Who says a grocery store romance cannot last?
It was at Super Valu while working as the produce manager that Williams Lake mayor Walt Cobb met his wife Lynnette [Swanson] in 1965.
Lynnette was born in Chilliwack. When she was nine years old, her mother died, and she moved to Big Lake with her father, Sven Swanson, who was a rancher.
She was working as a cashier at Super Valu and asked Cobb out on a date for her graduation from high school.
“It’s all our history now — it never ended,” Cobb recalled with a smile. “We were married in 1965 — I was 21 and she was 18.”
The Cobbs raised two children — Randy and Tony — and also ran their own businesses.
He had Walt’s Mens Shop and Lynnette has Lynnette’s Look, a dress shop.
At one point Cobb also started Ranton Renovations, with the name inspired by the first three letters of his children’s names.
While the mayor has called Williams Lake home since 1955. He was born in Erickson, Manitoba.
Walt’s father Fred was a logger and first moved the family to B.C. in 1951 where they lived at Arrow Lakes in the bush and he supplied cord wood for the S.S. Minto, a paddle wheeler that ran on the Arrow Lakes.
“We lived in the bush and went by horse and sleigh five miles to the school bus. It was winter when we moved there, but nothing as harsh as Manitoba.”
When the S.S. Minto was no longer in operation, the family moved a few places before going to the Cariboo — first living in Forest Grove and eventually Fox Mountain where his father purchased a sawmill.
The family often lived in 12 by 20 foot mill shacks, and his mom Christina often was the cook for the camps.
That first year on Fox Mountain Cobb and his younger brother Doug did school by correspondence because Highway 97 was not completed yet and there was no school bus. Their older sister Betty was in Grade 7 so she boarded in town and attended school.
By the second year there were enough kids to warrant a bus and the dad of one of the families — the Fowlers — hauled everyone to school in the back of his pickup truck inside a canopy he built for the truck.
Eventually the school district supplied a van and Cobb attended school where the library is today.
As he reached Grade 7 a new secondary school had opened on Carson Drive and that’s where he graduated from in 1963.
During high school he worked part-time at Tom Boy Grocery Store where CJ’s Western Grill is now, but his post-secondary plan was to become a court recorder because he studied shorthand and typing while in school.
“I could write 350 words a minute in shorthand and even got a certificate, but when I registered for college it was determined that I had learned the wrong shorthand.”
Cobb tried a few other jobs, such as working for equipment companies and a sawmill at Puntzi Mountain, before returning to work in Williams Lake at Super Valu in 1964. His foray into men’s wear began as a partnership at Lords Men’s Wear, but when it sold he started Walt’s Mens Shop, which he operated 42 years.
As part of the business community for many years, Cobb was involved with the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce, and decided to run for alderman and was elected in 1980, staying on until 1990 when he was elected mayor.
In 1996 he was defeated as mayor. In 2001 he ran for the BC Liberal Party and was MLA from 2001 to 2005.
Cobb was re-elected mayor in 2014 until present, including when he led the community through the 2017 wildfires.
“Williams Lake is my home and I never, ever found the need to go anywhere else,” he said of why he has stayed. “I like the community, I did business here and in the early days being involved with cubs, scouts and the chamber, I knew almost everyone in town.”
It’s a friendly place, he added.
“Our kids went away to university and both returned and are living here too. It’s a good place to live, work and raise a family.”