BE IT EVER SO HUMBLE
Summer of 1991 and the Bel Air Cedar motel and RV park were ready to go. There was a new sign on the front lawn, surrounded by flower beds. Flowers and newly planted shrubs surrounded the pool area and grass was growing in the new RV sites. The backhoe operator had advised seeding rather than laying turf and I spent a month doing nothing but raking, levelling and removing the endless rocks that seemed to appear afresh every morning. It really felt wonderful to be outside every day working at a job I loved. I felt very virtuous to be doing all this work by hand, however if I were to do it again, it would be to roll out turf, for an instant lawn.
We had gravel dropped to form the actual RV pads and this I raked flat then, after the lawn areas were levelled to our satisfaction, I spread a layer of sand over the dirt and I then spread the seed. After my weeks of raking for hours each day I now just had to water the seed and frighten off the birds who thought it was a smorgasbord. The seed took forever to sprout and then slowly turn itself into a beautiful green carpet.
While I had been playing outdoors Dave had been extending the motel rooms, he pushed the back wall out of each room a couple of feet to make the bathrooms larger. The rooms were all now much more modern looking and we were proud to show guests to their accommodation.
We were busy right from the start and both of us really enjoyed our new work. We had decided it was to be a family campground and didn’t take groups of people looking for a place to party. We found that older people and families with young children were a great combination as both groups tended to get up early and settle down for the evening fairly early. We did get the odd rowdy people but we strictly adhered to our policy of 10.00pm being “quiet time” and this seemed to work really well.
Our life was extremely busy but we both loved it. My favourite time of day was ten pm. We would clean the campground washrooms for the last time of the day, clean all the pool area, ready for the next day then I locked myself in the pool and had a private swim. Dave wasn’t much of a water baby but I loved it and that quiet time every night was wonderful. I would do my thirty laps then just float on my back and look at the stars. These quiet times I talked to God and thanked him for our wonderful life. By the time I got out of the pool I was totally relaxed and ready for sleep.
By the second and third year we had many repeat customers who brought friends and neighbours and we had no trouble keeping rooms and campground full. It was a crazy, busy life and we loved it. Every October the winter people arrived, mainly from the prairies, they filled the rooms and RV park and made their winters into a fun time. A group of them helped Dave to build a club house, which we turned over to them for pot luck dinners and card games.
Many of the winter people still played golf whenever possible and they danced several times a week at the senior’s centre. There was quite a group of them that enjoyed singing and playing various instruments and nightly concerts could be heard coming from the club room. There was a different group who didn’t take part in the musical events and they referred to the singers as the “Ben Gay Choir”. However, all of them seemed to get along well.
The one thing that the winter people found to argue about was the laundry. Dave opened up daily at 8.00am and, for some strange reason, the women all fought to be first in to use the facilities. If Dave was two minutes late, there would be a knock on our door and, quite often, when he walked over at 8.00am, there would be baskets of clothing lined up on the outdoor table. I actually had to put a sign up telling them to play nice as the old girls could get really upset over people going out of turn.
We allowed the winter guests to use out big outdoor clothes lines which they loved to do. Even when there was a huge pile of snow that we pushed from the motel car park, there would be tracks in the snow where the women had trundled over, determined to dry their clothes in the winter sun.
It was a good life and by the fourth year we had done all our renovations and could improve our own living accommodation. We now had a comfortable apartment to relax in during the winter months. However, after twelve years I was feeling the strain of constantly being “on duty”. We had been taking most of our vacations separately, as it was easier to do this than to get someone to take over the responsibility of frozen pipes and other winter problems.
After much soul searching I told Dave that I really had enough, he was very reluctant to sell but I was more than ready. I had poured my heart and soul into the business but now I had lost the enthusiasm and, after a bad car crash, I was not feeling well enough to keep going.
We had been to the Coast for a few days over Christmas and had picked up an elderly friend to give her a ride back to Oliver. After a coffee break on the Hope/Princeton I was driving, my friend was in the passenger seat and Dave in the back, surrounded by his Christmas presents. About six miles before Princeton I hit some slush, the van did a complete 360 across two lanes of oncoming traffic, rolled over and hit a tree on the side behind the drivers seat.
Dave had somehow forgotten to fasten his seat belt, which was very unusual for him but, it saved his life as the tree hit the van right were he was sitting and made an enormous dent. Had he been strapped in, there would have been no escape. He was thrown across the van and suffered broken ribs and collar bone. I had been wearing my seat belt and was trapped upside down, hanging from my seat. When the van rolled, the roof had come down on my head causing me to black out and left me with permanent headaches and about eighteen months of seizures. My elderly friend had no injuries apart from where her eyeglasses had made a tiny cut. She was almost ninety, weighed about 120 lbs and had managed to be relatively unscathed!
Luckily, this was mid winter so we had quite a few months to recover before work started in spring. We both healed well but I now was unable to drive because of the seizures, this added to my discontent of running the business as I was now unable to go anywhere out of Oliver and I felt trapped and restless.
We did another year but I could not get my enthusiasm for the business back and told Dave that if he insisted on keeping the place that he needed to get someone to replace me as I had had enough.
Over the previous two years we had subdivided an acre off the back of the orchard, intending to build our retirement home there. I was now ready to make the move and fully intended to not work at the motel any more. Dave was welcome to keep it on but I wanted to build the home and live in it, while he ran the business, with paid staff. He decided he didn’t want to do this and very reluctantly agreed to sell.
God must have heard my prayers as within a few weeks, a couple arrived to spend a few weeks in the campground. They fell in love with the place and asked if we were interested in selling. That night Dave and I sat and talked for most of the night, he really not wanting to sell and me determined to leave the business. He was really afraid of not having enough money to retire at 57 and not wanting to go back to an hourly wage.
Around 3.00am Dave suddenly said “why don’t we go into catering”. I had years of experience from commercial cooking and we both did lots of fund raising catering for a fraternal organization that we belonged to, so we knew what was involved. It was like a light going on, we both got enthusiastic about the idea of a new career and selling the motel was no longer a huge problem for Dave. We knew we didn’t have to work full time, just do enough to supplement our investments until our pensions started.
My life suddenly became bright again, the sale went through in October but we didn’t complete until the new year as both we and the buyers wanted it that way. Instead of waiting to build, we ordered a triple wide manufactured home, and in just a few weeks we moved in. The new owners moved into the manager’s suite and we were able to leave them to it.
Another new life had began.
Editor’s note: Pat is off to Scotland – back on the 22nd – Dave is home holding the fort.