Hodge: Memories of sunshine, super summers and skunks

I had the ideal childhood, romping throughout the summers in a world of sunshine, swimming, and the simple, sweet life.

Growing up in the Okanagan Valley was more than just a dream, it truly was a blessing.

Straight out of a novel or a Hallmark movie, I had the ideal childhood, romping throughout the summers in a world of sunshine, swimming, and the simple, sweet life.

When I wasn’t roaming in the hills around Bear Creek, I was playing road hockey with Danny, Rob, Kenny and the rest of the crew around Water Street or Knox Crescent, or hanging around City Park earning potential manhood stripes by jumping off the top of Athens’s Tower into the cold waters of Okanagan Lake.

Fun in the sun? Cripey, I was the prince of paradise—or so I like to recall.

My parents were good folks, for the most part. My mother a living angel and my dad a Jekyll and Hyde, part amazing part monster, but both loved their kids to bits.

What I did not know back then was that we lived a lie.

I always had a warm house, food on the table  and no real recognition that my parents struggled not only with their health but financial disaster.

My proud dad did his best to see to it that as kids we did not go without.

I never knew that while we appeared to live in the world of middle income we were bankrupt, almost always.

I suppose to some degree I simply took many of my pleasures as routine, not knowing the sacrifices the adults in my world gave to make them take place.

One of ‘regular’ joys I enjoyed as a youth, (and looked forward to  throughout the winters) was my summer excursions at summer camp.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I spent four or five summers attending either church or cub camps at the fabulous facility known as the Anglican Church Camp (OAC) located on Westside Road.

Countless magical moments flicker through my brain as I recall nights spent sharing ghost stories or similar scary tales with other young campers huddled in the old cabins lined with bunk beds.

Armed with flashlights and our favourite blankets and pillows,we would secretly cower in our beds, attempting to be brave while the older or braver lads in our hut would succeed in attempting to scare the daylights out of us.

Thankfully, there was always the elder cabin ‘captains’ or wardens who would appear at just the moment when a good bed-wetting or tears of fear attack was pending, and save us the humility of such a scenario.

One particular episode I will never forget was when my cohorts and I with the Sixth Kelowna Cub Pack set off on a planned nature trek from our cabins to the giant cross situated high up on the hillside overlooking the lake.

In order to reach the sacred spot, we had to pass by a former dump site which was noted for attracting a particular family of skunks.

My mom, who also doubled as the cub pack’s Akela leader, gave us all a lengthy lecture about how we were to remain walking in formation with our designated buddy, and most important of all we were to (under no circumstances) go near the family of skunks that resided at the dump site.

Less than an hour later, with mom’s lecture still foremost in my brain, I watched in spellbound horror as my assigned buddy, Charlie Ulmer, broke that vow.

In total delight at spotting the skunk clan, Ulmer rushed over to the mother skunk, (proudly sporting her magnificent tail complete with an impressive and almost iridescent white stripe), scooped up the terrified critter and rushed back to the troop of kids.

Then, with total glee and enthusiasm, thrust the skunk towards me with his arms extended fully until the skunk was mere inches from my face, and squealed, “Look what I got Charlie.”

Before I could utter a single word of protest the captured creature let loose with its top defence mechanism and covered me from head to toe in the foulest fumes known to man.

I can still recall my mother’s agonizing scream mixed with equal portions of abject horror, dismayed disbelief and motherly morbid recognition of the reality that  had just unfolded before her eyes.

Within mere moments, I was whisked back to the main camp where I had to sit and wait while my father drove from town to pick me up and return me home to a tub full of tomato juice.

Apparently the only known solution to arresting the nauseating aroma in those days was to be submerged in the red liquid for a lengthy time period. I am sure my father dearly wanted to hold me under until the bubbles stopped. To this day, I admit to a slight aversion to the site of a glass of tomato juice.

I’m not sure if I have ever truly forgiven Charlie Ulmer for ending my summer camp experience that year.

In fact, I may just have to find out where he resides at present because clearly the moral church camp lesson about how to forgive is divine still allude me.

 

Kelowna Capital News

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
One of two Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreaks declared over

One outbreak declared over after two deaths, seven cases; another outbreak remains ongoing in the hospital

The current B.C. Men’s curling champions, Rick Sawatsky (Vernon and now living and working in Kelowna, from left), Andrew Nerpin (Kelowna), Jim Cotter (Vernon) and Steve Laycock (Saskatoon), have yet to find the win column at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary. (Black Press - file photo)
B.C. looking for Brier victory

Team B.C. falls to 0-2 Sunday, March 7, with 10-7 loss to Wild Card 1 entry from Manitoba

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna care home after 12 cases noted

Two staff members and 10 residents at Cottonwoods Care Centre have tested positive for COVID-19

Kelowna’s Trinity Church will serve as one of the Central Okanagan’s three COVID-19 vaccination clinics. (Trinity Church Kelowna/Instagram)
Three COVID-19 vaccination clinics to open in the Central Okanagan

The first will open at Kelowna’s Trinity Church on March 15

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

There is no true picture of how many youth in Penticton are experiencing housing instability or true homelessness. The Foundry and the city of Penticton are trying to find that out.
How many youth are experiencing homelessness in Penticton?

Foundry Penticton and the City have partnered on a youth survey open until March 13

Chelsea Ishizuka was borned and raised in Penticton but has now moved to Japan. When she found out there was a popular restaurant there named after Penticton, she had to go check it out. Here she is with the owner (right). (Facebook)
Popular restaurant in Japan named after city of Penticton

A Pentictonite now living in Tokyo discovered the eatery and the history behind its name

Coldstream’s Kalamalka Secondary has teamed up with Globox on a fundraising raffle for its graduating class of 2021. (Photo supplied)
Okanagan secondary school grads glowing over fundraiser

Kalamalka Secondary teams with company on fundraising raffle, replacing annual apple pie fundraiser

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Multiple people were injured at a Vernon home following an early-morning break-in Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
Multiple people left injured following break-and-enter in Vernon

Police believe the early-morning break-in was targeted and not a threat to the general public

Most Read