This summer, as we have had the usual flow of guests from Calgary, it has become particularly noticeable that we have become evangelists for small-town life. Not that we have ever disliked the Creston Valley since relocating here in 1979, but I think that as we approach our retirement years we are especially appreciative that we won’t be entering that phase in a city.
“I am not going to spend the rest of my life driving for an hour to get to a movie or play or concert where I have to stand in line to get in,” I recall telling friends back then, explaining that we were moving to a small town that most knew only as a drive-through where one stopped to pick up fruit in season, if one stopped at all. Of course there were other motivating factors—I was starting my newspaper career and wanted to get some experience before settling into a particular role, and neither of us was keen on raising our eventual family in the city.
I have written often over the years of those early experiences—picking perfect, juicy peaches from the tree in the yard of the house we first rented, seeing residents of the Endicott Centre walking on downtown sidewalks and being treated and greeted just like everyone else, having our first cherry-picking experience courtesy of Chuck Truscott, building a fruit dryer that used an in-car heater, going out to do research forestry stories in the company of Creston’s forest ranger. The list goes on, and on, and on.
So how do you explain to people who only know city life that it’s possible to take great joy from little moments? After all, we don’t have easy access to much of the shopping and services that our Calgary friends and family take for granted. We have to drive to Trail, or Coeur d’Alene, or even Calgary to see Metropolitan Opera presentations in movie theatres. And it certainly can’t be ignored that our grandchildren are a five-hour drive away.
But the three-minute commute to and from work can’t be overlooked. And I love to tell people the story of the day a woman stopped into my office, wondering if her husband had been in to see me. They were new to the area. “He just left five minutes ago,” I said. “Which means he, uh, could be just about anywhere in the Creston Valley!”
This summer it was a thrill to take two of our grandchildren to Kunze Gallery, where Sandy immediately went searching for some modeling clay to give them something to keep them occupied for a while. We took my niece and her boyfriend to Baillie-Grohman Winery as soon as they walked in the door after driving from Calgary. The next morning we had to make an excuse so we could return to the winery, where Sean would make his marriage proposal on bended knee among the vines. Two of our triplet nieces and nephews arrived in the company of an aunt, which they have been doing annually since they were three. Now 18, one of the first things they asked about was hiking the Summit Creek trail. They could hardly wait.
From our house it is only a five-minute walk until we are hiking on Goat Mountain. It isn’t much longer to get down to the community complex and the fantastic aquatic centre (or “Creston”, as our four-year-old grandson calls it) and we typically wander down to the Farmers’ Market when we have guests on a Saturday morning. We can walk down to a pub and not have to worry about designated drivers or cabs.
Yes, it sucks for those whose medical needs force them to drive to larger centres, and that we have typically have to make the drive to Calgary or Spokane to start out on any vacation that requires air travel. Driving in Kootenay winters is not always fun, or even safe. When I had an injury more than a decade ago a heavy, wet early morning snowfall in February closed the airport and Highway 3 in both directions. Eventually, though, an ambulance got me to Cranbrook, where I was flown off for emergency surgery. More often than not, things just work out.
I had another amusingly small-town experience last week when I got into a chat with an acquaintance ahead of me in the Overwaitea checkout line. We exchanged pleasantries and she introduced me to her husband, and then she turned her attention to the clerk at the till. Relatively new to Creston he was soon reaching across our groceries to introduce himself and shake our hands.
Only in Creston, I thought to myself.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.