“Honeymoon Bay mill — in recent photo taken from Cowichan Lake.” (Lake News, Oct. 21, 1981)

“Honeymoon Bay mill — in recent photo taken from Cowichan Lake.” (Lake News, Oct. 21, 1981)

Flashback: Salmon, mushrooms, smart meters, murder and a big mill closure

A look back into the history of the Cowichan Lake area.

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson 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

The Lake Cowichan Salmon and Mushroom Festival was still going strong this time a decade ago. In fact, the Lake Cowichan Gazette gave not just the front page but page 2 of the Oct. 26, 2011 edition to promoting the event.

“It’s always bigger and better for the Lake Cowichan Salmon and Mushroom Festival. This year’s festival has expanded to include both the upper and lower areas of Centennial Hall, and will also see the unveiling of a brand-new mushroom-centred cook book.

“’I’ve served these meals over the last decade at the mushroom festival,’ the event’s key organizer Ingeborg Woodsworth said. Focused on local-area mushrooms, the book includes many tips on picking, cleaning, and cooking the fungi. It’s important, in picking mushrooms, to ensure that future generations are able to benefit from mushrooms in the area.”

The page turned from mushrooms to meters — smart meters that is.

“Smart Meters both a financial and safety issue,” was the page 3 headline.

“Are Smart Meters the way to go? Despite some groups thinking otherwise, BC Hydro and the Fire Chiefs Association of BC asserted that Smart Meters are the way of the future, during a Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce-hosted public forum, Wednesday, Oct. 19.

“’Within the Cowichan Valley, and certainly the Cowichan Lake area, there’s a lot of differing of opinions,’ chamber president Jim Humphrey said, of the reason behind holding the forum.

“The amount of electromagnetic radiation the wireless Smart Metersn emit is about 1/100th that of cellular phones; well within safe ranges. The Citizens for Safe Technology allege that this figure is not true, and it could in fact be reversed, with Smart Meters exuding 100 times as much electromagnetic radiation than cell phones.”

25 years ago

“Murder charges laid following violent death” was the top headline of the Lake News of Oct. 23, 1996.

“First degree murder charges have been laid against Keith Eugene Skramstead, 37-years-old, of Lake Cowichan following the violent death of Keith’s brother, 39-year-old Kenneth Edward Skramstead also of Lake Cowichan.

“Sgt. Ron Merchant of the Lake Cowichan RCMP said that shortly after 11 p.m. Friday a confrontation occurred where Kenneth was struck with a baseball bat. Police arrived on the scene shortly after the incident. Windows were also smashed out of vehicles at the Kenneth Skramstead residence.

“Kenneth was taken to the Cowichan District Hospital but lived only 13 hours following the assault. He died just before noon Saturday.”

Sharing the front page was Susan Lowe’s story entitled: “CLEC property may become a gift to the Village”.

“The idea of the Village of Lake Cowichan taking over the Crown land lease of the Cowichan Lake Education Centre from the school district is moving closer. Mayor Earle Darling said negotiations are taking place and a final decision is expected to be announced this week. Negotiations with representatives from Crown Lands, School District #66 and the Village include a new lease agreement between the Village and Crown Lands with a written commitment to give a free Crown grant to the Village for the CLEC property.

“‘This is an opportunity of a lifetime,’ Mayor Darling said.

40 years ago

The front page of the Lake News of Oct. 21, 1981 was largely dedicated to the forest industry and specifically the closure of the Honeymoon Bay mill, which employed 465 members of the region.

“WFI mill shut down: Only a brief setback” was the top headline, which ran above the actual news story. The piece, which seemed to be written much like an editorial, went like this:

“An announcement today by Western Forest Industries Ltd. that it is discontinuing production at Honeymoon Bay and Gordon River is a devastating blow to this community. But it is not one from which recovery is impossible, even unlikely. The last time a sawmill closed in this area — Hillcrest Lumber of Mesachie Lake — there was much talk reflecting general gloom and gloom. Such initial foreboding is inevitable, indeed understandable and predictable. However, despite that shock, Lake Cowichan and the other area communities rebounded, recovered and are doing remarkably well.

“The only outlook in the long term is to view the future with optimism and react with the resiliency that strong communities must demonstrate during times of adversity. This community is not the only one that is showing symptoms of economic malaise. What happened with Honeymoon Bay is reflective of general poor showing across our nation.

“Western Forest Products, the corporation which owned WFI has been accused of cynicism. That charge will be examined later, after the fears of the moment give way to more careful consideration of the future. But if the action was cynical and uncaring, perhaps it is only what people must expect from corporations whose hearts throb to the tune of balance sheets.”

One could argue, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


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