As the summer months will soon be upon us, many Chilliwackians, as they have for over a century, will be heading up to Cultus Lake to enjoy a carefree scene of sunshine, friends, refreshing water, and recreation.
Back in the day, the focus of Cultus Lake summer life was Main Beach (a.k.a. Sunnyside), and in particular the Cultus Lake Pavilion and the swimming wharf. In 1939, with the Lake’s summer population numbering in the thousands, the new Cultus Lake Pavilion was officially opened. For much of its life, the Pavilion was well known for its dances, and during the 1940s the big-band movement regularly resulted in a packed house.
This is an early 1940s photo of the Cultus Lake Pavilion (1939-1991). For much of its life, the Pavilion was well known for its dances, and it became the focus of the Cultus Lake community, integrally associated with the fun-and-sun experience of the Lake, holding a place in the memories of countless Chilliwackians.
Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress Archives
Another staple of Cultus Lake from those earlier times was the Main Beach wharf, along with its imposing diving tower. On warm days, from the May long weekend to Labour Day, the wharf would be packed with young people, some swimming and diving, some suntanning, many just standing around talking.
This 1941 image of Main Beach at Cultus Lake was captured facing southeast across the lake from the vicinity of Lakeshore Drive. At that time, and until 1949, Main Beach had no formal wharf system, and the diving tower/slide was a floating structure (visible to the right of the photo).
Image Credit: Facebook
For most of the 1940s, Main Beach had no formal wharf system, with only a floating diving tower/slide structure. However, in June 1949, a new wharf, along with a 10-metre diving tower, said to be “the finest in BC”, were built.
This 1950s image of Main Beach at Cultus Lake was captured facing east across the lake from the vicinity of Lakeshore Drive. As evident in the photo, the new wharf, along with a new 10-metre diving tower (said to be “the finest in BC”), that had been built in 1949 were in full summer use. Image Credit: Facebook
Nevertheless, as early as 1963, the Cultus Lake Park Board was requesting a significant municipal funding commitment to a 10-year capital plan to replace aging and unsafe infrastructure at the Lake, including Main Beach’s wharf and diving tower, which by then had been condemned.
In 1967, formal planning of a new “swim complex” for Main Beach was underway, and work started in November 1969 on the ambitious project to replace the aging wharf and swimming facilities.
This 1960s image of Main Beach at Cultus Lake was captured facing south across the lake from the sandy beach. Note how packed the beach, water, wharf, and diving tower were on this sunny hot day.
Image Credit: Hip Post Card
In July 1970, the new swim complex at Sunnyside was formally opened. The facility included two Olympic-sized pools - one 50 metres, and the other 25 metres - in addition to a diving area, slide area, and a wading pool. This layout is essentially what is still in place today.
For decades, the Cultus Lake Pavilion would be the focus of the Cultus Lake community, integrally associated with the fun-and-sun experience of the Lake, holding a place in the memories of countless Chilliwackians.
But towards the latter part of the 1970s, the prominence the Pavilion held in the Cultus Lake community began to lessen, and by the late 1980s, with its growing state of disrepair, its future became uncertain. Despite effortsto renew/save it, in 1991 the Cultus Lake Pavilion was demolished.
Today many still fondly recall a bygone era at the Lake, feeling the sun’s warmth on a hot summer day at Main Beach, as well as smelling the suntan lotion, tasting the hotdogs and fries, enjoying the Cokes, and perhaps listening to Jan and Dean’s “Surf City” playing in the background on everyone’s AM transistor radios on the wharf, before going to a dance at the Pavilion later that evening. In that context, it seemed like summer would never end, and school in September would never arrive.
This photo, taken July 27, 1969, captures a classic Cultus Lake scene repeated every summer since 1949 - the Main Beach wharf packed with sunbathers and swimmers. The following summer, this wharf would be gone, replaced by the new “swim complex”.
Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress Archives