by Ellen Edwards
It’s September 1956, and we shall observe a teenager, coming home from school. She is beginning classes in Grade 11 at Princess Margaret High School, and never misses a day.
The school bus took her to the corner of Newton and Archibald, a mile south, uphill from her home. Then she picked up her bike in the garage of Mr. Loftus, the corner store owner. (The Loftus house is still standing)! She tied on her kerchief to keep her hair tidy from the wind, then rode carefully around the ruts and puddles in the gravel road, past neighbours in that mile: Debusschers, three small cabins with bachelors growing crops of potatoes and beans and raspberries, the McIllwains, Wordens, Sallenbachs, the Fields, the Brandons, and Gordy Halkett’s house. He let the local boys drink beer sometimes! Then down the big hill past the house with the barking dog that bit her finger once when she was selling Shell Out tickets for a charity at Halloween, then past Stan Powell’s farm (he reserved a chair in his kitchen for his flour sack), and Forsythe’s Store where you could still buy an ice cream cone for 5c. Bottom of hill – the Bear Creek Bridge, she must stop to hear the rippling of the water. How therapeutic was that sound to her soul! (Now past a wider Bridge is the John Tompson Park Signboard, about the Riparian area named after her father).
The other side of the Creek is mostly clay banks and fields. On the west side is her father’s ridgy hayfield, and on the east – the Bear Creek Brick Company, where the skilfully stacked kilns were almost ready for firing. Further up, she hears the familiar sound of her father’s buzz saw. His business was the Bear Creek Box Factory, and those saws never stopped! She had nailed thousands of boxes since she was nine. That first summer she nailed 3000 celery crates with 12 nails each @ 1c per box. That’s 36000 nails! She earned $30, and bought her own blue second-hand Raleigh bike! But that was a smaller bike, and now her little brother was riding it. She had saved up her monthly “allowance” and bought this bigger red one.
Yes, she was home. (The Tompson house still stands at Hunt 80th and 144th). There were the tall hemlock trees where she used to climb and hide from her sister, and whistled to give her clues! Even taller cottonwood trees grew alongside Hunt Road – the driveway to the lower area where the house once stood near the former King Ferris railroad, taking logs to their Newton mill. The teenager remembered ten years ago, how a bulldozer pulled the house on huge log rollers up the hill to face Archibald Road. She and her sister had to stay on the wooden fence.
Well, she fed the chickens, and brought in the eggs, and had a drink of real milk from the refrigerator, so convenient, compared to the ice-box.
This is her guitar lesson day, and she must ride her bike up to teacher Mrs. Orrock’s house at Nichol Road (140th) and Fraser Highway. Mother gives her a grocery list for the way home. So back on the bike, uphill, past the Timms’ greenhouses, Dan McKinnon’s dairy farm, the Pawliuks’ home, the Nichols’ homes and cow barns, past Wendlands, Ormistons, and the Peek Road Store! Named after Mr. Peek, of course, who lived the other side of the ravine. She keeps riding, past the oaks in front of the property of Harry and Lucille Baker (nee Timms). Harry was her Dad’s friend. Harry and John sadly watched the logging of enormous conifers in the famous Green Timbers forest, and worked together replanting trees in the 1930s. They also planted seedlings at the Green Timbers’ nursery. The day the teenager was born, her father was planting the hedge along the highway, was notified via the supervisor’s phone, and was given time off to go into New Westminster to St. Mary’s Hospital!
After Enver Creek, you pass Mr. Near’s house, and the bee man, and the Japanese strawberry farmer (she recalls her aching back), Mrs. Johnson’s little place (she was the one-room GT school janitor).
Getting tired, the teenager walked past Janson’s farm and the houses on the left. She dropped off the grocery list at Mrs. Janson’s Store and will pick up the items on the way back from her guitar lesson. She passed Green Timbers’ one room school (where she attended Grades 1 to 3), the new school, Hamilton’s house, and the tiny cabin belonging to Mr. Nixon.
Now the road goes through Green Timbers! The trees were 20+ years old and seemed all the same size! She had watched them grow for years! Her father said it was promised that the new Green Timbers Forest would be protected “in perpetuity.”
She cycled carefully along the highway through the young tree plantations to Mr. Orrock’s Garage, and met his wife in their house behind. She learned to chord in the key of G that day!
G for Green Timbers!
May the Forest always be there, in perpetuity…