Flash Back Fridays

ELDERHOSTEL 1986

After having had guests suggest on three different occasions that our property would be an ideal location to hold Elderhostel programs, I finally agreed to give it a try. Some of the staff almost quit because they didn’t like the idea the idea of working with people over sixty and they didn’t be them to fall on the rough ground on their watch. elderElderhostel programs were an imme- diate success. Seventy people enrolled one week, so we had to have seven groups. We had a rule that a maximum of ten students could participate in an outdoor activity, irrespective of the student’s age. One day I was sitting in Jim’s old office and a group of six Elderhostelers came to the door. I thought “this is it; they are here to tell me that this place is unsuitable for those older than sixty”. To my astonishment, they had come to ask me if they could try rock climbing. One older gentleman wanted to have his picture taken while climbing a rock face. He planned to show the picture to his grandson. I said yes; what else could I say? Everything went well, so after that we offered rock climbing to all future groups of seniors that were here for an adventure. The staff had a great time with Elderhostel! One staff person said to me “They do what they are told, they listen to what I have to say, they teach me things I didn’t know and one of them invited me down to their home in California for Christmas”.

The Elderhostel groups brought the lodge closer to Jim’s vision of a rural resource village.

Now we had children, students from K to University, teachers, families, and all manner of groups including later grandparents and grandkids. Our staff became adept at instructing all levels of skills, fit- ness, and age.

A BUNCH OF OLD TROUTS? NEVER

By Arthur Mayse, October 1986

Strathcona Park Lodge, which sprawls along the rugged shoreline of Upper Campbell Lake, is much more than a holiday resort.

It is also a training center that specializes in such outdoor skills as canoeing, kayaking, mountaineering and wilderness survival.

All this, of course, didn’t happen overnight. The program, unique on this continent, was developed through years.

It was in its infancy, and the lodge itself smaller by most of its chalet-type frame units when Win and I first ventured to Strathcona over a gravel road that threat- ened to dump us into the lake at every turn and twist.

Big Jim Boulding, the former Campbell River school teacher who founded the lodge on a dream and shoestring, was still alive in those years. Even then, Jim Boulding worried about the future of Strathcona Park, a wild empire of mountain, lake and timbered slopes.

A mine had intruded. Other mining claims stakes before the park was estab- lished in 1911, threatened, and the loggers had an eye on Strathcona’s grand first- growth evergreens. The threat remains unresolved.

We remembered Strathcona Lodge kindly, and when Myrna Boulding asked us to come up for a week and teach memoir writing to an Elderhostel which was about to descend on her retreat, we were quick to accept.

Not that we had any idea what an Elderhostel was. Myrna explained.

“As I understand it,” she told us, “Elderhostel is an organization of seniors who stay in groups at one college or resort.. They’re strong on education and adventure.”

With that to go on, we scrambled a mini-course together and on the Sunday set out for Strathcona Park Lodge.

The road to Strathcona is still dramatic, with vistas of lake, forest and moun- tain unfolding constantly to the eye. But it is blacktop now, twice as wide as the track we first followed, and its dangerous sections are guarded with generously high concrete curbs.

When we pulled in under the lodge’s log gateway, a number of other cars were in evidence. Elderhostelers, we’d learned, make their own way to the havens chosen for a rendezvous. The Elderhostelers wandered the woodsy grounds, basked in the autumn sun on the balconies of their quarters, and swarmed to an accompaniment of animated chatter in the lodge bar.

Win and I had come expecting a bunch of venerable old trouts – not a gath- ering from all walks of life so bright, brisk and interested that age scarcely figured in the equation.

Further, as we learned next morning when we faced our first class, the Elder- hostelers were a delight to teach. They listened attentively. They asked keen and search- ing questions. And when we asked rather diffidently how they felt about homework assignments, they grabbed at the chance. The assignments they turned in revealed a wide variety of backgrounds. One man had been paymaster captain of United States marines. One woman of Chinese extraction wrote fascinatingly of her life as a small girl in China.

A few were Canadians, but most were from the United States.

We also learned more about Elderhostel, which defines itself as “an educa- tional program for older adults who want to continue to expand their horizons and to develop new interests and enthusiasms. Our commitment is to the belief that retirement does not represent an end of significant activity for older adults, but a new beginning filled with opportunities and challenges.”

Launched in 1975, Elderhostel now numbers 100,000 members in all states and provinces, and in 20 countries overseas. About 850 colleges and training institu- tions host Elderhostel groups. American headquarters is in Boston, Canadian in To- ronto.

Win and I wound up our course with regret and came away impressed. We had spent a week with people chronologically old, but young in spirit, not giving in to age or minor infirmities. It was a bracing experience!