|Stan, Gus, Archie, Scotty, unknown, and Harry in Bow-Mart|
"Ah, ah, ah. Twenty-five cents worth of bottle caps, and pixie sticks, please." She stammered, wide-eyed in panic, worried he wouldn't let her buy her Saturday treats. Sandi Stansfield quickly shoved her money across the counter, snatching her hand back, afraid that he might grab it. Alik McLennan loved to terrorize the kids, but his bark was all there was: no bite. He and Helen Holte owned and operated the infamous Bow-Mart grocery store-coffee bar that specialized in out-of-date packaged goods and strong, muddy coffee served with a side-order of island gossip.
The packaged goods at the Bow-Mart usually sat on the shelves for so long, a potential buyer would pick up the item, and blow the dust off the top to see that the heck was in the box. Giggles between visitors could be heard as they prowled the few rows of groceries. "Can you believe this place? It's straight out of history." The Bow-Mart's coffee-counter stools were habitually occupied by group of island characters, all men, all sitting on their specific stool. Heaven help the person who mistakenly sat on the wrong stool.
|Bowen Island ferry to mainland|
Both islands are a short ferry ride away from a significant metropolis. Bowen Island is close to Vancouver the largest city in British Columbia Canada, while Isla Mujeres is located near Cancun Mexico. On Isla the main road circumnavigates the perimeter of the island. On Bowen Island the hilly geography necessitates a different road system. The island roads spread out like fingers radiating from the palm of the hand, Snug Cove. And of course, being islands, the inhabitants rely on boats to cross the stretch of water between the island and the mainland.
|One of the country roads on island|
Memories of seagulls screeching and gliding overhead in a flicker of grey and white feathers, and the smells of pine and fir and the sharp medicinal odor of arbutus trees. An undernote of the distinctive woodsy aromas of the native leathery-leafed shrub salal, tickled the olfactory nerve. Cold water mussels, clinging to sturdy wooden pilings that had been painted with a pungent creosote preservative, added a salty-briny-tangy smell. It is the scent of an untamed ocean bumping up against humans and civilization.
|Angie, April and Allan Boothman family photos|
On Bowen Island in 1973, there were so few children the elementary school did not have sufficient enrollment to keep the school open. There were five kids - and the school needed six to receive government funding. Lisa Berube was registered as the sixth child, enabling the school to continue operating. Her family moved from the mainland to the island once their new home was completed. The 2010 Bowen Island population is listed at 3400 full-time residents, with summer residents swelling the population in July and August.
|Sandi Stansfield, John Lock, Larissa Grierson - Halloween|
|Lawrie and son John operating our Sealander boat|
Even then Bowen Island had a decent selection of television programming, broadcast in colour. The Canadian kids probably spent more time watching television than their Mexican counterparts, but they still had a lot of time to enjoy outdoor adventures. In the winter while our Isla Mujeres friends enjoyed swimming in warm water and sunning on white sandy beaches our Canadian friends might have been ice skating on an outdoor pond. Chilly! But enjoyable.
|Sandi, Larissa, John, and June - ice skating on pond|
|Lawrie driving Bow-Fest parade with nephew Jim on back|
|Very slow when made to participate in slug-race|
As the Bowen Island youngsters turned into teenagers their free time was filled with beach parties, or house parties, or hanging out at the ferry dock, and listening to music. And there were summer-time baseball games - featuring the Bowen Island Sluggers. Good memories especially for Cliff Long who played on the team for a few years.
When they were old enough to drive vehicles, like teens everywhere in North American, they spent their summer evenings cruising the few roads on the island with the volume cranked up on the music. I don't know why, but driving and loud music just go together. I confess. I did it too.
Most islanders are kind, hard-working, and happy to have a good life. And I might add, a little quirky! The people we have met on both islands seem to share a slightly skewed perspective on life in general, preferring to enjoy life rather than fuss over small details. Bowen Island, and Isla Mujeres: a northern paradise, and a southern paradise. We are happy to have friends on both islands.
|View from our home at Eaglecliff Bowen Island|
Lynda & Lawrie
Thank you so much to Lawrie's niece Sandi Stansfield Burton, and Angie Boothman Malpass, and Cliff Long for sharing their Bowen Island memories. Special thanks to Catherine Bayly of the Bowen Island Museum and Archives for the fabulous photo of the Bow-Mart regulars.