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The Summer Colony

(from Green Branches & Fallen Leaves)

An integral and important part of the history of Shawnigan Lake, and one that is important to its economy, is the old and continuing story of the summer colony that fringes the lake like a closely strung necklace. Summer residents have been coming to the lake for their holidays for as long as there has been a railway to bring them; that is, as long ago as 1886, and perhaps even longer.

The summer people come from the city, for the most part, and so have adopted certain anonymity in order to achieve the rest that they desire. Therefore, although the names of several old-time summer people may be mentioned, there are many more who have been here just as long, but are unknown to the year round inhabitants. Some have become permanent residents and have gradually lost their anonymity by becoming involved with the social and organizational life of the village. But summer or permanent, all lake residents have in common a loyal love for Shawnigan.

Because the original lake frontage was bought in large tracts and subdivided, the early residents tended to settle in groups. One such group located early in the century on what is romantically known as Cigarmakers Bay, about a quarter of a mile south of Cliffside. The whole shoreline of the bay was first owned by a man named Scott who was himself a Victoria cigarmaker. He sold pieces of land to Jack Smith, Behnsen, E. E. Leason, all cigar makers, and to Lindsay, Christie and Binns, and several others of German origin and name.

Other old time summer residents of that area included Judge Hunter, Judge Bass, Dr. Butler, Copelands and Andernack, a Victoria jeweler. Bruce Hutchison, the well known author and writer of the preface of this book, has enjoyed tranquil summers with his family at Shawnigan for many years, while on the north shore of the lake the late Judge Lampman and Judge MacFarlane have had summer homes for as long as many local residents can remember.

The children of the summer people, many of them now grown and bringing the third and fourth generations of young people to the Lake, have no apparent reason to have anything but fond memories of Shawnigan. Here they have played in the lake to their hearts’ content, with a minimum of work and no school. Several times in the thirties and forties, the summer residents and their children made themselves delightfully apparent to the villagers with beautiful illuminated boat parades, usually instigated by Mr. D. Mason Hurley of the Shawnigan Beach Hotel.

As a result of the action of two summer residents, children at Shawnigan Lake will always have one island on which they can play without fear of trespass. About 1947 one of the islands of the lake was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Mayhew and Mr. and Mrs. C. R. Scharff. Each couple having lost a son on active service with the R.C.A.F., they bought the island in memory of the two men and all other airmen from this district who lost their lives in the second world war, and presented it to the Provincial Government as a permanent park and playground for children. Known as “Memory Island,” it was the last island that could be secured. During their boyhood, it was a favorite playground of F.O. Alan Mayhew, who crashed off Ceylon in 1944, and FIt. Lt. W. K. Scharff, who was lost during the Battle of Normandy.

Many are the summer residents who assisted materially with the building of the original S.L.A.A. Hall. Without their help, its completion would probably have been delayed for many years. The first wife of Chief Justice Hunter was a great worker for the old Hall, while others such as A. H. Cox and Ray Ditchburn worked on the directorate of the S.L.A.A. up till the 1960s.

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