I can only hope that you will make a point of leaning on the rail of Ellis Street bridge and see what a remarkable transformation is taking place. The little creek is being widened, deepened and huge boulders placed along the bottom to produce riffles for the upcoming fish to spawn.
In 1933 Penticton was a small, industrious town with the CPR locomotives coming from the east in the morning and going to Vancouver in the evening. We had barges going up and down the lake both CNR and CPR and their freight cars would be sorted and sent east or west via CPR. Penticton eventually had the only international airport in the valley. At the start, planes would land in fields near where the golf club is located.
The river was untamed and wound back and forth from Okanagan Lake to Skaha (it was known as Dog Lake then). On each side of the river were acres and acres of slough where we would skate and chase the carp under the ice. The river in the fall would be red from the colour of the Kokanee that would fill it trying to reach Okanagan Lake to spawn.
We kids at the time would play hookey from school to gaff them and sell them around town, 12 fish for 25 cents. I must admit I never saw Kokanee in Penticton Creek, but there were many thousands of Grayling and lots of Rainbow trout. I have told a few people of seeing an older friend of mine gaffing a 15 pound Rainbow trout just below the Ellis Street bridge.
My family lived where Guerard’s Furniture is today, next to Lampard’s garage and across from Chinatown, which consisted of six or seven buildings and businesses. I would go and stand in the doorway, afraid of going in, and watch the Chinese people gamble with the tiles. We also had a black gentleman who came from the U.S. and settled here. He married and spent most of his time teaching us kids how to play baseball. His name was John Norton and I believe he did some teaching of school.
We had five fruit packing warehouses and one cannery along the lakeshore from Main Street to the Prague Café.
Penticton had a brothel on Front Street adjoining the B.C. Hotel and the ladies were always kind to us kids looking for cookies. We probably filled a need in their own lives.
Well, as usual, I have strayed from my original intent which was to get the town behind this creek effort. If done correctly and it looks as if it is being done correctly it will be an oasis of serenity in the middle of the city and a wonderful place to walk or sit and enjoy just the sounds of nature.
I don’t think we should get upset about the lack of jobs. Leaving to find work makes it possible to come back to stay, but it behooves we permanent people to make sure we don’t trade away the things they are coming back for. There is no reason that visitors will not decide to stay or come back and our city will grow with the assets it already owns. Other cities cannot buy the natural beauty, calmness, and temperatures that are here.
The world is in chaos and it can encompass our valley but in the meantime we should all be doing everything we can to preserve what we have.
Warren A. Kaines