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This page last updated November 27, 2016

© Michael Kluckner

Two of the last surviving "original" cabins on Shuswap Lake, at Pierre's Point, about 10 km west of Salmon Arm (between Sandy Point and Tappen) on the Trans Canada highway, painted in 2000.

Once upon a lifetime ago, in the 1950s and 1960s, there was a long row of cabins including these, nearly all of them on stilts, along the shoreline. In June, at the height of the spring melt, these cabins were often standing in a metre or more of water, but by the end of summer they stood on the edge of 100 metres of beach. No electricity, no running water, no worries – this was "cottaging" in an era when people had more leisure than money (for the BC interior, the 1940s and 1950s).

I write about Shuswap Lake with some feeling and considerable knowledge as I spent the summers from about age 7 through age 16 in a cabin like one of these. I wrote about Shuswap Lake as part of a series of articles in Cottage Magazine – the major article, positively dripping with nostalgia, begins below. When I went back there in the fall of 2000 I found very few of the old places still standing and, to be honest, found it difficult to orient myself. In the 35 years since we sold the cabin, trees had grown old and died, places had been demolished and replaced by new, plush ones and, most significantly, a couple of years of freakishly high water had destroyed a number of cabins and altered the shoreline.

These cabins qualify as "Vanishing BC" because, in the 1950s, a couple with not much money and two children (like my parents) could buy a cabin on a piece of beautiful beach for $425 and retain it year after year for a leasing fee of $50, made possible by the compliance (oppression) of the local Indian band, on whose land it stood. It is an interesting comparison with the cottages on the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast, which are handed down from generation to generation and for the families that own them more like "home" than their year-round residences.

Please send in stories if you had a cabin (never a cottage) on a lake such as these ones.

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Shuswap Summers
Michael Kluckner

(first published in Cottage Magazine, July/August 2000)

 

By comparison with people whose families own Gulf Island retreats or cabins on prairie lakes, I have no cottage to inherit, no family tradition to maintain. All I’ve got is the memory of ten childhood summers on Shuswap Lake in the B.C. interior.


My family has tended to go its separate ways, only coming together for the occasional Christmas dinner. But a generation ago, in the decade culminating in my sixteenth birthday, we made an annual pilgrimage to “the lake.” There, from Dominion Day to Labour Day, my mother, brother Paul, and I (joined by my father for his annual vacation and sporadically by other relatives) lived a carefree, shoeless--or at least sockless--existence.


I have often wondered since how much of the magic was due to physical circumstances--the lake, the forest and the cabin--and how much was due to timing. Although it was the 50s and 60s, which today’s conventional wisdom brands as materialistic and obsessed with newness, my parents were content with the rustic cabin and the utter relaxation it offered. We children were simple creatures, used to making our own fun. There was little to do beyond imagine and play, and few of the other people on the lake had enough money to spoil it.


Earlier, we had spent my father’s summer holidays on car trips, usually tenting in provincial park campgrounds. We ranged across the country to visit relatives in Quebec, and travelled through the American west to Yellowstone National Park and down the coast to California. The summer I was seven, after spending a week at a dude ranch called Rose Lake Lodge near 100 Mile House, we detoured to Salmon Arm rather than returning directly to the coast via the Fraser Canyon. “Your father has an old army friend he’d like to visit,” mother explained.


Arriving late on the sultry evening before the planned rendezvous, we stopped at a resort called Glen Echo, near Tappen on the west side of Shuswap Lake not far from Salmon Arm, just as a thunderstorm was massing in the sky above Bastion Mountain. As the wind picked up, Dad wrestled with the flapping canvas while Mum spread out our prospective dinner, which looked a lot like lunch, on the front seat of the ‘54 Chev sedan. In the middle of the night, with the downpour drumming on the tent roof and our parents trying to keep us from rolling against its canvas sides, a wild roar shook us awake and a shockingly bright, white light flooded the tent. I saw trees starkly silhouetted, panicked, and, clawing my way out of my sleeping bag, was restrained by my father’s arm as the train screamed past. We were sleeping no more than 50 feet from the CPR mainline!


The following day, at the suggestion of the army buddy, we moved into his cabin at Pierre’s Point, a cottage community a half mile south of Glen Echo and a few hundred yards (at least) from the tracks. At the end of an idyllic week there, it turned out he was considering selling it. Perhaps my parents were tired of the road trips, or were irritated by the public campgrounds, or found my brother and me too unruly to camp with. Perhaps they’d planned it all along? I was told later they paid $425; our house in Vancouver was worth perhaps $15,000.


After so many hours in the hot car gazing at scenery or rereading memorized comic books in the back seat, Paul and I thought the lakefront cabin was heaven. At the end of a rutted, single-lane dirt track, this simple frame box with a low-pitched moss-covered roof and an uncovered front deck stood on stilts in a cottonwood grove on the edge of the beach, midway between the lake’s high- and low-water marks. By August, 50 yards of white sand separated it from the shoreline. A few floats and docks extended into the water and a few rowboats were pulled up onto the sand. Behind the cabin stretched mysterious, explorable forest. I remember card houses built by the light of the hissing Coleman lamps, hinged windows that latched under the eaves to let in the afternoon breeze, pancakes cooked on the woodstove’s griddle, and the icebox chilled by ice dug from the sawdust in an old icehouse that the local people filled with blocks cut from the lake each winter. We got our water in bottles each week in Salmon Arm, and bought fruit and vegetables from local farmers.


There were no urban diversions, nothing to keep us indoors except heavy rain. A powerful, battery-operated radio provided the only link to the outside world: newscasts on the local station at dinner time, a Top-40 radio show for an hour in the evening and, on clear nights, B.C. Lions football games broadcast from Vancouver on CKWX, or was it CKNW?


We bought a rowboat and a few airmattresses and spent endless hours rowing and swimming. I was the sort of child who identified with the Indians in western movies, and stealthily explored the woods, dressed in a breechcloth and moccasins with a feather stuck in my headband. Mosquito bait. In the evenings, I carved and painted bear claws and other regalia with my pocketknife and paintbrushes.


One reason the place was so affordable for my parents was that we, along with the other cottagers, were exploiting the real Indians, members of the Shuswap band whose land we were leasing for an annual fee of $50 per lot. Slowly, in heavily-laden station wagons and sedans, we cottagers trundled down the potholed road from the highway to the lake, lumbering through the real Pierre’s Point--small, government-built bungalows with low-pitched roofs, pink siding on the lower half of the walls and stucco above, a hayfield bisected by the CPR mainline, a pole and plywood barn sheltering a couple of horses, old bicycles and broken-down cars strewn about, children playing in the dust. When my parents replaced the ‘54 with a powder-blue, 1959 Impala convertible with huge tailfins, our arrival must have shouted “city slickers.”


The other cottagers were, in the main, folks from Salmon Arm. The Glens next door owned the sporting goods store, and had a 14-foot fibreglass speedboat with an 18-horsepower Johnson outboard motor. As difficult as it is to imagine now, when 200 horsepower skiboats are de rigueur, a boat that size was adequate for pulling everybody but one fat relative, who nearly dragged it over backwards. Their well-endowed daughter wore a bikini, a matter of some comment among adults and binocular-toting boys.
In the next cabin lived the Magees. He was a contract logger, with a portable sawmill, a logging truck and a V8-powered work boat used for towing log booms from the far reaches of the lake. Beyond a thicket stood the cabin of the Gorses, who had a coal business in Salmon Arm; in the 60s, they were among the first to rent the sort of houseboats for which Shuswap Lake is now well-known. The town’s electrician and family occupied the next cabin. We came to know a handful of other children further along the beach due to the elaborate games, usually variations on “hide and seek,” that occupied us many afternoons and, following the banged frypan summoning us to dinner, through until twilight. If rain ever persisted, the jigsaw puzzles were put away and a game of Monopoly would begin, sometimes continuing for days.


The Magees’ two children, Susan and Nigel, became our steady companions, joined occasionally by the Glen’s boy, Randy. Nigel was my age while Susan, a slender, dark-haired, pretty girl, was a year or so older--almost my brother’s age. As we grew up, I developed a heartrending crush on her, reinforced by Nigel’s absence much of the time, working with his father, and Paul’s trips each summer to a YMCA camp. Susan and I spent endless hours swimming, rowing, talking about pop music, movie stars and the mindless fashions of the time, or playing cards--”Snap” and “Fish” in the early years, gin rummy and cribbage later--on the covered porch of her cabin. Meanwhile, my mother puttered happily along, sunbathing and reading Perry Mason novels, never obviously lonely or bored. When Dad came up from the city, he would manage a morning’s relaxation before the leisurely lakeside pace got to him and he sought something to fix--in slow years, he was reduced to raking leaves from the sandy trails that ran around the cabin and out back to the biffy. We thought he was crazy.


Although they steadfastly refused our reasoned yet passionate arguments on why we needed a waterski boat, my parents eventually bought a very used five-horsepower outboard, perhaps to help get Aunt Ruby out to better trolling grounds. Meanwhile, however, a more up-to-date, affluent group of vacationers had discovered Shuswap. Even by the mid-60s the air was alive with the buzzing of outboards and the shrieks of waterskiers as they zipped along the beachfront. Many were from the commercial resort, Sandy Point, a mile closer to Salmon Arm.


Sandy Point had a convenience store and a steady parade of campers, notably girls, who passed through during the summer. As we shuffled into teenagehood, its comparatively bright lights beckoned. For the first time, a note of disapproval crept into mother’s voice. She had always been tolerant of our exploring, our swimming, our trips in the rowboat way out into the lake, somehow certain that the combination of our common sense and the benign world would keep us from harm.


The electrician neighbour came by one summer, trying to sign my parents up for a scheme to bring in a power line from the highway. They couldn’t see the point in it, but enough others did. The electrician had his cabin wired, like a display suite, and installed a television that attracted the small-town children like wasps to a cherry pie. Soon, there were no evening games and fewer family campfires and sing-alongs. I began to hear amplified music as I walked along the beach.


As quickly as it began, our cabin idyll ended. Concurrently, my mother became ill and could only spend a couple of weeks away from home. We no longer got into the lakeside pace, and the 1966 Lovin’ Spoonful song, “Summer in the City,” took on a real meaning. Late that summer, Susan’s boyfriend came out from town; the following year, immediately after high-school graduation, they married. Her parents announced they were moving to Salt Spring Island, where there were good logging opportunities and a better climate for retirement. Nigel went to Alberta to look for work. Randy grew his hair past his shoulders and joined a rock band. Paul had a summer job at the dam site near Castlegar and was returning to university in the fall. Left behind that hot August, I just drifted, hanging out at the beach parties at Sandy Point, with the harvest moon glowing orange in the forest-fire smoke. This, I recall thinking, will be my last summer at this dull place--next year I’ll get a job in the city.


Dad sold the cabin the following year, ostensibly because the lease rates were about to triple. But, in reality, everything had changed and there was no going back.

 

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From Norma Wilson, 2016: I am wondering if you know anything about this beach house at Sandy Point on Shuswap Lake. It's mid 1960's. Our family tenting trip was badly rained out and the campground manager gave us a deal and let us stay here for a couple of nights. I thought it was really special and would love some info about the place if you can. I am the girl on the left with the bow in her hair. Our parents both passed away recently and of course I have MANY questions. I have taken on the responsibility of organizing the family photos because I love it and I always want  a back story, which is proving to be frustrating at times. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


From Bill Suckling, Blind Bay, 2011:

Pierre's Point cabins near the Glen Echo end, about 1953

View from out on the lake, 1950s

 

Classic view across the lake to Engineer's Point, on the right, looking up the arm toward Sicamous.

At the Skelton Cabin at Pierre's Point, about 1947

View of Salmon Arm in the early 1950s

I just read your article on the Shuswap Pierre's Point experiences [above]. I must say it brought back many wonderful memories I had long forgotten. It is almost a carbon copy of my experiences while growing up spending summers there. Thinking about it I really must share a few thoughts.

So may descriptions of time spent are parallel .. reading comics on the porch when it was raining ... the after-supper games of what we called 'kick the can'; There were no rules – you just kind of ran around pretending to hide and I really don't remember how they ended ... I do remember seeing the Dominion or possibly the Canadian rounding Engineer' Point and waiting for it to come by the cabin .. which signified bedtime by the way.

Our cabin had planks as a floor with cracks between which is where we swept the sand tracked in ... we had an ice box and Mother made ice in milk cartons at home - we still had milk delivered in bottles but could request cartons if desired which were brought out weekly. We also had a Dumb Waiter of sorts built into the sand which operated on a pull rope pulley system kind of like a small elevator ... the cabinet sunk down into the sand about three feet and served as a cool room. Access was from the kitchen. My daily chores included stocking the wood box and making kindling plus rowing to the spring to get fresh water. I suspect it was designed to use up some time during the day but I still have great memories of visiting that little spring below the Bedford cabins and tasting that clear cold water. Funny how such a simple pleasure is so fondly remembered.

We also played long and hard with our immediate neighbors the Jameson (sp?) clan. There were 5 children – Sue, Mary, Larry, Nancy and JoAnne. Their Father Rollie had a sheet metal plumbing business in town. Mrs J. (Marge) had a large cow bell and it ruled the beach in our group. Swim time was 10AM for 1 hour and again at 2PM for 2 hours. When that bell rang you had best be getting out of the water if you wanted to swim next time around. Pavlov would have been impressed. Beach activity followed building sand castles and whatever else the plan dictated at the time. No texting, no TV and no phone – not even any power but somehow we all survived.

Not sure about your beach time but we had this rule about not going swimming for an hour after you ate or you would get cramps ... you ever get cramps?? My mother came clean many years later telling us it was a way to keep us out of the water for a while requiring less supervision. I have a notion that story was used many time. I have never met anyone who got cramps from swimming immediately after a meal.

One of the best memories was Fridays. Because my Dad worked in town during the week, he would drive out on Friday after work ... he brought fresh ice, vegetables from our garden and frozen meat but best of all he brought a brick of ice cream. We always had a big lunch on Fridays so that we could have the ice cream when it arrived because it was usually so hot it would not survive long. No supper as such that day but later on in the evening we had a camp fire and ate some marshmallows and sometimes even a hot dog. The marshmallows came in a kind of package/box called campfire and they were always rock hard so it was a trial and error to get them on a fresh cut willow stick.

Another exciting time was all about water skiing. Of course none of us had a boat with a motor ... I remember well a family friend of the J's came to spend a week. He brought a tent and joined our clan .. Bob Jeglum and family (sp). He brought a boat, not a huge one but it had a 40HP Evinrude. WOW! We all got to water ski. We each had a turn and some twice. We were in heaven so to speak and in the “big times,” so we thought. Such> simple pleasures were a daily happening throughout those carefree summers back then.

Mosquitos Mosquitos Mosquitos – I must share this .... as you are well aware I think, Pierre's Point must have been the mosquito capital of the world. At least it seemed like it at the time. One particular summer one of the local cabin owners who had an orchard in the South Broadview area, BIll McDermot, used his tractor to pull his orchard sprayer out to Pierre's and they sprayed from the point to the Glen Echo end ... I can well imagine what the chemical was but it sure worked. After the tractor and sprayer noise was gone the air was so quiet and no mosquitos. I suspect it was DDT and diesel fuel mixed with water.

Some of the other local Family names of cabin owners were Bob Harvey, Herb Elliot, Spence Tatchel, Dick Cousins, Albert Bedford, Harry Absen, Bill McDermot and Sam Miller to name a few. Spelling not necessarily correct.

I recently sold my 23-foot pontoon boat as the lake had become a total lawless playground for the current players who seem to think they own it and can do what they please whenever and wherever ... particularly in July and August. There is some effort to “enforce” the issues but typically manpower shortages, legal issues and general societal mindsets are restricting the success. Gone are the days when you could go on the lake for a pleasant cruise, find some quiet shore (no stereos) to rest a while and perhaps enjoy a picnic. I am so thankful to have had the “Shuswap Experience” at a time when your word meant something and a handshake sealed a deal.

***
Note from Cheryl Christianson née Hammer, 2010: We were at Pierre's Point approx. 1965 to 1976. We were at the very end - near Glen Echo - neighbours were Obens, Coglins - once in awhile we played with Minnow Campbell (his family had one of the oldest sites - near the 'native' beach) then - at the other end, near Sandy Point we chummed with Mercers and Brushes.

I've attached 1974 images of buildings – the boat launch has Coglin's cabin (one of the only ones actually build on the beach along 'our' whole stretch (we used to sleep on the sand under the deck when the water was low enough) and our little unit with many family sitting watching something wonderful I am sure! I worked at Sandy Point Resort with my close friend Eileen Lidstone around the same time as the attached photos.



Note from Sandra Jacob, 2008:
We still have our family cabin at Pierre's Point.   Each time the lease goes up, we have the debate of "sell or not sell. " Our place is just south 3 cabins from the one pictured on your web page. Fifty years is a long time and we are currently hanging on for "one more year". My nephew plans to be married at the cabin this summer.

I was born in Salmon Arm, and so was my mother. My grandfather, Jack Urquhart, had an ice house at the back of the city lot, and I do remember the ice being hauled from the lake and stored there. He had a delivery business and supplied ice for the ice boxes in town. By the time we had the place at Pierre's Point the ice business was finished for Urquhart's Transfer. In our early time at the lake mom would make ice in the deep freeze in town to keep our food cool in the ice box. We had electricity installed about 1969.

We have all found the sound of the train and the rocking in the night somewhat comforting. The bedtime train coming around Engineer's Point  at about 10:45 would remind us to get to bed. The young people now don't seem to want to be up early in the morning for the best time of the day. We have made many trips with the youngsters up to the tracks to count the cars on the train .

We acquired the lot from Gene Spence (who was the postmaster at the time) in the early 50's. My dad and uncle built the cabin, probably around 1952. When my parents were young, that same property was leased by the Jacksons from Salmon Arm, and  the young people spent quite a bit of time there. My mom used to tell us about walking the cow along the tracks to pasture at the back so they would have milk while they were camping. There are pictures! There were a a couple of concrete slabs  on the beach on which that group erected tents; one for a cook house. We still find bits of concrete coming to the surface when the children are digging.


Note from Ted Hayes, Prince George:
I was born and spent my early years in Kamloops where my father was a machinist on the CPR. Quite a few Kamloops tradesmen and their families used to spend their summer holidays at Glen Echo at the resort that still exists today. My parents did not have a car, but their friends would drive us to the lake in their A40 Austins.

People with more money stayed in the cabins on the beach while we usually stayed in a cabin on the highway side of the tracks. All of the cabins were extremely primitive. As I recollect, they had iron frame beds, plain wooden table and chairs and a small wood cooking range. I think they had only one room. I think that there was no electricity and that we used oil lamps with mantles. If you didn't stay in the beach cabins, you used to have to cross the railway tracks to get to the beach. Rowboats were available for fishing and there was a reduced daily rate if you rented a boat with your cabin. I remember the dirt road from the cabins, across the tracks to the beach. It was lush and dark -- quite unlike Kamloops. And the cabins were dark in the trees.

We went there on our holidays every year for several years from about 1950. I remember that the Summers family who owned the paint store in Kamloops used to go there with their kids who were about my age. I think the Fills, who lived more or less across the alley from us in Kamloops went there a few times, too. Howard Fill worked for the CNR and was a local war hero. His wife, Grace, was an English war bride. I think the Fills also used to go to Silvery Beach. The resort had a little store in the house where the owner lived. We could get supplies of various sorts there.

The beach was beautiful. Sandy with flecks of mica through it. The lake was wonderful. I learned to swim on those holidays. Kamloops was not a particularly good place to learn to swim because the only place to do it was the Thompson River (no swimming pools in those days). It was rather swift for small children and always seemed to be under polio quarantine in the summer. But Shuswap was warm with a sandy bottom and no current. I remember the beach sand and how it would get so hot during the day that it was difficult to walk on it. We would have to run across the beach into the water.

I think that the last time we went to Glen Echo was probably 1958 or 59 after a few years' hiatus. By then we had moved to Squamish and my father had a bought a car. Few of the Kamloops families went there by that time. I remember a coast family named Ward staying there. I don't think they had stayed there before. Like you, I still remember those endlessly hot summer days with great affection. I can still smell the damp, verdant air around the lake's perimetre. I can still feel the excitement of fishing in the row boat and peering down into the blackness of the water.
In my adult years, I have been many times to Shuswap. What is most noticeable is the commercialization and the people. Neither were much evident in the 50s. And power boats were pretty scarce. There were a few small communities and a few resorts here and there. That was about it. I'm not sure you can find places like that any more.


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Artwork and text ©Michael Kluckner, 2001