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Born Norma Ann Currell in 1939, Norma Dallas ’s connection to Bowen Island is lifelong. Though she first set foot on the island at two years old, her family’s history on the island stretches back much further, to when her aunt Lena Farrell’s family began travelling to hunt and camp on its beaches in the early 1900s.
Norma’s parents were lifelong boaters, and the family often anchored in Snug Cove. There, they visited the Farrells and let Norma get ice cream from the restaurant. She was too little to be seen below the counter, so other customers would help order her 5 cent ice cream cone. As a teen she accompanied the Farrells in their Model T Ford across the gravel road to Bowen Bay to watch them swim. Over the years, they made many attempts to help her learn to swim; all failed.
In 1962 she met her future husband Dennis Dallas and his dog Buddy at a Bowen Island party. After they married, the family became Bowen “weekenders” for 33 years. In order to build a cabin on their property, Dennis joined with his neighbour to construct Queen Charlotte Heights Road. During their blasting, the RCMP called to see if Bowen had declared war on the mainland because the sound echoed to Squamish and back! They were rustic times—the children played freely and Norma learned to cook on a wood stove and wash little children in a small wash bowl.
Then, their three children graduated from school and Norma faced empty nest syndrome. While coming to Bowen one weekend they saw that a marina in Snug Cove was for sale. Norma remembered that it was located exactly where the Union Steamship Co. brought ships with thousands of visitors from Vancouver to their successful resort for many years. As well as the marina, there was an adjacent newly-built house where the U.S.S. Co. had their restaurant. All this was built in the very same place where Norma had her 5 cent ice cream cone so many years before.
They moved from Vancouver and made Bowen Island home in 1985. Norma had a vision to rejuvenate this little marina into a ‘people place’ for visitors and Bowen Islanders to enjoy. The family started planning. Unfortunately their son Darran died just before the project began. In five busy years they rebuilt the docks, built the parking lot and the pier, and got three shops up and running. Norma built all of them with Bowen lumber and Bowen labour.
The first shop on the Bowen Island Marina pier was Norma’s Ice Cream/Tackle Shop. She would operate the marina for 33 years.
Now living full-time on Bowen and with experience volunteering in Vancouver, Norma couldn’t help becoming involved in the island’s many projects and committees. She began with the Recreation Commission, securing rent-free space for a daycare in the old General Store thanks to a high school connection of Norma’s. Later, she went on to work with Snug Cove’s Water Board; chaired the Commercial/Industrial Committee for the Official Community Plan review; volunteered on two Snug Cove Plan reviews; and then helped found the People, Plants, and Places Tour to fund Bowen’s memorial garden. Their initial meeting was held in her kitchen!
Despite full-time work at the marina and community involvement, Norma found time to volunteer with the Bowen Island Historians. Many of this exhibit’s profiles draw from interviews she conducted. Between recording it and creating it, Norma has become an essential part of Bowen’s community history.