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Ladysmith’s Heritage Waterfront

water1Ladysmith is proud of its rich heritage and those who have a keen interest participate in B.C. Heritage Week. Heritage Week this year runs from February 15 to February 21. In celebration, the Ladysmith Historical Society, the Ladysmith Maritime Society and Take 5 are working on presenting another talk by the well-known historian and writer, Rob Johnson. Thanks to the support of the Ladysmith Legion Branch #171, Rob Johnson will be holding his new talk, “Ladysmith’s rich and varied waterfront,” which features over 150 rarely seen photographs, on February 18 at 7 p.m. in the upper room of the Ladysmith Legion.

Addition commentary from those attending is welcomed and encouraged. This is a free event. Seating is limited to 100. To reserve please call the Ladysmith Historical Society’s office (250-245-0100) or TAKE 5 (250-245-7015) by February 15. Otherwise, you can show up and grab any unreserved seats.

A waterfront brimming with tales

By Rob Johnson

Ladysmith’s Waterfront has a rich and varied history, but one topic that we can all relate to is swimming in Ladysmith’s harbor. Swimming has been an activity enjoyed by residents over the years and is woven into the fabric of our community. Recent residents may only know about Transfer Beach Park and the water park, as it is now. But those who have lived here for, say, 30 to 50 years remember Transfer Beach quite differently. They remember it before all the upgrades, rules and regulations. They recall diving off the old Transfer wharf (if you were brave enough, you might remember diving off the tower) and the raft, and they also recall the lifeguards on the beach. Some may still remember swimming down at Smelter Beach, with its floats and warm water. And if you are even older, you may remember the company picnics put on by Comox Logging, or perhaps even the earlier ones put on by the mining company held across the bay at Shell Beach. Hundreds of people attended these events. Participants would have to cross the bay by boat as, back then, there weren’t any roads leading to that part of the bay. The shoreline of Shell Beach was completely lined with dozens of boats. Those without a boat would either use water taxis to commute back and forth or rent a boat from one of the two boat rental sites in town. It was not uncommon for some to even swim across the bay so that they could attend these activities. Activities at the picnics included barrel racing, three-legged races and much more. Stages were set up for bands and dancing. All this was going on while others swam and dove, from semi-permanent floats and diving boards, into the warmest water north of San Francisco.

Another location that was popular with the kids for swimming was a small pool of water on the ocean side of the under-highway tunnel that carried water from Holland Creek. The pool of water was small, but at high tide brackish water passed over warm tide flats and, combined with the fresh water from the creek, produced a bath-like experience.

During Ladysmith Days, the town was filled with many special events and activities, including our own set of bathtub races, with some tub racers coming down from Nanaimo. Other fun activities relating to the waterfront included sailboat and war canoe races as well as waterskiing with jump ramps.

Once of the best things, though, was beachcombing for special treasures at low tide. There you could pry oysters off the rocks or dig up clams, toss them onto an open fire along the shore and wait for them to crack open … a feast fit for a king. Those were the days.

Historic Waterfront Slide Show and Talk

For more stories, please join Rob at his Ladysmith’s Historic Waterfront slide show and talk. on February 18 at 7 p.m. in the upper room of the Ladysmith Legion. Free admission. Information or reserve a seat 250-0100.

About the author: Angie