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A Special Place

Updated: May 5

by Lori Treloar


For most people, Shawnigan Lake inspires an intense lifelong relationship. I have yet to meet a resident, or a visitor, who doesn’t love the area. People become passionate about Shawnigan but often can’t articulate why. It is easy to understand that the lake would be special to people who grew up with a summer cabin. Shawnigan is a fun holiday destination. But, as it happens, people born and raised in the area are equally devoted.

 

Dozens of properties around the lake have passed through several generations of the same family - many for over a century. Families may get scattered far and wide over time but Shawnigan families always come back to their precious lake. Year-round residents have always appreciated that Shawnigan connects them through their unique shared experiences. The extraordinary teacher, Miss Elsie Miles, taught generations of local schoolchildren. The village store, Aitken and Fraser, has provided a collective mainstay for residents since 1935. In tough times, beloved store owners could be counted on to provide help. Together, “Shawnigan” people work to maintain the quaint feel of the tiny village, to care for the purity of the lake and to protect the stunning beauty of the area. This unwritten pact has become more challenging in a time when “change” is the cultural keyword.

 

The museum often has visitors who stop in because there is a connection to Shawnigan Lake in their past. These visitors are nostalgic and wax poetic about their memories of the lake. One American visitor, almost ninety now, spent every summer at the lake in the 1930s at his Uncle’s house on the west side. He still returns every year for a visit to get his Shawnigan fix. A man and his sisters came from the mainland last summer to visit and were thrilled to stay in the same cabin that they had lived in during WWll. A few years back, several members of the musical Ward family (mentioned in the previous article) stopped by to reminisce about their happy experiences at Shawnigan Lake. In each case, the visitors were emphatic that Shawnigan played an important part in their lives.

 

Then there are the newcomers to the area. I recently met a woman who had emigrated from Germany to live with her Canadian husband. They lived in Vancouver but wanted to move to a small, rural area to live. They literally drove across Canada and back looking for the perfect place to live. When they found Shawnigan Lake, they knew it was the right spot. They now live happily in the area.

 

Well known writer and newspaperman Bruce Hutchison, whose family has had a “summer camp” at Shawnigan Lake for over a hundred years, once wrote, “some half dozen generations, handing down their camps from father to son, have cooled their bodies in the lake and cleansed their spirits in the woods…an old man may be permitted to hope that others, after him, will always preserve this humble kingdom of sanity.” Hear, hear!

 

What makes Shawnigan Lake special? It would be hard to come up with one definitive answer…but we all agree that it is. Perhaps it is something in the water!

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