photos: A wildfire tore through through the village of Lytton, B.C. on June 30.

Lytton memories

Megaphone vendor Peter Thompson offers prayers for the people of a vibrant, happy town devastated by wildfire

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By Peter Thompson


The Lytton I know is a vibrant town beaming with pride, love, joy and happiness. The village's people are always welcoming and help whenever they can. When folks come to gather, like on holidays, they have parades, farmers' markets and even a swimming pool for hot days.

The Indigenous community is full of people who will help everyone. They never turn anyone away.

In the summer, they have camps for the Indigenous youth, where they learn to fish, and make and mend nets. When they catch fish, they learn how to preserve them by canning, wind-drying, smoking, or salting the fish, which is then given to the elders or people with disabilities who can no longer do this. 

In the fall, the youth attend hunting camp to learn how to hunt deer or moose, which is divided and preserved by canning, smoking or by making jerky and sausages. That meat is also given out to elders and those with disabilities.

In the late ’50s on a cold crisp day, my mother was in the hospital and my Uncle Peter went to visit her. Upon arrival he greeted her, saying, "How are you doing? Did you have your baby yet?"

She was smiling at him, very happy to see her brother.

"Yes I did — it’s a boy," she said, and my uncle got all excited.

"Well that is great news sis, congratulations."

He went over and hugged my mom and stepped back.

“What did you name him? Or did you think of a name for him yet?”

Smiling back at him, she said, "Yes I did. I named him Peter."

My mom told me this story many times.  

I remember going to my Aunty's to visit. This would be my dad's sister Jenny.  She had a nice place, a big open field and an orchard of fruit trees. The apricots were plump and ripe for the picking. Mom and Dad went inside to visit and talk, and all of us cousins stayed out and played.  

Then my Aunty came outside.

"Hey you kids!" she said. "I have some pails and a couple of boxes if you would like to pick apricots."

We got our pails and looked for ladders.

 “You going to use the step ladder?” someone asked me.

“Yeah. I couldn’t find my real one,” I replied.

After five minutes of picking, they finally got the joke.

"Yeah right, you’re too funny Peter."

We all laughed. 

Another time we were to spend a week at Uncle's up at Snake Flat. It was good to visit there because we had Uncle's kids and more cousins who lived next door — Speedy's kids. He had cherry trees. We picked those clean too because winter was coming. 

It was hot at night, so my cousin said we could move the beds outside to sleep, "but you have to make sure to put salt all around the bed to keep the slugs away, because rattlesnakes like to eat the slugs."

When we were sleeping outside, I never let my foot dangle off the bed. 

The days were hot so we all decided we were going to walk down to the pool and cool off. We started down the road and about a mile down, one of the girls let out a shriek and started screaming. I was coming up to her.

"What’s the matter?"

Then I looked down and saw the rattlesnake stretched out across the road.

"Is it alive?" she asked.

"No I don’t think so. It would have coiled and warned us with its rattle. A car must’ve run over it."

I got a stick and poked it and it never moved so I bent down to pick it up by its head and I yelled, "Owww!" and they screamed.

I laughed and told them it was dead, and all I heard was, "PETER DON'T YOU EVER DO THAT AGAIN."

So I chucked it over the bank and we continued our journey to the pool.

When we got there it was so refreshing. The pool was a welcoming place to be on a hot day.  

In town it was a great place to meet everyone. They would be shopping at the local grocery store, or picking up the mail at the local post office, or going to the hotel for a cold one or something to eat.  The hotel had a restaurant, too. Outside the hotel restaurant there was a veranda with a railing where me and my cousin would sit and have an ice cream cone.  

I remember my last trip up as an adult. I was going to Merritt with my cousin and just before we got to Lytton, I suggested we stop in Lytton first. We drove into Lytton and parked on Main Street. I went into the grocery store and bought some pop and a lottery ticket, then we walked up Main Street.

There was a street market happening and the street was buzzing with people. You could hear the music playing, which reminded me of Richie and the Fendermen — a band that has been playing Lytton and Merritt benefit dances every night for decades.

The market had lots of canned goods, fruit, cigarettes, T-shirts and a whole bunch of other good stuff. I bought a couple of jars of homemade jam, talked to people and went to put my stuff in the car.

I hear someone — "PETER, PETER!" — and I look around. I see Vince and Gumby sitting on a bench. I go over and there are hugs all around. 

They say, "What you up to?"

"I’m on my way to Merritt," I reply. "Just stopped by to see who’s all around."

We talk for quite a while and then I say, "I have to be going."

More hugs and Vince says, "Stop by the house on your way back. I will give you some native food to take home."

"Yeah for sure," I say, not knowing that this will be the last time I see the town intact. 

My prayers are for Lytton and the surrounding communities impacted by fires. The people and elders who lost their homes and many memories are taking it pretty hard. They are missing home and home-cooked meals, and are tired of being moved around from place to place.

I also pray that this year will wake the government and big companies up about climate change. As our planet gets hotter and hotter, our water supply will diminish, and without water, nothing lives. They spend billions to look for life on other planets which could be used to save this one. Soon our planet will look like Mars because of lack of water.  

Megaphone vendor Peter Thompson (Nlaka'pamux) is 61 and a grandfather of three. Now an East Vancouver resident, he was born in Lytton, B.C. and grieves for his community. Peter sells Megaphone outside Whole Foods Market on West Fourth Avenue and Vine Street in Vancouver. File photo.


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  • Megaphone Magazine
    published this page in Vendors Stories 2021-08-20 12:51:01 -0700
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