A Bittersweet Time of Year

History Town (Weather) by vanstralen

Barkerville, like any microcosm, is rife with drama that has nothing to do with the brand of theatre we bring to our visitors. I don’t want to spill any secrets (mine included!) but I will say that a season spent working at our site can be rather intense. For Barkerville’s staff, interpreters, contractors, and businesspeople the final weeks of a crazy summer season can be bittersweet indeed.

Many people have worked here for many, many years. We have a long history of friendships and complex working and social relationships. We have watched each other grow up and grow old. We have been together through the good (marriages, babies, professional successes) and the bad (illnesses, deaths, accidents, break-ups). Our Barkerville tenure has coincided with some of the biggest moments of our lives. At the end of a season, some of us stay, and some of us go back to our other homes. Saying goodbye at the end of another September is never easy, but it is oh so familiar.

There is always interesting seasonal extra-curricular activity among the novice Barkervillians, many of whom are young people away from home for the first time. Young workers often enjoy their initial taste of adult life here – first apartments, first big acting jobs, first time staying up all night with new friends far away from city concerns. Romances blossom and fizzle, lifelong friendships are formed. It is an emotional end of season for these new community members, for whom the summer has been a sweet, unprecedented, adventure.

Every year as August draws to a close we brace ourselves for the preliminary wave of exits from town. Workers who are not staying for the September season prepare to leave, often to return to universities and colleges. Summer dalliances quickly careen toward that awful moment when a decision has to be made about ending it now or trying to make a “born in Barkerville” relationship work when you yank it out of its cozy comfort zone. New friends promise to stay in touch, and many tears are shed as we watch a line of cars wind around Jack of Clubs Lake and disappear out of sight.

September is when year-round Wells residents like me get ready, once again, to say farewell to our summer friends and mentally prepare ourselves for the shift from extreme work and play to a long, comparatively quiet, autumn and winter. Meanwhile, repeat seasonal residents find their September thoughts wandering to the imminent reality of heading back to a very different way of life – one that includes public transit, sirens, traffic, and making appointments to socialize rather than just taking a three minute evening stroll to the pub.

As the nights grow chilly we find our conversations taking the shape of “when are you heading off?” “Will you be back next year?” “What are your winter plans?” This is the time of year when we are physically weary, but still reluctant to pack the costumes away and say goodbye to the community we have built together. We are sad to see the streets go quiet as the visitors fade away, but we are happy to have five months of memories that will sustain us through to next May, when, if we are lucky, we do it all over again.

- Danette Boucher

The above one-panel cartoon by Dirk Van Stralen, with accompanying editorial by Danette Boucher, is the seventeenth of twenty weekly entries that will be logged – and subsequently blogged – as part of a 2013 collaboration between Barkerville, British Columbia and the Prince George Citizen aimed at introducing some of the quirkier advantages to living, working, and playing in the Cariboo Goldfields. We hope you enjoy!