A Kelowna childhood in the 70’s: Summer

Lying in bed at 9pm and sunlight still peeks through my bedroom curtains. Is that the sound of children laughing, perhaps muffled by a lawn mower buzzing, a busy bee making the most of extended daylight? Eventually it quietens, and all that remains is the sound of  a garden sprinkler in a nearby yard: chik-chik-chik-chik-chik-chik-chik, cshhhhhh; chik-chik-chik-chik-chik-chik-chik, cshhhhhh…

The morning dawns bright blue and cool, the heat at bay for at least for a few hours. In the distance an electrical substation hums quietly to its new subdivision. A dog barks. The children are up already, playing and laughing again.

Everything is bright and new and feels like California. Indeed, my friends and I will surely grow up to be scientists or engineers and work at JPL in Pasadena. Or Caltech or Stanford…maybe even Laurence Livermore. It must be so, we read our futures in Omni Magazine. Even the street names around us reflect sunny, bright California: Hollywood, Monterey, Cactus. The present and the future look bright.

And it’s hot. Through late June and into August, the average daily temperature is over 90 degrees. It does not rain, until a sudden thunderstorm the long weekend in August that marks the halfway point of summer vacation. A warning shot across the carefree bow, but then it is sunny again, the tall twisted pine trees scenting the arid Okanagan air, the grasslands and sage of the surrounding hills turning a golden brown in stark contrast to the bright blue sky. Those hills cascade in terraces down to Okanagan Lake, a long silver-blue ribbon cut through the middle of British Columbia.

Postcard: Okanagan Lake Bridge, Kelowna, BC, c.1960

The Kelowna Floating Bridge circa 1960 (Postcard)

The tourists come. Many from the coast, many more from Alberta and the prairies. Yellow and black license plates swarm like metallic bumblebees, visiting to smell the flowers and buzz the beaches.

Our extended family visits too, and my mom spends Sunday morning busily preparing potato salad for an afternoon picnic at the beach. Being locals, we go to quieter beaches like Sun-Oka in Summerland, across the lake, a half-hour drive along the winding two-lane highway towards nearby Penticton. The water is only cold at first, in stark contrast to the blast-furnace air, and I play with my cousins until my mom begs me to come out before I shrivel up into a prune. Once I am in the water, I don’t want to come out. When I do, the sand is so hot from the all-day sunshine, I burn the soles of my pudgy 10-year-old feet.

The cousins leave from the beach asking about nearby fruit stands, for no one leaves the Okanagan in the summertime without stopping at a road side shack to buy the latest orchard crops: cherries, peaches, apricots…The bounty seems endless.

The long summer days with the extended evening light, seem endless, as a child, lying in bed listening to the citronella-lit, murmured conversations of adults on the patio,  the later-summer breeze stirring the leaves of tall cottonwood into whispers, and the sprinkler in the background: chik-chik-chik-chik-chik-chik-chik, cshhhhhh; chik-chik-chik-chik-chik-chik-chik, cshhhhhh…



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7 Responses to A Kelowna childhood in the 70’s: Summer

  1. Luanne says:

    Beautiful writing, Ian.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Susanne says:

    Ah the Okanagan. I’ve spent a few summers in Osoyoos, truly the furnace of BC. And love those fruitstands! I was there in July again this year – all the way from Ontari-ari-ario in a heat wave that had the temperatures near 40. Your piece is very evocative of the place, especially the sound of the sprinklers and the irrigation systems.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy says:

    Just lovely, Ian! You really brought me there, and I’ve never been there.

    Liked by 1 person

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