Prairie-raised mother was petrified of those steep hills

From our April 2012 issue

By Lillian (Bohnen) Rose – Calgary, Alta.

My father, a carpenter by trade, with the help of my older sister, built our second house in B.C., on the only flat piece of land that we owned on the west side of the BX Creek.

The rest of the land was very hilly and fit only for cattle or sheep, but it was logical to him to buy farmland as he had farmed in Saskatchewan for over 20 years.

This land bordered on a road that now winds up to Vernon’s famous Silver Star ski resort, but in 1939 it consisted of a narrow winding road that was so seldom used during the winter, it was our sleigh hill.

My prairie-raised mother was petrified of those steep hills and warned us kids not to go close because we’d fall to our death.

Soon, even mother was hiking over those hills, going with us, through brush and crossing the creek a few times to get to an enchanting waterfall. Once we ran into a bear but he was more scared than us and took off on the run.

Every Easter Monday, 15 or so young people would do the four-mile hike to enjoy the beautiful falls.

No power or running water

About 10 years ago, the BX district made this a hiking trail with a number of log bridges crossing the BX Creek and leading to the BX Falls. Now it’s shared by many, not just a few local people.

This house my father built had a bathroom. No fixtures – but a bathroom with a curtain for a door. We didn’t have electricity or running water.

Father made a path down a steep incline, which consisted of 20 wooden steps, a short path and then another set of nine steps to get to a shallow well that he dug near the BX Creek.

Up these steps the water was hauled, usually by my mother, who hated this hilly country but loved the B.C. weather. BX Creek had a dam a few miles below the falls where the Town of Vernon got much of its utility water.

One summer my two young friends and I spent many days sitting and watching eight or nine men digging by pick and shovel a trench for a new water pipeline for the Town of Vernon.

They must have connected the pipes incorrectly because one morning we woke up to the sound of water and discovered it gushing across the road and down our steep incline. It washed away much land and our steps and path leading to the well.

Tragedy struck youngster

The town built new sturdy steps north of the original because that area was now steep and virtually impossible to scale. It consisted of 15 steps, a landing, and 15 more steps.

It was on these steps that my friend died of heart failure. We were coming home from a day of fun on the hills and the nine-year-old girl collapsed. She had a heart condition.

My brother and cousin lugged her up those steep steps to our house, not knowing that she was already dead. The mother was summoned by her sister and taken to the Vernon hospital. We didn’t have a telephone and there was no 911.

Years later, my cousin became a priest with a parish in northern B.C. One time, he had plane trouble and landed in a small area in tree country. He waited a number of days to be rescued. Then, with many prayers, he headed into the unknown.

Twenty six days after landing his plane, he was picked up near a river by some men in a motorboat who were fishing. Forty-some years later, he is still serving that parish.

We sold our place the same year as the incident with the nine-year-old girl and moved into Vernon. My mother was content with her flowers and vegetable garden and no more hills.

Postcard of Vernon, B.C. circa 1957 – 30th Avenue at 32nd Street, looking east.