Wednesday, July 23, 2008
PARKSVILLE — We’re back at Riverbend Campground again tonight. It was nice to be welcomed here like old friends, and the campground is still lovely. We had hoped to have a campfire tonight for the first time, but there’s a complete fire ban for Vancouver Island because of the dry weather. Not that we are complaining!
We bid farewell to Victoria this morning and headed for Shawnigan Lake. There’s a school there that my Dad attended as a boy in the 1920s, and we thought we’d stop for a visit. The road was twisty and turny, and took us through more of the island’s pine groves. The lake soon came in to view, with many beautiful homes and cottages nestled on its shores.
We stopped at the Shawnigan Lake Post Office to find out about the school. The postmaster directed us around to the other side of the lake, assuring us it would be easy to find. Sure enough, lovely flower beds, a large sign that said ‘Shawnigan Lake School’, and stone pillars with a wrought iron gate at the entrance were easy to spot. The grounds were beautifully groomed, and there were several buildings in a Tudor style along the curved drive that led us to the main building. It was clearly the original building, dating back to the school’s founding in 1915, and we parked, walked up to the steps, and opened the large wooden door.
Inside was a welcoming lobby with old leather easy chairs and plaques on the wall. A gentleman was coming down the steps as we entered and asked if he could help us. I explained that my Dad had been a student here many years ago and he immediately called a colleague down to greet us and give us a tour.
David Hutchison, the director of annual funds, listened to my few tidbits of information and then took us for a walking tour through the main building as well as others on the campus. There was a gorgeous refectory that looked like the set of a Harry Potter movie, with long wooden tables and a high ceiling where the flags of the different houses of the residences were on display. As we walked toward the chapel — which looked more like a full-fledged church, steeple and all — David said his father was an Anglican clergyman. It turns out he’s the son of Alan Hutchison, former Primate of the Anglican Church, who served as bishop of Montreal when we were there! He is now retired and lives across the lake from the school grounds!
The school operates through the summer with camp activities, but many of the doors David tried to open were locked. That included the history room, down a set of back stairs and past the laundry facility stacked with linens and towels. If its proprietor had been there, we might have had a chance to pour over some old photos of the place and maybe pick out Dad as a boy in some faded group shots.
Back at the main building, David offered us a cup of coffee while he disappeared for a few minutes. He returned with brochures about the school and two videos, one about the history of the school — so we may get to pick Dad out of some old photos after all — when we get back to civilization!
We set off once again, headed this time for Duncan, where we stopped for some groceries. We ate our lunch in the parking lot (our camper’s one-way windows make it nice and private inside no matter where we are) and then went off in search of Queen Margaret’s School. It’s the private girls’ school where Al’s girlfriend Peggy teaches, so we thought it might be fun to take a look. We found it with some help from the Visitor Centre. It’s a nice campus that includes an equestrian school out on the back forty.
Next stop was Chemainus, a small town on the island’s east coast that is known for its murals. It also boasts a major theatre and large hotel. We saw a number of the murals, depicting the logging history of the region. There was a festival under way at the central park, with artisans’ booths, live music and hot dog stands. A small replica of a steam engine on tires was providing rides through the town for visitors. A statue of MacMillan, the namesake of MacMillan Bloedel logging company, stood at the edge of the park overlooking the water where there were still log booms operating.
Not long after our short stop there, we were heading back through Nanaimo and Parksville, and back to our familiar campground for a relaxed and pleasant evening.