Sunday, August 16, 2009

Farewell, Norma

People from the west coast (present and past) gathered yesterday to remember Norma Baillie. Although she would probably hate to hear anyone say it, Norma was a legend on the west coast. She was an independent free-spirit, an entrepreneur, a dear friend and confident to so many, and so curious and fascinated about life and the world around her. She first arrived on the coast when she was in her early 20s, which, if my calculations and the article in the paper is correct would have been in the 1940s. She came on the Uchuck from Port Alberni with her sister and their bikes -- rather unheard of for those days! A local police officer met them at the boat and eventually took them out to Wreck Bay where they stayed for awhile in an old cabin from the gold mining days. She came again later in 1960 when her youngest child (of three) was only two months old. Again they stayed at Wreck Bay. The family returned each summer and stayed at Wreck Bay. What fabulous memories they must have from that time.

In 1967 she moved here permanently, taught at the high school, and eventually opened a shop she called The Wreckage. This shop was first in a small plaza, but eventually, with the expertise of builder Bruce Atkey, built The Wreckage we know and love today. Maybe you've seen it?

(If you go to this blog, and scroll about half way down, you can see what the inside looks like. There's more about Bruce and The Wreckage in the book Builders of the Pacific Coast by Lloyd Kahn.)

There were some wonderful stories told at the memorial yesterday about Norma's mixed emotions about the tourists that would come in to her shop. She needed them to buy the things she had for sale, but would often close the shop and go read for a bit if it got too busy. As well, many of the things in the shop weren't even for sale. And I'd forgotten about the wonderful sign on the door: Hours By Chance.

I didn't know Norma well; she was an old friend of the FH's though and I was introduced through him. She was always kind to me whenever we did meet though and I will always treasure the few visits we had in her floating shop at Hotsprings Cove and the lovely pottery casserole dish she just gave us when she found out we'd been married. That was almost 19 years ago now. (And I will never forget the fabulous selection of books in that floating store. She moved there when she was 60 and stayed for 8 years or so.) I regret not visiting her more often, but even more, not having my daughter's spend time with her. She was an inspiration and will be missed by so many.

(I wish I had a photo to show you or even a link. The article that was in the local paper seems to be off-line now. I'll post one if I can find it.)

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for your comment, and linking my blog to your's.

    I remember The Wreckage since my first time in Tofino and Ucluelet in 1969. My father and his BCFP forestry crew replanted many of the slopes between Sproat Lake and the coast, particularly around the Kennedy Lakes area. They would stay at the bunk house at the edge of Tofino down by the docks near a gas station that was actually a VW dealer and service station in the 1960s and early 1970s! Later years they stayed at the Pacific Hotel in Ucluelet and were had their meals at the attached Chinese restaurant, until his retirement in the early 1980s. Before the Alberni Highway was completed we would use the logging roads via a mountainous pass to get to Tofino, in our 1965 VW Microbus. The area will always hold a special place for me in my heart and memories.