New Denver: Memories Are Made Of These . . .
By Pastor Dr. George Takashima
We left New Denver in November 1946 and landed in Fingal, ON before settling in London. Thirty years later, I along with my older daughter visited New Denver and spent a couple of days “sight-seeing” and explaining to my daughter what New Denver was all about. Since then, I have made several trips with my wife and family. Each visit has been memorable for me. Since 2010, under the auspices of The Nikkei Cultural Society of Lethbridge and Area (NCS of LA) I have organized and conducted an annual five-day bus tour to the West Kootenays with visits to the Slocan Valley, New Denver, and Kaslo. To this day, each trip conjures up something that I had experienced during my four years in New Denver during WWII. Here are some snippets that might be of interest to the reader.
My first winter in New Denver …. COLD for sure but lots of snow and it stayed. I remember we made our own sleds and skis out of fresh lumber from trees cut in the mountains. Steel runners were attached to the sleds by a man who worked at a local machine shop in town. We would go sliding down on the old Sandon Highway or we would go to Nelson Ranch where there were plenty of nice hills to go sliding and skiing.
I recall belonging to a boys’ club at Knox Presbyterian Church/Hall and a Mr. Hanson was our leader. He took a lot of interest in us and provided us with all kinds of activities – mostly outdoors – which helped us to acquire various skills for outdoor survival. He had woodworking sessions for the boys and we learned how to carve. I think all of us boys had pocket knives and we took pride and care in what we carved. Cedar and willow were plentiful so we had good wood with which to carve a variety of things…brooches, animal figurines. Mr. Hanson also taught us how to use handsaws and make birdhouses for example.
Almost all of the residents living in The Orchard had gardens and each summer, there would be abundance of produce from the gardens. The soil was very rich and there is no question that because of this richness, the results were par excellence! Some of the families dug deep holes into the ground under the houses and they were used to keep the food cool. Remember, we had no refrigerators or even ice-boxes in those days so “mother earth” played a very important role here.
Our parents would buy jam in one-pound or two-pound cans. Once the cans were emptied, we would take them and we would make an old fashioned “flashlight.” We would punch nail holes on the bottom of the can and also two holes on the side to put a wire handle through them to make a handle. On the inside of the can, we would place a lighted candle and … light (albeit a weak one) to guide us along the way after dark. Crude but it worked!
Some of us managed to go fishing at the mouth of Carpenter Creek and Slocan Lake…..used worms for bait. My buddies and I would spend hours casting our lines into the lake but no luck!!!! Still, it was fun just to sit there and let the time go by.
Memories….as time goes on and I make visits to New Denver, and as I visit the NIMC and see what’s there, they conjure up many fond times I spent there during the war years.