Sinks and urinals at the Lake Cowichan baseball park were smashed by vandals in late March of 1980. (File photo)

Lake Flashback: New editor, new design, and recurring vandalism

Changes at Lake Cowichan papers and damage to business and services a theme in late March

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Kevin Rothbauer 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.

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This week around the Cowichan Lake area…

10 years ago

Tyler Clarke was introduced as the new editor of the Lake Cowichan Gazette, replacing community stalwart Doug Marner, who died several weeks earlier. Clarke came to Lake Cowichan from Prince George, where he had published his own arts and entertainment magazine.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank our readers for their patience during this transition period,” publisher Dennis Skalicky wrote. “It wasn’t easy to replace someone like Doug who had spent many years building a relationship with both our readers and the community. I encourage you to call Tyler with all your news, sports and local events that you think would be of interest to our readers.

“I would also like to thank the many people who called in with news tips, sent in stories of what their groups were up to and generally helped us putting out a newspaper in the last six weeks. It was a difficult time at the newspaper, and I appreciate everyone who helped out during this period.

“Unexpected change is never easy, but we must regroup and move on. Doug Marner will always be an important part of our history as we continue to cover the news that matters to the people around the lake.”

•••

One of Clarke’s first items in the Gazette was about the vandalism of three U-Haul trailers, which were flipped over and rolled down an embankment next to their storage space on South Shore Road. It was the second such incident in recent months, and over the winter, gas had been siphoned out of U-Haul trucks.

“We’ve been doing this for five years, but no problems until recently,” said Lorna Vomacka, daughter of U-Haul manager Garth Sims and manager of his furniture store, Lake Cowichan Furniture & Appliances. “We don’t do this for money, just as a service to the community.”

On the same night, vandals broke toilets and sinks in the adjacent WFO Motor Sports garage, and Sims reported that two windows at the furniture store had been smashed recently.

•••

Honeymoon Bay’s Honey Pot Pub shut its doors after hosting its last-ever dinner on March 26.

“Honeymoon Bay is very much a community. We’re big on it,” said Susan Restall, owner of the Coffee Mill next door. “A lot of people come to the pub and coffee shop to meet. [Honey Pot owner Kevin Negoro] so totally became a part of the community. His work ethic and support of the community was more about us than him.”

Negoro took over from the previous owners in January, and said he was leaving because of a legal battle with the past owners.

“I think we’re going to be in shock for a while,” Honeymoon Bay resident Sally Kotoff added. “We’ll probably have more house parties. We don’t want to drive into town. I think it’s a tragedy for the community… It’s brought the whole community together. We’re a family now, and we weren’t before.”

•••

The Mesachie Lake Skydome began expansion from a kid-sized field to regulation size, able to accommodate youngers and adults alike.

“It needed it,” said then-Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest, who was also involved in putting on the Appollos’ Slo-pitch Tournament every Labour Day weekend. “It was pretty small. Tiny, even for kids. This is a good thing.”

In order to make the expansion possible, the CVRD had to purchase the land an unoccupied convenience store/gas station sat on, demolishing them in order to accommodate the space required to add to the field.

25 years ago

This week 25 years ago, the Lake News debuted a new-look paper.

“We tried to keep the look of the type on the new nameplate similar to the old one, but we wanted a typeface which would better evoke a feeling of waves,” said the front page story on the the March 29, 1995 edition. “We thought this approppriate, as the town is named after the lake, and the graphic on the nameplate (which we kept) has an excellent lake motif.”

•••

In other news this week 25 years ago, the Lake Cowichan Volunteer Fire Department embarked on the “onerous task” of raising money to replace its 19-year-old Jaws of Life equipment. The cost of the $30,870 equipment was to be split between a grant from the province ($10,000), fire department members ($2,870), the Lake Cowichan Lions ($1,000), and “future patrons.” At the time, the Lake Cowichan fire department operated the only Jaws of Life between Duncan and Port Renfrew.

•••

A decades-long Christmas card exchange between Lake Cowichan’s Gord Loutet and his childhood friend, Frank Rose of Burnaby, came to an end when Rose died at the age of 77 on March 20. The men had been sending the same card back and forth every Christmas since 1929.

40 years ago

Lake Cowichan Secondary School regained accreditation in April 1980, a year after it was removed.

The prolems began in January 1979 after a six-person evaluation team recommended that the school be given a “non-accredited status.”

“The recommendation was based on six days of intensive studies by the evaluation experts in December during which time members of the team met with students, parents, staff, administrators and people in the community to determine, among other things, how the school stood in relation to other schools in the province and how it lived up to its philosophy and objectives.”

Among the recommendations made by the evaluators to improve the school were changes in staff utilization, a revision of the timetable, and job descriptions for key personnel.

•••

Co-op clerk Lil Budden and manager Herb Branting were unnerved when someone phoned on Friday, March 28 and told them a bomb was set to go off that day. The RCMP were called and the building was evacuated, but the threat turned out to be a hoax.

“All he said when I answered was, ‘A bomb is due to go off at 10:30,’” Budden told the Lake News. It could have been a man’s voice, she added, but “I would think it was a kid. His voice was kind of muffled, as if he had a hand or something over the phone. It took a couple of minutes to sink in…I asked myself, is today April Fool’s Day?”

•••

Vandals went on a destructive streak at the Lake Cowichan baseball park in late March, hurling huge rocks through roofs and smashing toilets, sinks and urinals. The wreckage was reported to the RCMP on March 26, but the damage may have been inflicted earlier.

“All the facilities in the men’s washroom were destroyed with rocks,” the Lake News wrote. “A second sink in a storage room was broken. The vandals couldn’t get into the women’s washroom through the door, so they broke in through the roof instead and damaged the sink, RCMP say.”

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Three U-Haul trailers were pushed down a slope by vandals in March of 2010. (File photo)

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