Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



All of My Friends

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Going Back


Prince of Wales Hotel at Waterton Lakes Provincial Park.
Paradise.

I have always lived in the shadows of the Rockies.
And by doing so, have been in close proximity to one of many national parks.
Nowadays (real word, I looked it up), that means either the Banff or Jasper National Parks.
In my early years, it was Waterton Lakes.
How our family loved Waterton!
Every summer we spent at least a week there, staying in one of the tiny, rustic cabins perched on the very shore of Upper Waterton Lake or in the beautiful old log cabin which belonged to some good friends.
We would swim in the gi-normous (my word) outdoor community swimming pool. Spend endless hours riding around the town on rented tandem bikes or surreys. Visit Cameron Falls or hike to Cameron Lake. Climb Bear's Hump. Explore Prince of Wales Hotel. Shop.
Then there were the lakes. One could fish there. Or boat or 'swim'. (I use this last term lightly because this was a mountain lake, and only a couple of degrees above freezing . . .)
The activities were many and varied.
Paradise for a little girl.
Especially since it was the fifties and crime hadn't been invented yet.
Mom could feed us breakfast and send us out the door, secure in the knowledge that we could play safely throughout the townsite.
Except that we had strict instructions not to go near any wildlife.
And Waterton certainly had that.
It wasn't unusual to open the front door and see a herd of deer lying around the front yard, placidly chewing their cud.
Or to have to retreat into a store because a bear was making its way slowly down main street.
That was especially okay, because ice cream was easily obtained and one could enjoy a treat and a show while one waited for the rangers, or for the bear to move on.
Whichever happened first.
It was no wonder that our annual pilgrimage to Waterton was our most anticipated tradition.
My family went back for a reunion.
I was amazed at what had changed in the years since my last trip.
Oh, there were some fondly remembered places still in existence.
Many of the stores and shops were the same, or at least similar.
The topographical sites were still there. Bear's Hump. Cameron Falls. The hiking paths I had enjoyed as a child.
And the Prince of Wales Hotel still majestically dominated the townsite.
But all else had changed.
We tried renting a tandem bike, but the only one left had a towel for a seat and was so rusted and stiff that riding it was more torture than pleasure.
The swimming pool had disappeared.
In its place stood a great hotel complex.
Our friends' cabin was gone, burned to the ground in a massive and heart-wrenching fire. It, too had been replaced by newer and more modern.
Our little cabins were also gone. The campground had been expanded to include the lot where they had stood.
We wandered around for most of a day, reminiscing.
It was still Waterton.
There was still a lot to see and do.
Watch the deer and other animals wander freely throughout the townsite.
Hike. Explore the great Hotel. Fish. Shop.
'Wade' in the lake. (We now called it for what it was . . .)
Boat.
Swim in the new hotel's grand indoor pool.
Just not the things we most fondly remembered as children.
Who was it who said, 'You can never go back'?
They were wrong.
You can.
Just be prepared for some changes.
Where did you spend your summers?

Waterton Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Peace Park, and a Biosphere Reserve. The only park in the world that has these three designations.
Visit it!

12 comments:

  1. We didn't take holidays in the summer. I stayed home and occasionally had a friend for a week. As long as I wasn't at school I was perfectly happy. A bale of hay, a bit of shade, my books and art supplies.....summer was perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is a breathtakingly beautiful picture! Your summers sound ideal. Change isn't all bad, but it would be nice if the good stuff stayed the same.

    When I was young, we stayed at home for the most part. But we usually spent a weekend on PEI, seeing the sights and enjoying the ferry ride both ways. I was a quiet kid so I enjoyed home - bike-riding, reading, helping in the garden. Extended family came back to NS each summer because the grandparents were here, so we got to see lots of family. And there was a provincial park nearby where we swam and had the occasional picnic. I think I had a pretty good childhood, too, when I look back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here's where I admit I've been everywhere in Canada EXCEPT PEI! It is our next destination of choice. Your summers sound heavenly!

      Delete
  3. I was there just last weekend. I'm still fuming over how the big money convinced the powers that be to allow them to build that hotel complex and nix the buildings that had been there (some) for over 75 years. The Kilmorey Lodge (built back in the 20s), a hotel on the lake, just as you enter the town, burnt down four or five years ago. The owner has been trying to get permits to rebuild (much the same as it was except more up to date) and has encountered nothing but roadblocks while the new complex got its permits and had the place built in far less time. Other than that, I still love to visit Waterton as often as I can. Despite the aforementioned monetary infringements, it still has its quaint charm.
    Now for the ghost that haunts the Prince of Wales Hotel. There might be (2) of them now as there was one in the Kilmorey who no longer has a place to haunt...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't seen the new 'improvements'. Now I'm not sure I want to. But . . . so long as they don't change the Falls. Or the hiking trails, or the lakes, I guess I'll be all right . . .

      Delete
  4. Waterton was a favourite destination when our kids were growing up. We'd often pack a picnic lunch in the dead of winter and head for one of the enclosed kitchens by the lake. We have many fond memories of Waterton and I miss it a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would have been wonderful! We loved driving along the streets with snow drifts so high it was like driving through a tunnel. Seeing all of the buildings almost completely buried. Absolutely beautiful. A picnic would have made it perfection!

      Delete
  5. OMG my heart just stopped when I saw this blog post--my dear father who is no longer here used to take us to the Prince Of Wales hotel and to some if the rustic cabins near the lake!!! Waterton, Banff, Jasper National Park---Oh how I miss those days. Thanks for the sweet memories.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now you've made MY day, Marcia! Yep. Dredging up memories. That's what I'm all about!

      Delete
  6. I remember the 50s and being free to roam the entire town as long as I was home by sundown. We spent most of our summers on the beach, going down after breakfast, cadging empty soft drink bottles from the teenage boys trying to impress girlfriends and cashing them in until we had enough money to buy fish'n'chips for lunch, then we'd just be in and out of the water until the sun set, which was often about 8-9pm. The best part was the summer thunderstorms when most other people left the water, we'd stay in and go under, looking up through the water at the lightning and fat raindrops splashing above us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amazing! So different from my summers in land-locked Alberta. I would love to have witnessed it. At least once.

      Delete

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