VMC LogoFrom Camp to Community: Cowichan Forest Life

The Communities : WHY THE COWICHAN VALLEY : Paldi

Original Paldi Sikh Temple, torn down in 1959, two story wooden building with verandah's around at least 3 sides and fenced off with a gate

Original Paldi Sikh Temple
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The community of Paldi is located just east of Duncan. Paldi is one of the few communities in the Cowichan region to develop into a forestry town from its roots as a logging camp. Originally known as Mayo, in 1936 it gained its new name after founder Mayo Singh's village in the Indian province of Punjab.

Mayo Singh had arrived in Canada from India in 1906 and found work with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He gained experience in mill work on the mainland and sought about obtaining timber rights to land along the C.P.R. tracks on Vancouver Island. Paldi and its mill were placed on just such a piece of land, in Sahtlam.

The town was home to workers of many backgrounds. Restrictions on immigrants sometimes made finding jobs difficult, but Paldi and the Mayo mill hired Japanese, Chinese and Indian workers. In fact, Mayo gained a reputation for finding work for almost anyone who requested a job.

The train station next to the Mayo Siding mill was simply known as Mayo Siding. In the 1920s, the community was made up mostly of men living in bunk houses. That began to change when Canadian immigration laws finally allowed women from Asia to enter the country; for many years, only the white and Japanese workers had been able to live with their wives. When the Mayo employees began to start families and to bring their wives from China and India, the population jumped, as did the needs of the community.

Houses had to be built- the bunkhouses and old rail cars were no longer enough. In 1937, Paldi was home to 100 families and 150 single men. Mayo Singh had a large house built for himself and the employee's houses were built over time, connected by boardwalks and arranged so that mothers could keep an eye on their children. Supplies, such as flour for Indian roti bread, vegetables from a Chinese vendor, baked goods, fish from a Japanese fisherman in Chemainus, and meat were delivered to the community. The Paldi store sold provisions, bought with Mayo Bros. Timber Company coupons.

Mayo School, 1966 Sports Day

Mayo School, 1966 Sports Day
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Paldi had their own generator powered by the mill, which supplied electricity. A Sikh temple became the centre of social and religious life for the Sikh residents. The Japanese families built a hall nearby for meetings, educational activities and Buddhist practices.

Paldi is a small, quiet place today, with a Sikh temple and a few scattered houses. It might be difficult to imagine the vibrant multicultural, logging and mill community that once existed at Paldi, but women like Shanti Kaur Mayer remember the talking, the singing and the friendships. "It was just like a village in India," she recalled. Joan Mayo, author of Paldi Remembered, recalls that the children of Paldi played and went to school together, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. She writes, "Mayo Singh was one of the first persons in the Cowichan valley to possess a TV set. Almost every evening and Saturday afternoon, the youngsters of Paldi gathered on his living room floor."