Hodgepodge by Charlie Hodge – July 13th, 2018

I like adventures.

Admittedly time and health have diminished the depth and breadth of my adventuring capacity over the years however the same wide-eyed wonderment remains.

Despite having slowed down there is still never enough hazy, crazy, lazy days of summer here in the Okanagan. Not even as a kid did I ever tire of living here in, especially August or September,

Growing up locally we were was constantly told by visiting relatives or friends how lucky we were to ‘live in Paradise’ and I knew they were not making it up. Kelowna was always somewhere special.

Which made living here that much easier for my parents.

We could never afford to go on family holidays and so I spent my sunny summer days hanging in K-Town. What a bonus that scenario proved to be. I lived a blessed life unaware of how little we actually had.

I never really comprehended why anyone who lives here would actually want to leave to go somewhere else in the first place, let alone a ‘holiday’. Especially in the summer when the sun and sand are the perfect place to be.

People spend bundles of money and energy to get here and we leave? If nothing else the only hiding away Kelownians might consider in the summer was hiding away from the tourists.

Growing up in a tourist destination location made the experience a reverse order ordeal. We got to people watch people being people watched.

Tally’s would be accurately maintained on such details as how many Alberta licence plates were spotted in an hour versus the easy to spot Kelly green Saskatchewan plates, how many American flags flittered from metal flag rods, or depending on age and interests, how many girls were wearing bikinis

versus one-pieces.

In Kelowna I was never short of places to safely play or hang out especially in warm weather. Legions of local kids migrated daily to City Park which boasted many of the amenities it does today – and a few it does not.

Like Athan’s Tower.

The ultimate test.

As males we all hated ‘Athan’s Tower’ like every boy fears the most foreboding bravery test in their world. In Kelowna – that fear factor gauge was ‘the tower’.

It mattered not whether you’d been in a fist fight, or kissed a girl, or even climbed the slippery totem pole in the park  – nothing proved you were brave until you jumped ‘off top’ of the Tower. That was the ultimate test and everyone knew it. The bravery gauge equivalent akin to a height stick.

There were four  different diving boards or platforms connected to the Tower (named after the famous athletic Athans family who resided in the mission).

First board was on the floating dock perhaps six feet off the water and the rest escalated from there.

Tower three was a nerve-wracking height off the water. My ability to guess an exact height is terrible but I will suggest perhaps it was 20 to 25 feet off the water.

Lots of kids jumped off ‘third’ with great gusto, and a few (including a clutch of brave girls) even dove. For boys conquering ‘third’ was the first test of toughness – the warm up round. One had to run full speed and then fling themselves off of its gaping lip with a body language that almost said, “no problem, in fact almost boring.”

But jumping off top into that murky dark water so very  far below, that was something else and not something done without a tremendous amount of angst. It was terrifying for me.

There was an unwritten rule that no one walked back from top. Once you climbed that long set of stairs to that looming runway to terror there was only one way down.

If memory serves me well it took me more than hour that fateful day to finally leap and I closed my eyes part way down.

I do not recall how great the pain was, or if there even was any. What I do recall is when finally breaking the surface of the water again I was no longer a ‘kid’. I was now ‘one of the guys’.

To the best of my knowledge that was the only time I jumped of top. I never had to bother to do it again because it was instantly the talk of small town Kelowna for that day.

I had earned my badge of courage

When school returned in the fall and we were all asked what we did during our summer holidays conquering ‘top’ was the first on my list. That announcement inspired a roomful of smiles and admiration, especially with the girls.

Clearly I was an adventuresome, bold kind of guy.

Charlie Hodge is a best-selling author, writer, a current Kelowna City Councillor, and a Director on the Regional District of the Central Okanagan Board. He spent more than 25 years as a full-time newspaper journalist and has a diverse background in public relations, promotions, personal coaching, and strategic planning. A former managing editor, assistant editor, sports editor, entertainment editor, journalist, and photographer, Hodge also co-hosted a variety of radio talk shows and still writes a regular weekly newspaper column titled Hodge Podge, which he has crafted now for 41 years. His biography on Howie Meeker, titled Golly Gee It’s Me is a Canadian bestseller and his second book, Stop It There, Back It Up – 50 Years of the NHL garnered lots of attention from media and hockey fans alike. Charlie is currently working on a third hockey book, as well as a contracted historical/fiction novel. His creative promotional skills and strategic planning have been utilized for many years in the Canadian music industry, provincial, national, and international environmental fields, and municipal, provincial, and federal politics. Charlie is a skilled facilitator, a dynamic motivational speaker, and effective personal coach. His hobbies include gardening, canoeing, playing pool, and writing music. Charlie shares his Okanagan home with wife Teresa and five spoiled cats.


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