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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.

Flashback Fridays

BONNIE KREYE (MCCOMB) 1974

“Who are you,” asked Jim when he met me in the hall. I told him that I was at the lodge to teach a week long pottery workshop. “You will be staying much longer,” he said. And I did, I stayed for a year and a half. I did some art workshops and cooking. I may have worked for room and board, I can’t remember being paid. Sarah, my two year old daughter, lived with me at the lodge. I have many fond memories of the place and the people that were ‘family’ and community to me at the time. There were good people, good times, good food, and good accommodations. Strong principles of contributing and co-operating were valued.
I recall trips to “the Old House” restaurant in Courtenay for Lodge celebration dinners, usually after getting government funding to build something new. We would pile into the ‘crummy’ (a dodgy vehicle as I remember) and a great time was had by all.

Roy, Bonnie, and David

I remember when an enormous ‘drum’ like furnace was installed in the main (office) building in the lounge area on the second floor. The large main window had to be removed and this huge monstrous drum furnace was lifted up (with a block and tackle type contraption) to the second floor. Whilst in mid air something snapped and the furnace dropped onto the vehicle below. It looked like a cartoon event. I still see the wheels flying out sideways under it. It punched a hole the size of a  pie plate in the 1/2 inch steel plate in the Fargo truck box, parked below and the rubber tires were bulging. Not to be defeated, the crew carried on and finally had the furnace installed in the big room. The stove later had to be moved because it didn’t draw properly. I remember the big Christmas sleep-over in the Hi-Bracer lounge; also the time that Harry the cook went missing after taking a boat out onto the lake. After a passing driver dropped in to alert us, a search party was sent out only to discover an empty boat circling out in the middle of the lake with the motor still running. Harry was later discovered sleeping in his cabin! After leaving the Lodge I went to work at Cold Mountain Institute on Cortes Island, one of my tasks again was baking the bread. I recall a bit of friendly competition going between Jim Boulding and Jim Sellner. Jim B. was certain that people could learn everything they needed to know to survive in the world, at Strathcona Lodge. Jim Sellner would say that sometimes we needed to concentrate on the inner self.

I remember Myrna’s insistence that we eat only the best food, and we always did. Baking fresh bread became one of my tasks, and the kitchen was a fun place to hang out. I baked bread for many years and still produce yogurt and granola pretty regularly.
I met Don, my husband of thirty years during and after the ‘lodge years’, when I was working at Cold Mountain on Cortes Island.

Bonnie (left) baking bread.

Don and I returned to the lodge for many visits, and Don earned the name ‘meal a week’ from Annie Boulding. She obviously felt he needed to put on a few pounds, which of course he would if he stayed a while! Jim Boulding arrived one day on the beach near the main building at Cold Mountain, in a helicopter, and delivered a still hot loaf of bread to me in the kitchen. Maybe he was trying to show that the Lodge bread was the most delicious, even with a different baker. That was tough to top!

I recall that during the time I was at the Lodge most anyone was welcome to come and stay, if they were willing to work at whatever needed doing. Some just found themselves arriving there on an adventure; some stayed a short while others stayed a long while. Most, if not all, left richer than when they arrived. We were required to be open and honest, and to challenge ourselves at new tasks, with new people, in new situations. Myrna and Jim led by example, and, it seemed to me, their family life was pretty much ‘lodge life’, communal for better or worse. There was always new challenges, and they were met head on, with the feeling that “it would get done”; building new buildings by hand, collecting wood to heat numerous buildings, feeding and housing hordes of school kids, constantly repairing and maintaining equipment.

Flash Back Fridays

CLIVE JUSTICE—Early 1960s
Written March, 2009. As recalled by: Clive L. Justice, PhD, LmBCSLA, FCSLA Landscape Architect and Amenity Forester (ret) Garden, Ornamental Plant and Rhododendron Historian.

Some memories of our involvement in Strathcona Park Lodge

Rhododendron

In the early 1960s, on the recommendation of Wallace Baikie, father of Myrna, and with husband Jim Boulding, our firm Muirhead Justice Landscape Architects were given the task of producing a site and landscape plan for a property on the logging scarred and denuded shoreline of a man made lake. The lake had been created by damming the Campbell River and the dam’s large backup waters formed in what was the Elk River Valley. The flooded lake extended south from the dam all the way to the boundary of Strathcona Provincial Park . The Lodge site viewed the mountain across the lake at about two o’clock, as they say in artillery terms.The Lodge site lay just outside the Park boundary.

Below the gravel roadside at the top of the site was a two storey log fishing lodge that had been floated up as the water rose from the valley below and positioned with heavy logging equipment near the road side. It was set on a new concrete basement below the main Lodge with access onto the site on the lakeside. This beautiful relocated log lodge had been featured in a book let published by ‘Sunset Magazine’ titled ‘Cabins and Beach Houses’ when the building was at its riverside valley bottom location, in the 1930s. The rest of the steeply sloping site down to the lake edge was occupied with scattered wooden cabins: the remains of a floating logging camp that had been used during the clearing of the new foreshore by Baikie Brothers Timber Company. Bunk houses from the floating camp had been bulldozed up and located off a double S curved road- way that wound back and forth down the site. Much of the site vegetation was trashed into slash, as the D-8 Cat did the site development work, creating the road and dragging the buildings from the rising waters into position. It took a great deal of faith and foresight to visualize an environmental oriented tourist facility there amongst the gravel, large rock s and exposed hardpan. The Bouldings, Myrna and Jim, were teachers; Jim was a great big outdoor sportsman and salt water fishing guide; Myrna had her mother’s good look s and the smarts of her dad. They both shared the vision of founding an environmental ‘Outward Bound’ type school centered at the Lodge.

The logo

However, there was a lot to do before that could be realized. Our first job was to survey the site to find out where everything was located. At this time, the Bouldings lived at the Lodge with at least two of their kids (and a very large Siamese cat) so they could give us meals and accommodation as we were 30 miles from Campbell River. Harry Webb and I set to work . It rained continuously while we measured and took floor elevations of every cabin and site feature referenced to the relocated lodge. We would work out in the rain for an hour or so then come in to the Lodge basement laundry room soaking wet to throw our wet clothes into the dryer drum powered by a diesel generator, change into borrowed dry clothes and go out into the rain for another hour of measuring, then in for another change into dry clothes. The rain never let up the whole week end and we ran the dryer continuously. I was used to heavy continuous rain as I came from the island but Harry, who was from Ontario and was urban oriented, was ill equipped for outdoor survey work and he hated it. At the time there was only the two of us and a secretary in the firm. He never returned to the mid-island ‘wilderness’ again. He did, however, design the logo for the Lodge signage and stationery; a modified salmon in aboriginal carving style. Harry much preferred working at the drawing board than being relegated to rod or chainman. Later on, our new firm member, building architect John Vincent, who also qualified as a landscape architect, prepared detailed plans for extensive additions to the Lodge: bar, gift shop, kitchen, etc. and interior and exterior renovations and up- grading of the logging camp cabins as rentable accommodations along with site re- vegetation and landscaping. Sadly, the beautiful old log main Lodge burned in 1973 and was replaced with a more suit- able structure, but the ambience, quality of craftsmanship and heritage of the original  Road from the Lodge in the 1960s was lost and could not be recreated.

Original Lodge layout as suggested by Muirhead & Justice

One morning, much later on one of my site visits, I was driving back to Campbell River via the twinned gravel logging and copper ore haul roads, traveling on the upper road, when I swerved and slid over and down the bank between the upper and lower roads. As I was about to turn over; I opened my driver side car door and pivoted on the point of the bottom of the door and landed upright onto the lower road. I liked to think my quick thinking and presence of mind had prevented the car from rolling over so I could proceed on my way undamaged. I was also lucky as here was no traffic due to a temporary halt to the mine concentrate haulage. The copper ore was being extracted and concentrated from a deposit located within Strathcona Park beyond the Lodge site near Myra Creek in the Park. The concentrate was hauled out by truck and shipped from Myra Creek which flowed into

Road from the Lodge in the 1960s

Buttle Lake in Strathcona Park, to a dock in Campbell River, a 120 mile round trip. The irony was that Myra Creek was named after Myrna’s grandmother, Myra Cliffe. A surveyor, Jimmy King, was staying at the Lorne Hotel in Comox when he sat Myra, a little six-year-old girl, on his knee and told her that he had named a creek and a mountain after her. Myrna’s mother, Myra Baikie was a smasher, one of the most beautiful women I have set eyes on. Many of us fell madly in love with her but no one dared challenge her husband as he almost always won his event in the annual logging sports days: log rolling was his specialty.

Myrna’s mother and grandmother, Myra Baikie (nee Thomson) and Myra Thomson (nee Cliffe) - on the bank of the Campbell River, 1908

However there was nothing romantic about mining in a public park . It became a cause celebre for the environmental awakening on the Upper Island and influenced the Clayoquot Sound confrontation and the Haida Gwaii Lylle Island logging ban. Truck s of concentrate passing the Lodge 24 hours a day turned the tide and the Lodge became a symbol of environ- mental concern, restoration and recovery.

I couldn’t believe my eyes some 35 years later in May of 2005 when I returned. I was co- leading with Parksville/ Qualicum Milner Gardens manager Jim Cadwalader a tour of American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arbo- reta (AABGA) delegates to Nootka, and we stayed overnight at the Lodge on our way to Gold River and Nootka Sound. When we stepped off the bus nothing was recognizable to me. Our accommodation was hidden among a jungle of garden trees and shrubs; the large dining room perched high up overlooking thick masses of garden shrubs and trees. You couldn’t see a building or the lake for foliage; bank s and rocks had been converted to rockeries with alpine plants and berried ground cover of viburnums, cotoneasters and native kinnik innik , with trails and garden walks between. The large high up dining room was oriented so windows looked out into a garden of foliage and flowers, and the outdoor deck at the end faced the distant natural forested landscape of Elk Mountain in Strathcona Park, viewed across the wide stretch of water.

Rose Baikie, Myra Thomson and Wallace Baikie on hike to Buttle Lake

Reginald Farrer author of the two volume ‘The English Rock Garden’ would have described the rockeries in glowing terms as would have critic John Rusk in. William Robinson author of the ‘English Flower Garden’ and the ‘Wild Garden’ would have approved. It’s too bad I didn’t know about it or I would certainly have included the Strathcona Park Lodge garden in my Post Retirement Doctoral Dissertation, ‘The English Garden Legacy in western Canadian Ornamental Gardens 1888 to 1999’. I would have described the transformed site with high praise