I read with great pleasure the exciting news about being able to relive visually and emotionally Ashcroft’s streets and buildings as they were through “augmented reality” (“New tour of Ashcroft a step back in time”, The Journal, June 22, 2017). What a wonderful new aspect of technology to be enjoyed by those of us who love our history.
In 1973, when I first arrived in Ashcroft, most of those false front stores, sheds, and cottages that comprised Chinatown were intact. That bowled me over, finding a segment of that period of history from the horse-drawn transportation era (1884-1920). What was even more exciting was meeting Mrs. Aie, who became a friend, touring me through the building she and her husband had lived in for so many years. She showed me the rooms the indentured labourers who worked the produce fields in north Ashcroft lived in; where they slept, and ate their meals in the long kitchen.
Meals were prepared by Mrs. Aie, the food cooked on the enormous wood stove. She would make tea for us in the living quarters she and her family had lived in adjacent to the little shop where groceries were sold. The shelves of candied ginger and other candies were stored in glass jars in the shop. Mrs. Aie would serve the children who came in after school to buy the candies, which she put in a paper bag for them.
One day Mrs. Aie took me out in the back yard and showed me her little vegetable garden with shallow channels between the rows, watered in the Chinese way, the water running from late evening until early morning. She had some hens in a coop nearby, and told me that keeping hens was not allowed by the village, but she kept them anyway.
I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to live in what is now called augmented reality. What a privilege I knew it was, to be made part of the past. I sat outside the high board fence at the corner of Barnes Lake Road and Railway Street, and painted the Nabob Tea building, the former noodle shop. The painting is part of the permanent collection in the Ashcroft Library.
That false fronted shop enclosed by a vegetable garden, and the series of other false fronted shops—described by a Heritage Canada official visiting Ashcroft in the mid-1970s as “The finest streetscape in western Canada”—was destroyed by a controlled fire by our volunteer fire brigade at the time. Council was told the abandoned buildings were a fire hazard, and many thought them an “eyesore”.
How sad it is that we learn, too late, that our roots and our character lie in our earliest history; but thank heaven we have all come to realize this. I am absolutely delighted that Barbara Roden and our municipal council have had QuestUpon bring back to life, even temporarily, some of that precious time.