Feeding a New Town
“Bless Joe Moss!”
Joan Saunders said it, but it was a sentiment repeated over and over among the early residents who were interviewed.
While the residents moved into their new houses starting in August of 1971, much of the town was still unfinished. The road to Kamloops took an hour and a half and was bad at the best of times and the road to Merritt was just as bad although a little shorter. The road to Ashcroft was marginally better. Securing basic necessities like food and fuel were top priorities.
Safety Mart, the franchise grocery store that was located where the current Highland Valley Foods is, wasn’t finished yet when the first families and their belongings arrived in moving trucks. Joe Moss was the owner of the franchise. He would take orders from Logan Lake residents and bring groceries once a week from either Kamloops or Merritt until the store opened.
Since none of the mine workers worked on weekends in those days, Saturdays often meant long days in Kamloops or Merritt picking up essential groceries and items for their new homes. It wasn’t long after they all moved in that Joe opened the Safety Mart and people could buy local for their day to day groceries. “In the beginning,” Joan recalls, “it was always stocked with all the essentials. And reasonable prices too.”
But many people, including Joan and Sheron Malmas and others, still went to Kamloops to stock up on larger amounts of groceries.
“In the first, probably the first five years, I would go to Kamloops in early December or late November and do a big shopping order,” explains Joan. “We didn’t have Costco or anything, but I would go to a store that had more selection than we had here for my Christmas baking. Basically, we shopped here except for this one time when I would go with this long list of stuff that Joe didn’t have in the store.”
Sometimes going for groceries was an adventure in itself. “That first November I went to go Christmas shopping in Kamloops,” Joan remembers, “and Frank was worried that I wouldn’t drive fast enough to get through the mud puddle which was close to where the road to Mile High turns off. I did it! But I did come back via Savona.”
Sheron Malmas laughs about going to get groceries with some of her friends. “Us women would come to town,” she laughs. “We got a Comet car shortly after moving there. I’ll never forget that because there were about four of us who would come to town. We’d take the back seat out of the car so we could go to Cooper’s to the case lot sale. Sometimes the car was almost touching the ground with flat wheels going home.”
Planning for Fuel
Fuel was another challenge for the early residents. Before the first gas station opened the nearest gas was in Merritt or Ashcroft. Going into town for groceries meant having to get gas every trip and plan carefully since going to Kamloops and back meant three hours of driving, and then you needed to have gas when you got back to Logan Lake so you could go back into town and do it all again.
“If you got stuck for a gallon of gas,” explained Willis McBride, “you could always go see Tino Casadio who had the cement plant which was located right at the campground. If you sit and look at that campground from the west, you can visualize the cement plant, with the cement plant up on top and the trucks down below and the mixer. And if you go right to the end of the campground, and look in the lake, you’ll see a large pad of concrete out into the water. Tino had a fire pump there to supply his water. And in addition, he washed all the cement trucks and they just washed out in the lake.”
A Post Office in a House
Ken Munro remembers the house they chose on Beryl was right across from the temporary post office. “We didn’t have far to go to get the mail,” he laughs. “That was in Naismyth’s, as I recall.” Rose Naismyth was the first post mistress, and the post office was in the basement of their house at 29 Beryl.
The first CIBC bank was actually right at the mine site.
“They had a trailer at the mine site when I came here,” recalls Frank Saunders, who arrived in the area a few months before Joan and their son flew out to join him. “And every payday they would open it so people could cash their cheques. It took a while before they started depositing the money in your account in the bank. I don’t think that happened until we had the bank here.”
The bank and the liquor store joined the Safety Mart in the first building finished in the commercial area.
As the people moved in and the houses were filled other businesses moved in to the mall area. Sheron Malmas used her artistic skills to create the first decal for Logan Lake and she started a t-shirt business. “I was always doing something,” she remembers. “I started that up until that new mall came. In it was a men’s store, JayRays Menswear. And the guy said to me, ‘You can’t be doing that because we’re gonna be doing that.’ So I sold my press and everything.” Malmas also did all the drawings for the first Brownie’s cookbook and other projects as well.
In the beginning families eased into a routine. Their day to day groceries were bought in Logan Lake but they bought bulk food in Kamloops. They planned for when and where they would get fuel. Their mail came and they walked to see Mrs. Naismyth to pick it up. Many items were ordered through the Sears and Eaton’s catalogues. It was all part of living in a brand new and very small town. Over the next few years more businesses moved in, the bookmobile started arriving and eventually a library was built. But for the first few hardy residents, their basic needs were met and life was pretty good.