All posts by friendsofthegrove

The Farm Disappeared in Newton

The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: Barbara Sarahan

Slippery wet but cold tiles.
A shriving smiling girl whirls into
the fast curve of the slide.

A piercing scream echoes, my skin crawls


A spinning basketball stood still in the sweaty air for a short second.
Runner’s rubber squeak as they slide across the glossy gym floor.

Stand in the lengthy lineup to board a bus in the soft warm rain.
Don’t dare look at each other; breathe a single word.

Stock the fruit stands across the street with cherries, blueberries and blackberries, from the nearby flats.

I long for those fields that disappeared many years ago.


The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: D.C. Willbourn

Obsess until your fear takes over or shut down and ignore it all.

Eyes down.
Ears closed.
Shallow breaths.
Soul darkened.
Accept this as the price you paid to escape the concrete jungle.

And then …
And then …

And then someone makes a suggestion.
“We can change this.”
“We can fight this.”
“We can make this our home.”

Don’t be silly.
We’re stuck here.
This is the way things are.
The way they’ll always be.

A few gatherings, a few meetings, a few brainstorming sessions.
Some news coverage, some volunteers, some donations.
This is the way things are.
The way they’ll always be.

More gatherings, more ideas, more commitments.
More people, more building, more creating, more support.
This is the way things are.
The way they’ll always be.
Right …

Scores of volunteers, masses of hard workers, multiple news
Hearts full of pride. Eyes full of life. New friends filled with
new purpose.

This is the way things are?
The way they’ll always be?

Early Newton and Surrey Stories

The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: George Zaklan

There are hundreds of stories. Here are just a few.

I recall a young neighbour, working barefoot in his garden on a Saturday summer’s evening. Some friends walked by, stopped to chat and mentioned that they were en route to the local dance. After a moment’s reflection, he dropped his hoe and walked off with them to the dance.

At that time, Surrey’s population was thin. Perhaps each mile of dirt road or trail had two or three farm families scattered per mile. Social support systems did not exist.

Life unfolded. It was summer; a heavy rain created misty, fog-like conditions. The backyard of our farm was heavy bush land. Out of the rain-soaked trees emerged a man, totally soaked and chilled.

He spoke little but looked starved. Without much fanfare, Mom sat him in front of the warm wood-burning stove. As he dried, Mom provided the guest with food. After he ate and was reasonably dry, he moved on. Few words were spoken. Who he was or why he was wandering through the woods was never discussed. What Mom could see was that he was hungry, miserable and drenched.

We often reminded Mom of the dangers associated with strangers. She smiled. Incidentally, she lived to enjoy the many guests who came to her hundredth birthday celebration.

Like so many in our area, my parents had been raised in a village. Their education was modest but their native “smarts” served them well. They had an extraordinary work ethic and applied the age-old adage: “The harder you work, the luckier you become.”

This was a Surrey of the early part of the century. Most roads were either trails or non-existent. Even King George Highway, also known as Semiahmoo Trail, was a two-lane dirt road. The newly built schools were mostly two-room, wood-framed grey buildings, heated by wood stoves and furnaces and illuminated by kerosene lamps, and the toilets were outdoors. Surrey struggled to find teachers. Finances were weak, facilities were modest, distances were great and the roads were difficult to traverse. The toll on the Pattullo Bridge deterred many as well.

Libraries, recreational centres, medical facilities and public transit were only conceptual. Surrey was connected by an interurban work/passenger train that extended from Chilliwack to Main Street, Vancouver. For five cents, one could get on board.

Surrey was large in area, thin in population. As far as the eye could see, there were trees and stumps.

Historically, Surrey had one of the largest, finest coniferous forests in the world. By l930 the loggers modified the environment. There was a huge lumber mill constructed on the corner of l32nd Street and 76th Avenue. (Currently, the sprawling bus depot is on this site.)

Lumber-related income provided us with the main payroll. Beehive burners disposed of most wood waste. They burned huge amounts. And when we had temperature inversions, the smoke would become trapped in the moist atmosphere. The fog would be so thick that the cars had to be guided by someone on foot. People were unable to recognize their own driveways!

Those who lived in Surrey were mostly immigrant farmers, war veterans and retirees. Land was pretty well free. The rules of supply and demand applied even then.

Over the years, huge tracts of land remained unsold or were forfeited because of unpaid taxes. Our early politicians wisely or fortuitously kept control over this land—land that provided the many parks that now give us so much pride.


The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: Fauzia Rafique

a flower opens
its petals in soft
peddling snow

a puff of green
skunky smoke
rises over
a glass of hot
clean water

a morsel of goodness
gracious food
a warm attire
on a freezing cold day

The Old Homestead

The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: Ken Westdorp

Though long ago replaced
by several new developments
The place I was born
will never be forgotten.

A modest one storey structure
never meant for a growing family.

Living room fireplaces
often heated the home.
Backyard gardens
were a necessity of life.

Back then neighbours
were considered friends
and grandparents
lived just next door.

As children we ventured
down nearby streets.

Engaging our imagination
instead of playing electronics.

Overcrowded malls
like Guildford
and Surrey Place
were far-off places.

Instead we frequented
neighbourhood shops.

Libraries were smaller
And crowded with books.

Childhood playtime
and holiday gatherings
were documented
In b&w movies.
Aging photographs
preserve fond memories
of my parents
and our family.

Many familiar features
have all disappeared.

As for the old homestead
on 132nd Street Near 72nd Avenue
many random dwellings
now occupy the space.

Snapshot Newton

The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: W.B.

It’s just home, it’s always been …
The pieces stay the same, but the picture gets bigger

Long ago the library was too small, so they added on piecemeal to its end. It was before I could clearly recall it all, but I remember it as a runway for small children who sprinted end to end, to parents in the adult area and back to storytime in the kids’ section again, running by the checkout desk.

Long, tall, dark wood counter, overhang, though maybe that’s just how I recollect it from childhood, with a cavernous rectangular book drop slot.

Kids would run, thundering, echoing steps, Jump down an unknown number of stairs that I somewhat recall were there.

Past beige metal shelves, numbered by Dewey, with wood-grained ends. Around wheeled book carts, back to the fireplace and curtained puppet show stage in the corner.

Just before the washrooms in the centre lay to the left the novel Auto-Door (everywhere now but novel then), slid open to a ramp out back.

It was the Literary Hub of Newton, a quiet town laid down, with its sharp vertical angled roof sides and flat top, beside and under a tall Grove of cedars.

Then one day the library was torn down, a new one built. But this had already happened at least once before, according to the historical lore. A rec centre came in its space, as the already expanded library was now too small for the place.

So onto the new …

The library was relocated to what was at the time nowhere, next to a seniors centre they soon built there, a bigger library planned for a future Newton with great care,

A giant open book, with tables tucked into every nook
And a waterfall … that only works when it’s raining …
One of the many nuances of Newton’s past, present and future.

Long past, the grocery store that burned down, the railway trolley that used to roll through town

EJ’s store, the old Surrey Inn, before my time, photos of old Newton, over-scaled by seemingly towering roadside signs

New clusters of stores opening doors, and fresh new faces from distant shores
A garage sale every weekend in the spring,
While another car horn rings from the Highway, now a Boulevard thing.

Changes in Newton, new things added to the landscape:

Giant grocery stores, new schools and more, filled in a grid of streets in and out of its core.

Community groups took over where past block watches had been, and a new business improvement association arrived on the scene.

It’s hard to convey all the changes I have seen, or quantify the Newton that had been.

Will you participate in the change, or just in the background mill?
For Newton IS community.
From the ills of the world it has no immunity, no ingrained impunity

As new things in the headlines generate buzz,
You may look back and recall how it was ….

Newton is what it is, and change will come
But I hold in my mind a vision of just how it was.

It’s home and always will be.

Memories of Margaret Mary McElhinney (nee Hall)

The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: Margaret Mary McElhinney (nee Hall)

My parents and their five children, Dick, Glover, Bob, Fred and Edith came to Newton in 1914 and resided in a house on the east side of Bergstrom Road (now King George Boulevard), just north of the tracks until 1920. In 1920 they moved across the Bergstrom Road to property which is now Hall Road. At that time we had a wide gate across the road just off 72nd (Newton Road). I guess the gate really should not have been there but no one seemed to bother about it. The road went down several hundred yards to our barn, then it was just bush. We had a trail down to the now King George Boulevard and used to take the cow down to our other property to pasture.

I was born in the house on Bergstrom Road in 1915. I remember my mother saying that she was seven or eight months pregnant and contacted Dr. F. Sinclair from Cloverdale. He drove to the house in a horse and buggy. He told her as this was her sixth child he didn’t think she had to go to the hospital. I was born before he got there and Granny Atchison looked after the birth. She was midwife to many babies born in Newton at that time.

In 1921 my mother, sister Edith and I went to England for six months and stayed with friends and relatives.

My father came to Canada in 1905, settling in Winnipeg. My mother and the three little boys followed the next year. My brother Fred and sister Edith were born in Winnipeg. My mother had some of her furniture stored in England when she first came to Canada and when we went in 1921 she had some of it shipped out. I remember it coming to Newton Station on the freight train. What an exciting time for everyone. Two grandfather clocks were damaged in transit and were discarded. How I would like to have them now.

My father and two eldest brothers worked for King and Farris Lumber Company. They worked in “the woods” and later Fred and Bob drove carrier in the mill. At the time we went to England, Bob looked after the house and Fred went to school.

I started school in October 1921 when we got back from England. Miss Abigail Nicholson was my first teacher. In Grade 2 I had Miss Annie McLay, who later became my sister-in-law, marrying my brother Glover. She is now in a nursing home in Langley. In those days the teacher was boss. I remember when I went to Surrey High School, which was the only high school in Surrey, our teacher Miss Eva Green would not let us use makeup, not even lipstick.

We had great entertainment in Newton Hall. Every Christmas was the School Christmas Concert. We all practised so hard and the teachers put in many long hours to get us ready for the big night. The concerts were really most exceptionally entertaining. After the concert was over, several men would push the chairs against the walls and with a big wide broom would sweep the floor and then put a white powder on it for dancing.

The Atchison family were very musical, playing accordion, violin and saxophone. I remember my brother Glover playing the drums. On front of his large drum was a painted scene of mountains, a lake and a deer standing in front with the name “Pacific Syncopaters” painted around it. This was painted by Miss Mabel Nicholson, who still lives on 72nd. Everyone brought food and we had a great time—all for free. I learned to dance practically since I could walk and have always enjoyed it.

Lew Jack had the store at Newton, and once a year the “Commercial Travellers” put on a concert in the Hall. They were salesmen who came to the store. One I remember very clearly was Mr. Bill Coulter; he was a “Heinz” traveller. Reg Childs played the violin. He used to play “fiddle” on the radio and was known as “The Grey Fiddler” although he didn’t have grey hair. They always put on a good concert and the Hall was always full.

My father helped with the building of the Presbyterian Church. He was brought up Church of England, but I guess there were more Presbyterians than Church of England in Newton. Some years later the church needed help. My father and Mr. Harry Sullivan, who later became Judge, were good friends. Being as Mr. Sullivan was an old-timer in the district, my father asked him for a little donation. My mother didn’t think he should as Mr. Sullivan was a Roman Catholic and she didn’t think it quite fair. My father said, “I know Harry well and he will give us something.” Mr. Sullivan came to my parents’ house and gave my father $20 for the church. Many a time my father would want advice, and Mr. Sullivan was always most kind to him.

Growing up in Newton was a good time for us all. There was never much money but we always had lots to eat and were well dressed. My mother was truly one of the best housekeepers I have ever seen. Right up to the time of her death at 88 years, there was always a place for everything and everything in its place. I would say that came from good training. She baked her own bread, and my sister Edith and I always had nice home-sewn dresses.

I always remember England’s battleship The Hood coming to Vancouver in the late 1920s. The crew came out to King’s Mill to see logging being done. My brother Glover, who passed away in 1953, was a high rigger. He topped a tree, and I can remember they were most fascinated and wondered how he got up it. As the top was falling they all scrambled, thinking they would get hit.

Every Friday evening a number of young people would gather at the Presbyterian Church Hall and have pleasant get-togethers under the supervision of Mrs. Ada Chapman. The Chapmans lived on 72nd and were very good friends of my people. Mrs. Chapman was a great worker at the church.

Times have changed but my memories of Newton are very precious. We had good times and extremely sad times. My sister Edith died in 1927 at the age of nearly 17; Bob was killed at Port Alberni in 1939 at the age of 33. Glover passed away in 1953 when he was 49 and Fred died on December 31, 1991, at age 84. My parents lost three of their children, which were very sad times for them. We try to look back on the good times although the sad times stay with us forever.

In 1937 I went to New Westminster and worked for McKenzie and Fraser. I worked for them for eight years. I started earning $11 per week, and when I quit in 1945 I was making $22 per week in the office. Mr. Dan McKenzie was a great man to work for.

I was married to Joe McElhinney in 1943 at Holy Trinity Cathedral. Joe drove bus for Earl Moorhouse which was Moorhouse Stages. We had two sons. My son Grant is Captain on the Surrey Fire Department. I cashiered for Woodwards in New Westminster for 28 years, retiring in 1982. My husband Joe passed away in 1988 of a massive stroke. I stayed in my house at 1936 Dublin Street, which we bought brand new for $3,700 when we were married. My, how we saved to pay for it! I stayed in my house alone for three years, then sold it and moved to a condo in March 1991.

Life is never the same but we make the best of it.

Falling in Love in and with Newton

The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: Teresa M. Cahill

It was a magical time in Newton, a time of exploration, companionship and love. He was a man I wanted to know more about. We made the decision that many couples do, to live together.

We found a nice place to rent on the upper floor of a house in Newton. It was more than nice; it was perfect in so many ways. Picture the rooms full of sunshine and a massive patio off the kitchen. This was a family neighbourhood, and it had been a long time since I had lived in this kind of environment.

We spent our time getting to know each other and Newton, many of the places within walking distance. One of the treasures was the Hollywood 3 movie theatre. What a surprise to find good movies at such a bargain. Of course, the Newton Public Library was a regular destination.

Just walking through our neighbourhood was a treat. Streets with hardly any traffic, beautiful gardens, children playing in the many green spaces and cul-de-sacs. One of our favourites was a house that created a massive Christmas display each year. It felt like it was erected just for the neighbours, because the traffic didn’t increase that much.

Some of our special spots were a bookstore that had cats, an organic grocer, and our favourite sushi, pizza and coffee shops.

It was a comfortable place to get to know each other, to create many happy memories and fall in love. It is the place where he proposed to me and where we planned our wedding. For those reasons Newton will always be a special place.

An Ode to Spring in Newton

The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: O. Khan, Amazing Tutors Children’s Foundation

Spring is my friend, she brings me scented flowers

Pansies, colourful tulips and daffodils bloom

Rainy days and cool, April showers refresh the world

In and out wanders the Robin and birds rejoice by singing

New shoots and buds come out on the pink blossom tree

Give thanks to God for all that is beautiful!

Baby, Let’s Go for a Walk

The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: David Dalley

My daughter, Valerie, was born in the month of July. She taught me to be curious and pay attention to the little things in our neighbourhood.

The fall after she was born she and I used to spend evenings at the Newton Bus Loop. Our favourite bench faced the entrance of the bus loop, where the buses peeled in from 72nd Avenue. She sat on my lap facing out with her baby-bent legs barely the length of my lap and her wobbly, wispy-haired head balanced against my upper arm.

With the sound of each approaching bus, she would sit as upright as she could manage. As the spectacle of headlights and flashing turn lights whizzed past us against the dark sky, I would feel the small tremble of a giggle. When a few buses came in together the giggles would build on one another until I could feel her little body shake with laughter against mine.

Colourful people ebbed and flowed around us, and the lineup for the 321 bus would often snake past our bench. There were construction workers in reflective vests and women in brightly coloured saris. There were students exchanging lively gossip and the gentle banter of Punjabi men.

Valerie would sputter and squawk trying to get their attention, and she would always succeed!

After a time, her eyelids would grow heavy and I would bundle her up in the blue fabric baby carrier, hold her close against my chest and work our way out of the bus loop. We would walk home, past the pungent smell of aging fruit wafting from the local fruit store to our apartment at Villa Umberto on 137th Street.

She would often be fast asleep by the time we arrived home. Often, my wife was fast asleep too, getting a few extra minutes of sleep.

Some days when I arrived home from work during Valerie’s first months, my wife would greet me at the door with the baby carrier in her hands and an exhausted look in her eyes. She would buckle Valerie into the baby carrier, offering extra booties and a blanket if the air was chilly, and usher us out the door.
On those days we would often walk for miles before passing through the bus loop on our way home.

Sometimes we would head north and west along 76th Avenue. I remember once when a group of bikers heading north on King George Boulevard pulled to a rumbling stop just as our crossing light came on. As we crossed the street in front of them, Valerie strained to see over the baby carrier and caught the eye of one of the large leather-clad riders. “Cute kid!” he hollered and, to my daughter’s delight, revved the throttle of his Harley.

We often walked all the way to 132nd Street and doubled back through the Newton industrial area awash in interesting combinations of smells on the shifting breeze. Mid-week, the smells of industry and the fish processing plant were common. On weekends, we were treated to the rich smells of curry and South Asian cooking. The last leg of our walk was always rewarded by the smells of whatever was on the menu at the Old Surrey Restaurant.

Sometimes we would head south through Hazelnut Meadows Park, stopping to watch and listen to the older children playing on the playground, then walking through the trails in the wooded area. In the first few months, we used to stop at the bench at the north end of the clearing. I would cradle her on her back facing up and watch her eyes dart back and forth as she followed the dark silhouettes of crows streaming across the fall evening sky.

Later, as her vision matured and the fall chill emptied the forest of summer leaves, she was able to spot the darting shapes of squirrels and small birds on the leafless branches of the Bigleaf Maples.

Sometimes we would head north on 137th Street and walk east along the trails south of Frank Hurt Secondary School. This was an especially exciting route in the evenings leading up to Halloween and Diwali when the pop and screech of fireworks lit up the dark sky! If a firework went off too close to us she would cuddle down safely in the baby carrier until she felt brave enough to poke her head out again.

Two years later, my son Matthew arrived and he and I spent more evenings wandering around taking in the sights and sounds of Newton.

Many of my most memorable images of my neighbourhood were formed on these walks with my new babies. Seeing my community through their eyes gave me an excuse to go places I wouldn’t normally go, notice things I wouldn’t normally notice and be curious about everything I saw.

My children are both over 10 years old now and continue to inspire me with their curiosity. As I have gotten to know more of my neighbours, I find that I am drawn to people who are also curious about our neighbourhood and who see it not only for what it is, but also for what it could be.

I believe that communities begin to change when people find ways to be curious together. I am grateful to my children and neighbours who have taught me to be curious. I am hopeful that this anthology will play some small role in bringing together the curious people in our neighbourhood.