Learning about tradition and history through stories told by our elders is one of the most direct ways of connecting younger generations to previous ones.
With a new documentary screened for the first time on Tuesday at Colwood city hall, the City of Colwood’s heritage commission has reached out to the community’s elders to help paint a picture of what life in the district was like in its early days.
In Local Legends, an one-hour collection of excerpts from interviews with six people who grew up in Colwood and have spent most of their lives in the area, interviewer and former city councillor Shari Lukens and videographer Ken Mason have created a community resource that is bound to be utilized by schools and will form an integral part of the city’s archival collection.
“I think it’s wonderful for future generations to be able to not only read stuff, but to be able to see the faces and hear the voices that truly lived the story, tell the story,” Lukens said. “And that’s the special part of this.”
When she was on council and a part of the heritage commission a couple of years back, she heard comments from people who wanted to capture the legacy of Colwood. With her broadcast background and interest in history, she decided to tackle the project with Mason, who she knew from her election campaign.
“We identified six people that we could start with who had longstanding roots and traditions in the community and that’s where it all started from,” Lukens said. “I would like to talk to a couple of other families such as the Ridleys and the Peatts and the Chows; there’s still other families that I think could help us round out the story. But everybody we’ve approached has welcomed us with open arms to come into their house and hear their stories and ask those candid questions.”
Greeted by a pair of pint-sized ushers – city staffer Marcy Lalande’s young children – and served popcorn, lemonade and cookies, the audience listened to Art Sherwin, Dola Acres, Shirley Pain, Dick and Alan Emery and recently retired fire chief Russ Cameron, who is one generation removed from the rest, talk about their experiences growing up in Colwood.
Sherwin, whose father, Charles, worked as a chauffeur for the Dunsmuir family from 1928 to 1938, speaks in the film of his days living at Hatley Park, in a section known as the Mews, a short distance from the castle.
“It was a marvellous place,” he said after the screening. “I always think of how lucky I was to have grown up there.”
A longtime military man who now lives in Oak Bay, the 91-year-old Sherwin says the film was a good idea. “Anyone who’s interested in history should take whatever opportunity they can to learn about the past.”
As they are in most rural areas, the volunteer fire department was a central part of life in the community, with many family men and singles joining the ranks.
Brothers Dick and Alan Emery, who also worked many years in the family’s electrical contracting business, got on board with the department in the 1950s, with Dick eventually making chief and Alan serving as a deputy chief.
“The fire department was the only sort of organization in the area that involved the whole community,” Alan said.
Having had experience with the Colwood firefighter’s museum, Dick acknowledged that recording history can be a difficult task. Hearing stories of the past told directly by people who lived it is a good way to pass on the local knowledge to younger generations, he added.
Touching on comments from the interviews with Acres and Pain, who grew up in a quiet rural area on their family’s farms during the Second World War, Lukens said, “People wouldn’t believe the majority of Colwood was mink farms, or dairy farms. Do you visualize that landscape driving down Metchosin Road?”
Cameron, Pain’s youngest son and the grandson of Herm Williams, for whom the park on Kelly Road is named, was brought into the mix as a way to connect one generation to the next, Lukens said.
Orders for DVD copies of the film can be made by emailing Lalande at email@example.com or by calling 250-478-5999.