When I was 19 I took part in the Miss Powell River, Youth Ambassador Pageant. Seems like forever ago, maybe because it was. It was an amazing experience where I made lifelong friendships, become a Spark Leader as my volunteer service, came in first runner up in a speech competition which forever cemented my comfort with speaking in public, laughed, danced, adventured….it was amazing. I owe that experience to Dan and Marian Devita and the Texada Island Inn. I remember at the end of the final performance night, Dan and Marian came back stage to congratulate me and give me a hug. Dan said “we’re really proud of you, would you like a job?” I practically burst into tears.
And so I ventured into becoming a part of the storied history of that place; a place where you could set your watch by the people who walked through the door. Ed Johanson, who never said too many words but always had the warmest smile and would stand at the counter for half an hour if he had to, just to put exact change for one coffee, directly into my hand. Don and Ollie Wise; you always knew it was almost the end of your day shift, when they walked through the door. Don always looked at Ollie like he owned all the love in the universe. She, frail and fragile like a flower on its last legs, would demand one scoop of ice-cream in her coffee. When I finally learned to tease her back I used to say “I’ll get it when I get around to it.” One day she came in at the usual time, called me over and put something in my hand. I looked down at a little piece of round wood that said “to it” on it. “What’s this?” I asked her. “Well,” she replied with a sly smile on her face…. “Now you finally have a round ‘to it’ ” I still have my round “to-it”.
I recall the people I worked with, some no longer with us, like Dianne Smith who taught me how to make ham and split pea soup, Penny Woodhead who, well, she was a sweetheart, who taught me how to make handprints in sandwiches and Cimery, the only Amazon queen I’ve ever met in real life. Everybody had their own stories, their own recipes, and their own families that came and went throughout the days and nights as we all served plates and coffee and laughs together. I became part of a family; a little family that served the larger family of our island.
The place was brimming over with memories. Not just mine but everyone’s. It was where uncountable birthdays, retirements, anniversaries, parties, and special occasions were marked. It was where, in our youth we crawled in, hungover as hell, to recover over deep-fried hash browns and eggs before crawling back out to the beach to lie motionless while the breakfast worked its magic. It was where you danced even if there wasn’t another single person in the bar and when it was packed elbow to elbow. It was where whoever was cooking, 9 times out 10 could start making your order the minute they saw your face. It was where you could order “white sauce” and they’d know what you were talking about. It was where you had to cook a million potatoes for Saturday Steak Lunch because the whole island showed up for it. It was where so many stories were told, by generations, early in the morning until the doors closed late at night. It was where faces were always familiar, which is no small thing, as I now know, living in a city where seeing a face more than once is a small miracle. It was familiar and it was home. For so many of us; it was home.
For Dan and Marian and their family it was home and they shared it will all of us in such a huge way. Their generosity knew no bounds. Whether it was sponsoring or supporting every single island event, hosting parties, picking up boaters, providing safe rides home, being there for their staff and patrons, their openhandedness had no limits. The Texada Island Inn became our island’s heart and Dan and Marian were and are the life force that kept that heart beating.
The Inn had an irreplaceable patina on it. It was made of stories, and laughter, and tears and memories, and history. The history of the people that worked there, lived there, and moved through there. And that patina, while irreplaceable, will never really be gone, for it lives in all our hearts and minds and will always be carried with us wherever we go….even if it’s to Calgary, Alberta….where trust me…you cannot order white sauce.