The day had arrived- the lodge was ready after weeks of labour.  The Man with the Hat had spent the last several days turning an old log float into what appeared to be a dock, with stairs to the barge decking.  The small crew was standing at the ready, no one really knowing what to expect, as the DeHavilland Beaver pulled up to the dock. It was all new to all of them.

As the first guest deplaned, the Man with the Hat  extended his hand, and greeted them with a warm “Welcome to Ole’s!”. A gruff man was the first to greet him-he asked pointedly, “where are Irv and Joanne and who the Hell are you?”.  Not an auspicious start….

The moment passed and he continued to help the other guests on to the dock. They made their way upstairs to get oriented and get their fishing licenses before being served Halibut and Chips, which, little did he know, would become a long-standing tradition to start every trip.  After lunch, back to the dock for a lesson in fishing technique and boat handling.  Many of the guests had been to Ole’s several times and were not shy about pointing out the things they liked and the things they did not.  They also pointed out that the barge had been tied up backwards! The kitchen end should have been to the South as it had been for the last 10 years.  Unaware of the standard tie up, the Man with the Hat had decided it seemed natural to have the docks on the West side; he remembered his treacherous first trip into the bay on the East side when he met Joanne for the first time.  It was a minefield of rocks! And the evening light was a sight to behold.  Well there it was, tied up, and so it would stay that way for the season at least; as there was no way to move it now.

The day progressed nicely with lots of fish coming in, mostly Coho, and the young crew had managed to keep up the pace with the work mounting.  Back in those days the vacuum packer consisted of a large Rubbermaid garbage can full of water: you would take the fish (most were headed and gutted) put it in a plastic bag, submerge it into the water forcing the air out, and quickly twist tie the bag before you lost the seal of pressure.  Dishes were done by hand (part of the Chefs duties) and there were no days off.  The Fishmaster started his day bailing out the boats by hand after rainy nights.  There were no radios or sounders to break- thankfully- it kept things simple.  Fishing was close: Barney, Oldum, Racetrack and Bayley; people stayed together.

After dinner now on the last night of the trip, BBQ night, and the Man with the Hat wanted to do something special for the group, his first, the one that had got off to a rocky start.  He filled 10 glasses with port, presented the tray to the guests relaxing out on the deck.  They politely accepted but it was clearly not their cup of tea.  There was a Brit in the group who had been offering all kinds of advice during the trip.  He was not one of the stuffy ones, no, he was one to tell you to your face if it needed telling.  After his port he said, “we don’t need this crap, just don’t change anything and you’ll do alright”. Well that turned out to be the best advice anyone had given him.  So Irv and Joanne had kept it simple, kept it real.  People appreciated that, no airs, no egos.  The Brit was a navy man in his day, not shy to tell you either.  He had warmed to the Man with the Hat and wanted to engage him further.  They talked about their lives, work and family, and told jokes- your cheeks were sore the next day from grinning so much.  The Brit taught the Man with the Hat how to tie a “Monkey’s fist” and splice two pieces of rope together, things he appreciated, grateful to have a tutor.

It turned out that what made Ole’s was not something you could put your finger on, yet he had seen it in Irv.  Even in town Irv always wanted to know how you were, and he meant it.  He was a man who looked you in the eye when he was talking to you and he listened when you talked.  That’s what it seemed to be, not so complicated really.

The first group was getting ready to depart, luggage packed and fish boxes taped.  His farewells to the group were different than their first greeting, they now felt they knew each other, they said they would be back, and they meant it.  The Brit it turned out had been coming back for years; in fact he had been coming for a week every year with his wife and his partner and wife.  Little did anyone know that they would be the first members in the Decade Club- they would be the inspiration, the reason it existed.  But that is another story.