|The Little Town That Did|
I mentioned in the foreword of this book that in 1979 I bought radio station CKAY in Duncan on Vancouver Island. We sold our home in Burlington, Ontario and moved West to enjoy life in this most beautiful part of Lotus Land. Duncan is adjacent to the town of Chemainus.
At that time Chemainus boasted a MacMillan Bloedel sawmill employing 650 people which in turn provided employment directly or indirectly to several thousand throughout the community. Imagine the impact on this small community when, shortly after we arrived, the news broke that MacMillan Bloedel was closing the mill. Not just cutting back, closing and tearing down the mill. "Good-bye Folks, we're going", was their brutal message.
When this happens in a small community everyone panics and shock sets in. Long soup lines, boarded up store fronts and deserted streets are the predictions of most people. But not Chemainus businessman Karl Schutz. When this happened he came up with the goldarndest, craziest idea that nearly had him laughed out of town.
Keep in mind that Karl is a visionary. He and wife Betty immigrated from Germany in 1951. An excellent cabinet maker, Karl built a nice life and business in Chemainus. By 1979 he'd sold the business and was in semiretirement. Karl recalled having visited Romania and seeing old towns that had 300-year-old religious frescoes painted on outside walls of buildings. He said, "Let's do that here in Chemainus, let's spruce up the downtown, and let's become a tourist attraction."
It was a crazy idea. Imagine spending taxpayer's money on wall murals while the town's major employer is making plans to split town leaving the city coffers empty. But Karl Schutz is a forceful, determined and persistent person. He drew up a five-year plan. Convinced town council and the B.C. Government to fund part of it. The rest came from local businesses and concerned people. "The Little Town That Did" began to become a reality. I would be lying if I told you he had an easy time convincing people. He didn't. It was tough slugging all the way.
In 1983 at a gala celebration Karl's vision came to be when we unveiled the first of what are now 32 beautiful wall murals and town square.
"It was a lot of excitement, a lot of fun. Some hardship but then there is nothing worthwhile without hardship. The wonderful things that happened, the friendships we have made around the world and the success of Chemainus has made it all worthwhile."
Karl's fame spread internationally. He was invited to Australia, the U.S. and many Canadian towns to help them overcome similar problems.
Five years ago Karl had another vision. He envisioned a community
where art is not just an exhibit but an activity. His new dream is a Pacific Rim Artisan Village, on a 50-acre site adjacent to Chemainus complete with a 120-room lodge and 25D-seat outdoor theatre. When he began telling friends about it we were skeptical. But this time we have the benefit of twelve years of hindsight. We know what Karl can do. We know that if Karl wants to achieve something, he will.
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