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Lake Cowichan Flashback: Cops and thieves, backyard chickens and an expensive VCR

A look back at the history of the Cowichan Lake area
“It’s been a wet one — and spring hasn’t even begun. Above is the Duck Pond, or what was the duck pond. Usually there is several feet of beach in front of these benches, but the rain has raised the river, threatening flooding if we do not get some dry days. On Jan. 23, just over three inches of rain fell. The three day total for rainfall totalled nearly six inches.” (Lake News/Jan. 28, 1998)

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

“RCMP experience frequent call-outs for unexplained thefts in vehicles” reported the Lake Cowichan Gazette of Jan. 23, 2013.

It seems thieves were hitting cars at random.

“Lake Cowichan RCMP are working on trying to solve the thefts in vehicles that have been occurring in different areas of the town over the past three months. ‘There have been close to 30 reported cases going back to October 2012,’ confirmed Cpl. Warren Potter. ‘And those are reports we have replied to. There may have been others that were not reported.’

“Potter says the vehicles have been of a random selection, and that the perpetrator(s) tend to choose vehicles which have been left unlocked. One town resident got an unwelcome surprise one morning, and posted the event on his Facebook page on Jan. 13 for friends to see: ‘Go out to warm up my truck this morning, and two guys dressed all in black run out of the bushes and up the road.’ The RCMP have been busy working on solving these thefts, with the goal of trying to prevent them from continuing in the future, and remind the public to keep their vehicles locked and property out of plain view.”

In other news, “Subject of chickens a scratchy one at town council meeting.”

“Lake Cowichan resident Becca Shears, who recently acquired chickens – after checking with her neighbours to make sure they didn’t mind – was told by chief administrative officer Joe Fernandez that the town had received numerous complaints about their chickens.

“Fernandez cited the section of the Animal Control Bylaw (No. 926) which names chickens under the list of Restricted Animals. Section 11 states that restricted animals may not be kept on any parcel of land in the town of less than two acres. These regulations affecting ‘restricted animals’ have been in place for quite a number of years, Fernandez says, and the town is obliged to act on complaints.

“In her letter, Shears states that she knows other people in town have chickens, and feels the town’s bylaws on chickens are antiquated, and would like to see the town move forward in this matter.”

25 years ago

The Jan. 28, 1998 edition of the Lake News lauded RCMP, who foiled the getaway attempt of a driver in a stolen vehicle.

“It was something Lake Cowichanites usually only see in the movies — policemen holding onto [a] moving suspect vehicle, but it happened last Saturday afternoon on South Shore Road.

“Constable Ross Wallace single-handedly brought to a halt, a would-be, high-speed police chase by grabbing hold around the driver’s neck as the driver sped away, with Const. Wallace holding on. Witnesses saw the pick-up bolt down South Shore Road a short ways with the policeman being dragged.

“‘I was acting like a 210-pound necklace,’ Const. Wallace said Sunday.

Long story short — Wallace ended up uninjured, but late for a dinner date. Three youth were arrested, including the driver, a 17-year-old Parksville kid, was charged with a laundry list of crimes.

In other news of the day, “Pat Foster, chairperson of the Financial Committee of the Town of Lake Cowichan has just reported on the provisional budget, saying that up to a three per cent increase in taxes is expected this year, with an overall budget for the town being $3,044,134.”

Now, I get that this was way back in 1998, but does an operating budget just over $3 million for the entire town seem low to anyone else?

40 years ago

What’s the opposite of a building boom? A tailspin, according to the Lake News of Feb. 2, 1983.

“Construction, which was booming in the Cowichan Valley in the first half of 1981, has been in a tailspin since then. Building permits to a total value of $26,794,309 were issued by the Cowichan Valley Regional District in 1981 but by the end of 1982, only $13,738,411 had been approved.”

Maybe it’s because the water rates went up?

In a story on the same page: “Mesachie Lake residents whose homes are connected to the water and sewer systems will soon be charged increased rates, if recommendations to the CVRD board are passed.

“Water system user fees will be increased to $6.50 from $5 per month and sewer system monthly user fees will go up to $8 per month from $7, according to the recommendations of the finance committee of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. Parcel taxes would also increase.”

Also, if you’re wondering, McQuinn’s on Nitinat Avenue in Lake Cowichan was offering brand new JVC VCRs for $844.

‘This has to be the lowest price around,” said the ad.

Those not willing to pay for their own could rent a machine for $10 a night during the week or $20 for the weekend, movies included.

“Reservations important to avoid disappointment,” said the ad.

Boy have times changed…

“Food you can bank on, even if money’s short, is stacked by organizers Frank Walker and Joyce Rodenbush.” (Lake News/Feb. 2, 1983)