Kootz Collective started for us in 2013, at least, in a business-type sense. However, we were born and raised in the Kootenays so the area is quite literally our roots. In fact, both sides of our families have well documented histories on settling in the area. We were born and raised in Trail, and also spent half our lives in Creston, at our summer home on Kootenay Lake. We were raised to appreciate the outdoors: climbing the mountain right out our front door in Trail, skiing Red in Rossland, fishing and boating on Kootenay Lake, and fruit picking in Creston. Not to mention numerous Kootenay-based jobs with Teck (Trail BC), Yahk Goat Soap (Yahk, BC), Columbia Brewery (Creston BC) and The Glass House (Boswell BC).
Below is a condensed version of how our Father's side of the family came to live in the Kootenays.
In January 1948, our grandparents, Antonio (our Papa) and Filomena (our Nonna) were married. In October of the same year our Uncle was born. Our Papa had returned to Italy after serving in Africa for the Italian Army. The country he returned to had been depleted by war and news of a better life in North America beckoned.
With only enough money for his own passage, he bought a ticket to Halifax and then boarded a train to British Columbia to work for the CPR in Trail. While in Trail, Antonio was also employed a short time at Cominco (Teck) and operated a small abattoir (slaughterhouse) for a local grocery store. Two years later, enough money was saved to send for his wife and son who crossed the Atlantic by ship, in less than desirable conditions, in 8 days.
The three of them lived in Warfield and then our Dad was born in 1953. Less than 2 years later, the family of 4 made the move to Wynndel, BC to pursue a life of agriculture. Growing up in Wynndel, our Dad and Uncle enjoyed an active outdoor lifestyle. Fishing and skating on Duck Lake in the winter and labouring on the farm during the summer. Through the 50's and 60's, our family lived next door to a notorious Doukhobor sect leader and were witness to his home being set fire and burned down, not once, but three times! Our Papa lived in Wynndel until the late 80's. A few years after our Nonna passed away he moved closer to town where he had his home until his passing in 2005.
Sadly, our Nonna passed away when we were very young so our memories of her are limited. Our Papa, however, had an influence on us in various ways, but mostly a respect for living off the fruits of your labour. Helping in the garden and producing food for the season through planting, picking, drying, baking, canning and fermenting were things that were automatic for his generation. Hanging out at the campfire and fishing on Kootenay Lake were activities we did every summer with him. When we were really young it was always a big deal to be offered "a zip of wine." A tiny sip of homemade wine that quickly became a family inside joke! When our Papa got older, it became our jobs to climb the tall fruit picking ladders, stack fire wood, and mow lawns to help out on his large property. He loved dogs, laughing at our antics, sitting outside watching his garden grow, and encouraged us to explore. (Also, yelling at us in Italian when we picked the cherries wrong. Oops!)
Warning: amazing fashions from the 80's and 90's ahead!
We still have some family that live in Wynndel and Leah celebrated her wedding reception at the charming Wynndel Hall in 2011. Years ago, the Hall had an outdoor pool next to it and was a frequent hangout for our Dad! Though it's changed a lot, our Grandparents' property and house still sits on a hill overlooking the Creston flats and the mill below.
Tell us about your rootz! Are you new to the Kootenays and just discovering it's hidden gems? Or have you and your family come from a long line of Kootenay-lifers? We'd love to hear about it!