Jeanette Dunagan

Then, now through air

When I came to Kelowna in the early ’70s, we were often driving to the airport to pick up visiting family who had come to see our new world. I have a photo of my middle daughter home from school at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., waving goodbye over her shoulder while she walked across a field to board a Pacific Western plane on her way back to the States.

The tiny airport looked like a barn and the surrounding area a farm with the airfield dividing it down the middle. The earliest grassy airstrip featured a control tower on a flat bed truck.

I remember meeting the gracious Mayor Dick Parkinson who was living at the Imperial Hotel on the Lakeshore. He led the way in 1946 from the Ellison Field Air Terminal to longer paved airstrips and constant construction upgrades.

Expansions to YLW in the 1980s and ’90s were in the $10-million range with construction and upgrades to the terminal and longer paved airstrips increasing the runways. Now, parking goes on forever and you can Christmas shop in the Okanagan Estate Wine Cellar. Every time we drive to the airport, there are new developments and predictions are for even more changes in the immediate future.

Presently, 450 passengers are serviced every hour.

There have been huge improvements in the Osoyoos area since my introduction years ago. I love deluxe accommodations on the lake (I call it a pond) and the Watermark Beach Resort (Mike grew up nearby and remembers when a packing house stood here) has everything. Snowbirds book from year to year and the first couple we met in the hot tub were from Boissevain, Man.

“We find that the people are very friendly, and we really appreciate the ‘at home’ feeling we get when we stay. Osoyoos is a small community, like the community where we come from and that small-town hospitality is what makes us feel comfortable and happy here.” I think most seniors drive to the Snowbird capital of Canada with golf clubs and the family pet in the backseat. They feel safe, there are no worries about health insurance, border crossings, currency fluctuations, passports or limitation on what you can or cannot bring. Kelowna and its international airport are just a couple of hours away.

All this aviation nostalgia brings Pentiction to mind. I flew there with Barrie Lapointe on my first introduction to the Okanagan Valley. This was before Flightcraft was officially named.

Some remarkable advances with that company over the years, eh? That first summer I enrolled my youngest daughter, Erin, in the Okanagan School of the Arts and she fell in love with pottery.

Erin’s clay butter dish is one of my most treasured possessions. I’m returning shortly to the Shatford Centre for the Writers’ Festival and the opportunity to meet with agents, editors, publishers and other writers. According to the flyer, this is where I soak up inspirational surroundings, enjoy the wonderful climate, the spacious facilities and awaken my creativity.

All this in nearby Pentiction. We also love the South Okanagan Events Centre there where we recently saw the new version of Lord of the Dance, about which I cannot rave too much, and where Celtic Thunder will perform in November.

Close to home, I was honoured to meet Mike’s Iranian Project Literacy client and his family at Easter. Ted’s wife, Froogh, served springtime treats and told us how early Persians celebrated the vernal equinox at Nowruz. She explained the origin of every food item along with a taste of hot tea. I was touched by how similar the presentations were to the ones I have prepared at this time of the year for my family over the years. Delicious hard-boiled eggs were coloured a deep red.

We had a lovely holiday with the granddaughters here to visit friends and farms, to walk the greenway and share hot cross buns. When it was time to say goodbye, I was sad to hear the returning flight to Vancouver was on time; sad but grateful, too.

Cheers to our big, busy, beautiful airport, and everyone associated with it.

Jeanette Dunagan is an Okanagan artist. Email

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