ARMCHAIR ARCHIVES – Tales of woe from the land of the shifting soils

The Armchair Mayor is on staycay this week. In place of his usual daily editorials and column, we offer blasts from the past. The following column was originally published Aug. 24, 1979, before Barnhart Vale had a sewer system.


I wish to explain to you why my yard did not win a prize in this year’s Beautify Kamloops competition. If there is ever an Ugly Yard prize, I hope the organizers will let my neighbours know because I’m sure they will want to nominate my place.

I must first warn you that my house is located in Greater Barnhart Vale, land of the midnight sprinkling, where the soil never sets.

It all started in the winter of ’77, when sewage began backing up into the basement. There had just been a big melt, and it seems the septic just couldn’t handle it. So, a backhoe rambled around my front lawn and finally located the septic tank. With several pumpings, we made it through the winter and everything seemed fine.

With much work the following summer, the ol’ lawn didn’t look too bad. Last winter, though, more problems. This time, an entirely new septic field was required. Apparently, the first one had been improperly installed, but try collecting from anybody for that.

In the corrective process, most of the front lawn was ripped up. Now, my front lawn is about 3,000 square feet, and try straightening that out with one small shovel. Sooo, most of my summer was spent shovelling and seeding and turfing and, eventually, I got that sucker looking pretty green again (the septic remedy cost me about $1,300, and uncounted hours of my own work on the lawn).

Then come the sprinkling restrictions and the green turns to brown. But I cheat hardly at all, and eventually the hot weather lets up and it’s not looking too bad.

did I tell you about the fires? Some turkey has been setting fires out behind the street all summer long. I think there have been about two dozen of them set in the dry grass. One night while I’m out of town, he decides to light up The Kamloops News race raft sitting out behind my place. Wellsir, the raft goes up like a damn, catching four large pine trees and my back cedar fence in the process, all of which also go up like a damn.

Fortunately, my neighbours are on the ball. I don’t know if the response time of the Dallas fire hall was good or not, I suspect it was. All I know is that by the time the truck chugged up Barnhart Vale hill, my house would have been gone if it hadn’t been for the alert, efficient and in some cases courageous actions of about 20 neighbours who took about one minute to organize themselves into a firefighting unit.

In addition to the other stuff already mentioned, the fire burned down a rock garden and signed a good part of my back lawn.

Oh, yes, there was the Student Manpower thing. Having gotten my front lawn kind of under control, I thought I would a student worker to do some yard work which consisted mainly of weeding.

I arranged, through Student Manpower, to hire a young man who was to show up at 8 a.m. the next day. He never arrived.

I arranged, through Student Manpower, to hire a second young man who arrived about 8:30 Tuesday morning, worked 20 minutes and went away complaining that the work was making his back sore.

On Wednesday, I telephoned Student Manpower to try again and was told the office was closed for the remainder of the week. Resting, I suppose.

I figure, at $4 an hour, there must be some kid around who wouldn’t mind the extra bread. I remember stories of the old days when young people would work 10 or 12 hours a day breaking their backs for 10 cents an hour.

Oh, well, one of these days I’m going to fool everybody and win that Beautify Kamloops award. In the meantime if the City wants to make me an offer to move my house, I’ll consider it, but I really do like Barnhart Vale.

I am pleased to know that for the privilege of living in a semi rural community with a new tennis court, I am going to be allowed to pay taxes just as high as those in the city. Equality is grand.

Yours truly, Mel.


On the local media scene, some CHNL people have gone down the road. Experienced newsman Brian Graves and sports guy Rick Wile have left, apparently laid off as part of a cutback. Head sports honcho Kelly Moore left of his own accord.

The NL sports department now consists of DJ Al Chappel. Graves’ duties have been taken over by rookie reporter Angelo Iacobucci. Word is that morning man Hap Thiessen is moving to CFJC.


Then there’s the one about the CHNL reporter who got so tired racing around town trying to cover several things at once one night that he fell asleep in his car waiting for MLA Rafe Mair to emerge from a meeting.

When Mair came out, he thumped the top of the guy’s car several times to wake him up, gave him a voice clip, and sent the poor fellow on his way.

Mel Rothenburger has been writing about Kamloops since 1970.

About Mel Rothenburger (9224 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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