Why We Do What We Do

History Town (What Time) by vanstralen

Those of us who are fortunate enough to work in Barkerville forge lasting bonds with people who visit the site regularly.  Repeat visitors matter.  So much.  They are part of our stories, part of our lives as Barkervillians.  When we see familiar faces we are reminded that our work has impact and meaning.

You help us understand why we do what we do.

This past Thursday I was delighted to find that a familiar family from Vanderhoof had secured tickets to my show in Barkerville.  This particular group has visited every year since my earliest days as a historical interpreter.   I can clearly remember the sight of them sitting on the edge of the boardwalk in the 1990s and early 2000s, when we used to end the day with a rousing session of “street music.”  Since then I have switched from “the street” to performing at the Theatre Royal, and as far as I can tell they have not missed a single show.  It was so great to see them this week.

I recently received a message from a lovely new friend from Alberta.  For the past few seasons she and her bright, sweet daughter have spent a week or so at one of our on-site bed and breakfasts.  The two of them dress in period costume and really immerse themselves in the Barkerville experience.  This duo attended my previous solo show, The Bride of Barkerville, so many times that the daughter decided to make its subject, British Columbia pioneer Florence Wilson, the focus of her Provincial Heritage Fair entry.  They sent me pictures of her carefully produced display, and I was so proud.  It was definitely one of those “this is why we do it” moments for me.  I was so pleased to hear that these friends will be visiting Barkerville again this season, arriving in just a few days’ time.

Back when I was a street interpreter one of my fellow performers formed a strong bond with a young girl who had made an instant connection to the character the actor portrayed.  The girl would make repeat summer visits to Barkerville, at which time she and the street character would re-establish their friendship and spend time together on site.  After a few seasons we learned that these trips to Barkerville helped ease the little girl through a difficult time for her family, and provided respite from some tough realities that no child should have to face alone.

Throughout my eleven seasons as an interpreter in Barkerville, we were graced by visits from an older gentleman who lived somewhere else in the Cariboo.  In those days the internet was still a novelty, and this thoughtful man would always bring current newspapers as he knew it is was difficult to obtain such luxuries in our relatively remote location.  One day, after several years of enjoying this man’s generosity, wit and wisdom, he quietly said to me: “I want you to know that I love this place, and I love you guys for what you do here… but I have just been told my mind is failing, so I might not know you the next time I visit.”  The next time I saw him he had no ability to recognize the street characters he had known by name a few short months before.  But he remembered Barkerville.

He always remembers Barkerville.

– Danette Boucher

The above one-panel cartoon by Dirk Van Stralen, with accompanying editorial by Danette Boucher, is the twelfth 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!