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.

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