Lake Cowichan is celebrating 70 years of becoming a municipality this year and the Kaatza Station Museum is going all out to mark the historic time frame.
This year’s Heritage Days, May 16, 17 and 18, will see the museum set up a variety of displays illustrating and outlining what Lake Cowichan was like in 1944.
It was in August of that year that the district first turned into a village, becoming a town only recently in 1996.
“The main display that we are doing this year that’s new is the 1944 display,” said museum curator/manager Barb Simkins. “It’s been 70 years since the town was incorporated as a village. We’re very excited to do a display on 1944 and strictly on Lake Cowichan.
“It’s been really interesting. We have a class picture from 1944 to go in the display as well as different community pictures with all the pictures going on the wall of the display case.”
Further to that, there will also be display cases specific to Honeymoon Bay and Mesachie Lake.
“There will be one display case strictly on how Lake Cowichan became a village and the process it had to go through, although there’s not many photos available on that. Nowadays you would have politicians shaking hands and cutting the ribbon,” said Simkins. “I’ve also found different local articles on 1944 like what movies were playing and the war was obviously going on so that played a part.
“There was different community organizations in 1944 that were geared towards the war effort like knitting socks and that sort of thing. A lot was going on in the lumber industry as well. There was also the bomber plane crash that killed six airmen which happened nearby. It had a major impact on the community at that time.”
Simkins said that one of the main reasons behind Lake Cowichan becoming first of all a village and then a town was population increase back in the day.
“In 1938 there was a group called the Ratepayers’ Association and they wanted to form something, they weren’t too sure what, in the interest of property owners. In early 1944, it was recommended that a petition be drawn up requesting the provincial government to incorporate the district into a village. And through notices and voting, it all went through in the August.”
After becoming a village in the August, the first local government was elected in December 1944.
“The B.C. government gave the village $1,000 which was half of the tax revenue for 1944. The village received power to borrow up to $750 to get underway. Other powers included the right to assess and tax property, to pass bylaws to set and collect licences and to carry on business in connection with the village. Then they had an election in December 1944.”
A group of commissioners were elected by acclamation.
“ A Mr Grosskleg, Mr Scott and Mr Weaver were elected as the first official commissioners, they were not councillors. There was no mayor but they would’ve had a chair,” said Simkins.
The museum is also in the midst of setting up a display specific to the Canadian National Railway which rolled through Lake Cowichan in the olden days.
“It’s been 90 years since that railway appeared here. I will be putting photos and general information behind that display as well.”