Williams Lake has been in my heart since November 1952 when I, along with 40 other USAF personnel, opened up the radar station at Puntzi. Everything about the base was secret, except on Oliver Street at the Famous Cafe and the tavern across the street. Soon after we arrived, the young people of Williams Lake threw a big party and dance for us.
The 917th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was mainly made up of activated California Air National Guard personnel from the San Francisco Bay area.
Before we moved we all read Rich Hobson’s then-new book Grass Beyond the Mountains.
Even that book couldn’t convey the beauty of the Chilcotin country, nor did it reflect the warmth that the people of Williams Lake shared.
Puntzi was part of the joint USAF/RCAF “Pinetree Project,” the first radar line across North America. Google “Puntzi” and “Pinetree Project.”
I am now 80. I had just turned 21 then and didn’t feel like a stranger because my mother was born in Toronto.
My wife and family have all visited the area. While they enjoy sharing my memories, it’s the people of today that impressed them.
The B.C. Forest Service, which runs Puntzi Air Base, has been kind to visiting strangers. Also, Diana French and the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin have been central to our visits.
Thank you, Williams Lake. You’ve been in my heart for almost 60 years.
Old Station, California