By Kevin Nimmock
In May of 1965, Jim and Judy Thompson said their vows. For their honeymoon, they wanted to stop off at the place that meant the most to them: the Columbia Valley.
Fifty years later, the couple returned to celebrate the half-century mark of their marriage. This time, they brought 12 members of the family who were not around in 1965, but that have grown up with Jim and Judys love of the valley instilled in their hearts.
The couples four kids and their collective eight children came to Invermere for the celebrations to reminisce with their parents and grandparents about their younger years in the valley, working, playing and learning alongside the locals.
Jim has the longest history in the valley, visiting the area for the first time with his family 65 years ago.
My family at I used to camp at Deans Beach, which is now Terravista, Jim said. It was a much more difficult place to get to, because the road between Radium and Castle Mountain was not paved. It was kind of a two-lane goat track.
In 1956, Ed Forbes, who owned a motel on Lakeview Road, sold several lots along Lake Windermere. Jims father paid $750 for a waterfront property that was 750-feet deep and 100-feet wide. From then on, Jim was hooked.
We got to know the local people really well because there were not many non-locals, Jim said. I was so attached to this place.
Soon after Jim and Judys wedding, Jims father sold their beloved vacation home. After living and working in Calgary over the next 10 years, the couple finally had the opportunity to buy a place of their own in Invermere in 1975.
Judy and I bought a lot here on the Fort Point, right on 4th Avenue, across from the tennis courts, Jim said. It was a big part of our lives and raising our kids. We raised them here every summer and every winter weekend.
The couple strayed from the typical path set out by Albertans, electing to stay in Invermere for the full summer, every summer.
Our kids worked here in the summertime, pumping gas at the marina or working at the golf course, Jim said. They all loved it out here.
As time went on, the kids grew up and the couple got older. In 2008, they sold their vacation home to pursue greener pastures.
We bought a place in Arizona and decided the winter was not for us anymore, Jim said. But, we come up as much as we can (to the valley) in the summer. It is still the same lake and we still love it.
At this important milestone in their lives, the couple is taking the time to reflect on their 50 years in the valley, never as full-time residents, but always as important members of the
The local people have always been very good to the Calgarians, and we feel that, Judy said, adding that she and her husband put extra effort into making long-term friendships in Invermere.
Those friendships have stayed strong over the years. The couple can recount endless stories about skiing, golfing, exploring and dining with locals.
We have a lot of friends who still have homes here, and we used to play golf with them every spring and every fall, so they have kept us on the list, Jim said.
Perhaps their most meaningful contribution to the Columbia Valley began in 1996, when Jim assumed the role of president and CEO for the combined Springs and Radium Golf Resort.
I was a member of the Springs Golf Course in Radium and they asked me to help them, Jim said, adding he had extensive experience in the development business, having built McKenzie Meadows Golf Course in Calgary. They made a bid to buyout the Radium Resort. The transition period was quite complex… there was a lot of staff involved and a lot of emotion.
Jim worked in Calgary during the week and in Radium on the weekends until 2001, when he resumed his status as a vacationer in Invermere.
Looking back, Jim said the extensive development in the area is almost overwhelming. He added that sometimes it is hard to see so many changes, but that the progress has created so many more opportunities for people a little younger than himself to enjoy the valley.
I remember water-skiing, seeing moose around the lake, Jim said. That is how natural it was. Most of the streets around here were not even paved when we were younger.
One of the valleys most obvious developments over the last 50 years was the creation of Panorama Mountain Resort.
The first time I ever went skiing at Panorama, we wore skins on our skis and hiked up to the top to ski, Jim said. Now it is a world-renowned, classy place to go skiing.
He said important services in Invermere like the hospital and the high school were built due to the major increase of second-home owners in the area, because of recreational amenities like Panorama. But over time, hes sadly seen a few of his favourite childhood traditions end.
The one thing we were really sad to see go was the Invermere Regatta, Jim said. In fact, I won the junior trick skiing regatta one year and the mens senior slalom regatta another year.
As part of their anniversary gift, the couples kids presented them with a photo album, filled with pictures of the family together over the years. Jim said he was not surprised to see that many of the photographs were taken in the valley.
From having Christmas dinner at Strands Restaurant on a particularly snowy evening to heli-skiing in the areas pristine backcountry, four generations of the Thompsons have truly done everything in the valley.
It is a beautiful valley, Judy said. There is a lot of history here, and it is fun history.