• Sunday , 25 September 2022

PEEK AT THE PAST – a portrait of Peachland’s pioneers: Noel Ekrol

Noel Ekrol in 1949 (on the left, shown with friend Shirley Mae Jeffrey).

Paula McLaughlin
Peachland Community Arts Council

Noel (Witt) Ekrol moved here at age three from Arrow Lakes/Nakusp, the middle sister of three girls. Her dad had the Esso station and started the sawmill with Mr. Dell. Her mom had a big garden behind the Peachland Wellness Centre. 

Ekrol’s family lived on Victoria Ave. on five acres, and her three daughters, Cameo, Melanie, and Holly, went to school here, along with one stepson from her second marriage.

Marietta and Zeb Witt were her grandparents and Maude and Frank Witt were her great grandparents. Her grandparents from her mother’s side were James and Alice Dowler. Her father was Neil Witt. Her mother was Sybil, the last of nine siblings, named after Lady Grey, who was married to the Governor General. Ekrol’s great-aunt Annie was a registered nurse at Government House in Ottawa, as well as a VON nurse in Vancouver. She carried a pistol for safety, but never had to use it.

Noel’s childhood fun centred on activities around Peachland for the most part. The road to Kelowna was gravel from Hardy Falls on. They went to Summerland more often, as that section was paved. School activities included Cadets, basketball, and dances at the community hall. She remembers it was always open, and on Saturday nights, Karl Culllor would play the piano for the dances. Her older sister had a gang of friends, who would go together to the dances. Sometimes the kids would go out on the wharf to dance beside the lake, where the cenotaph now stands.

Ekrol enjoyed some mischief once in a while, like most kids. Once Noel and her friend found some corn in a field in Westbank, picked some ears, went down to Deep Creek with her mom’s boiler, and invited everyone to come for a corn roast. But it was “cow corn” – no good to eat! 

Deep Creek was not a good place for swimming. It had a lot of big boulders, and no path to the falls. The beach was covered with poison ivy and thick with trees, until after the Second World War. Noel’s great grandfather picked a bouquet of it for her grandmother, as it had turned bright red in the fall. He never got the poison ivy itch, but she sure did! 

Ekrol remembers Mr. Watt – he always carried the Haggis at Robbie Burns night at the Legion hall. When she was little, they would lie in the raspberry patch and call out “two-Watt belly-buster!” from their hiding spot.

Ekrol was married four times. Her first husband was Harry Hudson. Hudson was in the Navy during the Korean War, and they lived in Halifax briefly, as well as Victoria. She met Hudson playing basketball in Peachland. A local woman named Madeline organized the basketball; she had a big heart, and the biggest foul mouth, but the kids loved her. Madeline looked after Shirley Mae Jeffrey’s mother, and would make jam for Ekrol, using the crabapples that grew on the Jeffreys’ property.

Ekrol’s adventures took her to Seattle and Portland to learn to be a florist. She also spent some years in Calgary. When she returned to Peachland she met and married her fourth husband, Robert Ekrol, a farmer from Alberta. Her grandmother had taught him piano in Veteran, Alberta, two hours east of Red Deer, in the Nose Hills. Her parents were friends with his mother, and went to a reunion there, where Noel met him.

He had a house in Peachland, along with the farm, which he continued working on during their marriage. She would drive back and forth to the farm by herself every season, for over 20 years. She didn’t mind the long drive, and found out which were the good motels to stay in along the way.

Ekrol’s travels have taken her to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Japan, Russia, and the UK, where she drove around England and Scotland, the homeland of her ancestors, with her mother, aunt and sister. 

Ekrol lived in Westbank when her husband was there in a nursing home. She later moved back to Peachland, to Antler’s Beach. 

She currently resides in a seniors’ complex in downtown Peachland and enjoys watching the comings and goings from her vantage point, along with her little dog, Sassy.

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One Comment

  1. Maggie Brooks
    February 13, 2021 at 10:27 am - Reply

    I’ve known Noel for many years , such a lovely sweet ,kind lady , so many great stories of growing up in Peachland . One of the “originals”

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