As far back as anyone can remember, the residents of Cottonwood, a settlement in British Columbia’s Cariboo region, have been gathering at the community hall on a Saturday night. Originally a ranch, this little community grew to cater for miners drawn to the Cariboo Gold Rush in the late 1800s. Once the gold had mostly been depleted and the miners had moved on, Cottonwood kept on a-going.
The community hall started as one small room, but has since had other appendages cobbled onto it – a nave for dancing, a small kitchen, side annex, porch and, most recently, inside bathrooms with flush toilets (filled with a bucket, of course). I was told by one of the Saturday evening stalwarts that they meet come hell, high water or blizzard, and that everyone who comes out to play cards, dance, play music or just visit with each other is like family. And I was treated as such, even with my camera shoved into everyone’s personal space.
This isn’t a place for airs, graces or pretentious silliness: this community hall is the Saturday sanctuary of real people, being real together. All the musicians clearly love to play and sing with each other; the older folk and children enjoyed dancing no matter what was played (although most of the songs would have to be classified as “country” I suppose.) Herbie, he with the roguish smile hidden in his dusty beard, never strayed from his spot at the card table and those not into dancing or jamming either chatted in the kitchen (sharing whatever food people brought) or outside on the balcony, with mosquitoes as company.
In this rushed, dog-eat-dog, individualistic society we live in, this was a breath of fresh air, which I inhaled deeply. Lynn and friends were kind enough to do one of my requests, grandchildren sang with grandparents, couples played alongside each other, guitars duelling, while Glenis’s gravely, soulful singing evoked visions of Cottonwood gatherings stretching back a hundred years.
(I decided to post process all my images for this blogpost as if they dated back to the years of antique cameras, dark rooms and a world lived in black and white. Please click on the thumbnails to see bigger versions.)