Only Townsite is older than Cranberry. Even though the beginnings of the neighbourhood go back almost as many years as the celebrated streets and avenues of Powell River’s original settlement down the hill that built up around the mill, it doesn’t receive the historical recognition that many think it deserves.
Cranberry was Powell River’s first suburb because it was an easy walk home for millworkers and it quickly became a thriving community.
The neighbourhood will get its due on Sunday, August 13, with an old-fashioned celebration for Cranberry’s 75th anniversary of its incorporation as Cranberry Lake on June 9, 1942.
Organizers of Cranberry Lake 75 have gone all out to pack the day with everything including walking tours, fun activities for children, a Cranberry social, block party, Rotary Club barbeque and a lot of live music indoors at Cranberry Community Hall and outside at Lindsay Park.
In many ways, the day is intended as a throwback to early Cranberry Days.
“Cranberry Days first started around 1967 and 1968, carried on for a period of years and then fell off. I think the last one was in 2007,” said organizing committee and Cranberry Hall Community Association president Pat Buckna.
It’s those early Cranberry Days that set the tone for how Buckna wanted to approach the anniversary.
“It's like a Sunday in the Park,” he said.
Cranberry Days was always associated with Lindsay Park and many of the anniversary activities will be held there.
Other highlights include vintage cars, an historic photo exhibit that will be permanently on display in Cranberry Community Hall, a tea and social and a walking tour conducted by former City of Powell River mayor Stewart Alsgard.
The neighbourhood was named for the cranberries that grew around the lake. It was a favourite swimming hole and fishing spot in the summer, with hockey and skating in winters.
"Many of my memories of living in Cranberry as a child are about swimming in Cranberry Lake in the summer and skating on the lake in the winter," said longtime resident Vivian Bernier Calder, whose father was the owner of Bernier Shoes. "When there was ice on the lake there were always bonfires along the shore, and we would skate around and visit some of them."
At its height in the 1950s, more than 1,500 people lived in Cranberry and businesses thrived in the old downtown at Manson Avenue and Cranberry Street.
There was the Caledonian Bakery and Avenue Bakery, two trucking companies, two garages, a hardware store, post office, print shop, butcher and Bosa’s General Store, which later became Mitchell Brothers.
There was even an indoor roller rink, bowling alley and pool hall where the Cranberry Motor Inn now stands. Four bus routes passed through every 15 to 20 minutes.
After much debate, Cranberry amalgamated with Westview, Wildwood and Powell River to form the Municipality of Powell River in 1954.
New businesses are very slowly returning to Cranberry, but not as much of its downtown heyday remains.
The Cranberry Lake 75 anniversary celebration is planned to include some of heart and soul from the early days with the beginnings of a quiet resurgence of the neighbourhood today.
Community leaders and residents reflect on Cranberry memories
As Cranberry celebrates it 75th anniversary this weekend, we reached out to some current and former Cranberry residents to get their memories on the historic Powell River neighbourhood. Many remembered fondly their time living in one of the area's oldest settlements, including some familiar faces.
Powell River Sunshine Coast Real Estate Board president and local realtor
Cranberry will always be a special place to me. I grew up there, living all over Cranberry throughout my childhood. My mom still lives there, as do my in-laws. We still spend a ton of time in Cranberry; my kids have basically grown up there, too. My first jobs were in Cranberry starting with a paper route delivering the Powell River News, then stockboy at Wilshire's, which everybody called Archie's. I even married a Cranberry girl!
Powell River Peak publisher/editor
I spent most of my first 10 years living in Cranberry at the trailer park on Borden Place. Living by the lake was a very cool experience for me as a young child. I remember climbing trees near our trailer and looking out over the lake, listening to the birds. And, of course, I spent lots of time riding my bike around the trailer park and getting into all kinds of trouble. Cranberry was, and is, the cool kind of neighbourhood where people take care of each other and new friends were right around the corner. I fondly remember my time at Cranberry Elementary School, where I met many amazing kids and teachers. I still feel nostalgic about my early years every time I stop and look over the lake, or even when I'm driving through on my way home to Townsite.
Former City of Powell River mayor
Dad published his first mimeograph edition of the Town Crier newspaper from the attic of the house on Church Street in the Village of Cranberry Lake. From there, he moved to the still-standing building at Cranberry Street and Manson Avenue. I was skating on Cranberry Lake when the Crier building caught fire. I ran all the way home, still wearing my skates. Dad purchased the Powell River News and combined the two publications, moved to the Village of Westview and one year won every award in its weekly newspaper circulation class across Canada.
City of Powell River councillor and BC Ambulance Service Powell River unit chief
When I grew up there, Cranberry was the village they say it takes to raise a child. Yes, that good. We swam, skated and sailed on the lake. When it got too warm, we had the cliffs at Mowat Bay. We roamed the hills on either side of the valley. Total freedom; we just had to be home for supper. Could life have been better?