Memories of Crystal Water Beach
PT. ROBERTS IN THE 1930'S
by Rod Hurston
In 1928 my father purchased a lot on South Beach Road from Mr. Steini Thorsteinson. In1929 he had built a cottage on it and the Hourston family spent the next ten summers at South Beach. There were about fifteen other families who did the same. In addition the Waters family and the Thorsteinson family were Pt. Roberts residents who spent the whole year there.
Mrs. Jean Waters with her two children Ken and Dorothy (Tooty) operated the Waters chicken ranch which was located just across the street from us. Mr. and Mrs. Thorsteinson with their children Paul and Dorothea (sis) owned the South Beach resort and operated the SouthBeach store.
The Things We Did.
Just like Crystal Waters today the beach was the main focus of our summer activities. We
had a raft, built by Mr. MacDonald, and swam most days. One thing different though we always build a beach fire to warm us up between dips. When you arrived at it you were always told to “bring your beef”which meant get some drift wood for the fire. We enjoyed swimming when it was stormy because the water was warmer and we sometimes swam at night to see the great display of phosphorescence in the water.
Racing the Tulip.
The MS Tulip was the boat that ran five days a week between Bellingham and Pt. Roberts. It carried freight and mail and it was operated by Mr. Bill Waters. We would wait until it was out in front of South Beach and then we would jump on to our bikes and race to Pt Roberts to see if we could beat the Tulip to the dock. 1 can't recall us ever beating her but you must remember that we only had single speed bikes and the roads were all gravel. We enjoyed watching the crew unloading the freight from the hold. One year Mr. Waters lost the mail contract and that was the end of the freight run by the Tulip.
The Hike to the APA Cannery.
The APA (Alaska Packers Association) cannery had ceased operating by this time but the buildings and dock were still there. Often during the summer we would pack a lunch and set off for the cannery hiking along the bluff and through the woods. We would cut across the end of waters property, ong rys aters bluff with the four cottages mentioned in last years article, across the Thorsteinson farm and then would enter the woods along a trail that wound through the trees and bushes. It was so cool and quiet in there. We would always keep our eyes peeled for wild animals, but never encountered any.
The trail emerged right at the top of the cliff above the cannery. A winding trail led down to the cannery. We would peer into the buildings but all the machinery had been removed. We would then go out to the end of the dock and fish for bullheads.
Sometimes the fish trap tenders Pippit and Penguin would be tied up there so we would examine them carefully wondering if we would ever get a ride on them.
The Bonfire and Singsong.
One of the cwnpers, Cyril Smith, would organise a singsong on a Saturday night when all the fathers were down. We would build a fire on the beach just east of the South Beach store. When all the parents had arrived Cyril would lead the singing. The great songs they sang: By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Sidewalks of New York, Put on Your old Grey Bonnet, Let me call You Sweetheart, Shine on Harvest Moon, In the Good Old Summer Time etc. Finally when they sang Good Night Ladies us kids knew it was time to put out the fire which we would do with the buckets which had been brought along for that purpose. There would be beach fires burning all along the beach from Bell's Grove to the cottages along the beach at Crystal Waters.
The Whalens built a roller skating rink at the eastern end of the road that ran along the beach at Boundary Bay. It was made of concrete and was in the shape of an elongated oval with grass in the middie and railings along both sides of the rink.You rented the skates which you attached to your shoes and you skated to music piped out over a PA system. By this time the boys had discovered the girls (or was it the other way round?) and skating parties were often arranged on Saturday nights. The fun we had skating to the music of the big bands: Amapola, In the Mood, and Take Me Out to the Old Ballgame. After that we would drive around the Point, if we were able to borrow our parents cars, stopping at various locations, Lily Point comes to mind. My father could never figure out how we could use up so much gas driving around a place that was only five square miles in area.
World War 11.
It was late in the summer of 1939. My brother Archie and 1 had the News Herald delivery route. This involved biking down to the Canadian side of Boundary Bay where the delivery man would bring us the papers from Vancouver. We would then deliver them to our customers at Boundary Bay and South Beach. On this particular day he announced that an Extra had been published and he had brought us a bunch of extra papers to sell. The headline was "Germany invades Poland". Those papers sold like hotcakes and we were sure happy with the extra money we made that day.
Little did we realise that that headline meant the end of our carefree days of summer at Point Roberts. Canada was soon at war and our activities from then on did not include summers at the cottage.
In 1961 Evelyn and 1 bought a lot from Laugi and Ella in Holiday Meadows and, commencing in 1963, our family again spent summers at Pt. Roberts.
Sometimes we hiked to the APA along the beach. We would scale the cliffs and carve our initials and date in the sandstone face. We assumed they would last for ever and that future climbers would see them and wonder who we were. We also walked with our heads down looking for agates. We were hoping to find that perfect clear round one which we were going to make into a ring and give to our mother, I often wondered what happened to those jars of agates which we left on the kitchen window sill
The Fish Traps.
Between the Pt. Roberts light and the first reef east of South Beach there were three fish traps, or more properly salmon traps, outin the bay. They were located in the water beyond low tide. The one out from Crystal Water Beach was called the Timpson trap, after the owner of the lease.It started about half a mile from the beach and con-sisted of piles driven into the bottom. Between the piles wire mesh was stretched from top to bottom. This was called the lead and was designed to intercept the salmon migrating from the ocean to the Fraser River. The lead was (1 estimate) about 1000 yards long stretching to the seaward. At the end of the lead were three net enclosures for retaining the salmon. One was called the heart, another the diamond and last one was the spiller. The spiller was made of webbing and was constructed so that it could be raised by means of windlasses at the four corners. At the end there was also a platform on which was built a small one-room cabin where the two trap operators lived for the duration of the salmon season. We got to know the two operators, Art Quick and Curly Lee, and a number of times during the season we went out to watch the salmon being harvested. We would leave our cabin about 6 am, (why is fishing always done so early?) and row out to the trap, tie our boat to the ladder and climb up to the platform. Art and Curly would always give us a hot cup of coffee and a piece of toast. The trap tender would arrive shortly after and the spiller would be raised and the salmon brailed into a scow and then umsferred to the tender. The catch was mostly sockeye and pinks (humpies they were called) but there was also many large spring salmon in the catch. It was a great morning for us and we would always return with a couple of salmon in the bottom of the boat. The traps were installed in the spring and removed in the fall. In 1934 there was an initiative voted on in the State and the operation of traps was voted down. So-no more fish traps.
The Seine Boats.
In the mid 1930's salmon fishing was carried out five days a week. The purse seine fleet would arrive off South Beach early Sunday evening. It was a nice sight to see all the masthead lights shining that night. You would hear the boat engines starting up about five in the morning and by the time we were up for the day they were busy fishing off South Beach, around the Point, or over in Boundary Bay. We got to know all the boats by their shape and configuration and would have contests nwning them as they appeared. We would often row out to watch them make a set and then hang around the bum end as they would be brailing the fish on board. The fishermen would invariably toss a couple of small salmon into our boat which we would gratefully thank them for. We could never understand why they would say to us "next time bring out your sister". We would tell them that we did not have one. We would then row ashore and have no trouble selling the salmon to the local cwnpers. I still remember many of the names: Sunset, Tagatoff, Louis G, New York, Hannah, Solata, iberty, and Myrtle (Mr. Largaud's boat). I know some of those boats are still fishing today.