Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 28th, 2012

The Cawston Board of Trade continued to be a source of activity and enterprise in the community, but not the only one as other organizations attracted many of these young veterans,  both socially, economically, and to satisfy a wish they seemed to have, to enter with vigor and enthusiasm into the life for which they had been spared.

Tom Brokow calls this generation of men born between 1900 and 1929 the 'Greatest Generation' - they were not perfect, but they had a wonderful zest for life, and circumstances had made them humble and grateful for all that life had to offer.  Some had memories of the first World War, and all of them went through the Great Depression when there were job losses without the benefit of UI - some had lived in Work Camps and had taken part in the desperate protest  March to Ottawa which ended so drastically in Regina.  Probably a few 'rode the rails', but many of the veterans on the Cawston Bench were young men who had entered the services straight from High School.  Charles had just turned twenty-one when he piloted a Lancaster over Europe, responsible for a crew of seven amidst all the flares and ack-ack from the anti-aircraft guns.  Responsibility was their 'middle name'.

They carried this quality into their post-war lives;  worked hard to support their families and their community;  had absolutely no sense of 'entitlement' but instead the honour of being excellent and ethical citizens came naturally to them and they offered their volunteer services wherever they were needed.  

Well, they weren't perfect, but they certainly did their bit...along with pretty well all the men of this generation in the Similkameen.

And their wives!!!

The Elks, the Royal Purple, the Masons and the Eastern Star gained new members, and flourished as service organizations as well as contributing to the social life of the community.  Before the advent of television evenings spent in comradeship with like minded lodge members were very welcome, and the time spent in the company of friends preparing for dinners or dances or rodeos or special events added a certain zest to life as well as a feeling of contributing to the welfare of others, especially children.

The Elks' Rodeo is still the main attraction on the May Long Week-end (formerly known as Victoria's Birthday), and every one takes part.  Such excitement in the early days around our house, and in all the other houses on the Bench where there were children.  I went faithfully until the last child finally was able to go on her own, lugging along the movie camera and all the little ones in their cowboy hats.

Now our great grandchildren go and take part in the big parade.

along with Great Grandpa at the front of the float

and have fun at the rodeo while their mothers try to keep them corralled!

It was a golden age of fraternalism and ritualism  and good works that seems to have lost its appeal among younger people, although I have read, to my dismay, that youthful gangs indulge pathologically in passwords, secret handshakes and other signs and symbols.

Charles was Organist for a number of years in the Elks Lodge, and many of the veterans on the Cawston Bench went through the Chairs, some ending up as Exalted Rulers (I believe the term used more endearingly was 'exhausted rooster'), or Masters in the Masons.

In my mind's eye I have pictures of hard-time dances, of afternoons spent making sandwiches with other Purple Ladies, of looking forward to a night out with friends at Lodge meetings, and trying to remember the Password for the evening's meeting, of the 11o'clock ritual at Elks' affairs and the work and excitement at Rodeo time.  And there lingers too, in my mind, the feeling of trust and friendship between members, where a phrase (since abandoned) in the oath promised to look out for other sisters and 'apprise her of approaching danger".

I guess the way we were looks quite quaint now, - antiquated I suppose -  but we were young and enthusiastic at the time.  The Lodge has dropped many of its ritualistic ways, and there are very few amongst us that don't have silver hair, but there is still a certain order about it that is very civilized and we still do worthy works among the children, especially for those among them that are deaf.  And we still cherish the friendships of those who are with us now, and those who live in our memories.

It was all a part of the Fairview Heights community and a way of contributing and recharging our own lives.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

March 30th, 2012

There could not be such a large influx of inhabitants on virgin soil without somehow upsetting the scheme of things, and on 'Sagebrush Flats" as the Fairview Heights Irrigation District was sometimes called, there had to be confrontation between the rattlesnakes that called this benchland home and the veteran and his family.

The first summer after we moved into our home the sun scorched the land, the dust blew in great clouds every time a car or truck drove past, and at that time the road ran right in front of our house.  We had eleven of these startling encounters with rattlesnakes, - eleven that I counted, anyway.

Changing sprinkler pipes was especially hazardous.  The one thing that the rattlesnake found advantageous about being invaded was the cool running water the strange ones brought along with them, but if you were to put your hand down close to where they might be coiled you would immediately hear the warning rattle and I have many pictures in my mind of sprinkler changers springing into the air with great alarm, alacrity and agitation, in that order.

Probably the most amusing and astounding was Charles' encounter in the outdoor shower.

While working on the project P.F.R.A. had a rather primitive place to sleep and eat, and an outdoor shower.  Two compartments and a barrel of water on top of the building, which by evening was warm and refreshing.  When the P.F.R.A. engineers moved on they bequeathed this shower to Charles, and we were most happy to have it as we did not yet have plumbing in the house.

After a dusty day on the project Charles was ready for this watery refreshment, - went out to have a shower and was happily soaping himself at about the same time Fred Mauer drove into the yard, looking for him.  "Up in the shower" sez I.  Fred went to visit Charles in the shower.  "What's that, what's that". said Fred, in great excitement, pointing to a slithering soapy snake coming up between the slats of the shower, between Charles'  feet. The air was blue, - filled with soap bubbles and a dancing Water Bailiff!  I'm not sure if the rattlesnake retreated or slid away into the sage brush, but it made for an interesting evening.  I'm also not sure if those are the words that Fred Mauer said when he first saw the rattlesnake, - somehow I would guess they would be more pungent.

I do know what happened to the rattlesnake that loitered by the back door, coiled in anticipation of our oldest child approaching on his vehicle.  Was it a kiddie car or a small tricycle?  I have forgotten that in the great melee that followed.

The snake struck tentatively at Steven just as I was coming out the door.  I presume he struck in warning but to a mother and her first born his actions were definitely menacing.  I grabbed a nearby shovel and with pounding heart started to pulverize the poor creature.  He slid under Charles' rubber pants, that he used for spraying and in the frenzied beating on the snake the spray pants suffered a certain amount of fragmentation.

When all had settled down somewhat we went inside and I made a cup of tea - probably Steven was more impressed by his mother beating on his father's spray pants than he was of the poor rattlesnake.

And then there was a rattlesnake who hitched a rider on the tractor when Charles was cutting grass in the orchard, - right behind the seat.  It didn't take Charles long to realize that it was not that tractor that was warning him of some kind of disaster in close proximity.

Thankfully none of the children on the Bench were bitten, but the dogs did not fare so well, - especially the Border Collies we kept,  partly for the sheep we acquired later on and partly as dear members of the family.  When they were bitten they swelled up horribly, but went and found a muddy spot to lie in and meditate on their folly of picking up a rattle snake and  shaking it severely.

I am not sure that the Veteran settlement on the Cawston Bench was met with enthusiasm by the rattlesnakes that lived there, or by everyone else in the surrounding community, but I do know that I never felt any animosity or resentment, and made many good friends amongst the people who had settled in Cawston and Keremeos in earlier years.

Those who were inclined to take part in community affairs were soon an integral part of the whole community.  The Cawston Board of Trade, which had been active and vital to the community, became positively vibrant as it gained so many new and enthusiastic members.  The Board of Trade represented the only formal contact with Government, and they worked hard to bring improvements to the community.  One of the matters which particularly concerned them at that time was the lack of dredging in the river channel, which was filling up with small islands, and the Cawston Board of Trade cooperated with the Keremeos Chamber of Commerce in trying to solve this problem.  However, mainly because of Fishery concerns they were not successful and over the years the river has swung from one side to the other, tearing out great chunks of fine agricultural land.  And the small islands in the river, especially in the vicinity of the Keremeos town site, have grown into large islands, overgrown with trees and shrubs and preventing a clear run for the river, especially in flood time.

Charles still fights this fight each spring as the melting snow in the mountains 
threatens the valley with flooding.