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‘Summer of 69’ has roots in Terrace

THE FORMER Dog ‘n’ Suds on Lakelse Ave was a popular hangout for decades, and has ties to the song 'Summer of 69'

THE FORMER Dog ‘n’ Suds on Lakelse Avenue was a popular hangout for decades, and has special meaning for one Canadian and Juno-award winning song writer—Jim Vallance.

Vallance grew up in northern B.C., first in Vanderhoof, before he and his family moved to Terrace, where the nostalgic song about youth and endless days of summer, “Summer of 69,” was partially inspired.

“I wrote ‘Summer of 69’ with Bryan Adams for his 1984 album, ‘Reckless.’ We didn’t plan what the song would be about, but after we’d finished the first few lines of lyric it was clear we were writing about our youth, our school days: first guitars, first bands, first girlfriends, that sort of thing,” Vallance said in an email.

The lyrics are incredibly similar to the experience he shared about his time in Terrace. In the summer of 1969, Vallance said he was living in Terrace and had formed his second band with fellow classmates, Alex Inselberg and Howard Froese. He noted his first band was with another set of classmates from Vanderhoof in 1965.

“When Bryan sings the line, “I spent my evenings down at the drive-in,” he may have been thinking about drive-in theatres—you know, where you watch a movie from your car—but I was thinking about the Dog ‘n’ Suds on Lakelse Avenue,” Vallance explained.

“I went there a lot, usually with Howard and our friend Ron Ritchie. We’d order fries and root beer and just hang out after school,” he said.

“That’s the picture I was seeing when we wrote the ‘drive-in’ lyric.”

The summer of 1969 was the first summer the Dog ‘n’ Suds was open, as the official opening was October 12, 1968.

Now with the recent selling of the Dog ‘n’ Suds property finalized at the end of June, new owner Don Kirkby plans to turn it into a recreational vehicle campground while paying homage to Vallance’s experience of  “Summer of 69” in some way.

However for some, the transformation from drive-in diner to RV campground seems like a dramatic change, despite following pre-determined city zoning regulations.

“I’m still struck by this. It seems like an unusual use of the property given what’s on that particular strip. I never thought RV park when I was driving by Sonbadas,”  said Terrace city councillor, Bruce Bidgood during the July 8 council meeting.

Although most councillors agreed on the uniqueness of the development, they stated that they don’t have much say in how the property can be developed since it fits within the zoning requirements.“It does meet the zoning of the property, zone C3, and that does allow recreational vehicle campground use and that’s why there’s no rezoning required for this,” said councillor Stacey Tyers.

Kirkby plans to have the RV park development and renovations completed by the end of summer, which will see 14 RV lots and will be open year round.

Work has already begun, including the excavation of the land behind the existing building. Kirkby said each lot will have full service, meaning there will be electricity, water and sewer.

The existing building will see extensive renovations take place over the next few months to include shower facilities, a laundromat and office.

The current overhang, where cars use to ‘drive-in’ is set to become a covered barbeque pavilion, with picnic tables and barbeques for guests of the RV park.

Landscaping will also take place, with a hedge and fence to be installed at the front of the property, along Lakelse Avenue.

Kirkby said he was inspired to build the RV park because of a lack of RV parking in Terrace, especially for people who come in for various work projects.

“I know I have talked to lots of people who need places to stay for construction workers,” Kirkby said.

Despite this need, Kirkby said the RV park will be open to anybody looking for both short-term and long-term stays.

How Kirkby will pay homage to the “Summer of 69” still remains unknown as legalities and issues of copyright remain large obstacles.

One way Kirkby is exploring the tribute is through potentially naming the RV campground Summer of 69.