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Lake Cowichan Flashback: Lake Days, B&B blues, and a major drug operation busted

A look back at the history of the Cowichan Lake area
”A sweltering Saturday produced two fires too hot to handle when a car and a boat exploded in flames last week as firemen douse both blazes. The car — top photo — was a 1968 Oldsmobile owned by Leslie Galbraith of Youbou. It burned following a one-vehicle mishap on Highway 18 about a mile west of the Meade Creek intersection about 8 p.m. No one was injured in the accident although the car was gutted. The boat was being used to pull a waterskier about 1:20 p.m. when a fire broke out near the engine. It is not known why the fire started, but boat operator Tony Brooks leaped into the lake near the waterski club. No one was injured and the boat was destroyed.” (Lake News/June 1, 1983)

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

“Grade 4 school option decision not an easy one” was the top headline on the front of the Lake Cowichan Gazette of May 29, 2013.

Ashley Degraaf reported: “Parents in Lake Cowichan have until Friday to decide if they will keep their Grade 4’s at Palsson Elementary or send them to the high school in September.

“’With the reconfiguration announcement, parents of Grade 4 students have the option for the students to stay at Palsson for Grade 4, or move over to Lake Cowichan Secondary School which is being renamed Lake Cowichan School,’ explained LCSS principal Nicole Boucher last week. ‘I think it was a respectful decision to give parents a choice. I think for some parents it will be an easy decision, but some are still looking for more information.’”

In other news of a decade ago, “Lake Cowichan Bed and Breakfast operations want town to relax its regulations” was another headline.

“At a time when Lake Cowichan is trying to gain more market share in B.C. tourism, many B&B owners feel that the town’s regulations for such establishments are too restricting. David and Beth Kidd, of Kidd’s B&B, recently appeared as a delegation at a Finance and Administration meeting to express some of these concerns and to try and get some answers. Currently there is a two room limit, B&Bs must operate within the Single Family Residential (R-1-A) zoning designation, and must have only one cooking facility.

“In their presentation to the town, the Kidds pointed out that Areas F and I provide for up to four rooms, and that the province indicates that B&Bs can have up to three rooms. ‘After that the category and tax arrangements change, but more rooms can be used under different regulations,’ states the Kidd’s letter to the town.

“Rita Dustow, president of the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce says that the town needs to be open to change and supportive of businesses. ‘Two rooms is too limiting,’ says Dustow. ‘You can’t make any money on two rooms’.”

25 years ago

The June 3, 1998 edition of the Lake News was chock-a-block full of news.

“The Lake Cowichan RCMP will be increased by one member with the arrival of Cpl. Norm Gaumont, bringing the RCMP numbers here to seven. Cpl. Gaumont is expected to arrive to take up duties by mid-July, Sgt. Gerry Poitras of the Lake Cowichan RCMP said. He will be coming from the Regina area with his wife, Michele and two children aged seven years and five years old.

That was a good news story! Imagine knowing the officers’ family details in this day and age. I’m pretty sure they don’t release information like that anymore.

In other news of the day, it was a “Great night for [the] Kiwanis club” according to the page 3 story.

“In one of its busiest and most successful meetings in years, the Lake Cowichan Kiwanis Club held a ladies’ night and gave away $7,000 to three different causes; welcomed the Duncan Club members as guests; were visited by Kiwanis Club Lt-Gov. Cyril Haraker and his wife Eileen; and grappled with the problem of what to do with the twisted tree variously reported to be worth nothing to $10,000 (the Club was given it some years ago.)”

What a busy night!

40 years ago

My goodness, did reporter Lexi Bainas have a hard-nosed news story to report on in the June 1, 1983 edition of the Lake News.

“Lake Cowichan labelled centre of drug den” was the headline: one anyone would stop to read. The story was just as sensational.

“Police today were piling up evidence against members of a Lake Cowichan centred international drug ring that was broken last week in a continent-wide sweep that netted 11 suspects.”


“Inspector George Dennison, who acts as information officer for the Vancouver Island Joint Forces Operation — an investigative arm of the provincial Co-ordinated Law Enforcement Unit — said Tuesday that he felt the group, which had imported both heroin and cocaine, supplied all of Vancouver Island with these illegal drugs.

“The police operation took 18 months of concentrated work, involving officers in Lake Cowichan, Duncan, Courtenay, Surrey, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York, the Drug Enforcement Administration in Seattle, U.S. Customs officials in New York, and Canadian Customs officials at the Douglas border crossing between Washington state and B.C.”

In much less hard-hitting news, “Cowichan Lake Days — the area’s annual three-day bash — will be filled with more fun and events than ever before this year. A glamorous ball, a big parade, an afternoon of fun at Centennial Park and a raft race on the Cowichan River are just some of the activities lined up for the celebration which starts Friday, June 10.”

Sounds like a good time to me!

“Max Baird, 12, of Honeymoon Bay rides his rip stick while being pulled by his dog, Bo along Park Drive on Sunday.” (Lake Cowichan Gazette/May 29, 2013)