Memories made of sand linger on

Brutal, blowing sand didn't dampen choir's spirit

They say that it is a sure sign of getting old(er) when everything you hear or read reminds you of something similar that happened before. So, it is no wonder that, with all the talk lately about sand, memories came back to me, memories made of sand.

The oldest one dates back to ‘Hike #2’ – about 23 years ago. The hike never took place because we were asked to host a beach clean-up, sponsored by the Pitch-In people, instead. When we arrived it looked hopeless, the stretch of the beach endless and the sand beyond our control. We were only six hikers but, luckily, school children and some volunteers came to the rescue. In the end, we had several huge bags filled with pretty much the same items the volunteers, who just recently took part in the “Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up Day”, have found. Will people ever learn?

Memories of the many markets come to my mind, when my husband and I, along with other hikers, were usually sitting at the front table giving out information and selling our Hiking Guide. It was a great place to observe the “going-ons”, including, of course, people coming in, often in bathing suits, dripping water, sand or both.  And I have not mentioned the plight the janitor of those days faced with swimmers coming from the beach to clean up in the washrooms.

The next memory dates back to the time when the Recreation commission was organizing and hosting the annual Canada Day Celebrations. At this time, we had just survived the Flag Raising Ceremony without the RCMP officer falling through the rickety balcony of the Memorial Hall and were ready to serve the cake at the old plaza, or the “carport” as we often called it. We had decorated it as best as we could and the table was set. I remember that I thought a blessing it was to have electric outlets there which allowed us to plug in the big coffee urn rather than making the coffee elsewhere and bring it over.

I also remember that I noticed the wind getting stronger and the sand starting to blow in. I am sure you can guess the rest: in due course, we had to gather up our belongings, cake and all and move to another location – one just cannot win against blowing sand!

The next memory of sand is much closer to our time, about two years ago. This time one of our choir concerts was scheduled for Sunday afternoon at the Memorial Hall. It was bitter cold and a severe sandstorm had started in the morning. We thought it would be prudent to cancel but also realized that it most likely was too late to do so. So here we were, dressed as warmly as we could, gathering at the hall not to sing, but to be there should any audience materialize out of the sand!  It was brutal. The sand came in from everywhere, through the doors, the windows and through the fan over the electric range in the kitchen. Looking out the windows, we saw large clouds of sand blowing along the road.  The old heating system did not have a chance. And yet, to our disbelief, about 40 people came to listen to our singing.  They were mostly from Chilliwack and had not heard of our situation. How could we disappoint them? We kept our coats on and sang! But somehow the scene reminded me of wartime!

These stories could not happen again, I think. Our new Spirit Place is replacing the old plaza, there are beach washrooms and the Memorial Hall has been renovated in many ways including new windows and a state of the art heating system. Finally, the beach itself has been landscaped in such a way that it has a much better chance to withstand the blowing winds.

Memories, however, do linger on, even if they are made of sand!