My father grew up in Kimberley, but moved to Vancouver when he was 17. I have some very young memories of spending Christmas there at my paternal Grandparents house, but only bits and pieces.
One of my most vivid memories is waking up in the middle of the night amidst a group of arms and legs belonging to my slumbering cousins all camped out on the floor. The lights on the tree were still on, and I could see the snow through the windows. The stockings my Grandmother had made for all of us were lined up along the mantle. We took those stockings home with us, when we left, and used them for many years to come, right up until I was an adult.
I remember feeling happy, and secure, and content. I belonged there, in that tangle of cousin arms and legs. I closed my eyes and willed myself back to sleep, worried Santa would come and catch me awake.
I’m not sure why my father’s family stopped being in touch with my brother and I after the divorce. People didn’t understand divorce back then, and I guess it was my father’s responsibility to keep his side of the family together with us. It’s sad. I’d have loved to be part of that side of my family, to feel like I belonged with them, like I did back then.
Growing up with my Mother’s very small immigrant family I tended to romanticise my larger family on my father’s side, because I had only vague memories of them all, and I missed what I didn’t have, what I thought it would be like.
I didn’t go back to Kimberley again until I was 15. I took things into my own hands and asked my father to pay for the bus, for my birthday present, to take me up there to visit my Grandmother.
The bus ride was an excruciating 18 hours long. The first half was fun. It was the first time I’d been on the road, completely on my own. I met lots of other people, both young and old, and really enjoyed myself. I felt like an adult. Eventually though, the novelty wore off, and I couldn’t wait to get there.
I stayed a week, meeting relatives I never knew existed, and people who loved to tell me stories about my father and Grandparents. I went along with my Grandmother while she delivered dinners to the older people on her Meals On Wheels volunteer route. I couldn’t believe they had a ski hill right there in town. We had to drive so far to go skiing back home, and here, it was right there on her doorstep. I think I skied on 5 of the 7 days I was there. Friday night was hockey night at the local rink, and everybody showed up to watch the local stars.
When my daughter was 4, about the same age as my earliest memory there, we visited Kimberley again. My Grandparents were no longer alive, but since we were in the area, I wanted to go back to rekindle the memories. They were few in number, but still very important to me. This was the place I had longed to belong.
I was interested to see how the town had changed. It used to rely on the Cominco Mine for the economy, but now they had transformed themselves into a tourist town. There was a Bavarian themed downtown, the Platzl, with a large Cuckoo clock, surrounded by shops and restaurants all in the town theme.
The North Star Mine, where they’d discovered the mineral Galena in 1891, used in a multitude of electronic equipment, was now the site of the Kimberley Alpine Resort. There were new home neighbourhoods being constructed, a lot of log home chalets I guessed were being catered to people from elsewhere, who came to enjoy winter and summer outdoor sports.
The last time I came to visit was in the summer and there were people all over the town. It felt like a thriving resort. This time was somewhat different, not surprising, in the off season between summer and winter. The Alpine Resort area was closed and the Platzl was empty and many stores were vacant.
There were still quite a few Bavarian restaurants, but a quick perusal told me I’d not be able to get a vegetarian dinner there. We opted instead to have dinner on the patio at the Stonefire Pizzaria, overlooking the huge Cuckoo clock.
The pizza was good but the local craft beer was the highlight of the meal. Before we left, we went over to the Bavarian restaurant across the way to take out a piece of Apple Streudel, my favorite dessert.
Driving through town, we saw most of the businesses were for hipster-styled clothing and outdoor pursuits such as fishing, canoeing, rafting, golf, hiking, and skiing.
The campground we stayed at was the exact same one I’d stayed at 15 years ago. It’s a very large campground, built on a hillside along a river and has some fantastic hiking trails that lead into snowmobile and cross country ski trails. We went for a long hike up into the hills and then down to the river. The weather was wonderful, warm, sunny, but not hot.
We enjoyed our stay, but my old romanticism of the town seems to be gone. As far as I know, there are no relatives left there, and I no longer feel any kinship to the place. There are just so many years separating me from all that childhood longing to belong. I can remember how it felt, but the feeling is completely gone. It’s just a nice little resort town, the Bavarian City of the Rockies.
Overnight spot: Kimberley Riverside Campground
Price: $29.00 Power (15/30 amp) & water (other options available)
Includes: Sani-dump, firepit, public washrooms, showers, pool, hiking trails, beach and picnic area along river.
Extras: Putting course
Cell & Wifi: Bell Mobility-Good Fido-Good