Day 4 - Comox
The ferry takes you for a beatiful trip from Powell River to Comox on Vancouver Island. The name Comox is derived from the Kwakwala Indian word Komuckway, meaning Place of Plenty, a reference to the abundant game and berries in the Comox Valley. European settlers adapted the name to Komoux, then finally to Comox. With a moderate climate, year-round recreational activities like skiing, swimming and golfing, and all amenities close by, Comox certainly lives up to its name.
Pamela Anderson of Baywatch fame was born here, but I have never been able to work out if she has a Swedish background. Somewhere I read that her furnace repairman father Barry was of Finnish descent, so my guess is that Pamela with the surname Anderson likely has a Swedish Finnish heritage. For a while she was romantically involved with the Swedish model Marcus Schenkenberg. I still have her on my list of interesting interview subjects, so one day everything may be revealed in a future issue of Swedish Press or scandinavian Press.
There is however a swedish connection in the lovely Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park that is really worth a visit, especially during the annual Filberg Festival. The centre with its nine acres of beautifully landscaped grounds is free for visitors and open all year round. It is a nice place for lunch or afternoon tea in the Teahouse. This rustic but very stately lodge with many outbuildings was the home of the Swedish descendant and "forest baron" Robert Filberg, his wife Florence and their two children, Mary and Robert Jr. The lodge was going to be a summer cottage, but the Filbergs liked it so much that in 1935, they decided to make it their permanent home. Robert Filberg was manager and superintendent of the Comox Logging and Railway Company, the largest logging concern on Coastal British Columbia. With 450 employees, six huge steam-powered logging machines, a dozen locomotives, hundreds of miles of track, and sole access to the great Douglas fir forests between Courtenay and Campbell River, Comox Logging boomed and towed billions of board feet of logs from Vancouver Island to Fraser Mills at New Westminster – the largest sawmilling in the British Empire.
Robert's son Rob Filberg got his education at UBC University of British Columbia and also spent some time in Sweden as a young man. At UBC he met the young architect Arthur Erickson and later gave him his big break. In 1958 he commissioned the Filberg House on a bluff two hundred feet above the water close to Comox. Arthur and Rob reshaped the grounds to make them even more spectacular. "On one side the vista looked back at a glacial peak on the island, and on the other it swept miles down the Strait of Georgia towards more mountains, rugged foothills and islands". Rob, like many Scandinavians, craved light as he suffered from seasonal affective disorder. The site radiated almost Mediteranian light, and Arthur Erickson gave the house perforated screens, skylights and contured ceilings "so that even in the dullest coastal weather it was suffused with luminosity". The locals dubbed it "the glass house" and the Canadian Homes magazine called it the "Most Beautiful House in Canada". Rob Filberg killed himself before his dream house was ready. The family sold it, but bequeathed the Filberg Lodge (and many substantial other gifts) to the Vancouver Foundation that lets Comox use it as a very popular public facility. The Filberg House is currently for sale (with 7.91 acres for some $10 million and many hope that it may also find a public use as it is such a master piece). Arthur Erickson is today Canada's most famous architect, and he has of course also a Swedish heritage that we will tell you more about in connection with one of his other famous landmark buildings.