As mentioned in the blog post, we visited many Royal Canadian Legions on the Lois Memorial Road Trip.
The first Legion was in Kelowna, where mom lived during the last couple decades of her life. When we arrived, it was only 3pm, but every table was full. Sitting at the bar, my daughter and I struck up a conversation with a fiesty old gentleman. Lesley lavished attention on him, giving his ego a boost. It was too early for live music or dancing, but the room was hopping. They had a meat draw and some other raffle going on. The ambience would have got my Mom’s toe tapping.
When we left there, we drove over to her old house. The contractor who bought the place did not tear it down like we expected he would. In fact, it looked the same five years later. It didn’t even have a fresh coat of paint. Those lovely but kitschy, painted, ceramic mushroons still sat on the front lawn.
The visit to the campground turned into a surprising highlight. Mom did well to run that place for over twenty years, especially after Dad died. She worked hard to keep it up, and it must have been a struggle, but she loved running the business. Mom was a social being and always up for meeting and greeting new people.
A couple of older, tatooed, gay guys, now own the campground. They have really fixed the place up. The trees have grown so high, every campsite has terrific shade and privacy. Not much has changed with the buildings and grounds, but the guys have spruced up the whole property. The little cabin beside the house, is an office now. If Dad had not passed away so young, he would have built the campground up like this.
Sadly, we got to the Castlegar Legion when it first opened, so it was quieter than the one in Kelowna.
This is where we joined up with Lochlin, Deborah, and their dog Kingston. The town of Redcliff and it’s Legion had changed very little. The old house on 1st Ave and our old, old house near the glass factory are still standing after all these years. Lesley and I got out the bikes early one morning—a very nostalgic pedal around town for me.
Elkwater Lake in Cypress Hills, Alta.
We piled into Loch and Deborah’s car and drove an hour to the lake.
For many years, while I was growing up, Mom and Dad had a cabin at Elkwater. It had no running water or electricity, but we had fabulous parties. It was a meeting place for my parents’ many crazy friends. And a passel of children always filled the shack too, making it fun for us kids. We walked up a few sidestreets and eventually came upon a house that someone had built on the spot where our cabin once stood.
Lochlin went for a dip in the lake.
Back to Redcliff, Alta.
We stopped off at the old water tower. I was surprised to see it still standing. Kingston did not know Lois, but seemed happy to be along for the fun.
It thrilled Lesley and Lochlin to find their grandpa’s photo still hanging in the Redcliff Legion. It’s a pity we didn’t see anyone I recognised during our visit, but I moved away from town when I was just a teenager. Plus, we didn’t stay in that Legion for long.
The next morning we visited the Redcliff cemetery. Dad’s grave is in the veterans’ Field of Honour with his friends. We laid flowers and cracked open that bottle of Crown Royal.
Before leaving southern Alberta, we hit one more Legion—this time in Medicine Hat. Mom worked there as a secretary for many years.
Mom, Dad, and I were all born in Watrous. We visited the cemetery and the graves of Fanny and Elmer Dagert, Mom’s parents. We also found the headstones of William and Robert Hislop – my dad’s dad who died in 1944, and his brother who died at the age of 9.
Manitou Lake, Saskatchewan
This historic resort town is where we actually lived when I was born. The place was a going concern in the twenties, when people took their holidays closer to home. The lake is known as the Dead Sea of Canada, with water so salty it keeps you afloat. Lesley and I swam one night after the temperature had reached 35 degrees during the day. I stretched out in the cool water, flat on my back, still and tranquil, immersed in an earlier, simpler time.
We visited Danceland here, which is a historic dance hall built in the early 1900s and has been maintained beautifully. The dance floor is suspended with a cushion of horse hair, like the Commodore in downtown Vancouver.
Note: I produced the pictures in this article from photographs of the trip, with the help of a photoshopping Ap.
Live well, everyone.