Flash Back Friday
BARRY CURRAN (ETTER) 1976
I was in the first ‘Apprenticeship’ program from May to September circa 1977. Prior to that, in August 1976, at the age of thirty, I had taken a three-week ‘Wilderness Leadership’ program. I already knew Jill Chudleigh from our cooperative house in Victoria. She was an intern at the Lodge when I was there. Fellow apprentices included: Betsy Gregg, Wendy Anthony, Alastair Hancock, and Greg Thomason. The program was so intense that we were pretty well joined at the hip.
I spent some time with Brian Creer during the next few years in various paddling venues and continued to take canoe courses. Eventually I become an instructor. I also hiked Phillip’s Ridge. As far as what I did, I helped out in a variety of areas but I wouldn’t have called it work; torture, maybe.
When I took the apprenticeship course; the fee was nominal, only $1000 for four months.
Here’s the big one for me. My Strathcona experience, along with a follow-up course at COBMS Keremeos, launched me into new occupational direction in the B.C. Corrections Branch, where I had previously been a youth probation officer. I shifted to the government-run outdoor camps for young offenders, a job which I loved and which paid well, for about seven years. I took ongoing accreditation in the outdoor education field after that and absolutely loved all of it. Being involved in outdoor education really helped me define myself. Much later, I undertook full time study in the field of chiropractic because of the inspiration provided me by Myrna’s chiropractor who had helped my shoulder when I wasn’t able to Eskimo roll effectively while teaching one day at the Lodge. I am now a chiropractor in Victoria, and tell that story to anyone willing to listen.
But to return to the Strathcona experience, the Lodge was influential in so many areas, culinary, fitness, personal growth, and just plain growing up. The outdoor pursuits from mountaineering to river paddling and everything in between, as well as just the chance to explore the park area with such informed and diverse company, added up to a great program. The Lodge was an absolutely definitely life-changing experience which, although difficult at times, I now regard with great fondness and appreciation.
In addition I was able to present my apprenticeship accreditation along with Jim’s ringing verbal endorsement that I “wasn’t likely to kill anybody” (really!), which got me advanced standing in Simon Fraser University’s outdoor education program – that’s what I mean by “launched”. Not many asked to see it; just describing the experience was usually sufficient.
My first real adventure occurred on Mike Walsh’s Wilderness Leadership course of ’76 during the out-trip to the Golden Hinde (the highest mountain on the Island). The composition of the group had been altered and some less experienced hikers suffered leg injuries, hampering progress and eventually requiring rescue, first by float plane and then by CFB Comox helicopter. While that may not have been anything to celebrate for the Lodge, it demonstrated the potential for personal change and growth presented by risk environments, and made a lasting impression on me. The debriefing initiated by Jim brought home some valuable lessons.
A key memory of the Lodge experience was of the struggle attendant upon trying to do something different. The outdoor education paradigm, which I later recognized it to be, was not merely the crafting of experiential learning but the presentation of challenges in an way that engendered respect for the environment , for wildlife, and, of course, for other persons. In the historical context of massive industrial exploitation of natural resources, funding the Lodge’s initiatives was obviously challenging. I recall Frances Witt’s comment about “one bitter disappointment after another” upon a visit some years later. But I continually applaud the tenacity of the Boulding family and others in the face of difficult odds, to advance ideas that they believed in and which are still in short supply on the planet.