Flash Back Fridays

THE SPIRIT OF STRATHCONA A story by David Boulding

Tony Hunter

Tony Hunter

The Spirit of Strathcona is people, ideas, and energy coming together. For example, Young Adrian Koeleman escorting a bus load of German tourists has a fan belt break in the Rockies miles from any garage or parts store. What does he do?Adrian turns to the group and speaks to the women. He explains he needs them to get their suitcases out and go through their lingerie and give him all their pantyhose. He says he must make a fan belt from their nylons so they can get to the next town. Excited, the women lay out their suitcases on the Trans Canada Highway and pass Adrian all their nylons. The bus moves along, not overheating, and several German women have a Canadian story that will amaze their friends for years.

The lodge had bees for many years at Donner Lake, located behind Colonel Foster, which were cared for by Tony Hunter and Jim. To get there the driver must navigate a maze of logging roads going up the Ucona valley from the Gold River side of the park. Tony cared for the bees while the hives were at the lodge. Jim took the bees to Donner Lake. One fall, Jim took up one and a half year old Nick Boulding to get the hives and again the next year when Nick was two and a half years old. That year Jim came back astounded and told Myrna that young Nick told his father they were on the wrong road, saying “wrong way Daddy”. He remembered the correct road from the year before, before he could talk. On a later trip to the hives at Donner Lake, Jim drove by signs that the Forestry Department had posted indicating that the government employed foresters had been spraying the deadly chemical Round –Up to rid the forest of alders. The foresters called the spraying “forest enhancement”. Disgusted, Jim abandoned the hives because Jim was worried the hives might be poisoned by the Round–Up. We never again had our own honey. For the years when the hives were clean the hives produced enough honey for a year – we had wax for candles and lots of fine fireweed honey.

And young Nick, the navigator, was prone to adventures; he once fell off the scaffolding on the Ralf Shulze house (at a much later date), three stories to the ground. He was looking at a bird and wanted a closer look. He was wedged in beside a large sharp rock. He was bleating, not speaking. He could not move. Concerned, Jim scrambled down, worried that young Nick had broken his back. He was transported on a back board to Campbell River Hospital and we were relieved to hear he was okay.
Nick was known in those early years as Super Nick and had a costume with a red cape and a thread bare tee shirt that he wore for days at a time. He was given to jumping off buildings, and managed to jump from the roof of cabin 14 without meeting death. He did though get some scars from these leaps. It seemed Super Nick was impervious to death by gravity.

Tony Hunter caring for the bees

Tony Hunter caring for the bees

At a party at the lodge, five year old Nick was as usual dressed as Super Nick with his red cape and shirt. Jim arrived at the same party also dressed as Super Nick. Nick was bewildered, and so puzzled into a silence of confusion, that Jim laughed so hard he had tears rolling down his cheeks. Poor Nick.

The radiophone was a continual entertainment device for staff and guests. Often staff would get a blast on the PA system called the Voice of God. Once contacted the staff person would run hard to the office and just get to the door when the caller would hang up because the cost was too much to wait any longer. Guests would ask: “Why does everyone run so hard to get to the phone?” The phone service was a lot like Catholic bingo. Lots of energy for the few winners who got calls that connected. Only in the last few years has the Lodge used a system run by Quinsam Communications that gave us regular phones as well as internet. We now have five different kinds of phones. The phone/internet lines were strung by hand down the face of the escarpment and connected to the office. Jamie and Brian Gunn spend as much time fixing this system as Jim did arguing with BC Tel about the old system. Some things never change. Tina and Jamie are the finest example of carrying on the Spirit of Strathcona. Neither planned to live here, and they are raising three daughters while operating one of the world’s finest residential outdoor education programmes. Jim’s death forced Jamie to adjust and create a good life for his mom, his family and thousands of children. Tina has gathered around her a talented staff (several Olympic female athletes) that understands the spirit of experiential education.

Nick and his dad heading out to check on the bee hives

Nick and his dad heading out to check on the bee hives

The spirit of the place is the clarity and coherence of a vision first devel- oped by Jim and Myrna 50 years ago. Jim always said in bad weather you have to adapt and think like an animal. The lodge spirit is all about adapting and surviving and making the best of a given situation.  The lodge is a small community; there is a high level of stimulation here because of the never-ending stream of interesting visitors from all over the world.