Burnett: Summer fun in Kelowna resonated with the youngsters

My mother’s family, the Hendersons, moved here in 1934 from Calgary.

My mother’s family, the Hendersons, moved here in 1934 from Calgary. They first saw Kelowna from the deck of the paddle wheeler Sicamous, which they boarded in Vernon to get here. They stayed that first night at the Lake View Hotel across from City Park and never looked back.

Moving a family is still a huge undertaking but in those days it was truly an adventure.

Grandpa Henderson soon began plying his profession as a dental mechanic and opened his office and lab in his home on Sutherland Avenue, across the alley from the Harvey House.

The family consisted of Leigh and Helen Henderson and their children Evelyn (my mom) Harold and Kathleen. Leigh, the oldest son, stayed in Calgary working in sales for a dental equipment company.

I’m not sure when exactly but I believe it was during the Second World War years that Grandpa Henderson purchased a small lakeshore lot beside what is now Gyro Park in the Mission, where he built a cabin.

This cabin became the centre of summer activity for our families for many years, bringing us together as nothing else could in those wonderful days of my youth.

There was a clinker-built rowboat that was stashed in a little lean-to on the north side of the cabin. It could be used for fishing but mostly it was used just for fun.

I remember it took at least two adults to pull it down to the lake it was so heavy.

Our local families—the Harold Hendersons, the Don (Kathleen) McLeods and the Ernie (Evelyn) Burnetts—almost took this fabulous place we called Grandpa’s camp for granted although it was always a special treat to go there.

Meanwhile, the oldest Henderson son, Leigh,  had moved from Calgary to Vancouver and married Marguerite Tewksbury—yes, an aunt to the great Canadian swimmer Mark Tewksbury.

There he and “Megs,” as she was affectionately called, raised their family consisting of Marlene, Karen and Wendy who we always thought of as the Vancouver cousins.

Our summer vacations always included a visit with them in Kitsilano and their visit to the Okanagan always included many happy occasions at the cabin.

Unfortunately, Marguerite passed away in the 1970s and cousin Karen as well.

Marlene and Wendy continued to live at the coast with their families. As things sometimes go, we did not keep in touch over the years as we should have.

Last year, we reconnected when I shared my family history research done by the Okanagan Genealogy Society. It was mainly concerning the Henderson side of my family, so it was equally pertinent to them.

In one of my conversations with Marlene, she reflected on those summers at Grandpa’s camp on the lake. She felt they were some of her fondest childhood memories.

I believe there is no greater common denominator than that cabin when it comes to our family.

It was Grandpa Henderson’s vision after moving to this wonderful city that made it happen.

I am so saddened to say we lost Marlene last week after a battle with cancer so I want to dedicate this column to her.



Tune in to The Don Burnett Garden Show on AM 1150 on Saturday mornings from 8 to 10 a.m.


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