War veterans given place of prominence in Penticton park
War veterans who helped settle a neighbourhood just outside Penticton city limits are now permanent guests of honour in a community park there.
They’re recognized in the new fixtures added to Selby Park on the West Bench, which was settled following the Second World War when soldiers were helped by the Veterans’ Land Act to buy property and establish themselves.
West Bench residents gathered Saturday to get their first look at the newly redesigned park, the focal point of which is a large table topped with metal plating that’s cut into the design of a map that depicts the original VLA subdivision. A bronze plaque will be installed nearby that will list the name of the veteran originally associated with each lot.
Architects Chris Allen and Cal Meiklejohn both live in the area and teamed up on the design.
Allen said the work, which was guided by community consultation, began in earnest last November when a $25,000 grant was secured from Veterans Affairs Canada.
“To do something that gives back to the neighbourhood, tells a bit of the story of why the neighbourhood’s here and how it developed is very rewarding,” Allen said.
Besides the map table, a new wheelchair-accessible pathway and yellow, cut-steel sculpture were also added. The sculpture is a nod to the idea of families and the impact war had on them. Many veterans, Allen explained, returned from war in their mid-20s and had little education or work experience to fall back on in civilian life.
“That’s very difficult, and I can understand what it meant to them to be able to get a lot and build a house and start a family and start a real life after that momentous event in their life. It’s nice to be able to tell that story,” he said.
Concrete specialist Jesse Chapman spent three weeks with his crew on the Selby Park project and said it’s some of the most rewarding work he’s ever done.
“It was really neat working in this community because lots of people would come by and sort of ask us what we were doing and they were all really positive about what we were doing,” Chapman said.
“Some veterans would stop by and gives us a thumbs-up. Everybody in the community was really happy about it, so it was a feel-good project.”
Bob Jenkins, who served in the navy during the Second World War, arrived on the West Bench in 1963 after spending 20 years in the mining sector up north.
“I was one of the last ones to claim a lot,” he said. “There were only three lots left on the whole West Bench.”
Jenkins, whose daughter Sue Gibbons spearheaded the Selby Park upgrade, still lives on the half-acre lot and was pleased with the redesigned gathering place.
“It helps to maintain people’s understanding,” Jenkins said. “Their remembrance, anyway.”