THE CRASHING of heavy brogues in light underbrush heralded our visitor. A grizzled six-footer, mustaches fiercely waxed, parted the branches of a flowering dogwood and held us transfixed by an imaginary dotted line from the end of a stout cane.
“I say,” he demanded, “do you read Maclean’s?”
We nodded, somewhat bewilderedly perhaps. The cane jabbed viciously.
"Then why,” he snapped, "haven’t you done something about it?”
We gripped the handle of our axe, wondering vaguely if it could be of any avail against a tweed hat of such thickness and general atrociousness.
"About what?” we parried.
"About these infernal city chaps, cramming their infernal city propaganda down our long-suffering country throats!” he bellowed.
"Well—” we began.
“Well, nothing!” He waved a hand about him. "What are you doing here?”
We had been busily engaged, at one and the same time, in clearing a small cabin site, straining for a story plot, and inventing a golf ball that would lie in the rough and chirp shrilly until rescued. We told him we were clearing a homesite.
He jabbed his stick in the moist ground, peeled off a disreputable jacket and folded it carefully upon a deadfall.
‘Til do your clearing,” he announced grimly,
“while you dash off a bit that will set people straight on this city business.” He grabbed our axe, brandished it vehemently. “People,” he enlarged, “live in cities -scrambling squirrels in crowded cages simply because they must, or because they have no knowledge of what they miss. I propose that you do these benighted pigeonhole dwellers a service by picturing for them life as it was meant to be lived.” He stiffened with definite decision.
“H’m’m,” we h’m'med thoughtfully, “and just how?”
He indicated with abrupt gesture the broad miles of sun-bathed grass meadows, timber slopes, gleaming glaciers, and sparkling bay waters sprawled in lazy comfort before us.
“Do them a bit,” he said simply, “on that.”
“That,” we hasten to assure you, referred to no mere beauty panorama arranged, as without doubt it was, by Nature at her best. “That” was meant to embrace an inhabited setting altogether unique in this Canada of ours.
It isn’t a city, although it contains cities; it cannot be classed as a district, for its boundaries are so elastic as to defy designation; and it isn’t a settlement, having long since progressed beyond that stage. Its far-flung villages, and the divergent interests of their inhabitants, preclude the general term “community,” while to describe the spirit of co-operation so evident among those same inhabitants requires that identical term. It is in no way governed or officially recognized as a unit, but is definitely and unshakeably that.
Nature at Iler Best
YVUR VISITOR’Sconcluding remark referred to an evergreen world nook whose attractions have received more recognition in the Orient, in Europe and in Hollywood than in Canada itself—namely, the Comox Valley.
Comox Valley, embracing an area variously estimated as ten miles by twenty, as five miles by two, or as twenty by fifty -depending upon the interests of the several estimators —is geographically located upon Vancouver Island’s inner or East coast, 150 miles of hard-surfaced scenic highway northward from Victoria, and four hours by motor and water route, via Nanaimo, from Vancouver. Its basic interests are big-scale logging, coal mining, fishing, dairying and fruit ranching, with social precautions being taken
to prevent toil in any of its forms from interfering too extensively with the play of the people. The Valley’s area contains incorporated cities fully modem, towns, villages, settlements, communities, hamlets, summer resorts, logging, mill and cannery towns. No one knows its population figures; no one sees any great reason why anyone should care to; and a very small percentage of the population affects either heavy brogues or tweed hats.
The task of relieving the coastal Indians of their favorite valley—“Comox” being Euclataw slang for “Vale of Plenty”—was begun in 1862 by a group of miners deflected from a waning Caribou gold rush. The following year the Valley’s Mayflower, a naval gunboat, arrived with pioneers eager to tackle big timber. Six years later, vast coal deposits were discovered; and the result is history sufficient to fill volumes.
Thanks to the zeal with which these old-timers battled six-foot fir stumps, present Valley residents have their cleared farms, fruit orchards, open pasture lands, and a network of power lines and hard-surfaced or gravelled highways. Trains bearing gigantic timber loads or piled high with coal, shriek along the Valley toward dumping grounds by the sea; giant trucks and buses boom over the highways; passenger boats, luxurious foreign yachts and puffing flotillas of lesser craft, enter or leave the sheltered, blue-water harbor; while in the Strait of Georgia beyond, bobbing herds of rowboat fishermen load cannery collectors with their catch, and seine boats swing in great circles coralling silver-bellied salmon a thousand at a sweep.
The market gardener is busy, the poultry fancier, the city business man, and the platoons of retired. No fortunes are being amassed, but, compared with many areas, the recent reverse boom was little felt by the Valley as a whole. So much for the always distressing subject of work.
Work and Sport
'Y’DUR AVERAGE city business man dreams of the day when he wall become a full-time playboy. He visualizes a vague “somewhere” as the ideal spot to retire. To that end he slaves tlyough the years, invariably becoming well “crocked” before the glad day arrives.
Comox Valley residents have a saner idea. “Why wait until we’re old?” they say. “With our rivers, lakes, mountains, hunting, fishing, golf, and seaside setting, we already have the ideal spot to retire. Let’s mix ’em up, all the way.” And mix ’em up they do, work and play, with law-
Continued on page 37
Why Live in a City?
Continued front page 16
making civic authorities aiding and abetting.
For perennial daylight-saving and halfholiday battles, as waged in less enlightened regions, are unknown in Comox Valley. Business places close daily at 5.30 p.m. except on Saturday. Every Wednesday, summer or winter, brings its half holiday, regardless of what other holiday may fall in that week. School, for the smaller fry. ends at 2.30 p.m., with older pupils loosed at 3 o’clock while many hours of sunshine and playtime yet remain—a sensible arrangement, like that of the business hours, occasioning loss to no one.
With the mention of sunshine comes the inevitable subject of climate, and the truth must out. It rains in Comox Valley. During the short winter season rain descends in curtains, in sheets, in blankets. Sometimes the wind blows while rain is falling, and that is called, among other things, a southeaster. Southeaster lash the countryside, smash trees, find leaky roofs, and make it
generally dangerous in the woods. Telephone linesmen could write volumes on the subject of southeaster, as, too, could road foremen. During the past winter a huge tree, which was uprooted during a gale, fell across another, flicked whiplike a passing sedan and sprang back clear of the roadway. The sedan body was crushed like an eggshell, but miraculously not one of the four passengers was injured. The only ones who really enjoy a southeaster with rain are prairie people who have become accustomed to much worse with snow.
On the other hand, Valley summer are long, a succession of sunny days never too hot; and in spite of so-called winter, shirtsleeved golf on New Year’s Day is not at all uncommon—played, it should be added, on the farthest West golf course in the British Empire.
Winter sports include, on the higher levels, ice skating, skiing and alpining, with youths and maidens alike shouldering packs. A soccer schedule is played; Cumberland, a mining town of 3,000 population, having several times won the provincial crown and twice having appeared in the Dominion finals. Intermediate girls this year defeated the cities of Nanaimo, Victoria and Vancouver to bring to the Valley a provincial basketball championship. Along with basketball, roller skating, badminton and
indoor tennis, boxing and wrestling share two massive auditoriums, exclusive of theatres and lesser halls. Rainy season social activity includes the usual dances, parties and soirées beyond count, with just enough affairs of a formal nature to discourage the moths.
Summer brings baseball, with keen rivalry between towns, and a pass-the-hat admittance arrangement that bars no one, young or old, from the stands. Anglers line docks and bridges, drift with the tide in flatbottom boats, fish the sea. near-by lakes, the swift river that tumbles down from the mountains, or the meandering wooded stream that waters pasture herds in the Valley bottom. During August and September Tvee fishing brings pop-eyed salmon enthusiasts from many countries to the mouth of Campbell River and to Comox Harbor. Pack-trains take them inland to the Forbidden Plateau, twelve trail miles from the Valley floor and 4,000 feet above the sea, where trout-stocked lakes recently were opened for anglers, and where the wonders of open parklands, dizzy-deep canyons, and fields of the rare “red snow” are easily accessible to the most timid of climbers.
Open seasons for grouse, pheasant, ducks, geese, deer and bear bring hunter hordes to Comox Valley. Except in rare instances where the privilege lias been outraged, Valley ranchers offer no objection to hunters invading their holdings. Which fact, added to one concerning the traditional hospitality of these same landowners, is no doubt responsible for the following:
An elderly Valleyite, very deaf, while visiting another part of the Coast, took his dog and went bird gunning. Passing near a yard he was accosted by one, evidently the owner, who, having hurriedly deserted his supper, pointed to a gate beside the house and, masticating meanwhile, delivered himself thus;
“Listen, you gangly, gun-toting old barnacle, you get to blue-tongued blazes ofTa my place an’ keep off. Y’unnerstand? I’ve had all the punctured cows and trampled crops I’m wanting for one season. Savvy? Now then, come on !” He gestured again toward the gate by the house.
The old gentleman looked mildly surprised, and leaned closer.
“By Jove!” he said, “that’s jolly decent of you, but I’m afraid I must refuse. I took tea only a moment ago, before leaving the hotel.”
Perpetual Holiday Land
IN THIS REGION of rugged men who I work in woods, fields, mines and at sea during the week, then shoulder 200-pound packs for a week-end hunting, fishing cr prospecting jaunt, culture and the arts are by no means neglected. Local music, dancing and dramatics pupils more than once have caused consternation at city festivals. Local artists are highly regarded. And in April last the Comox District Men’s Musical, composed of bronzed ranchers, loggers, miners and business men, astounded packed city thousands when, under the baton of a local conductor, they invaded what Vancouver heralded as “Canada’s Greatest Musical Festival,” and, incompetition with two Vancouver aggregations and a third from Seattle, captured a Male Choir win by the comfortable margin of four roints.
Comox Valley is proud of her offspring, at home and abroad. Dwindling space prohibits more than passing mention of the battalion that trained on the harbor spit, of those lads who followed the sea in war, or of the ivy-shrouded cairn, built of homely Valley boulders, that bears the names of so many Valley sons. Nothing has been told of mighty hunters, of their dogs, of loggers who commute fifty miles a day by motor, speedboat and train to and from their work ; of man-fallen tree monsters crashing a thousand feet down canyon sides to be bucked and hoisted aboard flat cars by giant
machines; of a living cedar, sixteen feet in diameter, said by tree experts to have been a seedling 3,000 years ago, or—think of it— 1,003 years before the birth of Christ: of picturesque, all-year golf courses and of grandmothers who win golf honors; of the youngness of the Valley’s old or the beautv of the Valley’s young; of the smooth sand beaches, the warm sea bathing. Nor have I mentioned the sun-bronzed vouths and maidens who entertain coastwise visitors by swan-diving from the topmost accessible jx)int of their docked ships; the jingling pack-trains, the deer grazing in lush meadows at dusk, the silent forests and scarlet-flaming snow peaks . . .
Summer visitors such as Clive Brook, Dick Barthelmess and John Barrymore, who find snug anchorage and worthy sport in the vicinity, are increasing yearly, Barthelmess in a recent interview paid tribute to
Comox Valley people for their rare thoughtfulness in allowing his party the undisturbed quiet and relaxation so desired. City comforts are found in a perpetual holiday setting.
There is a Valley tradition that “they all come back.” A myriad reasons for this must remain here unrecorded, for we have been warned off. A toil-bent figure, with straggly mustache and an atrocious tweed hat placed cockeyed upon his sweat-stained brow, has just come through the sunset glow to return our axe.
“I say,” he demanded anxiously, “you’re not telling them everything?”
“By no means,” we assured him.
“Quite right,” he approved. “We want no stampede here. That,” he concluded grimly with a faint flicker of the earlier fire in his eye, “would make of us just another of these infernal cities.”
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