Volume 24, Number 141,

Coping With Covid
by Robert Boyd

This past year-and-a-half has been a challenging time for everyone, and I am no exception. Different people have different methods with coping; like anyone has a choice.

On a personal note, this has been difficult in the fact I am unable to get together with friends and family or attend movies and theatre productions. Restrictions in restaurants have been lifted but dining out is still not the same. The Surrey International Writer’s Conference will be virtual again this year. I prefer the in-person conference, so I will not be participating.

Perhaps the biggest setback is being unable to travel outside my health zone unless it is essential. There is talk of travel restrictions being eased as of June 15, but travel between provinces is still not recommended. In the summer of 2020, I planned to travel to Saskatchewan, even venturing as far as south-western Manitoba, but all travel plans were cancelled. The same holds true for the summer of 2021. One of my main goals is to photograph as many ghost towns and surviving grain elevators as possible, but sadly, they are disappearing either through demolition or fire at an alarming rate. Last year, all the remaining buildings in the ghost town of Hamton, Saskatchewan, were bulldozed and burned by the local Municipal District. In March of 2021, the two remaining grain elevators in the town of Pierson, Manitoba, were demolished. The latest casualty is the Paterson elevator in the village of Carievale, Saskatchewan, which was demolished last May. I had planned to pass through every one of these communities on the trip. These examples merely add to my frustration. My goal is to make a return trip to the prairies in the summer of 2022, and hopefully, all the abandoned buildings and grain elevators I plan to photograph will still be standing.

Another travel plan which had to be placed on the back burner was a visit to my favourite ghost town, Sandon, BC. In the summer of 2018, the community hosted its first “Valley of the Ghosts” music festival, featuring musical talent from throughout the Kootenays. The turnout was excellent, the music was superb, and Gayle and I had a fantastic time. We promised to return in 2020, but alas, it was not meant to be. In Sandon in 2020, another event occurred which added insult to injury. Amajor flood, equal in severity to the catastrophic flood in 1955 which wiped out half the town, was about to occur. Fortunately, Sandon’s unofficial “Mayor”, Hal Wright, knew exactly what procedure to implement in order to divert the excessive water flow, so damage was minimal. Once again, I am planning a return trip to Sandon in 2022 and taking in the music festival, provided this pandemic is over.

There is one other tourist attraction dear to my heart which is another victim of the pandemic. I am referring to the Kettle Valley Steam Railway, based in Summerland, BC. In normal times, steam locomotive 3712, along with four fully restored antique rail cars, take tourists on a 90-minute excursion along the last surviving section of the Kettle Valley Railway. Twice a month, a “great train robbery” is staged, where passengers give a donation to the “Garnet Valley Gang”. It is followed by a barbeque. Sadly, this is all off the table for another year. I am still maintaining my membership in the Kettle Valley Railway Society and am hopeful to be able to take another excursion next year.

If there is anything positive to come out of this pandemic, it is the fact my job is considered an essential service. Grocery store workers are considered front-line workers, so my job is secure. Being in a senior position provides extra security, even though it results in longer hours and an increased workload. Despite this, I still manage to find time for writing, which I save mainly for my days off. As an added blessing, it has not affected my creativity to a certain extent.

Whenever I take a break from writing, a source I find to help lift up my spirits is Youtube. I focus on videos of places I want to visit and places I have visited in the past and wish to make a return trip. One video series in particular stood out personally. In 1966, the BC Ministry of Transportation produced a series of films on BC highways, where a 16 mm movie camera was mounted on the dashboard of a Government vehicle, and a section of a BC highway was filmed. For many years, the film series was stored in the vault in the Provincial Archives, and only recently were the films released to the public. The films can now be viewed on Youtube, under the heading “BC Road Trip Time Machine 1966”. It is now possible to take a “virtual” road trip from Hope to Creston or Hope to Revelstoke, any highway on Vancouver Island, the Sea-to-Sky Highway, and Highway 16 from Prince Rupert to Terrace in 1966. Along the way, you pass by British American, Home, Texaco, and Royalite gas stations and many landmarks which are no longer standing.

I also enjoy viewing some of my favourite movie scenes from years gone by. With Youtube, if you wish to view an entire movie, it costs extra, but there is no charge to view a selected scene. Three movie scenes in particular stand out in my mind, and I never get tired of playing them over and over. The first one comes from the movie “Slap Shot”, where the Hanson Brothers make their debut. The second is the classic scene in “Porky’s” in the Principal’s Office, where Beullah Balbricker, the girls’ PE teacher, requests a rather unorthodox method of catching the culprit who was being a peeping Tom in the girls’ shower. Then there is the third one, the scene in “Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie” which takes place in the Welfare Office. I still laugh my head off every time I view it.

All in all, I would give anything in the world for this pandemic to be over and everything to be back to normal. I’m sure everyone else shares my same sentiment. I want to hit the road again and be able to dine out once again. But in the meantime, let’s all stay safe.