Natural Splendour of the Valley 150 km to the West
On a recent medical appointment, my wife and I travelled to the beautiful vine-growing valley to the west of us. Kelowna, where we were heading, is also a tourist mecca and attracts a lot of people seeking the sunshine, the picturesque landscapes, and naturally also the beaches at Okanagan Lake. Here are a few impressions of the area taken from an outlook south of Vernon. Enjoy!
Finally, at home, we hastily ate some hot cabbage soup. After supper, my mother made us change into good warm clothes instead of getting us ready for bedtime. Without explanation, she made us kiss our dad goodbye and then, grabbing a big suitcase from a closet in the hallway, whisked us out of the front door. When we stepped out on the snow-covered sidewalk faintly illuminated by occasional street lights, my mother whispered to us that we would have to go on a long walk, but there would be a surprise. We walked silently like in a dream world enveloped by the thickly falling snow. Tired and dazed, we walked for a long time until we finally reached the railway station.
Once we were settled in an empty train compartment, my mother told us that she had received permission to visit her sick guardian aunt in the West. My dad had to stay back as a guarantor for our return. If we did not come back, he would be severely punished. My brother immediately fell asleep in my mother’s arm when the train started rolling. I, however, had my face pressed against the cold dark window. I did not want to miss the “Golden West” first glimpse once we crossed the border.
The sun shone brightly. A few clouds added a little bit of dramatic effect to the landscape. And the snow had mostly disappeared from the golf course. Some hardy players had already gathered for the first tee-off of the year. Winter has loosened its grip. The ice from our local creek had succumbed to the recent rise of temperature above the freezing mark. Best of all, among the signs of spring is the swelling of buds on all the trees at the golf course. Enjoy!
It was on such a day in January 1953 that our lives changed forever. It had been clear and cold. Our tobogganing hill was slick and fast. Many of our friends were out, and we raced down the steep street again and again. One of my friends wore a new fur-trimmed hat which I liked very much. It was so much prettier than my hand-knit wool tuque. She had just received it in a belated Christmas parcel from her aunt in the West. She also shared some chewing gum with us, which we never had before and enjoyed tremendously for the first time in our life. What a wonderful place the West must be, I thought when I looked at my friend with the pretty hat trying to blow bubbles with her bubble gum.
It started to snow softly when suddenly I saw my mom approaching us. She never called us home before supper. Puzzled, we ran to her. Taking hold of my brother with one hand and me with the other, she told us that we had to go quickly to town with her before an important office closed. Despite our protests demanding to stay with our friends, she pulled us hurriedly along. I started whining, insisting that she at least buy me a new hat as pretty as the one my friend had received from the West. My mother pulled us relentlessly along without responding to my increasingly vocal demands.
Eventually, we reached the office. My mother signed and received some papers. It was pitch dark when we headed home. I was exhausted and hungry by then and had given up whining. Suddenly I heard my mom whisper that I would soon get a new hat in the West. I was too drowsy to understand what her words meant.
Last week, my wife and I visited the Nakusp Hot Springs after a more than two years hiatus because of Covid-19. The snow indicates that we still experience winter conditions. But the sun shone brilliantly from a blue sky and the temperature was hovering pleasantly around the freezing mark. On this hour-long trip, we frequently stopped and took these pictures. We even caught a sunset photo on our way home. Enjoy!
My parents protected and shielded us from their increasing hardships and sorrows. We had many friends and were allowed to play in our quiet neighbourhood without restrictions. After the war, only a few people could afford cars. There was hardly any traffic. Most people travelled by bike, streetcar, train or horse buggy. Special forest trams would take us out into the beautiful surroundings for hiking or other outdoor activities. On weekends my mom prepared a simple picnic lunch, and we would either go by tram or on the back seat of my parents’ bikes out into the forests.
It’s incredible how far we could hike at an early age. My dad would goad us on by promising a pop-like beverage if we made it to the next village or any other destination he wanted to reach. Picking berries or mushrooms would supplement our diet. However, at that time, I was not too fond of mushrooms.
Located close to our home was a public outdoor swimming pool in a beautiful forest setting. My father was a passionate swimmer, and he taught us to swim before we even entered school. I inherited my dad’s passion and went to the pool every day during the open season, no matter how cold the water was. Even before I was six years old, I was allowed to go there on my own without adult supervision,
In the winter, we would get lots of snow. Every day we would spend hours tobogganing with friends down a steep street in our neighbourhood. At suppertime, we would trudge home tired but with glowing cheeks looking forward to our big warm tile stove and my dad’s nightly stories about the great explorers and inventors of the world.