Reminiscence

I feel motivated to record a few words about men I have known and respected particularly during the years of my youth and when trying to get established in life.

This takes me back to my youth and formative years. On school holidays at Penticton students had the opportunity to help the fruit growers harvest their crops. This was also an opportunity to make some money. I was 15 or 16 years old and attending Penticton High school in 1925, and welcomed the experience with several others of my school class.

Picking cherries in his orchard is how I met Mr. F.H. Latimer. I did not realize at the time that he was a civil engineer and had just recently been engaged by the John Oliver provincial government to construct the Southern Okanagan Lands Improvement Project (S.O.L.P.) This project was to change the South Okanagan desert into the productive fruit growing area that it is today.

Mr. Latimer also surveyed and planned the City of Penticton, the Town of Oliver and Okanagan Falls.

I enjoyed meeting this fine old gentleman and got to know and respect him. He gave me the responsibility of picking fruit in his orchard while he was about on business. I took my responsibility seriously as I admired him and appreciated his confidence.

When my family moved to Oliver in 1926, Mr. Latimer asked me to work for him. He owned and was developing a rocky piece of land in a favorable location. This land later became the Albert Miller orchard. Mr. Latimer's son also purchased land that later became the Jim Stowell orchard home.

When working for Mr. Latimer I was offered and accepted work on an adjacent orchard owned by Major Harry Earle and his brother George, who resided in California. This is how I met Arley Gayton, foreman of the Earle Orchards.

There were many men unemployed. The country was in the throws of the great depression. Men were anxiously waiting and accepting the going wage of 30 cents per hour. Arley Gayton and I became good friends. He taught me how to work and much about orcharding.

We had some good hunting and fishing trips together; memorable adventures as well as supplying fish, grouse and deer, much appreciated for family consumption. This was a profitable form of fun and recreation; a contrast to the high cost of recreation today.

Arley was a clever practical engineer. He had worked on the Kettle Valley Railway over the Coquihalla mountains. Those of us who remember the long high tressels over the canyons must have great respect and confidence in the engineers. Arley was employed in the construction and framing of many of these formidable structures.

Arley was called away to war in 1914 for three years. He told me one of the great moments of his life was when he returned from war to find his sweetheart waiting for him at the Kettle Valley Summerland station. They were married and had a family of two - Raymond and Kathleen.

Arley was a fine man and friend, very much respected and appreciated.

I worked with Arley for two years, at which time his orchard demanded his full attention, leaving me as foreman of the Earle Orchards. I worked there until 1942.

In 1931 with a small down payment I purchased Lot 249, a 12 acre orchard property adorned with a 16 by 24 foot cabin and some neglected fruit trees.

Major Harry Earle was engaged in various engineering projects. He had also worked with Latimer in building S.O.L.P., the irrigation project. He arranged a joint bank account at the Bank of Commerce enabling me to do the necessary hiring. Casual help was needed during the year. As many as 20 would be working at cherry picking time.

I have pleasant memories of my 10 years working for and being associated with Major Earle.

He was living alone and I felt he needed a companion. Even with the big variation in our ages I think that describes our relationship.

He had a small unpretentious house on his orchard and lived by himself with the necessities of life. Mrs. Earle preferred city life and had a home at Victoria. As Major Earle's health failed she rented a house at Oliver but they continued to live apart.

I always addressed him as Major; no saluting involved. His orchard was his pride and joy and he kept in close touch with the biologists and entomologists at the Dominion government experimental farm. His orchard was at times a small extension of the experimental farm.

The Golden Delicious apple was a promising new variety just discovered in Washington about 1935. Earle managed to get one tree that I believe was the first Golden planted in the South Okanagan.

It was not unusual to find rattlesnakes in the orchard. We were always aware of them. It was not unusual to find one or two a day while attending the irrigation. Normally their distinct rattle gave warning but we were always aware of the danger. Rattlers are great mousers. Two or three mice in a snake was not unusual; the bulges in their body told the story. Large bull snakes were not uncommon and were also great mousers, but harmless to people.

Earle's orchard bordered the hot dry desert area of the foothills and during the hot dry summer, snakes gravitated to the irrigated area and the irrigation ditches. They were considered dangerous to families and animals in those days, and were destroyed! Today they are consider an endangered species and protected, but still not welcome in gardens or orchards.

In 1942 my orchard was demanding my attention, so reluctantly I gave up my job at Earle's. I had married in 1938 and had a family of two children. My 10 year stint in Earle's orchard had been my bread and butter in those early years.

During my 43 years as an orchardist I owned and operated four orchard properties in the area south of Oliver. Orcharding demanded much manual work to thin, pick, spray, irrigate and handle thousands of boxes of fruit.

We gradually graduated from horsepower, the four-legged ones, to tractors, mechanical ladders and sprinkler irrigation eliminating much manual labour.

I sold my beautiful Foothills Orchard (that I had developed from raw land and planted in the mid 60's) in 1974. At the age of 65 I retired and we purchased a retirement home at Vaseux Lake.

At the time we , Margie and I, moved to Vaseux Lake. The land on the east side of the lake was owned by and subdivided by Blue Sky Development. Property between Highway 97 and the lake had been and mostly sold to individual homeowners. The east side of the highway was subdivided into building lots but not sold.

This area was and had been for many years the prime winter range of the valuable herd of California Bighorn Sheep. Blue Sky had a good well and two storage tanks to supply the water requirements of the area.

We wanted control of our water supply and also realized the importance and value of the land for a Bighorn Sheep Range.

Realizing that the property on the east side of the highway was surveyed for building lots the present home owners formed the Vaseux Lake Water District with the advice and consultation of the provincial water rights branch and began negotiation with Blue Sky Developments to take control of the area.

A committee was elected, myself as chairman, to negotiate the takeover as well as take responsibility for the water and storage tanks and necessary upkeep and repair. Meetings were held once a year and each owner took a turn as chairman. Being chairman entailed being available day and night, hot or cold, to get the water on again right now, whether it was digging through a foot of snow or going down a 20 ft. ladder in the well in the middle of the night, with a flashlight.

It was generally a satisfactory arrangement, appreciated and understood by the lot owners. We left Vaseux with some good friends and good memories.

I retired Blue Sky development.

At this date January 2002 I have enjoyed 26 retirement years, the best years of my life.

"We'll meet again don't know where , don't know when, But we'll meet again some sunny day "

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Aug/09