Mike and Laura Mckibben stand outside of what was once The Elite restaurant in Penticton with a picture of Esther Baulkham (Dahl), Mike’s grandmother. The photo was taken roughly 80 years ago when Baulkham (Dahl) worked for The Elite, and has been hung on its wall ever since. (Kristi Patton - Western News)

South Okanagan family receives ‘Elite’ photo of their grandmother

After 80 years, a photo in a Penticton restaurant finds its way home

After roughly 80 years, the photo of a waitress that hung prominently in The Elite restaurant has been given to her family.

In the black and white picture, a 20-something-year-old Esther Baulkham (Dahl) can be seen standing in the Main Street Penticton restaurant, leaning her arms against the back of a booth. To most, this particular image may not hold much significance, aside from the fact that it has been hung in the restaurant for decades, but to those who knew and loved her, the image is a reminder of the life Baulkham led.

“Fortunately it was one of those last little treasures in the restaurant that found its way back to the family,” said Barry Wood the Elite’s last owner before it has traded hands to a new proprietor that is turning it into a steakhouse.

READ ALSO: Video: Historic Penticton restaurant closes

Baulkham worked for the historic restaurant in her early adult life while she was living in the city, and while her children have moved on from the area, her grandson Mike Mckibben and his wife, Laura, call Penticton home with their two kids. When Mike and Laura learned the restaurant had been sold at the end of 2018, they made it their mission to try and collect the image.

“We were worried that the photo would get tossed, not knowing that it’s actually our grandma and the significance behind the fact that it’s been in the Elite for about 80 years,” said Laura. “We didn’t just want it to be thrown out, without them knowing that she has a family connection here.

“The other reason, of course, is that like others in that age demographic, there’s not that many photos of (her) at that age. Technology just wasn’t like that — I don’t know if there are any photos of her at that age, aside from that photo.”

Laura said it was always a special treat to see the photo when she and her family would eat at the Elite.

“We would always look at that photo and mention it to whoever was working there (when we went in) that’s our grandma and (my kids’) great grandma. They would always think that it was kind of cool,” said Laura.

READ ALSO: 300 Block Casual Steakhouse to replace The Elite

She added that for Baulkham’s 90th birthday, they received a photocopied version of the photo from Wood. She said she is grateful for his kindness in now gifting the photo to her family, noting that they don’t have any real entitlement to it.

“When I was here, you would hear all these great stories about the photos in the restaurant but I didn’t know who this person was. There was no name on the back of the photo or anything,” said Wood. “It is nice that this history remains intact because other than being just a really cool photo, there was no personal attachment to me. It is great to see it find its way home.”

Laura said Baulkham would have been 100 this year, but sadly died only a few short years ago. She said she and her husband are planning to surprise his parents with the picture when they visit Penticton the week of April 1.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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