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I came to Castlegar in 1977 a silly little girl of 24. Of course, I thought I was all grown up. After all, I was 24 and had a young son under my belt and naturally I knew everything about everything.
To be honest, I was running from a hurtful marriage and other demons. I came here for all the wrong reasons. I was hiding. I was pretending I was grown up and I was totally out of touch with my reality.
What I found when I came here was a small community. I believe there were two stoplights at that time and maybe three cops. Of course, those cops found me the first time I drove into town. There was no Tim Hortons here (sorry RCMP this is tongue-in-cheek and I know you all work hard and likely don‘t eat many donuts, but please humour me while I use you to make my point) and so, I guess, a young woman in a Honda car with out of country plates probably was their thrill for the night.
Unsurprisingly I was stopped on Sherbiko Hill the first night I blew into town. Yup, the lights came on and I was pulled over. For those of you who don’t know, Sherbiko Hill is also known as Hospital Hill, that hill on Columbia Avenue. You know which one I mean. Anyway, after being frisked, okay, I wasn’t really frisked, in fact, the RCMP were quite courteous with me, they proceeded to grill me. Okay, maybe they didn’t grill me, but simply did their job to ensure that a criminal was not in their midst. After all, this was Castlegar in 1977 and anyone who lived here then knew that nothing happened on a Saturday night. I. Mean. Nothing. Simply. Nothing. And so, for Our Finest, I’m willing to bet I was the most interesting action in town that night.
In the background was playing tunes from CKQR, our local yokel radio station. To my ears, which had listened to music from Detroit, Houston, Columbus and Seattle, the programming and the music was rude and archaic.
Anyway, once they determined I was not an axe murderess, they let me go on my way to my cheap hotel and an uncertain future.
I’ll tell you, that was a superb first impression (just joking). I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Jobs were more scarce than hen’s teeth and the future didn’t look real bright. But I was young, dumb, and optimistic.
What I didn’t count on was that I would find peace, beauty and friendship here in Castlegar. What I didn’t know was that the mountains would hold me in their firm embrace and what I most certainly didn’t anticipate was the beautiful people who lived here would wrap me in their arms and make me one of theirs.
Today, 37 years later, I firmly believe myself to be one of Castlegar’s home people. Maybe I wasn’t born here, but I can say, without a doubt, I will die here, wrapped in the arms of a beautiful community who counts me as one of their own.
That is a true gift, the kind of gift which one can’t put a price on. I am surrounded by friends and community and, in the end, what does one want?
Yes, I came here for all the wrong reasons and I am glad that it was the best mistake I ever made in my life. Castlegar is my home and it always will be.
Thank you to all of you who have opened your homes and hearts to me. You are what makes Castlegar distinctly Castlegar.