Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Not Forgotten. But Gone.

Because the days of being able to walk (or drive) right to a campsite or cabin and find a place to stay are long gone, we are already arranging our summer holidays.
This brings to mind holidays of the past.
Sigh.
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 'Madge' cabin, a 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 dominating 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!

16 comments:

  1. We would go to Cape Cod and yes, it changes dramatically almost year to year. It's so much more built up than before . . . malls, businesses, condos, houses . . . not the place I remember at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Husby and I went to Cape Cod a few years ago. In the off season. All I remember is that great, wide, open beach on a gray October day. With no one on it!

      Delete
  2. We camped. Off the beaten track. No facilities. Beside disused mines and slag heaps so my father could indulge in fossicking. Beside rivers so he could fish.
    And another car made the area 'too crowded' and we moved on.
    I have very mixed memories. Some of it was lovely. Some dire. There is not a lot for a teenage girl to do at a disused mine site.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yow! I think I would have loved that. Most of the time. :)

      Delete
  3. The sad part about Waterton is that money started talking. There was a tremendous amount of pressure on the powers that be to allow them to build that big hotel complex in town. And just after that the Kilmory Lodge that was built in the 20's, even before the Prince of Wales Hotel, burned down during the winter of '05/'06. The owner(s) have been working their tails off to get permission to rebuild a much more modern, more environmentally friendly but still adhering to the original layout and they hit nothing but brick walls. Foreign investment is rampant but for the rest of us, we aren't greasing the right palms....

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sad when things change and not always for the better. "They" call it progress, but new and modern just doesn't have the charm of yesteryear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're absolutely right, River. Charm. That's definitely what's missing.

      Delete
  5. I spent childhood summers tenting in the bush, east coast, central Canada, on the prairies, in the Rockies. The best of all was Waterton—the pool, the tandem bikes, the hotel on the hill, exploring while heeding bear warnings after one was spotted wandering through town, feeling adventurous shivering in the wind on the boat across the lake to another country.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm thrilled you've vacationed there! Oh, the memories!

      Delete
  6. For a few summers when I was younger, we made an annual trip to PEI, where we usually stayed in a motel and went to Charlottetown and to the wax museum, and of course Anne of Green Gables' complex. But one summer we rented a tent trailer and drove to relatives in Maine. I liked the camping aspect but the visit wasn't much for young kids; I would rather have been at the wax museum yet again! :) Waterton sounds like just the right place to spend summers as a kid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here's where I admit the P.E.I. is on my bucket list. How about you got to Waterton and I'll go to PEI!

      Delete
    2. Ooh, sounds like a plan! Seriously, I loved PEI - still do. It's just ... I don't know ... cozy, I guess. Nice beaches, nice attractions for visitors.

      Delete
  7. The only thing that stays the same is change sadly.I could take you to places that had so much meaning for me once but they aren't there any more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's totally why I write, D. I have to keep those things alive somehow! :)

      Delete
  8. We would go to a nearby lake and camp. Year after year we would see the same families camping as well. We grew up with our lake friends. Great memories!

    ReplyDelete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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