If you were to ask Audrey Layton how she feels about her life in Summerland, she would say “long.”
Perhaps that explains why she was one of two ladies to be recognized as the most senior women in attendance at the Pioneer Tea, hosted by the Rotary Club, earlier this spring.
Layton was born in Summerland in 1920.
“At the time I was born, the hospital had burned down or something and there was a funny little building in Lower Town called The Felix Hotel,” she explained. “It was used for only one year as the hospital and I was born during that time.”
One of four children born to the Steuart family, she recalls living on Victoria Road and later in a house her father built on Quinpool Road, where her sister-in-law still lives today. As children she and her siblings walked to school and went home each day for lunch.
Her parents owned the Summerland Box Factory as well as many orchards.
One of Layton’s fondest memories is of her summer holidays.
“When I was a kid we had a cabin at Skaha Lake. It was called Dog Lake then. The last day of school we would move down there and come back on Labour Day weekend,” she explained. “We had no running water, with an old outhouse. We lived in the water. We drank the water out of the lake too and we never got sick. My dad would come down on the weekend because of course he was working during the week. In those days that was a long drive from Summerland. He’d come and bring us fresh fruit.”
As a young adult, Layton belonged to the Summerland Singers and Players. It was somewhat of a family affair to do so.
“My older brother, Bud, was the conductor and my sister and I were in the soprano section and my younger brother was in the orchestra,” she explained.
Although Layton hated orchard work, she did end up working at the Box Factory after taking a secretarial course at Sprott Shaw College in Vancouver. She worked in the office taking care of the books and payroll.
Layton married George Clark and together they had two children, a girl and a boy. They spent their summers in much the same fashion as Layton had as a girl. They had a cabin at Crescent Beach, back in the day when there were only small cabins there, complete with outhouses.
She and her husband also enjoyed travelling.
In the 1980s, Layton remarried and she and her husband Doug travelled extensively in their motorhome. They often spent the winters in Mexico, where the waters were warm enough to swim in the ocean.
Layton attributes her longevity to leading an active life.
“I used to go to exercise classes all winter and I went to the swimming pool. I walked,” she said. “My sister was the complete opposite. She played Bridge and went to tea parties. She died quite young. I think maybe there is something to keeping active if you want to live long.”
Walking and going on outings are still activities that Layton enjoys doing. She is happily living at the Summerland Seniors Village where she says the staff are “very nice” and “everyone is friendly.”
Today Layton suffers from back pain, but she is not one to complain.
“The way I look at it is, there is always somebody worse off,” she said.
Layton says she is happy that she was brought up in a small town where people are friendly and everyone knows each other.
At 96 years of age her life has definitely been long. A hint of tiredness could be detected in her voice as she quipped,
“I’m hanging in there but I don’t know what for. You just kind of feel like you’re putting in your days.”