Tears and laughter at Canada World Youth reunion

Participants in the Canada World Youth reunion say they had an “absolutely wonderful time” revisiting Lillooet and catching up with their host families from 37 years ago.

“The years simply fell away,” said Caroline Woodward, who was the group leader for the exchange visit which brought youth from India and across Canada to town in late 1980/early 1981.

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She called the reunion at Fred Bell’s home on Highway 99 North “short but jam-packed.”

Woodward continued, “Fred Bell and his family and friends welcomed us all with a delicious feast served before the backdrop of the Fraser Canyon. We had perfect weather, of course, and the catching up and the laughter went on for hours. On Sunday, Fred guided us to the Keatley Creek archaeological site of kekuli pits, an amazing sight and we were able to see the exterior of the ancient home at Xwisten near Lillooet. We drove up into the high plateau ranch country on the Kelly Lake back road and the group, who were in Lillooet between November and January of 1980-81, finally got to see the meadows of wildflowers as well as plump and glossy cattle and horses in bright and hot summer sunshine!”

Woodward reports the group also stopped at the Painted Chasm where Fred explained how this dramatic configuration came to be and then drove to Clinton, which she described as “a mecca for second-hand treasure hunters (I shall return).”

“After enjoying the good highway and scenery en route, we proceeded to heat up the local economy inspired by a yummy wine tasting at the Fort Berens Estate Winery, one of many new Lillooet businesses we discovered on the trip,” said Woodward. “But we also paid our respects to the Old Bridge, watched the ospreys watching us and recognized the First Nations' salmon drying sheds and fish traps that had amazed us the very first time we saw them. Fred guided us up to the Judge Begbie Hanging Tree (now the Stump) and explained the neat piles of rocks made by the Chinese placer miners during the Cariboo Gold Rush era.”

The returning group members also photographed some of the houses where they remembered their host families lived and places where they had worked such as the Curling Rin.

“So many memories were evoked, like exactly which hillside trails and downtown streets were taken to visit each other's houses,” Woodward told the News. “No matter how chilly (relatively speaking) the Lillooet winter was, especially to those who had never before seen snow, the group remembered the warmth and hospitality of Lillooet people most of all.”

In addition to Fred Bell, host families still living in Lillooet include Sarah and Trevor Chandler, Richard and Lorraine Enns and Aggie Malm.

The reunion was organized by Fred Bell, who really wanted to see “the kids” again.

Other stops in the three-stage reunion were Vancouver and Pender Harbour. Students who stayed in Merritt all those years ago also came back for the get-togethers.

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