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Memories of Early Surrey

In 2008, the Surrey Historical Society donated tapes and written summaries of 20 oral histories to the Surrey Archives for their permanent collection. The histories were recorded with 25 Surrey residents over a three–year period.


The Oral History Project began in 2004 as the brainchild of Kathleen Moore, then chair of the Surrey Historical Society Publishing Committee. The Society wished to preserve part of the anecdotal history of the City. The memories used are with the permission of the Surrey Archives and the Interviewees.

Participants provided descriptions of their family background, early childhood, schooling, social life, work experience and community and religious activities.

Surrey Archives website

These excerpts have been added to this Surrey History website with the permission of City of Surrey Archives.

The memories are:

Floods and Dyking Clearing Land Small–Scale Logging Milling Poultry Farming The Egg Business Dairy Farming Creamery Operation The Grocery Business Banking Greenhouse Operations Haying Homes and Homemaking Chores Making Doughnuts Harvesting Cascara Children's Games Bicycling Fishing Sledding Dolls Hopscotch Skating Swimming in Local Creeks and Rivers Community Events Tennis and Badminton Local Hunting May Day Cloverdale Rodeo Jaycee Follies Volunteer Fire Departments Social Work and Philanthropy

Floods and Dyking

There was a terrible flood in Cloverdale in the early 1930s and the water covered the fields south of Cloverdale and came all the way to the railway tracks. Dora Barker Rogers recalls that her father and other men took rowboats and went into the farmer's fields to rescue families from their homes. Half of the Bank of Montreal building on the Pacific Highway (176 Street) was empty, so her father, who was the Bank manager, arranged for the families to bunk in there until the floodwaters receded.
(Source: Dora Barker Rogers Interview, January 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

Flooding of Pacific Highway

Floods such at the one at Latimer Road (192 Street) and the New McLellan Road (No. 10 Highway) were common in Surrey from the time the area was first settled until the 1970s.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref: SA1992–036–5680. 1966

Gordon Bishop, who worked for many years on Surrey’s dykes, says there is no "bottom land" in Surrey, just a thick layer of clay, and that in the past, the supports for bridges were driven down only to the point where some resistance was felt. Gordon likened this to pushing a table into the mud. When large trucks passed on the highway, the older buildings in the area shudder as the earth trembles below them. Nowadays, this problem is averted because the pilings are driven deeper, reaching the hardpan.

The Cloverdale flats run all the way to Fry's Corner, where the land is two feet below sea level. The area is very subject to flooding, making dyking mandatory. In the past, farmers resorted to installing their own pumps on the Nicomekl and Serpentine rivers, but eventually, the Surrey Dyking District has taken on the responsibility.

See The Surrey Dyking District

Each spring, new dykes are built and the old ones are repaired and reinforced. At one time the fill was collected through dredging, but today it is collected from various development projects in the area and stockpiled in a central area over the winter.

Dredging on the Nicomekl

Dredging work on the dykes at Coast Meridian Road (168 Street) along the Nicomekl River. The dredger was likely being operated by Gordon Bishop.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref: F62–0–1–0–0–394. 1963.

Even today, the sea tides leave their calling card; when the dykes are built or when maintenance work is done, it is not uncommon to dig up seashells. As the dykes are extended, the water simply finds a way around them, and so the process continues. The dykes now reach as far as Tynehead.
(Source: Gordon Bishop Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

As individual landowners cleared their acreage, ditches had to be dug and drainage installed.

Ron Kitzel's father, George, cut cedar slabs to place in the ditches, creating a culvert which drained the fields.
(Source: Ron Kitzel Interview, January 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Clearing Land

In about 1929, Gordon Bishop's parents purchased 20 acres in Tynehead at the corner of Hjorth (104 Avenue) and Holmes Roads, where his father built a three-room cabin, which was heated with a wood stove. Clearing the property was painstaking work as it had to be done by hand. Luckily, the Bishops had the help of their Percheron workhorse, known for their muscularity, intelligence and work ethic.
(Source: Gordon Bishop and Mavis Thune Bishop Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

As Harold Bishop had done in Tynehead, Frank Graham first had to clear his own 15–acre parcel of land on 184 Street, then his brother's 25 acres and then his father's 15 acres. Again, all of this had to be done by hand.

(Source: Frank Graham Interview, October 2004. City of Surrey Archives)

Ron Kitzel's father, George, purchased property on 16 Avenue between the Halls Prairie Road (184 Street) and the Pacific Highway (176 Street). He worked at the McKay and Flannigan sawmill on 8 Avenue during the day and cleared the property at night.

Earl Newcombe was yet another of many landowners who cleared their property by hand. Stumps were blown out using blasting powder supplied by the Farmers' Institute. As property was cleared, it was possible to increase the size of their dairy herd.

The Farmers' Institute, a community–based agricultural support organization, supplied stumping powder for blasting so that stumps could be cleared.
(Source: Earl Newcombe and Annie Conn Newcombe Interview, September 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Small–scale Logging

In those days, every purchase Gordon Bishop's family made, whether it was an animal or a piece of equipment, had to pay its way. Their Percheron workhorse which had been so important in the back–breaking work to clear their land was no exception. It was decided that they could use it to secure work skidding logs, a process whereby logs were combined in sets to create a slideway. The hiring manager was inclined to hire the horse only, but Gordon's father insisted that he hire both the horse and Gordon. However, the horse's daily rate was higher than Gordon'’s.

Gordon recounted that the horse was trained to follow the path down to pick up the logs and the worker at the pickup point would load up the skid and send the horse back up the path. Late one afternoon, the man called up to send the horse down and Gordon shouted back that he had already done so. Befuddled and worried about the whereabouts of their highly–paid team member, Gordon headed home, where he discovered that the horse, having decided it was dinner time, was chowing down in the barn.
(Source: Gordon Bishop and Mavis Thune Bishop Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Hauling shingle bolts in Tynehead

Horses were used extensively in logging and lumber operations in the early days of Surrey's development, including hauling bolts of shingles.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref 121.27 c. early to mid 1900s.

Logging also provided an additional source of income to other local families. Ron Kitzel's father drove a "lokey" or locomotive engine, hauling logs out from the forest on railway tracking. One year, the caterpillars were so bad, they covered the tracks, causing the locomotive to lose traction and slide down the tracks.

(Source: Ron Kitzel and Elizabeth Charlton Kitzel Interview, January 2007. City of Surrey Archives)
See Surrey History re: logging and photo of Old Curley re: Milling


There were several mills scattered throughout Surrey in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

Margaret Hall McElhinney's brothers Bob and Fred Hall worked at King's Mill, which was located two miles north of Newton Station at Roebuck (132 Street) and Burke (76 Avenue). Both brothers drove carrier, a piece of equipment used to lift the lumber and move it around the mill, prior to the development of the forklift.

See Surrey History website re: King's Mill

In those days, even more so than today, mills were very dangerous places to work. When Bob was 19, there was a gas spill at the mill, which caught fire. Bob was badly burned and later died of his injuries. Margaret had the awful task of delivering the news to her mother and father which she received at her job in New Westminster. She had to travel from there to her parents' home in Newton. When she reached Newton, she asked Mrs. Jack, who had a store there, to accompany her and to be with her when she broke told her parents about the tragic accident.
(Source: Margaret Hall McElhinney Interview, February 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

Poultry Farming

Rod Allanson's family moved in about 1919 from Vancouver to a farm at 32 Avenue and 140 Street in about 1919 when he was about two years old. His father began raising poultry. There was an existing chicken house on the property, which had been owned by the Feedham family, and after a couple of years, his father was able to build a second chicken house, using lumber hauled from the railway tracks at Alluvia at the bottom of Woodward's hill.

The eggs were loaded into the family's model T and taken to the New Westminster Farmers' Market on Columbia Street. A crate held 30 dozen eggs, and several crates could be snugged into the car by removing the back seat. While eggs formed the major part of their business, in the spring, when a batch of new chicks grew, if the comb of the chicks appeared, signifying a rooster, these birds would be raised as frying chickens for the summer trade.

Rod often kept his father company on the trip to the Farmers' Market, which involved traveling up the steep hill on Scott Road to Strawberry Hill. On one particular trip, the car brakes failed, and in order to stop the car from rolling backwards, his father turned into the bank at the roadside. The car flipped over, but fortunately, not only were they not hurt, not a single egg was broken.

Rod's mother rescued the butter she had churned and was taking for sale at the Market, and nestled it in the nearby creek to keep it cool and prevent it from spoiling. His father arranged for someone else to take the eggs into New Westminster and managed to get the car repaired, but when the three of them returned to the creek to retrieve the butter, it was gone. The butter would have earned them $2; a sizeable part of their meager income.
(Source Rodney and Betty Allanson Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

There were countless small poultry farms as well which provided a small income for their owners. For instance, Hugh Currie's father, Abe, raised chickens, which Hugh's mother, Martha, canned. Abe took them into Vancouver to sell, along with eggs. The money was used to pay tuition fees for Hugh's older brother, Lyall.
(Source: Hugh Currie Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives

The Egg Business

One of Hugh Currie's first jobs was working at the post office in Cloverdale where Ernie Milton was postmaster. One day, Ernie fired Hugh in a fit of pique, but allowed that he could work to the end of the month. By month–end, Ernie had long forgotten what had gotten him so riled up and wanted Hugh to stay on, but Hugh already had other plans.

He bought an old Chevrolet car, converted it into a truck, and started peddling eggs door to door in Vancouver. He would go down the lanes and, despite his shyness, forced himself to knock on every door to sell eggs to all the housewives. Later, he bought eggs from various farmers in the area; eventually he established a successful wholesale egg business. He bought the eggs from local farmers, then graded and candled them and shipped to the Block and Hansen stores in Vancouver.

Hugh started up the business in about 1934 under the name of Aldercrest, which was the name of his parents' farm. Later, he operated under the name of Flying Feather Farms.

Eventually, the business grew to the point where he was able to employ several women to candle the eggs and other help on the truck. He built a garage behind the house to accommodate the expanding business. The business continued throughout World War II when there was a huge demand for eggs for shipment to Great Britain, particularly after the German military advanced through continental Europe.

Each egg had to be stamped "Canada" and specially processed and packed in accordance with government specifications. The eggs were dipped in a clear mineral oil to close all the pores and were kept at a constant temperature and so that they would last for several months.
(Source: Hugh Currie Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

(See Atchison family)

Dairy Farming

Frank Graham's family was intent on establishing a dairy farm similar to the one his father had operated in Ireland. In 1937, he, his father and brother started with a couple of cows and 200 or 300 chickens and gradually added to their stocks. They later bought two Holsteins at $500 each, the highest price they ever paid for cattle. While Guernsey cow milk had a higher butterfat content, Holsteins produced more milk.

Milking was done twice a day using machines. The Grahams originally had a single Massey milking machine, then added two others before converting to a pipeline system, where the milking machine would be connected to the cow's teats. The milk was transported via a tube into a large tank in the dairy, which held 50 to 60 gallons. When the milk was collected by United Farm Growers, it was piped into tanker trucks for transport to the dairy.

They eventually built up to a herd of about 100, including 50 milking cows. They kept all the calves that were born to the herd. This often entailed acting as a bovine midwife, helping deliver calves in the middle of the night by tying a rope around the calf's feet, or employing the wire stretchers normally used to place barbed wire fences. The vet was called only when the calf was too large for the mother to delivery by herself, or if there were other complications. One of the herd had to have her calf delivered by the vet who was forced to open up the whole side of the cow. They assumed the cow would never have calves again, but Frank felt a sense of loyalty to the cow, and kept her. Not only did she go on to have more calves, she also supplied the family with milk. As a result, Frank kept the cow even after they got rid of the rest of the herd.

Getting up early and working seven days week, the daily chore of cleaning the barns, the mandatory milking routine, the aching hands from handling the bone–chilling dairy cans, never having time off – all this made the job of running a dairy a relentless job, but Frank loved the business, being his own boss, and having different things to do every day. There was camaraderie in the business, as well. While there were many competing dairy farms, they were all on friendly terms, united by mutual respect for the demanding nature of their work.

(Source: Frank Graham Interview, October 2004. City of Surrey Archives)

For many of Surrey's early residents, it was a struggle to keep your head above water and support a family. George Kitzel was simultaneously raising a few dairy cattle, milking the cows and selling the milk. To earn enough to buy a milking machine, he and his wife, Bertha, planted strawberries on the back part of their property; the proceeds from selling these financed the machine.
(Source: Ron Kitzel and Elizabeth Charlton Kitzel Interview, January 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Ruth McIntyre Hunter says that when she and her husband, Doug, first had their dairy farm, they started milking at 6 a.m.; initially by hand then later by machine. The milk was put into cans and taken down to the railway tracks from where it was transported by Great Northern Railway. In later years, it was picked up at the roadside by truck. They eventually built a storage tank and the truck would collect it about every three days. The last recorded pick–up of milk cans in Surrey was in 1969.
(Source: Ruth McIntryre Hunter Interview, February 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

McIntyre family home

The McIntyre family home on 184 Street, originally owned by Robert Douglas MacKenzie, where Ruth McIntyre Hunter grew up.

Don Billings picked up work collecting the milk cans from dairy farmers in the area. The galvanized metal cans held 10 gallons and weighed 110 pounds. Don weighed just 128 pounds, but discovered the knack of using momentum to lift the bulky cans from the milk stands at the side of the road across to the deck of the truck.

The cans were collected daily from a milk stand at the side of the road, and this stand was the same height as the deck of the truck. The driver, Lorne Ford, would pull up alongside the stand and Don would load the cans on to the truck. After completing all their pick–ups, they then drove to the dairy in Vancouver. Don earned 25 cents an hour.

Even though the fields and roads were frequently flooded in winter, they met the schedule. The only time it was jeopardized was the year when you Cloverdale was a virtual island. You couldn't get from Cloverdale to Fry's Corner (176 Street and Fraser Highway) because of the severe flooding.
(Source: Donald Billings Interview, September 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Creamery Operation

Martha and Abe Currie moved to Cloverdale from Duncan in 1903, having agreed to build a creamery, with the proviso that there would be at least 300 milking cows in the area to support it. On this basis, a cooperative creamery was established; however, their son Hugh Currie believed his father took on the majority of the costs.

The creamery was built behind the BC Electric station, next to what was then the A.J. Burrows General Store on the New McLellan Road (No. 10 Highway). The BC Electric railway ran on one side and the Great Northern railway came up from the Blaine through Cloverdale, so transport was convenient. A good water supply was also essential, and so they piped water down to the creamery from a spring on the Pratt Road (180 Street). The old wooden pipe was visible for many years until the New McLellan was upgraded.
(Source: Hugh Currie Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

In a written description of the creamery operation Ada Rife, said that Abe Currie (in addition to being the sole proprietor) was the buttermaker at the creamery. She said that the hill east of 180 Street provided a source of clean spring water, and that the water was carried "in a four-inch pipe made of wood which passed through our [Milton] farm to the creamery". She added that ". . . on account of the new bridge across the Fraser River at New Westminster, the creamery did not prosper as the farmers thought it more convenient to send their cream to New Westminster on the train. . . ."
(Source Textual Record F125–2–1–0–3 Cloverdale Creamery. City of Surrey Archives.)

The Grocery Business

The "general store," which carried a wide range of merchandise, was an important part of small towns and settlements throughout North America in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Not only did they offer food, housewares, clothing and equipment, they also served as a gathering place where residents could exchange news and gossip.

Surrey had several such stores, one of which was the A.J. Burrows Red and White Store at the corner of New McLellan Road (No. 10 Highway) and 176A Street (King Street).

Olive Burrows Wilson, whose grandfather, Alec Burrows, was proprietor, described the store. As customers came through the front door, they would see a wide selection of groceries on shelves to the right, and on the left, various materials and tools.

Interior of Burrows Store

Interior of A.J. Burrows Store c. 1910. Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref 61.40.

On the counter, there would be a big round of cheese covered with a glass cover. The clerk would cut wedges from the round and weigh them on a two-foot-high scale. The scale display was at the top and it had a big round glass that you put your item on it to be weighed.

Antique Scale

An antique weighing scale similar to the one in the Red and White store operated by Alec Burrows in Cloverdale.

Canned vegetables and fruit were sold, rather than fresh product. Peanut butter came in a big container and was packed in cardboard boxes waxed inside. These would frequently leak.

Most people paid cash for purchases, although some paid by cheque and others had a credit account. Merchants advanced credit since many of their customers farmed and earned income seasonally.

During World War II (1939–45), gas, tea, coffee, butter and sugar were all rationed. People had ration books which contained coupons. Olive recalls that people who did all their shopping at one store were given extra rations as a mark of appreciation for their business.
(Source: Olive Burrows Wilson Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

World War II ration book

Dominion of Canada ration book in use during World War II.

Ration book pages

Dominion of Canada ration book coupons in use during World War II.

After World War II military service, Don Billings entered the grocery business and eventually became manager of the Overwaitea at the corner of New McLellan Road and King Street (56 Avenue and 176A Street). Overwaitea was a New Westminster retail grocery operation founded in 1915 by Robert Kidd.

Downtown Cloverdale

View of Old McLellan road (No. 10 Highway); the liquor store is on the left, the Overwaitea store sign is in the distance.
1930s. Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref 180.1.21 SAMOA F83–0–0–0–0–0–0–104

A typical day for Don meant arriving at about 8 in the morning and closing up at 5 or 6 in the evening. On Fridays, they stayed open until 9 p.m. After unlocking the store in the morning, the first order of business for Don was to sweep the sidewalk. His staff, two full–time and one part–time, would arrive and begin stocking the shelves.

The store had a large counter along the far wall which held the produce display. Shelves along the walls held the canned goods and next to them was the bread. No meat was sold. Instead, a sliding door in the Overwaitea led directly into Ted Jolley's butcher shop.

It was a long time before the store acquired the conveniences of shopping buggies and a centralized check–out with a turntable. Before that, each shopper handed their shopping list to the clerk who would gather all the items up and put them on the counter, while the customer was free to visit or do other shopping.

The business was competitive, but the relationship amongst competitors was amicable and the merchants from the general store and the neighbouring Red and White Store often exchanged information on prices and made joint decisions.

If one of them dropped a price, the others would soon learn of it from their customers and would match it, or discount another item to keep the customer's loyalty.

(Source: Donald Billings Interview, September 2005. City of Surrey Archives)


Olive Burrows Wilson joined the Bank of Montreal in Cloverdale in 1941.It was the only bank in town at that time. It had one teller wicket and two ledger keepers (one for current accounts and one for savings accounts), and a stenographer. On her first day at work, Olive had to roll $25 in pennies into rolls of 50 cents each. Many of them wound up on the floor.

The systems and record keeping were all manual. Tellers would often make up the deposit slips for the customers. Each client had a paper bank book which, for a savings account, was a little red book in which the deposits, withdrawals and balance were written by hand.

(Source: Olive Burrows Wilson Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

BMO Bank Book

Greenhouse Operations

Harold Bishop built a one–and–a–half storey home on their Tynehead property, along with a greenhouse, which he had bought in Coquitlam, dissembled, transported to Tynehead, and reassembled there. He raised bedding plants for many years, selling them from a stand outside Gibson's Auctions in Langley.

The greenhouse provided other benefits. It was heated with a large sawdust burner and a system of hot water lines, and Gordon's father ingeniously extended the lines through the back wall of the house, providing hot water heat. This, combined with a fireplace and an oil heater, made the house cozy even during the winter freeze–ups.
(Source: Gordon Bishop and Mavis Thune Bishop Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)


Work was scarce during the 1930s at the time of the worldwide economic depression, but Don Billings was pleased to find work pitching hay for 20 cents an hour. The hay had to be stooked", seven or eight bundles of hay were placed on end, and leaning in on each other. It was hard, sweaty work, but Clarence Heppell's grandfather showed Don how to insert the fork into the hay, move the handle of the fork over his knees, and use it as a lever to pick up a large pile of loose hay in one, fluid pass.
(Source: Donald Billings Interview, September 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Stooking hay

Hay stooks drying on the field on Pacific Highway (176 Street) south of Cloverdale.
Photo: Surrey Archives ref: 1.1.29

Homes and Homemaking

Early housing had little in the way of creature comforts. Mabel Sherritt recalled that in her family home, water was pumped into a large tank in the attic of their house; it would descend by gravity, allowing them to enjoy the luxury of an indoor flush toilet. The weekly bath was taken in a large tub in the kitchen; water was heated on top of the wood stove. Large tubs were used for washing clothes, which would then be hung outside to dry. In winter, when the clothes were brought in, they would be frozen stiff.
(Source: Mabel Main Sherritt Interview, January 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

In the 1920s and 1930s, running water and indoor plumbing were luxuries. In Alan Davidson's family home, the toilet was outside, but unlike Mabel Sherritt's home, the Davidsons had a bathroom with a bathtub just off the kitchen. On bath day, which was once a week for most families, water was heated on the stove and carried in to the bath. The youngest members of the family got their bath first and, with each person, the tub was topped up with another bit of hot water from the kettle.

The steam heating in Gordon Bishop's home was an unusual luxury. Link back to Greenhouse Operations:Greenhouse Operations

In contrast, the bedrooms in the Davidson home were on the second and third floors, but the only heating was on the main floor. On a winter morning, frost may have formed on the inside of the windows and it was perishingly cold in the room. Sometimes, a building brick would be heated in the oven, and placed in the bed. As a precaution against burning the bedding – or searing one's skin – it was wrapped in cloth. This made getting into the chilly bed somewhat more inviting.

Alan Davidson says he usually left his socks in the bedclothes the night before, which could be retrieved from the bottom of the bed and put on before he got up. He would go dash down to the kitchen in his pyjamas and socks to get warm as his father would already have the stove going.
(Source: Alan Davidson Interview, February 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Peggy and Willy Hansen rented a two–room converted chicken house on the Abe and Martha Currie property when they were first married in 1948. Peggy set about making it cozy. Mrs. Currie gave her two wooden boxes and Peggy dyed some cheesecloth blue, from which she made curtains and affixed to the boxes to make side tables for the bed.

There was a sink, but the outhouse was up the path. Pheasants ran through the yard. They had just planted a garden when Willy spotted a pheasant feasting on the plants, so he grabbed his '22 and, taking careful aim through the window, felled it with a single shot. He rushed out to retrieve the bird and ran straight into Mr. Currie who was in the company of the game warden. They seemed to not take any notice of him, so Willy surmised that they hadn't heard the shot. Luckily, the bird never fluttered, so he continued casually along the path to the outhouse and waited it out until the men were gone before retrieving the bird.
(Source: Peggy Spall Hansen and Willy Hansen Interview, August and September 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

A typical day for Mary Fisher included getting up early to make breakfast for her husband and children, seeing the children off to school with their lunchboxes filled, milking their six or seven cows, and collecting the milk in the ten–gallon cans which were collected by Dairyland. She also made butter, until new regulations required refrigeration equipment instead of just running water to cool the butter. In the mid 1940s, their kitchen was equipped with an ice box and ice was delivered about twice a week.

Throughout the summer and into the fall, her kitchen became a one–woman production line, with occasional assistance from her children as they grew older. One year, she put up 600 jars of pickles, jellies, fruit, peas, beans, corn, and chicken. Canned chicken from their own flock was a family favourite.

In addition to the vegetable garden, and the chickens, they had several fruit trees; a big Royal Ann cherry tree, a Gravenstein apple tree, a pear tree, one prune plum and one yellow plum, and one walnut tree. Nothing went to waste. If it wasn't preserved, fruit was stored in bins in a root cellar dug into the ground. The cellar was about three feet deep and enclosed by cement. The coolness of the enclosure and the surrounding earth were very effective in preserving food over many months.

Many other women did the same; some entered samples in the Surrey Fall Fair prize competitions. Not only was preserving food economical, it also provided for a more varied diet over the winter months in a time when the selection at the local grocery store dwindled.

Testing preserves

Lord Tweedsmuir High School home economics teacher Gladys Dier samples preserves entered into competition at the Surrey Fall Fair in 1961.
Photo: Surrey Archives ref: SAMOA F62–0–1–0–0–213

Rod Allanson's mother made regular butter, and also a delicious sour cream butter. With their small herd of just six or seven cows, it would take about a week to get enough cream to make the butter. After each milking, there would be a couple of buckets full.

First of all, the milk was put through a hand–cranked separator, which had a large bowl with two spouts and a handle. The milk was poured in at the top and then you began to slowly turn the handle. Inside the separator was a cone with disks, and the cream, being lighter, would be spun away from the milk and would come out the top spout in drips, while the milk ran out the other spout in a stream. The cream was then put into a crock. By saving the cream for a week, there would be enough to make butter.

Cream seperator

An antique cream separator similar to the one used by Ron Allanson's mother.

Photo: Surrey Archives ref: SAMOA F62–0–1–0–0–213

The butter then had to be washed numerous times, using gallons and gallons of water, to remove all remaining traces of milk so the butter wouldn’t spoil. Salt was also added, both for flavour and as a preservative.

The fifteen–gallon butter churn was barrel–shaped and sat on an axle with a round, notched lid fastened in place with two clamps. The handle would move back and forth and after some time, the butter would start to come up in beads. When you heard a knocking noise, this was the signal that the butter had begun to clump together.

Butter churn

This barrel butter churn is similar to the one used by Rod Allanson's mother.

As a five–year old, Rod decided to help his mother by checking on the progress of the churn. He carefully undid the lid and discovered the butter was starting to form, so he replaced the top and started to turn the handle of the churn, but because he hadn't fastened the lid securely, matching up the four little notches, the lid came off and all the butter shot up out of the barrel, onto the ceiling and down onto the floor. Rod watched with horror as the precious butter ran through the cracks in the floor boards of the dairy.
(Source Rodney and Betty Allanson Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)


Few children escaped doing chores around the home or farm. One of Hugh Currie's jobs as a small boy was to milk their cow, an unhappy chore even on good days. He would reluctantly take the lantern out to the barn where it cast frightening shadows. Then there was the matter of approaching the cow. She would be dozing with her tail in the gutter, so Hugh would grab hold of it and stow it under his arm. This would irritate the cow who would whip her tail out from under his arm in a vigoruous swoosh, slapping him across the face, whereupon Hugh would wallop the cow before they both called a truce and milking proceeded.
(Source: Hugh Currie Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Every afternoon, after a brisk walk home from school, Kay Arnold set to work cleaning two buckets of eggs; washing them and removing fragments of straw and other debris in preparation for collection. When the eggs were done, she helped her mother in the house, cleaning and preparing meals. In the summer, she picked fruit.

But there was an upside to all this. While many families went hungry during the economic depression of the 1930s, families with small farms always had food on the table, although sometimes, the diet became a bit monotonous. Kay's parents weren't always able to sell all their eggs, so eggs were part of almost every meal. Fortunately, they also had lambs, cows and turkeys, so there was variety there, and her father's large garden supplied them with plenty of vegetables.
(Source: Kathleen McCowan Arnold Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Making Doughnuts

On the weekends, Mary Hawksworth's mother made doughnuts for sale at the nearby Overwaitea store.

Preparations would begin on Friday night when 13–year–old Mary and her mother would lay out six mixing bowls for the dry ingredients and ready the hotplate. At 5 a.m. on Saturday morning, they struggled out of bed to mix the six bowls of dough, roll the doughnuts out, cut them and cook them before putting them in a bag with berry sugar, shaking the bag vigorously to coat them.

In addition to sales at the Overwaitea store, several families placed advance orders so they wouldn't miss out on this tasty treat. It was Mary's job to deliver these, a chore she detested, she said, because she reeked from the smell of doughnuts.

Mary and her mother lived in an apartment on the second floor of the 1912 Municipal Hall, and Mary eventually rebelled at having to carry the doughnuts downstairs and through the Hall, where she her fragrant presence would be evident. Her mother thought that they best way around this was to lower the bags of doughnuts out the window to Mary on the ground below, using a piece of rope.

After all the deliveries were done, the kitchen floor would be covered with berry sugar, like a soft–shoe dance floor.
(Source: Mary Hawksworth Helem Interview, September 2004 and September 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Surrey Municipal Hall

The second Surrey Municipal Hall was constructed in 1912 on the New McLellan Road (No. 10 Highway) at King Street (176A). The second floor had offices for the school board and an apartment shared by Mary Hawksworth and her mother when Mrs. Hawskworth was caretaker for the building.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref: 91.2.19

Harvesting Cascara

Some local children, including Gordon Bishop, harvested cascara bark by cutting it from the tree in strips, which they set to dry on the roof of their barn. Gordon's father would take it to Buckerfield's in New Westminster and sell it for them to earn their pocket money. Buckerfield's was the premier supplier of feed and farming supplies for poultry and livestock farmers. The bark is used to prepare laxative.

Cascara bark

Cascara bark was harvested from local trees in strips.

Children's Games

When chores were finished, Rod Allanson and his brothers played "anti eye–over, over the barn". This involved tossing a ball over the roof and the player on the opposite side had to catch it.

They also played "peggy", where a stick was used to make a little hole in the ground. A short stick was placed across the hole. Using a ruler, you would shoot something out and if someone out in the field caught it, you would be "out". But it was rare that someone caught it. The other players would also try to get you out, by throwing something to knock over the stick.
(Source: Rodney and Betty Allanson Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Ruth McIntyre Hunter remembers that she and the neighbourhood children played hide and seek in the barn, baseball and croquet. In the 1920s, the area around their farm was all bush, a beautiful wooded area with almost no houses. These woods were a gigantic outdoor playground where they would make up games and amuse themselves for hours.

Ruth also loved to read, often climbing up into the branches of a tree to sit undisturbed with her book. There was no library in Cloverdale until the 1950s, so books were usually gifts.
(Source: Ruth McIntryre Hunter Interview, February 2005. City of Surrey Archives)


There were only about eight houses between the Trans Canada Highway and the Bishop family home at 164th when they first lived there in the 1940s. Gordon Bishop would ride his bike to Tynehead Hall, leave it on the porch of the Hall and catch the bus to school. When he returned at the end of the school day, the bike was still there – unsecured, but untouched.
(Source: Gordon Bishop Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)


The Nicomekl River was great for fishing, and not just for bullheads. One of Rod Allanson's neighbours had a fish float, which Rod and his brothers would tow out on to the river. They would anchor the float to the shore, and string their fishing net partway across the River, leaving a channel free for other traffic. They then settled back to wait. When they saw the net twitching, they would jump in their skiff and head out to the net, where they would pluck out two or three salmon.
(Source: Rodney and Betty Allanson Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)


In the winter, there was occasionally snow, but it was never heavy. There were also occasional cold spells, or "freeze–ups", as Dorothy Oldershaw Hempsall's father termed them, one of which wiped out the tiny, cocktail–sized Olympia oyster.

Before the Crescent Road extended down the hill into Crescent Beach and over the tracks as it does today, there was a shorter steeper hill. During one of these freeze–ups, someone fashioned a toboggan from a long plank with a sled at the front and back. Eight or more children, or even adults, could pile on, and they could sled all the way down the hill to the railway tracks.

Sledding in Cloverdale

A sledding and skiing party in Cloverdale. 1954.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref: SAMOA F49–0–0–0–0–299


Mabel Mayne Sherritt remembers that she had dolls to play with. These were usually handmade out of cloth, often by her aunt.


Mabel and her brother fashioned a hopscotch on the back of an old piece of linoleum and laid it out on the kitchen floor. They played this game in winter when they could not go outdoors.

In hopscotch, each player in turn throws a small object into a numbered space in the hopscotch course, then hops on one foot onto each of the numbered spaces in sequence, omitting the square where the object is, but stooping to pick it up before continuing.

A player first tosses an object such as a small chain into the map and hops on each square in numerical sequence, omitting the square where the tossed object has landed.

Hop Scotch pattern

Hopscotch maps take various forms.

In milder weather, they headed outdoors, where they played jacks and ball with other kids, as well as "run sheep, run".

(Source: Mabel Main Sherritt Interview, January 2006. City of Surrey Archives)


Mary Hawksworth Helem says that in 1925, the fairgrounds were nothing but trees with a big creek, which would freeze in winter, providing a convenient skating rink.
(Source: Mary Hawksworth Helem Interview, September 2004 and September 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Other early residents recalls that when the flats froze, they would go skating there.

Rod Allanson said that snow was rare in the 1920s, but occasionally, it was cold enough to freeze the small pond near the school. Their hobnail boots served as skates. (Hobnails were short nails inserted into the soles of boots to make them more durable.)

Hobnail boots

Hobnail screws

A pair of hobnail boots and an illustration of a hobnail.

Rod also recalled that blakeys (metal plates) on the bottom of their shoes, also used to make shoes last longer, were particularly effective on the ice.
(Source Rodney and Betty Allanson Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Skating at Fry's corner

Ice skating at Fry's Corner at Pacific Highway (176 Street) and Fraser Highway.
1962. Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref 41.0.1

Swimming in Local Creeks and Rivers

When the weather turned warm, Gordon Bishop and neighbour children in Tynehead swam in Serpentine Creek. They liked to find a log that was jammed in the creek and use it to build a dam. This stopped the water up nicely, and created a lovely swimming hole that was about five feet deep.
(Source: Gordon Bishop Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Rod Allanson and his two brothers picked raspberries until mid–afternoon when they were allowed to go down to the Nicomekl River for a refreshing swim. Until Rod learned to swim, the three boys would walk to a bend in the river on the Mud Bay Road where there was a sandbar, but after he learned to swim, they went further up to the deep–water dam at Elgin. Along with their friends, they dove into the river from the wharves, which many owners had built.

Rod recalls how they made use of the flood gates at the Elgin dam to add adventure to their swims. The dam had pairs of large doors; 10 or 15 feet high and about eight feet wide. When the tide was going out, the higher level of the water on the Cloverdale (east) side would create pressure on the gate and cause it to open. Then, when the tide was coming in, the tide would close the gates.

In the summer, maintenance work would be done on the gates by a diver and an attendant. The attendant operated a manual pump installed on a barge to provide air for the diver. The diver wore a heavy rubber suit, a metal helmet and a leather belt to which weights were attached. He was tethered to a rope, which he would tug to signal to the attendant that he wanted to surface.

When the tide was going out, the diver would be able to chain one of the gates open and change the gasket or tighten the hinges so the gates wouldn't leak so much. He would then usually leave the gate half–open. Logs were strung across the river on the upstream side of the dam to catch the driftwood and debris, so it wouldn’t get caught in the dam gates. It was exhilarating for Rod and his brothers to swim through the half open gate as the tide was running in, grabbing one of the logs on the upstream side of the dam.

(Source: Rodney and Betty Allanson Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Diver at Nicomekl flood gates Diving barge at flood gates

A diver is servicing the control gates on the Nicomekl River in 1963.
Photo courtesy of Gordon Bishop

In addition to the local rivers and creeks, there was excellent swimming at Crescent Beach. Dorothy Oldershaw Hempsall recalls that the Great Northern Railway had dumped a lot of sand and gravel between the land and the river to discourage mussels from attaching themselves to the railway trestles. As a result, a small, but wonderful manmade beach formed near their house.

One of the crab fishermen had a houseboat on the river, which was moored in deep water, and Dorothy and her brother would often swim from there when the tide was out.

Blackie's Spit was another treasured spot; very private and sandy with lots of grasses growing out of the sand and piles of driftwood. They also had bonfires on the Spit. One side of it was covered with fragments of shells, perhaps left by the First Nations people who dug clams there.

Since then, a lot of silt has been dumped on the Spit in order to deepen the Nicomekl River to provide an easier passage for boats. However, at the point where the wire fence is now, the River used to be very shallow and when the tide came in, the Spit became a little island.

Dorothy remembers the bookkeeper for the Crescent Oyster Company, who lived in Burnaby, used to camp with his family on the Spit during the summer holidays. She says that none of the "summer people" – vacationers from the city – seemed to know about the Spit and its hidden treasures.
(Source: Dorothy Oldershaw Hempsall Interview, September 2007, City of Surrey Archives)

Community Events

As Surrey became more populated, citizens created more opportunities to gather to socialize, support each other and to have fun. The entire family attended these events.

Before the community hall was built at Elgin in 1923 (a building which still stands today), community concerts were held at the Ed Loney family home. Neighbours would take it in turns to perform skits to provide entertainment, and Rod Allanson's mother and father played Maggie and Jiggs, characters from the then–popular American comic strip.
(See Elgin)

After the Elgin Hall was built, children were taken from school to the Hall to practice their parts for the Christmas concert. Before they got down to business, the teacher would allow them to take off their shoes and slide on the beautiful maple floor, which was polished with a special wax for the dances.

During the summer, the dance crowds at Elgin Hall were large – attendance was swelled by the vacationers at Crescent Beach. The admission fees raised funds for the community association.

Elgin Hall

Elgin Hall at 14250 Crescent Road has been in use since 1923.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref: 40.40.06

Since there were no electric lights in the Hall, William Allanson loaned the gas lamps from his chicken houses until the Elgin Community Association was able to purchase their own. The loan (along with the necessity of returning them by the fall, for the chickens) was duly recorded in the community association's minute book.

The romantic "moonlight dances" were particularly popular. Showing their creative flair, the organizers used wire to string lengths of stove pipe from the ceiling. Gas lamps were suspended at the mouth of each pipe. Only a spot of shadowy light fell on the floor creating a dreamy moonlight effect. Towards the end of the evening, coffee and refreshments were served. The coffee was brewed by tying a pound or so of ground coffee in a sugar sack and suspending this into a kettle of boiling water for a time – an early form of filter coffee!

While the parents savoured the last of the evening, the kids would retrieve the discarded soggy bundles of coffee grounds from the garbage and throw them at each other.
(Source: Rodney and Betty Allanson Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Community life in Clayton was warm and lively. There were monthly dances and card parties, and occasionally a box social. One of these was held on St. Valentine's Day, and the ladies made lunches to be auctioned off and it was rather expected that a husband would bid on his wife's lunch box.

Several ladies, including Mary Fisher, made the boxes in the form of a heart, and when the first heart–shaped box came up for bids, her husband, Jim, assuming this was the lunch Mary had made, began bidding eagerly, along with several other men. He eventually prevailed, but to his disappointment, the box turned out not to be Mary's lunch.

When her box lunch came up for auction, it was won by a group of five boys who had pooled their money. Since there were always extra sandwiches, the two–person lunch was quickly augmented to feed all six of them.
(Source: Mary Wildeman Fisher Interview, September 2004, City of Surrey Archives)

During World War II, Kay Arnold said she and her friends lamented that there weren't nearly enough eligible young men to dance with at the town dances as many of them were serving in the military.

In those days, the best kind of friend to have was one with a car. Kay's buddy, Olive Burrows, was lucky enough to be able to use her father's vehicle. Gas was rationed, but since Olive's father was a farmer, the car always had gas. Thus, Olive was conscripted most Saturday nights to chauffeur a group of four or five girls to different dances in the area. They particularly favoured the ones at the East Delta Hall, where the music started at 9 p.m. and finished at 1 a.m. Music included polka, schottische, waltz and foxtrot – and the music was live – usually a five–piece orchestra.

At these dances, all the single men stood at the back of the hall, forming the "stag line", working up the courage to ask one of the girls to dance.
(Source: Kathleen McCowan Arnold Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Dora Rogers recounted that during the War, all the communities had hostess groups who would invite the air force recruits in Abbotsford or Delta to attend a social with dancing and refreshments.
(Source: Dora Barker Rogers Interview, January 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

Community dances were held in communities throughout Surrey, and the ones held in Cloverdale often had a large orchestra from Vancouver. One of the annual events was a fancy dress ball. One year, Mrs. Ernie Dann decided that she would dress up as Charlie Chaplin in his characteristic dark suit, bowler hat and moustache, and suggested to Mary Hawksworth that she go as Little Bo Peep. Mrs. Dann rented a long blonde wig for Mary in Vancouver and did her make–up. Near the end of the evening, there was a Grand March or promenade around the hall so that the judges could decide who was wearing the best costumes. Spectators watched over the promenade, looking down from the prized viewing locations in the balcony, which ran the perimeter of the Athletic Hall. Mary and Mrs. Dann captured first prize. No one recognized Mary until she took off her wig.
(Source: Mary Hawksworth Helem Interview, September 2004 and September 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Participants at costume ball

Participants at a costume ball.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref: 40.6.19

While all of the dances held at the old Athletic Hall in Cloverdale were much anticipated, the Snow Ball Frolic and the New Year's Eve celebration were especially popular, attracting as many as 1,000 people. A well–known orchestra, usually from Vancouver, would provide the music. Everyone dressed up; the women wore long dresses.

In order to enhance a limited wardrobe, girls often swapped dresses, leading one of the boys to remark that when he tapped a girl on the shoulder to ask her to dance, he was never certain who would turn to accept his invitation.
(Source: Mabel Main Sherritt Interview, January 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

Hazelmere Hall on the west side of Halls Prairie Road (184 Street), just south of 16 Avenue, was built as a joint project of the Farmers' Institute and the Women's Institute.

It replaced an earlier building on the site of the Hazelmere General Store, and quickly became the focal point for community activities in that area.

Ron Kitzel and Betty Charlton knew each other as children since they lived just a half mile apart, and when they were older, along with many of their contemporaries, they played badminton and attended weekly dances at the Hall, where Merv Clark and his band often performed. One of the customs officers from the Blaine crossing also played piano for these dances. On special occasions, such as Robbie Burns Night (January 25), there would be parties organized around the theme.
(Source: Ron Kitzel and Elizabeth Charlton Kitzel Interview, January 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Dances in the small community halls that were dotted around the municipality were a great way to spend a Saturday night and for young people to meet each other. If a girl didn't have a date, that wasn't a reason not to go; she would either attend on her own, or go along with another girl. Many a local romance started on the dance floor at these local events.

For instance, Willy Hansen met Peggy Spall at one of the dances in the Cloverdale Athletic Hall. The orchestra played "Girl of My Dreams" the first time they danced together and Willy sang they lyrics to Peggy as they circled the dance floor. He asked to take her home, but she had come with someone else.

But since they both belonged to the Junior Athletic Association, they met again playing badminton. Several romances in Surrey also blossomed as the shuttlecocks whizzed over the net.
(Source: Peggy Spall Hansen and Willy Hansen Interview, August and September 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

Meanwhile, over in Newton Margaret Hall McElhinney's brothers had a dance orchestra. Dick (whose given name was Reginald) played sax. Glover played drums. He was fond of using his knife and fork to practice drumming when seated at the dinner table, much to their mother's chagrin.

The Newton dances were renowned for their masquerades. Glover McElhinney once dressed as an Eskimo and nearly melted from the heat of his costume.

Everyone would bring some food, or "eats", as they called them. After enjoying a light meal and some conversation, the chairs in the hall would be pushed to the side, the floor swept, and then the music would begin.

There were no liquor licenses, and it was common for people to have a bottle in their car; the dancers would periodically go outside for a drink, then return to the dance. Despite this, generally speaking, everyone was well–behaved. However, one of Margaret's brothers told her after one evening that one of the guests had made a few too many trips out to the car and was moved to play the piano with his feet.

The door of their house was always left unlocked while they were at the dance until Margaret and her brothers returned home. Each signed in on a slate by the door; the last one in would lock the door.
(Source: Margaret Hall McElhinney Interview, February 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

In Cloverdale, school plays and concerts, and movies were staged in the grandly–named Opera House, which doubled as the local athletic hall. This was also the site of the much-anticipated Women's Institute Thanksgiving suppers where Mary Hawksworth Helem's mother made the coffee in enormous galvanized tubs. These dinners were so deliciously popular, especially for the town's bachelors, they quickly outgrew their original location in the United Church hall and were moved to the Opera House.
(Source: Mary Hawksworth Helem Interview, September 2004 and September 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Tennis and Badminton

Dora Rogers recalls that at one time there were tennis courts in the fields behind the Bank of Montreal. But even more fun was playing badminton at the Athletic Hall, where many a romance was kindled, and indeed this where she met her future husband, Boultbee Rogers. He was from Langley, but since the Langley community hall was still used by soldiers, badminton players there came to Cloverdale to play.
(Source: Dora Barker Rogers Interview, January 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

Local Hunting

Alfred Harold Barker liked to go hunting, accompanied by his two spaniels. He knew all the farmers in the area and they were happy to allow him to hunt on their property. He frequently bagged duck and pheasant, which were most welcome at the dinner table.
(Source: Dora Barker Rogers Interview, January 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

May Day

Many communities held annual May Day celebrations, a tradition imported by English settlers. In Sullivan, these coincided with a community festival called Sullivan Days. (See Sullivan)
Kay Arnold was one of the happy celebrants there, and also at Fort Langley.

As part of the festivities, small groups of children, about six to eight, formed a circle around a tall wooden pole (the maypole) each holding a long ribbon which was tied to the pole. The girls wore white dresses and the boys white shirts and dark trousers. The children would move in clockwise and counter clockwise patterns to musical accompaniment as the ribbon was intertwined and plaited around the pole. The patterns would be repeated several times, and the strings of ribbon would grow shorter and then would lengthen as they were wound and unwound from the pole as part of the dance.

may pole dance

Maypole dance at 1963 Crescent Beach celebrations.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref: SAMOA F62–0–1–0–0–190

It was traditional to crown a Queen of the May Day and to have a court, which included a princess, maids of honour and Miss Canada. Kay Arnold wore the Miss Canada crown one year.

(Source: Kathleen McCowan Arnold Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives)
May Queen and her Court

The May Queen and her court arrive at the 1951 celebrations in Tynehead.

Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref: SAMOA F49–0–5–0–0–0–0–129

Cloverdale Rodeo

Gordon and Mavis Bishop remember that, at one time, the Surrey Fairgrounds grandstand was located at the far end of the Rodeo ring. The two rows of seats above the chutes, were highly sought after since they were close to the action, but they discovered that the best vantage point was from their van parked behind the chutes. From there, they could watch the cowboys practice their tricks; often silly tricks that they would never be able to do during the event.

Cloverdale Rodeo

The platform above the chutes was a prime viewing spot for the bucking bronco rides at the Cloverdale Rodeo in 1951.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref SAMOA F84–0–0–0–0–0–0–84

Their young son, Ron, worked with the clowns, acting as their "straight man". He was dressed up like a clown and had a toy gun that inflated a balloon when fired.

Children were often in the ring with the bulls before the events, but the animals never took any notice of them.

The bulls always had a leather strap fastened around their middle and when it was cinched up tight, they would put their heads down, paw the earth and begin to buck. At the end of each rider's time, the buckle would be unfastened and the bull would relax.
(Source: Gordon Bishop and Mavis Thune Bishop Interview, February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Jaycee Follies

There were various business improvement associations formed in Surrey over the years, two of them in Cloverdale – The Cloverdale Board of Trade and the Junior Chamber of Commerce, popularly known as the Jaycees.

The Jaycees were very active and one of their fundraising activities was the Jaycee Follies, a theatrical revue typically comprised of music and skits. Neville Curtis, who was a grocery store merchant and freelance newspaper columnist, combined forces with dentist Joe Rife to write a skit about the KdeK ferry which plied the Fraser River between New Westminster and Brownville.
(See Crossing the Fraser)

Harry Curtis (Neville's son) and Willy Hansen were cast as newspaper reporters. Willy played several other roles, including an Indian and a cowboy, in addition to singing and playing the guitar.

Jaycees building scenery

Cloverdale Junior Chamber of Commerce members building scenery for a Jaycee Follies skit.
1951. Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref SAMOA F4–0–5–0–0–0–0–114

Everyone pitched in to build the flats for the scenery and they found an artist to paint the sets. The play was a great success and after performances in Cloverdale, it moved to the big-time in Burnaby. This created some angst for Willy's wife, Peggy since she was due to deliver their first child and she was worried about going into labour while at home alone, either during the rehearsals or a performance, so she packed her suitcase and traveled with Willy for all of the Burnaby performances.
(Source: Peggy Spall Hansen and Willy Hansen Interview, August and September 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

Painting the Library

In addition to fundraising events like the Jaycee Follies, members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce undertook community projects such as painting the Cloverdale Library in 1949.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref no: SAMOA F49–0–5

Surrey Volunteer Fire Departments

Until 19 Surrey's fire fighting services were provided by a group of volunteers. Training was on–the–job. Alan Davidson recalls that, as a member of the Cloverdale Volunteer Fire Brigade, the instant the fire siren sounded, he would grab his jacket and race to the pumper truck parked at the site currently occupied by the Clova Theatre.

It was an exhilarating experience as they raced to the fire – a mixture of both the excitement of the ride and dread of what lay ahead. Getting to the blaze fast was always paramount and on one wintry occasion, Alan was with Ray Bowell and Hugh Currie when the siren began to wail. As was customary, Alan picked up the phone and the local telephone operator gave him the location at Crescent Beach waterfront.

Ray leapt into the driver's seat of the pumper truck, with Hugh alongside. There were no other seats inside, so Alan lay on top of the hose in the back of the truck. They rushed to the scene, the icy wind roaring over Alan’s head. When they hit Crescent Road, where the enormous evergreens trees shielded the road, the road was slick and the temperature turned frigid. By the time they reached the fire, Alan was so cold he could barely operate the equipment.

Sadly, the best the firemen could do for the most part at any blaze was to save the surrounding buildings. The brigade would watch helplessly as the structure where the fire had started was destroyed. Water was always a problem. Usually, the only source would be a well or a nearby pond, equipment was limited, and the expertise we have today was yet to be developed.
(Source: Alan Davidson Interview, February 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

There was a fire that burned the dance hall in Crescent, along with three houses, one of which was the Reifel family home. Dorothy Oldershaw Hempsall and her family watched the blaze from their home. Since the tide was out, the tank of the fire truck was quickly emptied, so the community had to form a bucket brigade and use salt water to put the fire out.
(Source: Dorothy Oldershaw Hempsall Interview, September 2007, City of Surrey Archives)

Mabel Main Sherritt remembers members of the community setting up a bucket brigade in about 1934–5 when the high school caught fire. They drew water from the well on the school property and successfully quelled the blaze.

(Source: Mabel Main Sherritt Interview, January 2006. City of Surrey Archives)
Elementary School Fire

Volunteer fire fighters at the Cloverdale primary school room in 1955. While the fire which broke out at the high school in the 1930s was put out, a blaze destroyed the elementary school annex.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref SAMOA F49–0–5–0–0–0–0–349

Ed Hamre of Highway Garage invited Willy to join the Cloverdale Volunteer Fire Department and Gordon Bingham taught him how to run the 500–gallon pumper truck. Time was always their enemy and the volunteers were creative in shaving seconds of their response time, which explains the photograph of Willy in The Surrey Leader with his trousers over his pajamas fighting the fire.

One frigid New Year's Eve, they raced a barn fire on a dairy farm by the Nicomekl River. The first priority was to lead the cattle out of the barn, but when they were moved out on to the icy ground, the cows could neither stand up or move, so they had to be pulled to safety.

Willy set to work priming the pumper, but the gauges were frozen and weren’t registering the pressure. When he noticed three of his colleagues lifting a hose off the ground, he lowered the pressure. He was unaware that the heat from the motor had thawed the gauges, which then broke lose, hitting them with about 250 pounds of pressure rather than 150.

The hoses were a particular hazard. During the Opera House blaze, one of the walls was about to collapse, and one of the volunteers had to drop the hose and run which resulted in the hose waving wildly. Willy got control of it by grabbing the end and crawling up to the nozzle just before the wall caved in.

On another occasion, they attended a fire in a sawdust bin housed in a large shed on a farm south of the Serpentine River. Willy noticed a man standing in an open space watching the blaze. Willy, recognizing the danger, ran over and pulled him away. A huge explosion and potentially fatal explosion followed.
(Source: Peggy Spall Hansen and Willy Hansen Interview, August and September 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

The two–storey house Mabel Main Sherritt grew up in was constructed by an experienced but rather inept builder and he made a lot of mistakes. A pipe ran from the wood–burning kitchen stove through the house into the chimney instead of going straight up the chimney and was a constant fire hazard. On one occasion, Mabel's uncle came to help when the flames became particularly fierce. The chimney was poorly constructed, and Mabel remembers she could see the flame flickering through the breaks in the crumbling grout of the chimney. They put wet cloths on the chimney in the upstairs so that the ceiling would not catch fire.

Then there were other hazards. Prior to the house being electrified, light was provided by oil lamps and candles and when Mabel's younger brother, Harry, threw a pillow at her and her sister while they were in bed, it hit the candle which toppled over and set the bureau on fire.
(Source: Mabel Main Sherritt Interview, January 2006. City of Surrey Archives)

Norman Sherritt was Secretary of the Cloverdale Athletic Association in 1952 when the Athletic Hall burned down. The Athletic Hall, located where the old post office is, across from the Bank of Montreal and the adjoining Opera House were both reduced to ashes buildings, but no cause for the blaze was ever determined. Norm remembers going down and watching it burn in the middle of the night, along with many of the community's residents. The Athletic Association decided to use the money to replace the hall and got permission to build it on the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, where he and Mabel subsequently played badminton.
(Source: Norman Sherritt Interview, June 2006 and February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Olive Burrows Wilson also recalled the fire which started around 4 a.m. and which eventually destroyed the Athletic Hall in Cloverdale in March 1952. She said it became so hot in their nearby house, she woke and dressed the children, while her husband, Alan, readied the car for a quick evacuation. The Opera House was next door, attached to the hall. There were fire trucks from all over the Municipality fighting the blaze.
(Source: Olive Burrows Wilson Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Opera House Fire

The Cloverdale Athletic Hall and Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1952.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref: SAMOA F83–0–0–0–0–0–0–164

Social Work and Philanthropy

At the turn of the last century, there was no such thing as social assistance. Instead, it fell to churches, philanthropic organizations or individuals to provide assistance for those in need. In the Cloverdale area, if a woman was expecting a baby, members of the Sunshine Circle of the King's Daughters (founded by Martha Currie in 1905) would provide a layette, a set of clothing for a newborn. The King's Daughters was a Christian service organization which held rummage sales, teas and other events to raise funds.

Often, however, it was the community members and local members who pitched in if help was needed. If a family lost all their possessions in a fire, and fires were much more common in those days, the community mobilized, provided moral support, took up a collection, and then helped rebuild.

Martha Currie was one of these informal social workers. She loved to take her younger son, Hugh, with her in the horse and buggy, setting off to visit new members of the community, having tucked some home baking, fruit or other foodstuffs in the buggy "just in case".

Travel was rough and Martha had aptly dubbed Cloverdale "Muddale" when she first laid eyes on it. Travel from Fry's Corner (at 176 Street and the Fraser Highway) to the north was along a corduroy road. Trees were cut and laid across the roadbed, ditches dug on either side and the soil from these was used to cover the trees, along with a bit of gravel. It was a teeth–rattling ride with the horse and buggy.
(Source: Hugh Currie Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Corduroy Road

The hardships of the 1930s economic Depression were less pronounced for most of the families in Surrey who lived on farms, or who had a few animals and a small garden.

The William Davidson family farm on the Hjorth Road (104 Avenue) was next to the CN Railway tracks. Many men seeking work would hitch a ride on a train, and jumped off in rural areas to make their way to a local farm looking for food or short–term work.

Lydian Davidson would always give them a meal, but was cautious enough not let them into the house. Instead, she would put a kitchen chair on the porch and serve them outdoors where they enjoyed her excellent cooking.
(Source: Alan Davidson Interview, February 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

Dorothy Oldenshaw Hempsall recalls men jumping from the train as it slowed when crossing the bridge over the Nicomekl River and that they would come to their house to ask for food.

(Source: Dorothy Oldershaw Hempsall Interview, September 2007, City of Surrey Archives)

As Surrey and its population grew, it was citizens like Norman and Mabel Sherritt who saw the need for a more formal approach to addressing community needs, particularly in the area of cerebral palsy treatment and support.

Their interest was prompted by the fact that their son David was diagnosed with it as an infant. When David was diagnosed, little was known about it, even in the medical profession. They took David to the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver, which entailed lengthy, daily trips to and from the Centre.

Norm founded the Lower Fraser Valley Cerebral Palsy Association in about 1953 and served on the board of directors for 40 years. During his tenure, the Association built a treatment center on 120 Street at Green Timbers. The Association raised money to purchase a second–hand funeral limousine which they adapted and used to transport several kids each day into Vancouver for treatment.

The Center was later rebuilt through the Variety Club and subsequently relocated to 140 Street on land donated by the then-Municipality of Surrey.
(Source: Norman Sherritt Interview, June 2006 and February 2007. City of Surrey Archives)

Funeral Limousines

Mecond–hand funeral limousines were repurposed in 1956 by the newly–founded Cerebral Palsy Association to provide accessible transport for children with mobility disabilities.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref: SM0466B

Others joined existing charitable, philanthropic and church organizations to give back to their community. Olive Burrows Wilson joined the Victoria Order of Nurses Auxiliary and later became President. They held teas and bazaars and sold recipe books to support the VON, who provided services such as care for the elderly, and home nursing for mothers and their babies. The public health nurse would visit each month at home to weigh the babies, check on their development and to provide information and support to the parents.

Olive fielded all the calls for the nurses, and if there was an emergency, she would have to locate a nurse who was out on rounds – not easy to do in the days before cellphones! The nurses were supplied a car and went from house to house to care for babies or to provide personal care for the elderly as they didn't have nursing homes at that time.
(Source: Olive Burrows Wilson Interview, March 2005. City of Surrey Archives)

VON Nursing

Members of the Victorian Order of Nurses called on mothers and their babies at home in 1948.
Photo: City of Surrey Archives ref: SAMOA F49–0–5–0–0–0–0–6

The Interviewees

Rod Allanson came to Surrey with his family as a toddler at the end of World War II. His parents operated a poultry farm and raised a few dairy cows at 32 Avenue and 140 Street until the early 1920s.

Kay Arnold and her family relocated from a homestead near Edmonton in 1933 to Surrey where her father purchased a ten–acre chicken farm at Sullivan Station on the Johnston Road. Together with her husband, Barney, she operated a general store at Surrey Centre for a decade beginning in the 1950s.

Don Billings came to Surrey as a teenager, along with his parents who bought a small piece of property at No. 10 Highway and 184 Street. Don served in the Canadian Air Force during World War II, and later managed the Cloverdale Overwaitea grocery store for many years, before leaving to become a tax assessor.

Gordon Bishop came to Surrey in 1939 with his family who had bought property at the corner of the 104 Avenue and Holmes Road in Tynehead. For many years, he worked for the Surrey Dyking Commission and played a major role in the rebuilding of the Serpentine and Nicomekl dams and the maintenance of over 40 miles of dykes.

Hugh Currie was born in Vancouver. His parents came to Cloverdale in 1903 where they established a creamery. Hugh established Flying Feather Farms, a successful egg business. He was an active community member and served on the Board of the Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Alan Davidson arrived in Surrey with his family in 1928. They established a dairy farm and also raised pigs, chickens and fruit trees. After high school, he was hired by Hugh & McKinnon and eventually became a partner. He has been active in community affairs throughout his life.

Mary Fisher came to BC with her husband, Jim, their two children, her father and stepmother in 1943. She and her husband purchased ten acres in Clayton on 184 Street, where they raised beans for the Royal City Foods cannery and sold milk and butter.

Frank Graham was born in Northern Ireland and came to Canada as a young boy with his family. In 1937, he and his wife and family bought acreage on 184 Street, all of which he cleared by hand. He operated a dairy farm and raised chickens, working with his father and brother.

Peggy Spall Hansen came to Cloverdale as a young teacher in 1946. She and her husband, Willy and three daughters formed a music group and entertained throughout the Lower Mainland.

Willy Hansen was born in Norway and emigrated to Canada in 1929, settling in Cloverdale as a young man. He operated Hansen's Shoe Repair until 1973, and later worked for the Surrey School Board. Throughout his life, he was a keen musician, playing the guitar and singing.

Mary Hawksworth Helem came to Cloverdale as a young girl, along with her mother. For a time, they lived in an apartment on the upper floor of the City Hall, which is the current Surrey Archives building. She attended teacher's college in Vancouver and returned to Surrey to teach.

Dorothy Oldershaw Hempsall lived at Crescent Beach with her family in a house located next to the covered bridge at the mouth of the Nicomekl River, where she and her brother enjoyed many visits along and on the river, and at Blackie's Spit.

Ruth McIntryre Hunter moved to Cloverdale around 1918, where her family purchased property on the Halls Prairie Road (184 Street). Ruth and her husband, Doug, raised their family there and operated a farm raising Simmental cows and breeding Guernsey cattle. They later owned and operated West Coast Auctions.

Alice Hardwick Sears Joslin came to Surrey in the 1920s with her family who bought farmland on 176 Street where Hazelmere Golf Course is today. As a young widow, she took up a teaching position at Elgin School, where she remained for almost 20 years.

Elizabeth Charlton Kitzel came to Surrey from Edmonton with her family in the 1940s. Her parents bought property in Surrey on 12 Avenue (the Bamford Road) in Hazelmere and raised livestock. Prior to marriage, she worked at the Surrey Leader newspaper, and the Surrey Co–op.

Ronald Kitzel grew up on the family farm on 16 Avenue. His father worked at the McKay and Flannigan sawmill during the day and cleared the property at night. Together with his wife, Betty, Ron developed a successful dairy farm in the Mud Bay area.

Margaret Hall McElhinney was born in Newton, and lived with her family on the former Hall Road. She acquired a keen interest in music, an interest she shared with her brothers, who had an orchestra and played at community dances. Her brothers and father worked at King's Mill.

Earl Newcombe has lived in his family home in Surrey since his family came to Surrey over 90 years ago. He operated a dairy farm for many years and subsequently worked at the Surrey Co–operative Association.

Doris Barker Rogers came to Cloverdale as a young girl when her father became manager of the Bank of Montreal. She inherited her father's keen love of music, an interest she shares with her two children. She married Boultbee Rogers, and together, they made their home in Cloverdale.

Mabel Main Sherritt came to Cloverdale with her family in the 1920s, where her father raised dairy cattle. She became a teacher and married Norman Sherritt during World War II. She has been an active member of her church, and together with Norman, founded the Lower Fraser Valley Cerebral Palsy Association.

Norman Sherritt, a keen amateur historian with a particular interest in Langley and Surrey history, grew up near Murrayville, and later became a teacher in Langley.

Olive Burrows Wilson was born in Cloverdale, and was an active member of the community in the Victorian Order of Nurses Auxiliary and the Eastern Star, as well as the Surrey Historical Society.

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