famous’, competing in a provincial competition and coming in third, and were very close to getting a recording contract. When the Rogues’ members separated, a few of the original members regrouped to form Reunion.

Today’s current band members are Ron Aitchison on lead vocals, Glen Gark on lead guitar and vocals, Steven Sandholm on bass guitar, classically trained pianist Mike Austin, Brian Temple on drums and Brian (Fuzz) Morrisette on rhythm guitar and vocals. Sound Engineer Mike Sutcliffe, who is an integral part of the band, has worked with many international musicians including Doug and the Sluggs, Michelle Wright and April Wine. The band plays the kind of music that makes people want to get up and dance, like familiar Motown favourites and much-loved tunes from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Both bands have been known for their support of local causes; often playing at fundraising events and raising thousands of dollars over the years. The event in March, according to organizer Rod Hunter, is being held by the Comox Valley Foundation of which he is part. The evening is being modelled after a ‘Manitoba Social’, where the atmosphere and dress are informal, a chili buffet and snacks will be provided and the Courtenay Rotarians will operate the bar.

Hunter says to expect some great raffles with prizes from companies like Westjet, and 50/50 draws. All proceeds from the evening will go toward the Fund, which has been set up to help youth who might need financial assistance for team sports or other endeavours.

Tickets are $25.00 each and are being sold at Billy D’s Pub, the Courtenay Recreation Centre, the Lewis Centre, Courtenay City Hall and the Florence Filberg Centre. Attendees can also donate directly to the Comox Valley Foundation while at the dance and will receive a tax receipt.

The evening event will take place at the Florence Filberg Centre in the Upstairs Conference Hall. Doors open at 6:30. Local performers Bruce and Judy Wing will be the opening act for Reunion. For more information, call the City of Courtenay Recreation and Cultural Services at 250-334-4441 or visit http://www.courtenay.ca/100



I Met Captain Cook at the Dock in Gold River

Captain Cook and yours truly

Captain Cook and yours truly

After a summer of cruising the waters off the east coast of Vancouver Island in search of history, I traversed the island on a hot and sunny September day, and headed to the west coast with several members of the Captain Cook Society; this time in search of the site where Cook landed in March of 1778.

The trip was instigated by an enterprising fellow by the name of Randy Komar, who in March this year, held the first formal meeting of the West Coast Captain Cook Society in Courtenay.

The Society itself http://www.captaincooksociety.com, has been in existence for several years, with various chapters throughout the world – in fact, anywhere that Cook travelled, but there wasn’t a group on Vancouver Island, even though Cook had visited its shores.  Randy thought he would correct this oversight, assuming that there must be a number of ‘Cookies’ as Cook fans are affectionately known, in our vicinity.

Randy addressing the group

Randy addressing the group

In all, 29 people joined together on this expedition to see the place where Cook arrived in HMS Resolution at Nootka Sound, the site of the historic meeting between Cook and the chief of the Mowachat Nation, Chief Maquinna.  The meeting is believed to have been the first contact between these natives of British Columbia and Europeans.  As the Mowachat were eager to trade with the British sailors, this resulted in Cook being given a number of sea otter pelts which unbeknown to him would precipitate an avalanche of trade over the next 25 years, effectively wiping out the northwest coast sea otter population.

Joseph Banks coin

Joseph Banks medal

Our group met for dinner in Gold River and the first people I saw were Leona and Don who I knew from the BC Historical Federation Conferences and Bonnie and Maureen, who had been on the Museum’s Thurlow Islands trip that I was interpreter for.  Of course, like minds!

At Randy’s suggestion, after dinner several of the members introduced themselves and explained how they had come to be interested in the intrepid Cook.  One couple had come all the way from New Zealand to share in the adventure – a numismatist (a numismatist is a type of coin collector) Graeme Brown and his wife Avis.   Graeme had brought with him a fascinating and rare medal called the Resolution and Adventure medal.  The medals were struck by Joseph Banks, the famous naturalist who had travelled with Cook, and the 2000 pieces made were meant to be distributed anywhere that Cook travelled.   Some have been recovered from around the globe; eight are known to exist in New Zealand, and one was found on Nootka Island.

All present had a different reason for being interested in Cook – some were like Melanie Bagley of Courtenay who hadn’t thought much about Cook since high school, but was eager to learn more from the well informed group.  Other attendees came from Campbell River, Quadra Island, the Comox Valley, Victoria, the BC mainland, and California. We spent the night at the Ridgeview Motel, then travelled down the next morning in time to catch the 10:00am departure of the Uchuck III from the Gold River dock.  Much to our surprise and delight, Captain Cook (aka Alberto) was there in person!  Many of us eagerly took photos and had our photos taken – a once in a lifetime opportunity!  What an auspicious way to begin our journey!

At Gold River dock

At Gold River dock

On that happy note, we boarded the vessel – in itself an important piece of coastal history documented in David Esson Young’s book, ‘The Uchuck Years’.  It was Young’s father who founded the Uchuck coastal freighter service.  I hadn’t been aboard the Uchuck in 12 years, and was very gratified to see that they were continuing in the tradition of serving good wholesome food and home baking, thanks to Elaine, the cook.

IMGP0924I was also pleased that Chuck Syme was on board – an extremely knowledgeable historic interpreter from Gold River, who was available to answer any questions passengers on the Uchuck might have about the history of the area we were passing through, and the history we had yet to encounter. We stopped at a fish farm to unload supplies, and that brought back memories of a fun time I had had staying with my son Jean-Luc at the site he worked at in the Muchalat Inlet next to Bligh Island seven years earlier.

It was a full boat – 99 people, and our group and everyone else had plenty of time to mingle and visit, enjoy the food

Uchuck and Lighthouse

Uchuck and Lighthouse

and scenery and take pictures.  We came out of the Inlet and around the top end of Bligh Island and as we cruised down the Sound, the iconic lighthouse at Yuquot/Friendly Cove came into view.  Just as we were getting off the boat, I began a conversation with a lady named Berthe who told me she had lived at Greene Point Rapids, where I go each summer to a family cabin.  How auspicious!  Here was an opportunity to add to that history that has been an ongoing part of my research for the last eight years.

But we were here to learn more about Nootka Island, and Margarita James from the Mowachaht Band, had travelled over with us so that she could welcome visitors to the Island and explain its overall history.  Inside the little white church with its astonishing totems and the stained glass windows presented by the government of Spain, the shared story of the native inhabitants and the European visitors was WhiteChurchtold.  The church itself had been built in 1954, after the original church constructed in the late 1890s by a Belgian priest by the name of Father Brabant had burned down.  (Brabant was intent on educating the native people in European ways, and was responsible for starting residential schools.)

Thunderbird inside church

Thunderbird inside church

The Mowachaht lived on Nootka Island until the early 1960s when it was becoming more difficult to live a traditional lifestyle and work had to be found elsewhere.  Almost the entire band, which by this time had amalgamated with the Muchalat Nation who inhabited the Inlet and Gold River, was relocated to Gold River to reserve lands near the dock and former mill site.

Ray Williams

Ray Williams

Only two people remained on Nootka Island and still live there today, guardians to the sacred landscape, their centre of the world – Ray and Terri Williams.  Their son Sanford, a master carver, resides with them there in summer where he produces astonishingly beautiful pieces from his carving shed located on the beach, just below the William’s house.

Where Spanish built a fort

Where Spanish built a fort

After Margarita’s welcome, we took a group picture then disbursed in different directions.  Some of us joined Chuck on a walk up to the lighthouse, from where we could view the Cook memorial*, sitting right at the southern point of the island. All too soon, it was time to go back to our ship.  We were given a special treat though – once we were underway, the skipper took us around the west side of the island, which I had never before seen from the water.  Then we left the Sound to head back up the Inlet, slowing down to view the plaques that had been put into place in the 1970s to commemorate Cook’s stay at Blight Island where his ship Resolution had undergone a refit.

It couldn’t have been a more perfect day and I think many of us felt grateful to Randy for instigating this adventure and bringing together such a diverse group of people who were united in a fascination with the adventures of Captain James Cook.

Cook Memorial

Cook Memorial

*For an interesting article on the Cook Memorial from the BCHF read here

Is Bigger Necessarily Better? VI Musicfest Lost Original Intent

IMGP0233I haven’t attended the Vancouver Island Musicfest since 2003, and thought that it was about time I did.  I have very fond memories of the earlier festivals I attended where the magic of the moment and the music swept over the crowd; most specifically when Bruce Cockburn performed to a hushed audience while the sun set on a perfect summer day in a green field.  But on Friday night of the Vancouver Island Musicfest 2013, the crowd was anything but hushed.  Even when the performers came on stage and began playing, many people surrounding my friend and I kept talking, and talking incessantly.  And it wasn’t just one or two people, it was several groups of people.

It was a far cry from what I experienced at the first few festivals I attended when those who came seemed sincerely interested in the music and respected those who were on stage, and the other listeners around them.  We were united in a desire to gain the most from the experience of being there, and of having the privilege of listening to top performers like Robert Cray, Jim Byrnes and Maria Muldaur.

But it wasn’t just the talking that interfered with the ability to enjoy the

David Wilcox on stage

David Wilcox on stage

music.  People were parading back and forth from one side of the field to the other in an endless stream, no matter what was going on, on stage.  This was also something new…  I recall that people sat down and paid attention when the music started, and it was treated no differently than being at a concert.  What could be more important than the musicians performing on stage?  Couldn’t the next ice cream wait until the intermission between players?

And just so that you don’t think that I am alone in my observations, a friend today asked me if I had gone, and she commented, not knowing how I felt, that she didn’t enjoy the festival this year, and that the crowd seemed somehow different.  I agree with her, and part of the difference I think stems from the festival simply being too big.  When there were fewer people there, there was a strong sense of musical community and a sincerity in purpose.

This year, I couldn’t help but wonder why people came to the festival if they planned to chatter the whole way through.  Meet somewhere else if you want to talk to your friend or friends!  Let the music lovers enjoy the performances and get swept up in the music!  For many of us, the festival provides a one time opportunity to see certain musicians – I for one have wanted to see David Wilcox for several years.  And speaking of Wilcox, during his song ‘Bad Apple’, he literally asked people to listen.  It must have been clear from the stage that many, many people there were talking and wandering around aimlessly and could care less what was happening on stage.

Perhaps Kris Kristofferson sounded a bit scratchy and out of tune like an old record album, but he always was a better actor than a singer.  It was other performers who interpreted his songs and made them famous – the man can write!!  Even so, he was invited to perform and was this year’s headliner, yet he wasn’t given the respect he deserved.  If word gets around, the festival’s organizers might find they are scrambling to get performers there.  No one wants to play to an unappreciative audience.

IMGP0245It would be nice to see the organizers take the dollar signs out of their eyes and sell fewer tickets, thereby attracting a more focused and dedicated crowd.  It doesn’t make sense to me that a sold out festival that results in overcrowding is considered to be a successful one.  It should make us question what the definition of success is.

I really enjoyed the festival when people were there to listen and appreciate, because nothing beats the feeling of a large crowd of people being united by the magic of a great performance, and being carried away by beautiful music on a beautiful day.  If your purpose is to talk and to visit, then invite your friend to a coffee shop, and leave the festival to the music aficionados.

Merville’s Answer to Cougar Annie – Dr Pam Aldis

In case you have never heard of Cougar Annie, she is known as a feisty character, a pioneering woman who survived four husbands and  lived in the isolated wilds of the west coast of Vancouver Island at Hesquiat Harbour in the early 1900s.  Annie was a survivor who grew a terrific garden in inhospitable territory and was famous for the number of cougars she shot while defending her territory and her family.  When I first met Dr. Pam Aldis, she put me in mind of Cougar Annie.  Pam didn’t seem to mind when I told her so, in fact she said that if she had lived in Cougar Annie’s era, she believes she would have lived as Annie did.

Dr. Pam, now retired, lives in the wilds of Merville with her two cats, and two students she rents rooms to.  Her warm and inviting West Coast style house sits on a seven acre property with the Tsolum River running through it.

Dr Pam Aldis at home

Dr Pam Aldis at home

She is regularly visited by ducks and other wildlife, but instead of cougars, raccoons are the pest that she defends her goods against, with the help of a shotgun.  Pam is no stranger to shooting.  At the tender age of eleven, while on the family farm in Norfolk England, Pam was given a shotgun by her father. (She still has the shotgun-a 410, today and uses to shoot grouse with).   Although Pam did become a doctor while still in England, she developed all the tools for survival at a young age, and like Cougar Annie, today lives off the land in many ways.

Pam’s life started out as an adventure.  She was born in Malaysia just before the advent of the Second World War.  For safety, her family was shipped off to Australia, except for her father who became a POW.  In fact, he was among those who built the bridge over the River Kwai (a story which was made famous by the 1957 film ‘A Bridge On the River Kwai) “My father was Alec Guinness”, Pam told me – a personage pivotal to the story and the building of the bridge. The family was reunited when the war ended, and a wealthy uncle helped them settle in England on a farm.

When asked what made her decide to become a doctor, Pam said that as a young child, she was asked to assist in the birthing of a calf and realized that she wanted to do something like this for a living – but not quite.  She wanted to be able to talk to her patients, so instead of becoming a veterinarian, she decided to apply to study medicine.  Although the family could not afford to send her to school, Pam was able to get a scholarship and was accepted into the prestigious St Bartholomew’s Medical College, attached to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.  ‘Barts’ as it is commonly known, is in fact the oldest hospital in Great Britain, established in 1123.

As can be imagined, there were not many women studying medicine in the 1950s (10 women to 90 men) and she says that the female students relied on each other for study support.  After graduating and practising medicine for one year in England, Pam decided she wanted to try another country, and her father suggested Vancouver or Victoria (where he had visited), as English was spoken there.  Pam came to Canada in 1964 and found work at Vancouver General Hospital and established a practice there for ten years.  Although she was a family physician, she delivered over 120 babies every year as she found that pregnant women often preferred a female doctor.  Pam met her husband (who was also a doctor) in Vancouver.  They frequently visited Vancouver Island during those years  and had a ‘shack’ at Ship’s Point in Fanny Bay.  When an opportunity came for her husband to practice in this area, they made the move here.

Pam learned to hunt on Vancouver Island from a neighbour at Ship’s Point who was known to the family affectionately as ‘Grandpa Reynolds’.  Pam maintains enormous respect for Reynolds, (who has since passed away) and says that he was a true outdoorsman, with extensive knowledge of wildlife and the Vancouver Island wilderness.For many years, she and Reynolds travelled together to the best hunting areas of the island – Sayward and Port McNeill, and Mt. Washington, where they camped and hunted for deer, elk and bears.  Although Pam has never shot a cougar, she has seen them up close and says they are a truly beautiful animal.  Pam would also never shoot a goose, as they mate for life. 

In terms of her career, Pam was initially not quite so fortunate.  She was unable to find a position in Courtenay as the medical community did not look favourably on female physicians at that time.  Instead, she worked in Campbell River for one year and enjoyed the hospital and the people she met there, then went to work at CFB Comox in 1975.  Eventually, she opened her own practice in Courtenay on 6th street, and was joined by another female physician. In her late 50’s, she split her practice with another female MD and they each worked three days per week.

During these busy years, she raised two daughters, one who now owns an organic strawberry farm in Royston and with whom Pam shares a sizeable garden, and the other who is following in her mother’s footsteps and will shortly be practicing medicine.

Bear skin gracing the wall of Pam's home

Bear skin gracing the wall of Pam's home

Pam retired in 2005 and since then has been able to pursue her other passions full time – hunting, fishing, gardening, mushroom hunting and travelling.  Now at age 70, she still makes forays over to the mainland with new hunting partners to hunt black bear, which she says is delicious meat if you get a spring bear.  The fat rendered from the bear apparently makes great pastry.  She also still likes to hunt mule deer and moose.  Judging by her kitchen and her well stocked larder, good food is important to Pam.  She refers to wild meat as ‘orgasmic’ and believes in the health giving properties of it.  And this is one doctor’s opinion I certainly would not disagree with!