Flash Back Fridays
VALERIE TRAVIS 1985
Both you and Jim impacted my life in ways you can never imagine…..
I remember starting life at the Lodge. I had just returned from Europe to Gold River. I had the “travel bug” like crazy but I didn’t have two pennies to rub to- gether so disappearing to another country wasn’t even possible. So I did the unthinkable on Gold River standards…I applied for work as a housekeeper at the Lodge. Now the reputation among the logging town of Gold River was not always favourable to the hippy, tree hugging, mother earth loving beings who resided at the Lodge and quite honestly people in town thought I was nuts for being willing to travel to the Lodge daily just to clean rooms. But the people in Gold River had not had the life experience I had in Europe and the Lodge offered the international flavour I was craving so badly.
Meeting and being interviewed by you was a little daunting.. Not only did you explicitly deliver your expectations, you made sure I knew how disappointed you would be if I didn’t comply. I felt compelled to work hard for you and in no time I remember you calling me your “star employee” because not only did I work my butt off but you didn’t have to worry about finding staff accommodation for me….a bit of a win-win for the Lodge as staff accommodations always seemed to be a struggle. You didn’t have to feed me either…so another bonus for the out of town employee. My wage was $800/month…a fortune to me at the time so I thought life at the Lodge was pretty fantastic.
Now I never met Jim for several weeks but I had heard enough and Jim seemed like a GIANT to me.
The first glimpses I had of him were of just the top of his hat as he strolled by the buildings while I hid inside. Then finally we met. He first yelled at me for running down the steps beside the Outdoor Centre. I stopped, completely paralyzed with fear as finally I was meeting the man in the hat and vest. He seemed so gruff and assertive and always forth coming with his thoughts and I felt a little intimidated by his presence. But in a few seconds of being near him, I could feel the soft side of Jim and the start of his teachings. He asked me if I was the girl from Gold River and wanted to know what I thought of the logging on Elk Mountain. Logging was the industry that supported my family but here I was trapped under the glare of Jim Boulding, so I answered…”well I really don’t know what to say, the trees from those hills feed my family…what would you like me to say?” Jim stood silent looking at me and said, “one day I will show you another way” and with that comment, he just walked away. Jim didn’t speak to me for months afterward.
Over the course of the winter, you had me housekeeping and working in the office as well. You always had work in mind and with each task you assigned you gave me a little more responsibility came my way. Jim started coming to the office in the morning at 10am precisely every day. For whatever reason, you were always away from the office at that time and Jim knew it. His cancer was bad and you had him on some incredible diet and you were strict. Jim knew it too but it didn’t stop him from coming to the office every day with milk and cookies. We would sit together in the office and Jim would talk to me about the environment. Elk Mountain logging was still a hot topic so he would fill me in on his latest attempts to work with the government for a better solution than clear cutting that mountain. Everyday…milk and cookies…something I was sworn to secrecy over as it wasn’t part of his diet and he didn’t want you to know because he didn’t want to you to be disappointed.
I used to love to see Jim every morning because to me it meant he had made it through another night to see another day. Over the whole winter Jim taught me about the type of trees on the West Coast, the mountains of Strathcona Park and the dreams he had for the Lodge all in 15 minutes every day over milk and cookies. As Jim’s new student in life, I was soaking up this new environmental information and became so curious about how I could contribute to the cause. Sure enough, Jim took me to the Elk Mountain logging site one day and showed me the devastation. I was horrified by what I was witnessing and wrote my first political letter that night. Jim had truly shown me another way as he promised me he would.
Today when people ask me who my mentors in life were….it’s an easy answer for me to share. I always tell them about Jim Boulding, the GIANT man who taught me compassion for nature and who magically drew the fighting spirit from within me. And then I tell them about Myrna Boulding, the woman who showed me the value of strength, hard work, perseverance and incredible tenacity and taught me how I should always stand up for what I believed in.
I was only 19 years old then, too stupid to know I had two incredible mentors in my life. But today, I attribute a lot of my very successful life and career to my house- keeping / office manager days at Strathcona Lodge…a place I always think of as home. I still have milk and cookies now whenever I need to really ponder my life’s decisions.