Nostalgic Musings from the Newton-Raised Forrest Day

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

By: Forrest Day

My name is Forrest, not of the Gump brand, but of the Day one.

In the spring of 1947, at the age of six, I shared life’s experiences on a potato farm with my five older brothers and sisters in the French community of Grand Falls, New Brunswick. The divine wisdom of my mom and dad dictated that we should move west so they sold their relatively prosperous 300 acre potato farm and moved the family to BC.

Our landing place in the summer of 1947 was a quaint home at 1506 East 11th Avenue in Vancouver near Commercial Drive and Broadway.
In the summer of 1948, Mom and Dad, then bored with life on a small patch of real estate in Vancouver, travelled by tram to the quiet borough of Newton. There they were able to acquire a 10 acre parcel of land with a house and outbuildings for the cash price of $14,000. This property, located at 7680 King George Highway (136th Street), became our family farm and home until it was finally sold by Mom in 1967 for $33,000. The property now forms part of the Crispen Bays Mobile Home Park just north of the Superstore.

In the fall of 1948, I was able to register in a Grade 2 class at the six-room Newton Elementary School on the northwest corner of Newton Road (72nd Avenue) and the King George Highway. On the school grounds just north of the school was a dirt lacrosse box, and the playing fields were to the west, which included the area behind the current McDonald’s.

These were quiet times for this sleepy Newton community. On the southwest corner of 72nd Avenue and King George Highway, Lew Jack and his family had built a small empire. Here was structured the Esso gas station, the post office and the dry goods store. Behind the dry goods store was the livery section where farmers could purchase feed for their animals and seed for their crops. Later into the 1950s, the volunteer fire hall was established to the west of the Jack enterprises.

I was a carrier for the Vancouver Sun and British Columbian newspapers whose routes took me west along 72nd Avenue to about 132nd Street and north and south along the King George Highway between Bose Road (64th Avenue) and 88th Avenue at Bear Creek. Bear Creek Park was a great landing place during summer months where, after a hot day of delivering papers, I could join my friends for a cool dip in the rustic old Bear Creek swimming pool.

Many old-timers will recall that the King George Highway in the 1950s was the conduit between New Westminster and the little-known resort town of White Rock. Along this corridor too, travellers could fashion a trip south to the United States of America through the Peace Arch border crossing. In the 1950s, commuters along this two-lane corridor would hardly have known that Newton, to my mind, really began at about 88th Avenue coming from New Westminster through Whalley and ended roughly at 64th Avenue as one headed towards the flats and the southerly reaches of the Lower Mainland. Clearly, the epicentre of the village was the intersection of King George Highway and Newton Road.

Along that portion of the King George Highway corridor that defined Newton, folks of my age and beyond will cling to fond memories of significant landmarks. Fishing opportunities were available in the waters of Bear Creek that meandered through Bear Creek Park and on across Nichol and Archibald Roads, soon to be named 140th and 148th Streets. Heading south from 88th Avenue, a few trailer parks would be encountered before one took note, just up the hill, of the Surrey Drive-in Theatre owned by the Boner family. Farther up the hill, shortly beyond Hunt Road (80th Avenue), was the Stewart cattle and chicken farm. Here, Ivan and brother Doug Stewart resided on the family farm and were frequently charged with the responsibility of preparing chickens for their mom’s Dixie Chicken Inn located beside the Penthouse Nightclub in downtown Vancouver. Moving onward towards Newton Road, one would encounter the landmark Humphrey garage on the right. A prominent mink farm and Panco Poultry were on the left roughly where the Superstore is located today.

Tony Leswick’s fruit and vegetable stand was across from the White Spot facility. Tony Leswick played for the Detroit Red Wings with Gordie Howe and is most famous for scoring the game seven overtime goal to win the Stanley Cup in 1954. Newton was home to Tony Leswick during the summer months, and he was a mentor to his nephew Dennis and me as we loitered, and sometimes worked, at his fruit stand. Through Tony’s encouragement, we gained the stamina to bike to the Queen’s Park Arena in New Westminster from Newton in early morning hours during the winter months to play hockey at the rude ice time of 6 am.
Just over the tracks was the Barclay home where Jack Barclay grew up among several brothers and sisters. Jack was a Golden Boy in boxing and prominently played for the New Westminster Senior Salmonbellies. Newton was a serious training ground for many stalwart lacrosse players including Jack Barclay, Ivan Stewart, and Don and Cliff Sepka. I am certain that they all had their beginnings, as I did, practising and playing first in the dirt lacrosse box on the Newton school grounds, then later in a more refined enclosure at Unwin Park on Unwin Road (132nd Street). Players from minor lacrosse teams during those times may recall riding to games that were played in New Westminster, in the box of Mr. Garbett’s gravel truck.

Continuing farther south along the King George Highway, some may recall the Findon’s Electric outlet just south of 68th Avenue. Mr. Findon was a forerunner in marketing state-of-the-art TVs in the 1950s. I can fondly recall gathering with a few teenage friends, after dark on fall nights, to watch snowy pictures through the store’s front window. Mr. Findon and his family lived above the store and on one evening when the display TV was not on, one of our group was dispatched to knock on the door of the living quarters to enquire if the TV was going to be turned on. Surprisingly, Mr. Findon complied and we were able to continue to view these mute displays as the TV age was ushered in.

I treasure mostly the shared experiences with teachers, classmates and teammates on sports teams. Further, my participation with Cubs, Scouts and Sunday School at the Legion Hall during my early years, provides me even today with strong points of reflection.

I think back too, to the school principals who come to mind as I moved from Newton Elementary in 1948 to Princess Margaret in 1954 to Grade 13 completion at Queen Elizabeth in 1961. Surely the names Abbey, Holland, Banner and Greenaway will garner recall in the minds of older Newtonites who reflect back on school days. While these educators may have been laid to rest with standout teachers whom we can easily name from the 1950s, I often wonder whatever happened to all my young friends and classmates who had their early beginnings on country lots and acreages so profiled in that classic town of Newton.

In summary, it should be said, for those Newton elders who remain in good health, thankful should we be for all these lingering memories and fading reflections about our old Newton.

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