Years before Louise Hutchinson moved to White Rock with her husband, Don, in the late 1970s, she unknowingly spent time at one of the Semiahmoo Peninsula’s oldest landmarks.
As a seven-year-old growing up in Vancouver, she and her siblings had never experienced the many joys of summer camp. That is, until their mother took a summer job as ‘waterfront director’ at Camp Alexandra in 1947.
“We came out as a family, and it was just wonderful,” Hutchinson, a former White Rock city councillor, recalled. “We lived in the huts and got to swim and have bon fires and marshmallow roasts. We had never done anything quite like that.”
It wasn’t until decades later, when she returned to the Crescent Beach community hub with young children of her own that Hutchinson realized she had been there before.
“To come back after all those years and to have those memories triggered, it was so amazing,” she said, noting the setting hasn’t changed much since she first spent time there. “The cabins are exactly the same, I totally remember it.”
Hutchinson’s memories of Camp Alex are just some of the many stories that staff at Alexandra Neighbourhood House are hoping to collect leading up to the camp’s 100th anniversary next year.
The storytelling project, launched last month, invites anyone who may have camped, played, learned or volunteered at Camp Alexandra to share their memories in an effort to highlight the impact Camp Alex has had on families over the past several decades, according to Neil Fernyhough, manager of community programs.
“We know that there are a lot of people in Metro Vancouver who have a history with the camp in some way or another,” Fernyhough said. “We want to be able to get those stories down on paper as a way of telling the story, not only of Alexandra Neighbourhood House and Camp Alexandra, but of Crescent Beach in general.”
Some of the stories that are collected will be told on video, to be posted online, Fernyhough said, while others may be included in an artifact display that staff are hoping to put together in partnership with Surrey Archives.
There are a number of other anniversary projects in the works, Fernyhough said, though the scope of projects and celebrations will be dependent on a government heritage grant that Alex House has applied for.
Some of the things staff are hoping to undertake include historic walking tours around Crescenet Beach; a travelling historic exhibit, expected to be on display in three or four locations around South Surrey next year; and a series of community engagement events examining four social themes and how they were dealt with 100 years ago, how they’re dealt with now and how they are expected to be dealt with in 100 years.
The themes, Fernyhough said, include First Nation relationships and reconciliation, environment and emerging eco-economy, newcomer settlement and safety, protection and visibility of children.
“All of those four issues were treated very differently 100 years ago, and they’re going to be treated very differently 100 years from now,” Fernyhough said.
To top off next year’s celebration, Fernyhough said the camp is planning a large homecoming event, with details to be determined.
Anyone interested in sharing their stories of time spent at Camp Alexandra can call Fernyhough at 604-535-0015 (ext. 236) or email firstname.lastname@example.org