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Jack Berry (1918 - 2018)

Local Photographer 

Jack Berry

Jack Berry came to Crescent Beach in 1925 when he was 6 years old. Jack's mother, May Berry, was the niece of Elizabeth (Bessie) Williams, who along with her husband, Watkin Williams owned and operated the Crescent Lodge and Crescent Hotel. May and John Edward Berry were proficient entertainers who could provide summer entertainment for the Hotel guests as well as provide help with the hotel operations.

Jack Berry grew up locally and developed a passion for photography and local history. He was a volunteer photography specialist for Surrey Museum and Archives, President of the Surrey Historical Association, photo specialist for a number of local history publications, local service groups, and a significant contributor to this web site on Surrey's History.

Jack continues to live in Crescent Beach in the old Berry family home. This is Jack's story of his growth and development as a photographer.

Jack Berry was born in England on May 3rd 1918. His father was an amateur photographer who after marrying and working full time, found he could no longer pursue his hobby, so little Jack was given daddy's view camera to play with. Jack spent many quiet moments on the floor, chewing and squeezing the bulb at the end of a long rubber tube that operated the camera's shutter mechanism. Needless to say, as he grew stronger, the camera wound up in bits as did his toy train.


In 1925 the family immigrated to Canada at the invitation of Captain and Bessie Williams to work in the Crescent Beach Hotel. (see Crescent Hotel and Lodge) Bessie had a Brownie box camera. Once in a while, Jack was allowed to take one or two pictures to finish off a roll of film. Over the years, the camera gradually came into his possession and many more pictures were taken around the beach, some of which have survived to this day.


This 1931 picture shows a crowd of beach goers around a Stinson float plane that had landed on the beach at Crescent to pick up passengers.


The Crescent Hotel closed in 1932, the family moved to New Westminster to operate a corner store. There Jack bought a postcard size Kodak camera then set up a dark room in the storage shed. He continued to take shots at random in his spare time. In those days not many cameras were fitted with flash attachments so he rigged this one up so the shutter cocking lever would fire a flash gun. He left the store in 1938 and got a job as assistant gardener to Frank Dwyer, a well known horticulturist at that time. Jack took pictures of prize winning blooms and floral displays.


After a call–up to Vernon in 1939 for a month of basic training, he joined the 2nd Battalion Westminster Regiment which drilled two nights a week in the New Westminster Armories. There were many opportunities to take photographs during training exercises.

2nd Battalion Westminster Regiment

This 1941 picture shows "A" Company of the 2nd Battalion Westminster Regiment at Blair Range, North Vancouver, BC for machine gun practice.


Jack enlisted in the permanent forces in 1942 and promptly became a unit photographer on top of his other regular duties.

16th Canadian General Hospital

In 1942 Jack with Doctors, officers and other ranks of the 16th Canadian General Hospital on a map reading exercise. Mount Seymour, BC. Jack took this picture so he is not in it.


Jack was in England within four months. There he took a course at Bramshot military hospital consisting of clinical photography and x-ray darkroom procedures. While there, the hospital admitted casualties direct from the Dieppe Raid so there was plenty of work to be done.


Before the invasion in 1944, Jack was transferred to a field medical unit in the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. He managed to take a few pictures before going over to France with the division, where unfortunately, if another rank was found in possession of a camera, he would be severely reprimanded. So the camera was left behind and Jack fretted about all the lost opportunities. Just before crossing of the Rhine at Emmerich, another transfer came along, this time to Divisional Headquarter. Jack finally wound up in Germany. After hostilities were over, he traded half of a carton of cigarettes for a small 35 mm camera and began taking pictures once more. Film was scarce and local developers could not be trusted to do a good job with what chemicals they had available at that time. On a 48 hour leave to Brussels he picked up a fifty foot roll of bulk Gaevert 35 mm film, a film tank, and chemicals. He used a closet at night to reload his film cassettes and the film tank. The developed rolls of film were either mailed or brought home with him for further processing.

2nd Division Photographic Section

Jack with other members of the 2nd Division Photographic Section on course in Emden, Germany in May 1945.


The 2nd Division Photographic Section ran a photographic course which Jack promptly took to fill in spare time while waiting for repatriation. To wind up the course, a field trip was undertaken to the seaport of Emden, Germany. The place was so flattened by Allied bombers, there was very little of interest to take except rubble.

Emden after Allied bombing

This May 1945 composite picture shows the port of Emden after Allied bombing. It is a wonder the lone fraulein survived.


The Second Canadian Infantry Division had the task of setting up the administration of the Canadian Sector for the 3rd Division Occupational Army. Afterwards the 2nd Division returned to Holland to be disbanded. While waiting, and to keep the troops occupied, the Division put on a Feestviering or fair at the Soesterberg Airport. Jack was there with his camera taking pictures. Soon afterwards, he was on his way back to Canada and home.

2nd Canadian Infantry Division Feestviering

Jack took this picture of the Second Canadian Infantry Division Feestviering or fair that they put on at the Soesterberg Airport while waiting for transport back to Canada after the war.


In the meantime, Jack's folks had sold the store in town and returned to their home at the beach. When Jack was discharged in 1946, that is where he lived for a short time. He first obtained employment in a grocery store operated by Neville Curtis. Neville was also the correspondent for a Vancouver newspaper as well as local reporter for the Surrey Leader, but didn't possess a camera. Jack soon remedied that and also interested him in setting up his own darkroom. Years later when Neville passed away, he left boxes and boxes of negatives to the City of Surrey Archives of events and people which he had photographed.


Jack settled in Cloverdale with Gladys whom he had met and married in England. They raised two sons, John Edward and Robert David. Naturally the home had to have a darkroom. The Federal Government was hiring locally so Jack applied and was accepted. Many of the federal employees were avid fishermen. They formed the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club. Jack became secretary of the club and handed in news items to the Surrey Leader. Stan McKinnon, editor asked Jack to write a weekly column. It also gave him the opportunity to stand in for the newspaper's photographer when he was sick or on holiday. Jack ran across Frank Dwyer again, who had moved to Cloverdale to set up a small chrysanthemum nursery. For his kindness and understanding while working for him years ago, Jack did a series weekly installments for him in the Surrey Leader with pictures on the propagation and growing of chrysanthemums. It had been Dwyer's ambition to write a book but never could afford it.

Fish and Game Club members

Jack was one of the founding members of the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club. He also became the clubs unofficial photographer. Here are many of the Fish and Game Club members and their families at a 1958 picnic.


The Surrey Museum had just opened. A society was formed to assist the curator, Doug Hooser, with exhibits and publications. Jack joined and used his camera to record newly acquired artifacts for insurance purposes. He also ran photographs in the Surrey Leader on strange objects to stimulate public interest. A darkroom and copy stand were set up in a back room of the museum where pioneers who did not want to part with their pictures, could bring them in to have copies made for the museum archives. The idea caught on that portraits or miniatures could be reduced or enlarged to a standard size to make up presentation albums for Christmas gifts.

Museum and Historical Society authors

Three Surrey Museum and Historical Society authors. Left to right; Margaret Hastings who wrote "Along the Way", Fern Treleaven, who wrote "The Surrey Story" and Richard Whiteside with his "Surrey Pioneers". Jack provided photographic services for all these authors.


During his membership in the Surrey Museum and Historical Society, Jack provided his photographic services to Mrs. Margaret Hastings who wrote Along the Way, Richard Whiteside, who compiled The Surrey Pioneers and to Fern Treleaven who wrote a series "The Surrey Stories". Jack has also given many slide shows locally on the formation and early history of Crescent Beach.


Following the passing of his parents, Jack returned to the family home at the beach in 1972. After retiring from the Public Service in 1973, he was offered a part-time security position at the Peace Arch Hospital, which worked into a full time maintenance position. There, he was given the opportunity to set up slide shows on pre-op and post-op procedures along with home care for patient's information. Retirement from the hospital came in 1983.


Continuous exposure to chemical vapors during darkroom developing were injurious to the health so the dark room equipment was packed up and stored in the crawl space under the house. The coming of computers and digital photography provided a second chance. The old photographs and negatives could now be scanned and brought back to life, but who was interested? Nearly everybody had a digital camera. Jack Brown and his web page came to the rescue and provided an outlet with his History of the City of Surrey.


Beryl Kirk, a neighbor, made frequent trips to central Nigeria and brought back hundreds of digital photographs of primitive African life. These Jack processed so they could be used in displays and promotional lectures for the betterment of Beryl's project A Sustainable Village. Which all goes to prove, something always comes along if one is only willing to learn.

For more on Jack's life, click here.

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