Saturday, June 29, 2024

A Little Drive Down Memory Lane

Last Sunday afternoon, my mom and I drove around looking at houses, schools and churches that've been part of her life. 

I picked her up in Chilliwack. 

She was prepared; she had a notebook in hand with the addresses of All The Important Places listed. As well as a bag of Purdy's Chocolate Bars (courtesy of Val).

Our first stop was in Yarrow (right next door to Wack...). We've all known the story of how mom was born in the house behind the park in Yarrow. This was the first time I'd actually stopped to see it:

4358 Kehler Street -  Yarrow

She was born in the kitchen on January 2, 1940
Grandpa had been playing cards with his buddies at the kitchen table, but once the midwife arrived with her big tin tub and other birthing paraphernalia, Grannie's dad shooed them out. 

(The big tin tub was filled with water from a pump in the yard, heated on a wood stove, which her mom then sat in.)

My mom was born a lovely shade of blue (due to the umbilical  cord being wrapped around her neck), and a foot that was wonky. Only took a few minutes (seconds?) to get her a healthy pink colour, but it took longer to straighten out that foot. The midwife massaged and bound it for days (weeks?) afterward til it was perfect. 

As the story goes, she was to be named Hilda (after her dad's youngest sister) Jeanette. But when her dad went to officially register her, he wrote Hilda Jean (maybe because he didn't know how to spell Jeanette? ...) but he never told anyone. It wasn't until she was 12, playing on the inter-city Volleyball League (the best spiker and setter) for her school that she and her mom looked at her birth certificate and were shocked to discover her real name.

At nine months of age, the Neumann family left safety of the country-life to settle in the big city city. Vancouver. 

6405 East 48th Avenue - Vancouver

The Neumann and the Langeman families purchased this house together; the Neumanns lived on the main floor with the Langemans living upstairs. 

They lived here for two years, and during that time the Langemans had a little girl named Vera, who eventually became one of Hilda's best friends. 

When she was two, the house was sold. Mom and her family moved to E. 47th Ave (and the Langeman's eventually ended up on E. 49th Ave.)

542 E. 47th Avenue - Vancouver

As was usual for them, my mom's family always had people living with them. She remembers, in particular, lots of laughter was brought into their home when 3 single women lived in the empty bedroom on the top floor ... and as  I'm typing this she's recalling that every house they lived in had extra space for family members or church people needing a place to stay during the 40's and 50's.

They lived here for 4 years, until mom was six. From there, they moved a few blocks over to E.49th area, so she could attend Sir Alexander MacKenzie Elementary School.

6474 Windsor Street - Vancouver

This place holds all my mom's most special memories... she lived her from the time she was 6 til she was 12. 
This was a two bedroom home; granny and grandpa had one room, my mom and her brother, Don, shared the other one... until it wasn't cool for a teenaged brother and sister to share a bedroom. Then they closed in the back porch and he slept there. Until Agatha came to live with them. Then Don moved down to the basement and Agatha slept on the porch. 

It was heated by a sawdust stove, which eventually got upgraded to coal. There was no fridge in those days, so the ice man would bring a block of ice once a week. He'd chip off a large block, then carry it in on his shoulder. It was kept in the basement in the laundry sink, and everyone in the house would keep their perishables in the sink (butter, milk, etc.)

The iceman was apparently a fun man, he'd chip off bit of ice with his ice pick for Hilda and Don to suck on.

There was space in the basement for renters/families/friends so the house was always full of happy people. 

As kids they'd play on the streets every day until the street lights came on. That was their cue to head back home.

It was while she lived here she took (Royal Conservatory) piano lessons every Saturday eventually getting as far as grade 7 ... she wrote her exams at The Hotel Vancouver and won the highest honors. 

During these "Windsor Street" years, Hilda attended Sir Alexander MacKenzie School. To get there, she walked about a mile; from E.49th then through Memorial Park (E. 41 Street) and then a couple blocks to the school...

When Hilda was 11, she was elected/chosen as The May Queen. She recalls going home at noon, changing into a fluorescent hot pink top and matching hot pink socks, praying beside her bed and walking back to school confident that she was going to be picked. 
And she was. 
The rest is history. 
From that day forth, and forever more she will be our Queen. 
(Also, interesting but not super relevant, 1951 was also the year Hilda's dad bought their first car - a Pontiac.)

The following year, when she was 12 years old, there was another ceremony, this one to recognize her as the Retiring Queen. (A sad side note to this story is mom's friend, Vera Langeman, had died of Rheumatic Fever at this time, so the retiring queen ceremony was delayed for Vera's funeral.)
And then, a few months later, when she was 13 ...

E 43rd Street Church
5887 Prince Edward Street -  Vancouver 

 ... when mom was in the balcony (3rd row from the front) she turned around and watched the new guy, in his blue strides and white sports coat find a seat in the back row. She turned to her friend, Viola, and said, "I'm gonna marry that guy someday."

(Apparently, she caught his eye as well, and he proclaimed the same sentiment to his buddy sitting next to him.)

This is the first MB church in Vancouver, by the way. Services were in German. My dad's brother and sister were married there. (They didn't marry each other. John married Mary. Margaret (my dad's twin) married Art.) Just to be clear.

From there, the Neumann Family moved across Knight Street to the home where Hilda spent her teenaged years:

7092 Fleming Street - Vancouver

Sadly the original house (pictured above) has been demolished (along with the neighbour's house) and a large mega-home has been built in it's place. 

As per usual, there was a suite in the basement with an assortment of folks coming and going and adding sunshine to their lives. 

It was while she lived in this house that Hilda started dating Pete. She was 15; he was 25. 
He was 19. 
Still, though.

Anyway, she gave up piano by this time; 'her heart just wasn't in it'. (Probably because Pete was meeting her on Fraser Street and walking her to and from her Saturday lessons.)

She attended John Oliver High School up until grade 10...

... and moved out to Clearbrook to live in a shack on her grandmother's property with two other girls to attend MEI for grade 11. ("One of the best years of my life.") (The shack had no running water, no heat, and one double bed that the girls shared.) (There are no photos from this year as the shack is long gone, and so are the original MEI buildings.)

She dated a million guys during that year, but came back to Vancouver and the house on Fleming for grade 12 because her heart belonged to Pete. 

(Bored (?) while their daughter was out in Abbotsford, my granny and grandpa had a project of her own. In August, just a few weeks before she started her final year of high school, my mom was promoted from 'baby of the family' to 'the middle child' when her brother Dean was born, seventeen years her junior. Surprise!!) 

Anyway, back at JO, mom would be in class (on the top floor) and he'd pull up in his '56 Chevrolet convertible (with a continental kit.) (Apparently that last bit is important.) And all the girls would run to the windows thinking he was there for them. But he wasn't. He only had eyes for his May Queen.) She remembers hearing jealous girls saying, "what does he see in her"?

In June 1958 Hilda graduated from high school and got engaged. 

And in August 1959 they got married in Fraserview MB Church, which everyone started attending when they moved to Fleming Street. (This church's services were in English...)

And after the honeymoon (first night at the Aldergrove Hotel, other nights with relatives as they traveled to Winkler and back) they moved into the basement of his mom's house just off Fraser Street. 

(In the olden days, the yard was loved. Roses, lawn, flower gardens...)
Just sayin. Don't judge my Omi's house based on how it looked last Sunday.

I was born while they lived in that house. 
But this isn't about me. So ignore that fact.

Coincidentally, the year I was born, they left Fraserview and became founding members of the new MB church in Vancouver - 

Killarney Park MB - 6426 Kerr St

(Which is the church they attended, regardless of where they lived, and stayed til the mid-80's.) Dad was the sound guy, and my mom was the Sunday school secretary, a Pioneer Girls leader, and sang in the choir. Together they worked in the kitchen, (oops, I've been corrected. My mom worked in the kitchen. He just loved being around food and people) preparing meals for special events. 

From Omi's basement, they moved to Burnaby ...

4560 Harken Street - Burnaby (just off Willingdon)

For the record, the above photo is current and LOOKS NOTHING LIKE IT USED TO. If I manage to find a photo from back in the 60's I'll post an update. 
This was their first HOME. 
They bought the lot (the last one on a lane with farm land beside it) and built the house themselves... the interior was mostly turquoise (including a turquoise couch that she loved and is remembering fondly while I type this) and the bathrooms were mauve, and my dad built a bedroom suite for me out of white arborite. 

In case the prices of things is interesting to you, during their first three years of marriage they didn't buy anything or go anywhere. My dad sold his sexy car and bought a more practical VW Karmann Ghia and they had saved $12,500 to pay for their first house with cash. (No mortgage.)They sold it 5 years later for $25,000. 

When I asked my mom about Harken Street memories...
"These were the bowling club years (every Friday night), Jim and Julie were born while we lived here,  and Don and Wendy lived with us for two summers."

The call of the wild was making them restless, and their longing to 'go east' out of the city drew them to Coquitlam. They bought the last lot next to a small forest and built their second home. (For a grand total of $25,000. Again, no mortgage.) (These numbers are likely destroying my kids.)

2230 Dawes Hill Road - Coquitlam

The original house was torn down a couple years ago and this was built in it's place. The small forest on the right has been developed, (so that's different) but the neighbour's house on the left is exactly the same. And the view is still spectacular. (Well, the bridge is bigger, and the highway system more extravagant, but it still is not a boring thing to gaze at.)

Hey mom, any good memories from Dawes Hill?  "It's all a blurrrrr. Just busy raising kids. I got my hair done every Friday at Raymonds at Guidlford. I took Julie with me, and she'd bring her lunch kit. I would get a french roll sometimes, but for that I'd go to Cambie Street. We bought a camper while we lived there. We hosted a progressive New Year's Eve party once..."

After 5 years of Sunday afternoon drives in the country, my dad found the property of his dreams. Twenty five acres. With a creek running through it. Two miles from Guildford (my mom's favorite mall). It was perfect. 

The owner's husband had just died when dad first knocked on the old farmhouse door. It took months of him gently wooing her for the deal to get finalized. He bought the property (and built the house) for $50,000. 

The Klassen family were now farmers. 1972 - 2000
Cows. Chickens. Cats. Dogs. Barns with hay. Barns with tools. Barns with toys.

16610 - 96th Avenue - Surrey

Sadly, The House That Pete Built has been demolished. So there wasn't anything to photograph last weekend. (Insert sad face.) (This isn't about me. But have you noticed that ALL of my childhood homes are no longer around? Just an observation.) 

I probably have some good photos of the farm and house somewhere. But not available to me right now. I'll update this post if I find them.

This photo couldn't have been taken at a more dismal time of the year. Must've been in early March? Everything looks so blech...
But it's got all the buildings  - two barns and the house. 
And a crapload of amazing memories. For three generations. (All the grandkids have strong ties to this piece of land.) 

The land where the green barn lived is now a field of daisies. 

My mom remembers these as being 'good years with good memories'. "We had our end-of-summer parties; they were fun. You all got married while we lived on the farm. And we built the store ..."

In August 1987, Billie's Country was 'born':

16590 - 96th Ave - Surrey
Billie's Country

... and for 13 years my mom ("Billie") would hang out in this beautiful building that my dad built for his 'pussy cat'. He believed in her, supported her, was so very proud of her. 

Memories, mom?
"I got to work with my daughter and see my grandkids everyday..."

This is what it looks like 37 years later: 

The farm was sold in 2000 to the City of Surrey as 'green space', so dad and mom bought a lot in Fraser Heights where he built the Victorian home he'd been planning/dreaming/preparing for, for decades ...

They moved into their 7,000 square foot 'retirement' home in February 2007:

15861 - 114th Ave - Surrey

My dad had built a castle for his Queen. 

Dad passed away in 2015, so my mom lived here with an assortment of grandchildren (Mandi, Max, Drew and Danica (and me)) all taking turns living in the room above the garage or the man-cave in the basement ... until she moved to the Wack in 2022.

We're certain dad is pleased with her purchase; it was always his intent to sell the 'big house' after two years and move to a Penthouse. 

Skynest: 45757 Watson Road - Chilliwack

From her 6th floor suite she has a stunning view of the mountains, a not-boring view of the Save-On Foods parking lot, and an annoying soundtrack of all the 'sireeens' that scream by on Vedder Road. Haha. Not exactly perfect, but a beautiful place to live none-the-less.

And, as we were ending our six-hour Wack-to-Van tour, she said, "well, that was disappointing" (in reference to the houses and yards that were not being maintained, or demolished) and "now I have peace about living in Chilliwack" (realizing she absolutely did not want to live in Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam or Surrey ever again). 

So all in all, a worthwhile day. 


Three things I'm thankful for:

1. Memories. Photographs. 
2. Purdy's chocolate bars.
3. Canada.

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