COLUMN: 150 years of history awaits you

Sitting as usual at a sunny little table on the corner of my deck reading the morning newspaper and enjoying a cup of coffee, I heard voices from a couple on the street, hidden from my view by the trees.

It was 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Being in my usual state of morning deshabille (bathrobe and nothing else), I was a little taken aback when one voice remarked “yes, he’s out there drinking coffee.”

Sitting as usual at a sunny little table on the corner of my deck reading the morning newspaper and enjoying a cup of coffee, I heard voices from a couple on the street, hidden from my view by the trees.

It was 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Being in my usual state of morning deshabille (bathrobe and nothing else), I was a little taken aback when one voice remarked “yes, he’s out there drinking coffee.”

Then up to my gate rolls an attractive blonde on a bicycle, followed by a male similarly attired in bike racing gear.

I walked to the edge of the elevated deck closest to the gate, ensuring the robe was tightly cinched, hoping that the angle was such that no more than my knobby knees were exposed, and engaged in a conversation that was obviously with well-acquainted friends, yet I had no clue who they were.

First of all, at my age not too many people that I thought I knew ride bikes, fewer still are in the physical shape these people were, and lastly they were wearing helmets and sunglasses.

Despite that, we had a protracted “how are ya, good to see ya, how far you ridden” conversation, all leading I hoped to some sort of identifying information. To no avail.

After a few minutes of chitchat, they declared they had to be on their way, and while bidding farewell, said “see you later this afternoon” and then it dawned on me who they were. We were attending a retirement party for a friend that day, and I had just been talking to his younger brother and wife.

Disguise in the form of cycling gear, rather than a failing memory, was my downfall.

Then yesterday, out of the blue I received an email from someone who at first glance also did not conjure any memories. She detailed our previous interaction, and thanked me for helping promote some years ago her start-up project – Abbotsford’s Circle Farm Tour – through Tourism Abbotsford. That drew another blank.

But as I mulled over the message, the memory banks churning away, I finally recalled who this person (now with a different surname) was.

But recounting old times, and attempting to rekindle distant memories, was not the thrust of the email.

What this person is doing, and was soliciting my assistance to get the message out, is trying to generate interest in our province’s history, and promoting what has become the iconic example of the reasons for British Columbia’s birth.

Her name was Donna Bernard, back when she worked for Tourism Abbotsford. Today she has a different name, but it is her nom de plume that really is the essence of what she is trying to accomplish.

Donna is the marketing manager for the historic recreation that is Barkerville, and she is touring the province – at least 10,000 km of it, in period costume, and as “Barkerville Bella” – promoting the Gold Rush town’s 150th anniversary next year.

Think about how many things in B.C. are a century and a half old, and yet Barkerville has a whole town full of them.

It is a place that, though I have visited only occasionally, is one of the most significant historic sites of British Columbia.

The gold rush that created the town, with many original buildings, and many more that have been saved and moved to the site, is one of the reasons we became a province, became part of what was to become Canada, and saved ourselves from being another state of the American union.

It may not be on your ‘bucket list’ but is most definitely worth visiting. Also try to take in the many other historic spots such as Yale in the Fraser Canyon that, in their day roughly 150 years ago, made B.C. the most populous place east of Chicago and north of San Francisco.

You will come away with memories and images of people not soon forgotten.

markrushton@abbynews.com