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Flashback: New library breaks ground, hospital CAO names, Forrest takes shots at village operations

A look back at the history of the Cowichan Lake area
Premier Bill Bennett was due in Lake Cowichan for a visit in February of 1983. (Lake News/Feb. 2, 1983)

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson has been combing through old newspapers with the assistance of the Kaatza Station Museum and Archives so we can jog your memory, give you that nostalgic feeling, or just a chuckle, as we take a look at what was making headlines this week around Cowichan Lake in years gone by.

This week around the Cowichan Lake area…

10 years ago

Hard to believe it was 10 years ago that work began on the new Lake Cowichan Library near the corner of South Shore Rd. and Renfrew Ave.

“’We are very excited that the work has begun on our first purpose-built library,’ said Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) board chair Ronna-Rae Leonard. ‘Thank you to the Town of Lake Cowichan who donated the land. We appreciate this partnership which will benefit those who live in Lake Cowichan and the surrounding areas.’

“‘It indeed gives us great pleasure to see that work on the construction of the library has begun,’ said Ross Forrest, mayor of Lake Cowichan. ‘We look forward with anticipation to the completion of a facility that the residents of Lake Cowichan, adjacent areas and beyond can be proud of. Our efforts at revitalizing the town are being realized through the new library, the town square and improvements to South Shore and Cowichan Lake Roads.’

“Councillor and Vancouver Island Regional Library trustee Bob Day says the donation of land by the town has allowed VIRL to focus their budget on the quality of the building and the landscaping.”

In the same edition, editor Elodie Adams reported that a western theme was the plan for 2013 Lake Days.

“Dust off your cowboy hats, rustle up a lasso, and mark June 2-9 in your calendar for this year’s Lake Days celebrations. Lake Days goes country is the theme the Lake Days committee chose for this year’s event at its annual meeting, Jan. 28 in Lake Cowichan. When asked how they came up with that theme, Lake Days chair Bob Day said they decided to have a raffle and get tickets for Alan Jackson at this year’s SunFest in Duncan as one of the raffle prizes. ‘And of course we’ll have country music,’ added Day, ‘As for the parade, people often like to have a theme to go by’.”

25 years ago

Two and a half decades ago the town was reeling after a botched MLA visit, according to the story: “MLA visit becomes disappointing mess”, which was on the Feb. 4, 1998 Lake News’s front page.

Four B.C. liberal MLAs travelled to Lake Cowichan last week while on a tour, meeting councillors, mayors and regional directors. The visit to Lake Cowichan however was rather confused as only councillor Jack Peake was available to meet with them and after being told lunch would be served the MLAs left council chambers hungry, heading for a local restaurant. According to Councillor Peake, he also expected lunch to be served and only realized halfway through the meeting that there was nothing ordered.”

Awkward! Let’s hope the politicians got some lunch eventually and left the lake with something other than a bad taste in their mouths.

“A new hospital administrator has his work cut out for him” was the paper’s second story of the edition.

Ron Kenyon had the report:

“He seemed comfortable to be with — a man who would get things done with little fuss and lots of goodwill. I wouldn’t have accepted his job for a big-league baseball star salary. To me he was the bravest man in the Cowichan Valley. Bill Cameron is the new Chief Operating Officer of the hospitals at Duncan, Ladysmith and Chemainus, as well as Cowichan Lodge and Cairnross Lodge.

“A big job, wide open to criticism of every kind, deficient in budget, a job getting bigger every day as the population grows and the population gets older. None of which noticeably bothered him.”

It looks like he did a good job

“Already changes have been made at Duncan hospital. Deeply concerned about seniors, whose numbers are increasing, he has — miraculously it seems in days of constrained budgets — added 10 more acute-service beds to the Cowichan District Hospital. He saved money and improved service by opening a 20-bed ward especially for seniors awaiting transfer to long-term care facilities.”

I wonder how long he lasted.

45 years ago

The year 1983 seems like just yesterday for some of us. To the kids, though, it’s a world away. The Lake News of Feb. 2, 1983 reported that an “Uproar forces [a] special council meeting.”

“A special council meeting was scheduled to be held yesterday to discuss the way the Village of Lake Cowichan is being run. The meeting was held at the request of Ald. Roger Hamilton, who asked that the special session be held after it appeared that the next village council meeting Feb. 8 would be top-heavy with delegations and extended discussion.

“Hamilton and Ald. Ted Forrest have expressed concern that the council parks and recreation committee is apparently being ignored by the office staff at the village hall. He asked that there be some clarification of the way committees work on village council.

“Forrest, who told village council Jan. 11 that he was not pleased at the way the government-sponsored work projects were proceeding in the Village of Lake Cowichan, continued his criticism Jan. 25.

“He prefaced his remarks by saying he had deliberately been blaming everyone for the mix-ups: alderman, the mayor, the village administration and the village work superintendent.

“‘I didn’t use any names. I’m blaming everyone,’ he said. Forrest said that because operations, in his opinion, had become disorganized, ‘one person is trying to run the whole show’.

“In other news of the day, Premier Bill Bennett will be in Lake Cowichan Tuesday afternoon Feb. 15 as part of a tour of the Cowichan Valley. It isn’t known yet what stops he will make here, according to Graham Bruce, who is helping to co-ordinate the visit.”

“Five smiling faces and five shiny spades turned the soil at the official ground breaking ceremony for the new library, on Jan. 30 in Lake Cowichan. From left: CVRD Director and VIRL trustee Mel Dorey, Rosemary Bonanno, executive director, VIRL, town councillor and VIRL trustee Bob Day, Mayor Ross Forrest, and Paul Hammond, architect with Chow Low.” (Lake Cowichan Gazette/Feb. 6,2013)

Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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