By Bev Christensen
On July 18th and 19th, Blind Bay residents are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first post office and school on the shores of the bay.
During those two days you are being urged to look at the tree-clad hills around the bay and imagine the hours of hard work that pioneers put into clearing that land.
What better way to pay tribute to those hard-working pioneers than with the release of the book, Voices of the Pioneers: Stories from the South Shore of Shuswap Lake-Blind Bay, a compilation of pioneers’ memories of those early days?
The author, Ann Chidwick, has spent the past 76 years holidaying on the shores of the lake after her family sought to escape the intense heat of Kamloops to a rented cottage beside Blind Bay.
In 1945 her family purchased the home from Blind Bay pioneers Walter and Kitty Dunne and Chidwick has continued to spend her summers there ever since.
Her love of the lake, especially Blind Bay, has led to her spending countless hours documenting pioneer Blind Bay family histories. The result is a book that should prove an interesting read for both pioneer families and the many newcomers to the area who, like the pioneers, are drawn to the beauty of the lake’s surroundings.
Chidwick urges newcomers to protect the beauty they find here.
“I am really concerned about the future of the lake,” she said. “We have to learn from the past and look to the future and be responsible for the lake and everything around it: The birds, fish, lizards, frogs, snakes everything.”
To assist newcomers to identify with the pioneers who settled the area, Chidwick has included a 1912 homesteaders’ map with an overlay of a 2012 property map on which, after you identify where your property is located, you can find the name of the family who homesteaded that property.
Then you can look in the book’s index to discover that homesteader family’s history.
In addition to the histories of local pioneers, Chidwick has included information about the forced evacuation of Canadians of Japanese ancestry into this area during the Second World War, the stresses caused by two world wars for both the men who fought in the wars and women and families they left here to fend for themselves in a relatively unsettled area and, of more current interest, the ongoing struggle to maintain medical services in the area.
Blind Bay is not incorporated as a municipality. So this year the community is celebrating the first time governments recognized that there was a community here – in 1914 when the federal government opened the first post office and the provincial government listened to pioneers’ demands for a school by contributing $250 toward the building of a schoolhouse.
The land, the remaining money and materials for the school were contributed by local residents and many work bees were held to build the school itself.
Copies of Ann Chidwick’s book will be available throughout the celebrations at the information centre located at the Cedar Centre, 2316 Lakeview Dr. where you can also obtain maps, brochures, tickets for events, register if you are a pioneer and enjoy refreshments in the air-conditioned building.
Inside the Cedar Centre there will be displays of old photographs, a pioneer kitchen display, exhibits of old photographs and newspapers, antique quilts and wedding dresses, local spinners and weavers will be demonstrating their craft, and an historical video will be running.
The celebration is a combined effort of four community organizations: Blind Bay Hall, Cedar Heights Community Association, Notch Hill Hall and Shuswap Lake Estates. Each organization is sponsoring an event during the two-day celebration and Saturday there will be a huge Family Fun Day at Centennial Field with music, fun and activities for all ages.
For more information on Blind Bay’s 100th celebration, visit the website www.blindbay100.com.