VMC LogoFrom Camp to Community: Cowichan Forest Life

The Communities : COMMUNITY LIFE

Egad, What a Cad!  Scene local drama production

Egad, What a Cad! Scene local drama production
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Before family housing, the Cowichan logging camps were places for single men who spent most of their time working, eating and sleeping. Community life was based on talking, playing cards, and maybe the odd trip into the city with some friends to stir up a bit of a hangover. When towns rather than camps became the basis for community, life included wives, children, places of worship, and entertainment. Schools, hospitals and municipal government became fixtures, replacing the cookhouse, first aid room and the soup or supervisor as the topics of interest and gossip.

In Lake Cowichan, the Community Club was formed in 1930 to help build a community hall. Most community plans were approached in a similar fashion. If a town needed a new facility, the community would come together to supply the labour and the funds, and a logging company would often step in with equipment and supplies.

In 1942, the Cowichan United Organization, the U.O., was formed. Representatives from all the clubs, organizations and religious denominations would meet to organize everything from dances to community projects. The U.O. oversaw the Lady of the Lake pageant, Labour Day sports and community parks. They arranged swimming lessons in Cowichan Lake after the war, and coordinated fundraising efforts. For over 20 years, this cooperative alliance between groups with diverse interests succeeded in taking care and interest in the communities of Cowichan.

Entertainment was an essential part of life in these towns out in the woods. Charlie's Palace of Pool in Duncan and the Sidetrack Tap 'N' Bowl in Lake Cowichan gave people a place to practice their billiards and bowling skills when not at work. The Wooodland Theatre in Youbou showed movies, and smaller towns would often order Canadian National Film Board and Hollywood films to show on weekends. Music and drama were very popular, and many of Cowichan's residents played roles in the Drama Club's theatrical productions. Great changes came with the introduction of television, as people began to spend more time in their own homes and less time with their community.

Sept 1949, Mrs. Dreany and Prize Cabbage

Mrs. Dreany and Prize Cabbage
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The lakes of the Cowichan Valley continue to be one of the greatest community features. Loggers once called taking a dunk a "bath", but swimming and boating drew everyone down to the beaches, especially in the hot months of summer when logging was sometimes halted due to the heat and forest fires.

Holidays and festivals were highlights of the year. The Canada Day and anniversary parades in Lake Cowichan, Chemainus and Duncan were spectacular events that showcased creative floats sponsored by clubs, logging companies and union representatives. The festivals or Jor Mallas in Paldi brought visitors form all parts of British Columbia's Sikh community.

Even the hotels, markets and service stations have a special place in Cowichan community history. The owners knew their customers well, and in many cases these places are some of the oldest buildings in town. The Duncan Garage opened in 1912 and serviced vehicles across the tracks from the train station until 1983. Newspapers are often the glue of a community, and publications like the Cowichan News Leader have been reporting on local events, logging industry concerns and opinions from certain sectors of the community since 1905.