Two men who travelled similar routes in life get together for retirement party last Thursday, June 28, 1979. Ernie Towle retired after 30 years with School District 66. Joining him over an “in” joke is Moe All. Both men worked for the school district and both men are former mayors of Lake Cowichan.

LAKE FLASHBACK: School still needed, sidewalks still needed, and two great guys hit retirement together

Sidewalks and streets in need of repair: every municipality in the world must hear that plea regularly

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Lexi Bainas 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:

“Don’t hold your breath on new lake school, SD79 told” was the headline on the front page of the Lake Cowichan Gazette of July 8, 2009.

So, what was the scoop?

The man who looks after the money at the Cowichan Valley School District isn’t holding his breath on funding for a new elementary school in Lake Cowichan any time soon. Bob Harper, secretary-treasurer at the district, said capital projects — like the new $12-million facility to house A.B. Greenwell and Palsson elementary students — are on hold within the Ministry of Education.

“This was not a formal communication we received from the Ministry of Education,” stressed Harper. “It was from their staff to our staff — we were told, ‘Don’t expect much in the way of capital’.”

A ministry spokesman who refused to comment on the record, meanwhile, countered and said capital projects were still in the works. He also pointed out the ministry is still receiving the annual capital project wish lists that districts across the province send in.

But Harper doesn’t seem optimistic.

“All I can tell you is that based on the conversation we had with some ministry staff, I’m not hopeful for new construction to be approved for this current year.”

25 years ago:

The Lake News of July 6, 1994 wondered if the Village of Lake Cowichan should “borrow a million to fix streets and sidewalks?”

The suggestion that the Village should borrow substantial money to fix up roads and sidewalks was made during an informal meeting of council with business owners last week. One million dollars was the sum at first mentioned, though only as an example, by businessman Rod Peters.

Peters asked what the status of he Village borrowing power is. Some years ago the Village had no borrowing power for major capital works.

Mayor Earle Darling said council would be glad to borrow if the people indicated they wanted it.

He said, however, that the Village has already allocated $100K this year for streets and sidewalks. This has meant that budgets for other things have to be tightened.

With matching three-way grants which are being sought with the federal and provincial governments, that could mean a $300K budget for streets and sidewalks in 1994/95.

And council hopes for a similar expenditure, with similar grants, the following year, said the mayor.

Peters suggested that if $500K were borrowed and debentured and if the grants came through, the village would have $800K to spend on roads and sidewalks this year.

“Business people are going to create a ratepayers group,” Peters said, and it will have a member at council meetings.

The mayor said he favoured that and pointed out the efforts that council has made every year to encourage citizens to attend an open house.”

40 years ago:

In the Lake News of July 4, 1979 we discover that “Ernie Towle graduates, too, into retirement”.

“Ernie Towle insisted at his retirment party last week that he’s 39. Two days later, pinned down again, he still stuck to his Jack Bennyesque guns.

“You read it first here—Ernie Towle is 65, and after 30 years with School District 66, he has retired with everything shipshape, his personal life, his retirement plans, and the shop at the school board.”

Towle first slipped behind the steering wheel of a school bus in 1949. Two years later, he was foreman and, as of his retirement this year, he was supervisor of the six bus fleet.

Most of his 30 year-career as boss of the school bus operation was uneventful and that makes Ernie proud. There were few accidents, none serious. Breakdowns — the bane of a bus driver — came no more frequently than could be expected on rutted, unpaved roads, and they were handled with dispatch.

The only accident that stuck in Ernie’s mind was the occasion when, on Paldi Road, a man drove his brakeless truck into the front of a school bus. Ernie saw him coming, all over the road on a hill. He pulled the bus over as far as he could and parked halfway into the ditch, waiting for the inevitable.

The old fellow’s truck, loaded with firewood, smacked the bus but somehow didn’t cause too much damage.

“He said the sun was in his eyes,” the youthful Ernie commented, his eyes dancing.

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