The summer of 1976 was special for Luba Kalmakov.
She and her husband and two kids were just completing a house they’d built for themselves on 9th Avenue in Castlegar, after 10 years of scraping and saving.
The final cedar siding was going up, finishing the job.
Kalmakov decided to leave a little gift, hidden in the wall. Something that might one day be discovered by future owners of the house.
Something that would let them know just what life was like that July, during the U.S. bicentennial year …
Four and a half decades later, Fanny Rodgers and her husband were doing some much-needed repairs on their new house.
They bought the house in 2016, after saving up for years. They married a year later.
While they loved the place, the old deck was in rough shape, and they had to take down the siding and make some repairs.
That’s when Fanny’s husband came across a hidden surprise.
“He was pulling down cedar in the carport, and that’s when the letter and newspaper came down,” she says.
The newspaper — dated July 20, 1976 — flashes a headline about the first soft landing on Mars by the Viking probe. And there was a delicate, weather-damaged, hand-written letter with the paper.
“This house was built by the happy Kalmakov family of John and Luba,” the letter reads. “Today John is putting up the cedar in the carport and Luba is helping.”
The note goes on to let the future know who owned the home — John, the schoolteacher, and Luba, the “happy homemaker,” along with their children, six-year-old Maya and three-year-old Matthew. Not to forget their dog, nine year old Tiko.
But what struck Rodgers was the letter’s wonderful tone.
In it, Luba says several times how she and her family were happy that summer.
“This is a blessed house, and good fortune and love come to all who dwell here,” the note concludes.
“It really touched me,” says Rodgers. “That’s why I wanted to get in touch with the family, say, ‘hey, we’re really happy here too, it’s actually our first house. It’s a household of joy and happiness.’”
Kalmakov could never have known in 1976 that in some far distant future, the owners of her house would be able to easily find and contact her.
But that’s what happened. About an hour after posting pictures of her find on a Facebook community page, Rodgers tracked down the daughter, the now-full-grown Maya.
“I said ‘hey, we found the letter,’ and she confirmed her mom wrote it,” says Rodgers. “I said, if you want the letter, let me know, I’d love to get in touch.”
And a day later, she was having coffee with the note’s authors, and the Kalmakovs toured their old home, nearly a half-century after it was built.
“Luba was in awe, she was sharing all these memories, how the house was built, what has changed. She had some pictures — there was wallpaper all around the house,” Rodgers says.
“It was amazing, the story they told us. They didn’t have a lot of money, so lots of the wood came from Grand Forks. My husband is very handy so it was good for him to find out how the house was built, confirm his suspicions on how things were done. It was just amazing. She didn’t want to leave, she had so many stories.”
(The Castlegar News reached out to the Kalmakovs, but were unable to contact them before press time).
Rodgers plans to pass the good vibes forward. She’s going to take the original note, write one of her own, and add a copy of this paper to the stash. Maybe another 50 years from now, some other renovating homeowner will find these notes, and learn a little bit of the history of their home.
And the circle will be unbroken.
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