Green Timbers Memories

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

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 takes her to the corner of Newton and Archibald, a mile south, uphill from her home. Then she picks up her bike in the garage of Mr. Loftus, the corner store owner. (The Loftus house is still standing!) She ties on her kerchief to keep her hair tidy from the wind, then rides 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, Fields, Brandons and Gordy Halkett’s house. He lets the local boys drink beer sometimes.

Then she pedals 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 can still buy an ice cream cone for five cents.

At the bottom of the hill is the Bear Creek Bridge where she must stop to hear the rippling of the water. How therapeutic is 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 ridged hayfield, and on the east the Bear Creek Brick Company, where the skillfully stacked kilns are almost ready for firing.

Farther up, she hears the familiar sound of her father’s buzz saw. His business is the Bear Creek Box Factory, and those saws never stop! She has nailed thousands of boxes since she was nine. That first summer she nailed 3,000 celery crates with 12 nails each @ 1 cent per box. That’s 36,000 nails! She earned $30, and bought her own blue second-hand Raleigh bike! But that was a smaller bike, and now her little brother is riding it. She saved up her monthly allowance and bought this bigger red one.

Yes, she is home. (The Tompson house still stands at 80th, then known as Hunt Road, and 144th). There are the tall hemlock trees where she climbs and hides from her sister, and whistles to give her clues. Even taller cottonwood trees grow alongside Hunt Road. The driveway to the lower area where the house once stood is near the former King Farris Railroad that takes logs to their Newton mill. The teenager remembers 10 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.

She feeds the chickens, brings in the eggs and has a drink of real milk from the refrigerator—so convenient compared to the icebox.

This is her guitar lesson day, and she must ride her bike up to teacher Mrs. Orrock’s house at Nichol Road (140th Street) 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 lives on 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 is 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 she was born, her father was planting the hedge along the highway. He 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, she passes Mr. Near’s house, and the bee man, and the Japanese strawberry farmer (she recalls her aching back) and Mrs. Johnson’s little place (she was the one-room GT school janitor).

Getting tired, she walks past Jansons’ farm and the houses on the left. She drops off the grocery list at Mrs. Janson’s Store and will pick up the items on the way back from her guitar lesson. She passes Green Timbers one-room school (where she attended Grades 1 to 3), the new school, the Hamiltons’ house and the tiny cabin belonging to Mr. Nixon.
Now the road goes through Green Timbers. The trees are 20-plus years old and seem all the same size. She has watched them grow for years! Her father said it was promised that the new Green Timbers Forest would be protected “in perpetuity.”

She cycles carefully along the highway through the young tree plantations to Mr. Orrock’s Garage, and meets his wife in their house behind. She learns to chord in the key of G that day!

G for Green Timbers!
May the Forest always be there, in perpetuity!

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