Flashback Fridays

JUDY BALABAN (SMITH) 1974

Judy writes to Myrna the following:

I’m just enjoying remembering and sharing with you, especially because you of all people know what I’m going on about. It’s good for me to finally have all of these memories down in writing. I heard Erin, my daughter and her friend laughing hysterically, last night, and found out later that they were reading my emails to you. Erin loved the insight into the goings on at the Lodge.

The year was 1974. I was 18 and landed at Strathcona Park Lodge right out of high school for some high adventure before having to hit the books again for 4 years. Jim and Myrna were awesome parents . Myrna, I apologize for every grey hair I gave you. And for every hair that Jim lost during my tenure in the water tower. Strathcona was turning point in my life, a milestone that I look upon fondly, and always will.

Jamie Boulding (left), Judy Balaban (centre), Josie Boulding, Elisa Jackovich, and Gillian Sellner (left to right)

And I thank you both for having me with you for those 4 months, and for all of the wonderful memories I will carry with me forever. Strathcona, back in the 70′s, was a slice out of the 60′s. I’m sure everyone who was lucky enough to experience the Lodge culture at that time walked out forever changed. The cast of colorful, talented, egotistical characters that floated through the Lodge was dazzling.

There was Harry the cook, who built the biggest bonfires in the world with 20′ logs all piled up like a teepee; and who also saved 4 or 5 of us from drowning in a canoe during a pelting rain storm on Buttle Lake. I’m not sure why there were 5 people out there in a canoe during a storm.

Harry taught me how to make yogurt, and a million other earthy, wholesome, healthy things. I use that recipe and your granola recipe to this day. I loved it when you and Jim would get up early and make cheese scones for breakfast for a treat every so often. I loved the peanut butter and that incredible home made bread that was available all day, any time, right beside the big coffee urn in the main lodge.
I loved it when the big macho mountaineerconstruction guys (there were about 4 of them who hung together: the name Kreiger comes to mind. I think he was the leader….) would get all bent out of shape when yet another meal was vegetarian and there was no meat in sight. I remember having a whole ‘staff meeting’ about how “the guys who do the work around here can’t live on vegetables. WE NEED MEAT!”! I loved the organic garden and the big compost heaps that were the love children of Linda and the really thin vegetarian fellow from Ontario, who wore Buddhist type clothes and a weird hat. He was the one that ticked the macho mountaineer construction guys off the most. Linda loved working all day long in that garden and brought in baskets of veggies to Harry to create something with. Right out of the 60′s.

Harry in the kitchen

I loved going into town to the Overwaitea store to do the shopping for Harry. I think you let me do that 3 times, and your instructions were, just buy everything that looks good. And lots. I have no idea what the bill was, but I remember pointing to whole boxes of produce, meat and dairy stuff and saying “that, that, that, that, that, 2 of those, 5 of those, that”. Somebody filled the van up with everything I pointed at, and off I went to the liquor store for Jim before heading back. I think I had to buy him a bottle of scotch or something. I never did see a bill. Had to be HUNDREDS!! HUNDREDS!! And that was only for one week!! — And I remember buying a big fat bologna for Jim. He enjoyed onion and bologna sandwiches. I never had one, but boy did he make them look good.
The food, and the kitchen at Strathcona made a real impression on me, and I think everyone. It truly was the heart of the Lodge. There was a lot of construction going on at the time, and a really sweet fellow by the name of Jim Jacek was walking from one building to another and tripped and broke his femur. Just like that. Jim J. was used to walking all over those mountains, and it was so hard to fathom that this horrific accident would happen to him on flat ground. This was one of the few times I got to see Jim Boulding. fly into action. He had him bandaged (the bone had protruded through the skin) and thrown into a van and on the way to the hospital before anyone even knew what was happening. I happened to be standing there and had the dubious privilege of being tossed into the van and being told to hold the leg still while Jim Boulding. roared full blast along the forty-five km (thirty mile) drive into Campbell River. Jim Boulding. was a little tense by the time we got there and zoomed into emergency and he started yelling at no one (because there was no one there!!! (in emergency!) about what a lousy excuse for a hospital this was. Nobody in emergency, and this was an emergency. He grabbed a gurney and lifted Jim onto it and started pushing him through the hospital, (slowly and carefully), all the while commenting very loudly about what a lousy hospital this was. A nurse finally got in there somehow and took over and wheeled Jim J. into a room somewhere. He had to be flown into Victoria by helicopter, because, I guess Jim Boulding.had been right all along…….

Jim and his broken femur.

Jim had many facets to his incredible being, and I loved them all. Especially his take charge, get mad, get out of my way, “you’re an asshole and I don’t mind telling you” aspect of himself. He made me laugh, he made me cry (because I made him really mad once, more than once actually, but I really remember the once…). I admired his capabilities, his love of the earth and passion for preserving it, his sense of humor, and his big and generous heart. I was so very saddened when he passed over to the other side. And I’ll look forward to seeing him there one day. Because I know I will.

I was just remembering the “staff meetings”, as you used to call them. They were really funny. They weren’t meant to be, but looking back, they were. More often than not, grievances would be aired, usually by you (Myrna), but then, a lot of other people would get in on it.
You were always having to tell us how to dress and behave when a new group was coming in for a course. The sauna, and surrounding area, was a worry for you, because nobody wore any clothes there. Your concern was that the reputation of the Lodge was going to be such that people would not sign up for courses. You told us to wear bathing suits when “visitors” were on the premises, and so we did. But the word was out, and in fact, the visitors were coming in droves, not only for the fabulous courses that were offered, but also, to be able to run around naked. In no time flat, respectable people who had never walked around nude in their lives, were enjoying this newfound freedom, while all of us were fully clothed. There were always those who were disgusted and offended, and they would invariably complain either in person, or in writing. One or two. But like I said, we were dressed!

Note from Myrna: This was not the only instance of nudity at the Lodge. My mother, Myra Baikie, was sitting on her deck one day, down by the boat dock, when the middle-aged maintenance man came, stripped down, and dove into the lake. My mother was livid, and told me, “It’s not as if he had anything to be proud of.”

A group of guys from Strathcona Lodge high in the mountains

There was one meeting where you reamed off a whole list of us by name’ and the objectionable habits we had that you didn’t want to see practiced while ‘company’ was there. I was enjoying your speech until I heard MY name come out of your mouth, and you said that you didn’t want me wearing my stupid overalls that were 5 sizes too big for me. I had no idea that you didn’t like my overalls, and quite frankly, I was crushed. I can’t remember who else you picked on, or why, but we all laughed until we heard our name, and little by little, the laughter stopped. Josie was usually asleep in your arms at these meetings. You would rock her, back and forth, gently and sweetly, as you let us all have it. Apart from all of the less than socially acceptable idiosyncrasies of many of us on staff, there were a number of impressive people as well, who sort of helped to balance the whole presentation. For the most part, they were the “Resident Experts”, some of whom had undesirable habits as well, but whose talents and accomplishments dazzled audiences enough that their shortcomings were not only overlooked, but in most cases, not even noticed.

Cute as a button, Bob Sutherland

There was Bob Sutherland, the resident ornithologist, who was as cute as a button, as well as a wonderfully talented musician, who did more entertaining and back-packing than ornithology. I don’t think Bob had any bad habits. There was a resident writer, who didn’t teach any courses, kept his real name a secret and shingled roofs for you. He had some dubious habits, but it’s always good to have a resident writer on staff. Michael Rewald, another really nice fellow with no bad habits to speak of, our resident climbers (who all had bad habits that everybody noticed) and visiting artists, and expert water people, visiting multi-talented experts who really earned their money! There were fabulously talented people who were a joy to be around and who enriched the lives of those who listened, and basked in their wake. This was the true beauty of being a part of Strathcona Park Lodge. I loved the opportunity of being surrounded by passionate enthusiasts who loved nothing more than to share their discoveries with those of us who caught their spark and
Bob Sutherland—cute as a button
wanted to learn more.