Members of the Stone family turned out in force for the Hillcrest Lumber Company employees’ reunion held recently at Mesachie Lake. The 20 grandchildren, great- and great-great grandchildren of mill founder Hector Stone were among the special guests who attended the annual event. Many of the grandchildren were raised in Mesachie Lake, where they, along with the rest of the community children, attended the Mesachie Lake primary school before heading down to Lake Cowichan to further their education.

Lake Flashback: Mesachie employees reunion, Batmobile escapes blaze, and another paving put-off

They remembered, it escaped, and Youbou was still left waiting

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Lexi Bainas has been combing through oldnewspaperswiththeassistance 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 weekaround Cowichan Lake in years gone by.

This week around the Cowichan Lake area…

10 years ago:

Long before this column began appearing in the Lake Cowichan Gazette, longtime Laker Rolli Gunderson wrote a column called Kaatza Connections.

She had the interesting job of covering the reunion of former Hillcreast Lumber employees to mark the 40th anniversary of the closure of the once-major operation.

Over to you, Rollie:

“Taking in the annual reunion event were more than 135 former employees and guests, including those who once lived and worked at the Mesachie Lake company — which also included a logging department — along with former employees and families who once lived at Old Hillcrest near Sahtlam, Lake Cowichan and Duncan. The eighth annual reunion was once again organized by Lower Mainland residents Joyce and Cec Ashley; Cec is a former Hillcrest employee whose father Slim Ashley also worked at the Mesachie Lake mill. The actual closing date of the historic mill occurred on Friday, Aug. 23, 1968.

“It is often written that Hillcrest Lumber Company founder Carlton Stone was the founder of Mesachie Lake. To my knowledge, Mesachie Lake itself was not founded by anyone, although it was certainly found (as in located) by Stone, who deemed it a perfect place to relocate his Sahtlam-based Hillcrest lumber mill and new community.

“After the move from Sahtlam to Mesachie Lake, the mill operated continuously from 1943 until 1968. It was then dismantled, the machinery sold off, the site cleaned and levelled, then sold to outside interests. Today, the mill site is the home of beautiful Camp Imedene.

“Special guests at the reunion included former Mesachie Lake resident and one time Hillcrest employee, B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal, who was raised in the community and later worked at the mill to help pay for his university education. Don Gordon, on behalf of the Kaatza Station Museum, presented Oppal with a framed Mesachie Lake School class photo of the young Wally (known then as Taroo Singh) and his classmates.

“Several of Stone’s grandchildren, great and great-great grandchildren gathered for the commemorative event after viewing the Hillcrest display and other related artifacts at the Kaatza Station Museum in Lake Cowichan.

“According to Ashley, the Stone family raised more than $1,000, which was donated to the museum. An additional $230 was also raised for the museum through individual donations. Ashley drew a round of applause when he said, ‘The sense of community, camaraderie, friendship and loyalty to each other and our former employer, Hillcrest, is exceptional and still going strong after 40 years. We just don’t see this happening anymore’.”

25 years ago:

Only a short time after showcasing the Batmobile, the mid-summer Lake News of 1993 reported “Batmobile scorched in blaze”.

Here’s the story:

“Bill White, who built the Batmobile exhibited in parades, nearly lost his life in a fire yesterday morning. The Batmobile, pushed to safety from the garage, was scorched. White works in his house on Cowichan Lake Road, near Skutz Falls, at about 9 a.m. to a crackling, he said, and thought workmen were installing a hot tub. When he and his son, Shane, leaped from their beds, the west end of the house was ablaze.

“We had smoke detectors but they didn’t work because there was not much smoke,” he said.

Shane escaped in underwear and a neighbour found him pants.

“All I could think of was the dog and two cats, but I think they’re all right,” he said. His $10,000 stereo lay in ruins.

Though the house did not burn to the ground, damage was extensive. Lake Cowichan, Sahtlam, Mesachie Lake, and Honeymoon Bay firefighters were called to help.

40 years ago:

As June moved into July in 1978, drivers in the Cowichan Lake area were looking for highway repair.

But The Lake News told them: “Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Youbou Road to be repaved with that huge pile of asphalt that’s being mixed up at the Meade Creek highways maintenance yard.

A highways department official said the asphalt will be used for road patching and emergency repairs in the Cowichan Lake area and won’t be used for a major paving program.

A number of local residents had speculated that the mountain of bituminous material would be used to re-pave the 14 km stretch of road that has taken a severe beating from the heavy trucks that use it daily.

However, Hector McLeod, a highways technician with the branch’s Nanaimo office, said the repaving of Youbou Road is under consideration. He told The Lake News the road has been inspected and recommendations for re-paving have been sent to headquarters.

McLeod could not say when major work on the road would be undertaken. He said testing of a short section of the highway just west of the Lake Cowichan turn-off is underway because the asphalt in that area seems to be “bleeding”.

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