Summer Kitchen/Cabin

Electronic mail message from Bryan Brost, Armstrong, British Columbia

I never have thought of our beach cabin/summer kitchen as being anything special. I am not sure it could be classed as architecture of Germans from Russia or worthy as such. It was built merely to improve a need without any thought of ethnic culture. My dad was aware through his parents who had lived until 1929 in Alt Posttal about how life and home used to be in Bessarabia. Some of this talk was of course in his thoughts. I myself heard some of my grandfather's stories. In 1929 they with my dad as a little child migrated to the Medicine Hat region of Alberta to raise a family and live a life of farming in peace and in freedom.

Several years ago my family and I were able to visit the farm yard on which they had farmed during the 1930s. We were lucky to get the chance to see this place which is another story in itself. The resident there gave us permission to look around the yard and outbuildings. It really gave me a good impression of the home they had lived in shortly after arriving into Canada. The residents now living here said they enjoyed awesome sunsets

I looked in that direction and could sense how my grandparents must have enjoyed sitting outside to watch the sunsets after their long days of toil. The old house they had lived in had burned down the previous year but the out buildings were still there including an old smoke house my grandfather had built to smoke sausages and meats. From pictures I took my dad confirmed that the smokehouse was built by my grandfather's rustic handy work. They survived on their own wits providing nearly everything for themselves on the farm. About 1980 my parents had sold their electronic sales and repair service business and thought they might try to see about living in British Columbia. For starters a friend of my dad's who we had known since 1962 in Peace River, Alberta had moved to Vernon, British Columbia. We would visit their family in the hot summers in this beautiful North Okanagan country full of lakes, beaches, fruit trees, and the warmer climate.

My dad and his friend Jim had learned about lake lotsbeing leased out by a band member on the Okanagan Indian Reserve which is west across the Okanagan Lake from Vernon. They therefore developed a lot for each of themselves next to an elder Dutch couple who already had a year round home established. My dad and mom and Jim and his wife marked out their 50 foot wide lots and worked in the hot sun to clear away the wild brush. They hired a backhoe to dig a ditch to redirect a stream which they filled in with rocks to allow the lots to stay dry during the spring melt. Jim built his lake cabin with help from my folks. There was a power line not far away so they were able to get electric connections. For a summer house my parents lived in a 16 foot holiday trailer to the side of which they built a screened shelter to cook in complete with a sink for washing dishes. Water drawn from the lake was simply carried in pails. Jim and dad built a rustic outdoor shower house with the liner from a hot water tank on the roof to soak up the day's sun. This really did not work as good as hoped. My dad always whistled a tune to let Jim know that the water was just fine but Jim did not believe it. Jim one day spotted my dad adding heated water to the water tank from a canning pot. He couldn't fool Jim. The tiny shower house also had a portable clothes washing machine placed in it. The sunshine and lake breezes dried the laundry. My folks and their friends seeded the lots with grass and planted trees along the borders of the lots which today have grown and created a pleasant micro climate to take the edge off of the hot summer heat of an Okanagan day. My parents dug a small vegetable garden and planted flowers. They worked hard and had lots of fun doing it. It became a popular place to check out by relatives and friends so it became a lively place during the first few summers. My folks however needed to get business going for themselves again to develop again an income. In their travels of southern Alberta they found a good opportunity in the town of Brooks to reopen an electronics repair business with some sales, a modest business scaled down yet adequate to support their needs. They bought a house and continued in their business until they decided to retire in the city of Lethbridge.

The lake lot was then just a family holiday resort until summer 1990 when my family and I chose to move to live and work in the North Okanagan Valley. We lived at the lake lot trailer until we found a place to rent between Vernon and Armstrong. I built another 8 by16 foot rough screened addition onto the front of the existing trailer/shelter to create more living space. In summer 1991, my dad came out from Alberta and together, though we were not expert carpenters, we built a 12 by 16 foot cabin to use for cooking, eating and doing laundry. We levelled a chosen spot by hand and dug nearby a drywell we filled with rocks for dish and laundry water to drain to. I bought some used railway ties from the Canadian Pacific Railway yard in Salmon Arm and used them as our simple foundation. Upon this we built a 2 by 6 lumber floor frame topped with 3/4 inch plywood painted with a sturdy floor paint. With our amateur skills we built 2 by 4 inch lumber walls covered in 3/8 inch plywood. An old door was installed as well as a couple of windows donated to us buy Jim. The framing was not done correctly, but I now know how to properly frame a building. We built trusses on the ground and installed them using a 2 by 4 as a ridge pole to tie into place. We placed plywood in the attic area within the trusses to use for storage area if needed. The ceiling was later covered in plywood panelling. Plywood was nailed onto the top for a roof and we covered it over with rolled roofing. We gave it coating of white paint and added 1 by 4 inch lumber painted with a chocolate stain to trim up the building.

My dad wired it up for power which we got approved by an electrical inspector. We dug a small trench down to the beach in which we installed a water line and an electric power line. My uncle who continued to farm the land my grandfather had supplied an old water pump which he gave to my dad to use at the lake. Dad refurbished it into good usable condition which enabled us to turn on a switch in the summer kitchen to draw water from the lake. Later I installed another 12 gallon hot water tank liner in the attic which I plumbed so that it could be used to load up with water to use as a gravity fed supply of water to the water tap like normal. For hot water we just filled the canning pot with water and heated it on the stove. Inside we built a kitchen counter of 2 by 4 inch lumber and plywood using a sheet of vinyl flooring as a counter top. An old sink was found and installed. An old clothes washing machine and an old electric stove were given to us by friends. As well we moved the refrigerator from the other shelter to this cabin. As the summers that followed proceeded my wife and I improved the interior and added in a sofa bed to use our summer kitchen as a sleeping cabin as well. Our children enjoyed the trailer with add-ons as their cabin.

This then was our summer kitchen and summer home.

Attached is a short story about the summer kitchen I had written and sent to AHSGR which they asked if it could be included in an upcoming AGSGR Newsletter. It came out in the Number 12 Spring 2006 issue. Attached also is a more recent photo of the summer kitchen/cabin.



Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller