Roberts Creek beach

Snapshot: The Unchanging Roberts Creek

My first birthday at Roberts Creek was in 1964. I turned five that August, and our family had just moved to our place on the beach.

We were newcomers; the Coverntons, O’Brians, and Gourlays/Mittens, our neighbours and friends, had been there long before.  As were the Roys.

Roberts Creek was a simpler and wilder place then. The Lower Road was dirt; our water came from a pipe that drew from the creek; and we kids spent our summers in a dreamland. We were beach kids by day, and fishers by night. After dinner, we’d drag our little rowboats off the logs and fish for the salmon and cod that were then so abundant. On rainy days, we hiked up the Creek, or listened to old Elvis records in the Playhouse, where Denny now lives.

And in those days, Mr. Bedford – an old gent with leathery brown skin – combed the beach for shells, which would later end up in the Roberts Creek Shell Museum, long gone. When I was six or seven, Mr. Bedford taught me to hold my breath and open my eyes underwater. It was a liberation, and to this day I always swim underwater.

Summer birthdays, like mine, were celebrated on the beach around a bonfire. There were songs and stories and, inevitably, the ritual tossing of the birthday boy into the water.

Soon, sometime in the late 60s or early 70s, the Gumboot Nation was declared by Peter Roy and Adrian Belshaw. But this hippie gesture merely confirmed what we kids already knew: that Roberts Creek was ours and would never change.

Well, some things have changed. RC is more built up. The blanket of trees that once lined our beach has been thinned to accommodate more houses, better views. There are more people about.

The beach, though, never changes. The wind and tides still bring renewal, still take away the sandcastles of the day, and in winter especially, summon echoes of our voices – kids, just playing.




    • I’m not sure what became of Mr. Bedford’s shell collection. Liz Mitten, one of our neighbours, helped create the collection and made the sign on the old house. That was 40 years ago. If anything still exists, it’s probably at the museum in Gibsons, across from the Post Office.

  1. This is so lovely, Hugh, and echoes of my own childhood dreamland summers on Shuswap Lake. Swimming until dark then to the bonfire where an adult with a warm towel awaited each wet shivering child. A roasted marshmallow (or two) the into pj’s and into bed, with the train rumbling through close-by and firelight flickering on the walls. And hey, I turned 5 in September 1964. Fine vintage! Best to you and thanks for his beautiful little bit of RC magic.

    • Deb, you have an honoured place on the beach. Dr. Carl Covernton, Jane’s dad, was my mentor of Coastal nature and lived in the place you lived in. Roberts Creek beach is precious to those of us who have been fortunate enough to live on it.

      • I have a special fondness fro Roberts Creek. My mother, who grew up in Vancouver, spent her summers at Roberts Creek. Her family resided in a “glorified shack”—her words. This was in the 1930s. She told me many stories of her times there, rowing on the water and building bonfires on the beach. When she died in 2008, she requested her ashes be scattered at Roberts Creek. We all gathered there then went for lunch at the Gumboot restaurant. I still visit the Creek when I am in the area. Thank you for this essay which evokes pleasant memories.

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