Richard Barkwill, age 3, in Summerland in 1961.

Tractors, orchards, seven other siblings: memories of childhood in Summerland

I grew up on an orchard in Summerland, the seventh of eight children. One thing in particular about my childhood that I remember was that it was often pretty noisy.

When 10 people sit down for dinner, eight of them being children or teenagers, there is a lot of conversation. We had a very big kitchen table, but even then, my younger brother and I had to sit in the corner on stools during dinner until a couple older siblings left the house.

There was a lot more orchard in Summerland in those days and everywhere was our playground. We were particularly lucky as my parents owned a cannery, which to us was an adventure playground with no admission charge.

We played ball hockey on the cement loading area using apple bins for goals. We also roller skated and rode our bikes around the building and climbed all over the bins and equipment. Once in a while an employee might say something to my father about us riding our bikes throughout the cannery, but my dad would just say, “Try and stay out of the way.”

And that would be the end of it.

Every day in the summer, and I mean every day, my younger brother and I would ride our bikes down to the water and play all day. At the end of the day, Dad would drive down and put our bikes in the jeep and drive us home.

I don’t remember feeling I was lucky to hang out at the lake all day, but I do remember being grateful my father would pick us up so that I didn’t have to cycle back up Peach Orchard Hill.

While orchards and vineyards are still an important part of Summerland, a larger percentage of local families were orchardists in those days. On graduation, some friends and I thought it would be fun to have a grad tractor parade down Main Street.

As you can see from the picture I included, I was always keen to drive the tractor for any reason.

When I asked my dad if I could use the tractor for the parade, he just said, “sure” and went back to reading his paper. My friend’s dad thought it was hilarious and was there taking pictures, but the principal didn’t think it was so funny and called us down to the office — I still don’t really know why.

When my parents passed away within a month of each other, a family friend commented that, although it was sad to see them go, at least they both had about 90 years of life here in Summerland, the best place to live in the Okanagan and at the best time period to have been here.

He was probably right about that.

But I do not spend too much time worrying about whether things were better in the good ol’ days. Rather, I just think about how we can make things better for today and in the future.

Richard Barkwill is a council member with the District of Summerland.