A quick trip down memory lane in Surrey, BC

I got home yesterday from a quick trip to Surrey (a suburb of Vancouver), where I went for the 50th anniversary reunion of my high school graduation class. From our little school, Princess Margaret Senior Secondary, 97 people (including some spouses) had signed up to come. It was wonderful, and it was overwhelming.

I flew from Whitehorse to Vancouver on Air North’s 07:30 flight on Thursday. The weather forecast for the entire 3-day trip was for clouds and showers, but the rain in Whitehorse was very close to being snow when I left home for the 15-minute drive to the airport. I shot the first photo as our Boeing 737 was being pushed back. The ATR 42-300 would be leaving for Dawson shortly.

A rainy morning on the ramp at the Whitehorse airport
Far south of Whitehorse, the clouds cleared enough to get a view of the peaks below for about 20 minutes. I just never get tired of seeing them. The next photo was shot just north of Stewart.

The Coast Range just north of Stewart
Vancouver has one of my favourite airports. I love the architecture, the fact that it never feels crowded, and the art. Much of the art is quite incredible, like the Rivers Monument by Marianne Nicolson. Each pole is a cut through of the Columbia and Fraser River systems, with the top of the column representing the surface and the bottom of the column the riverbed. I was in no hurry, and spent quite a while with this piece.

The Rivers Monument by Marianne Nicolson

I soon had my rental car from Thrifty – a VW Jetta that I immediately disliked. Are they as cheap as they feel? Even the radio was junk. Anyway, I had time to kill before I could check into my hotel in Langley, so went to Boundary Bay Airport, where I did some advanced training (multi-engine and much higher speeds) in 1987, in a Grumman Cougar, a beauty of an aircraft. I see that the aircraft I trained in, once C-GTFN, was sold to a company in Michigan the following year. You can see a current photo of it here.

The memorial in the next photo honours the 29 airmen who died while serving at RCAF Station Boundary Bay. The Skyhawk Restaurant in the new terminal was an excellent place for an early lunch.

Memorial honouring the 29 airmen who died while serving at RCAF Station Boundary Bay.
Going back to my car, I noticed that this Solo 1-person electric car had arrived. It’s really cool for $20,000, but the company’s other two cars are bloody awesome! Especially the electric 356 Porsche replica (for $124,900 πŸ™‚ ).

Solo 1-person electric car
I spent a fair bit of time at Crescent Beach in the ’60s, so went for a look at what 50+ years has done there.Β There are actually surprisingly few changes – in the village, new homes have largely been done in styles that fit in very nicely, and the multi-million-dollar ones along the way are well hidden in the forest. The photo shows Blackie Spit Park, which was a popular party spot in my day, and in more recent years has been a nude beach. Now it’s a lovely, heavily-protected area for migratory birds – stay on the path, and dogs aren’t allowed. The fellow in the centre of the next photo called me over to chat while I was down in that area. His name is Sook (that’s probably spelled wrong). A Sikh, he moved to BC from Singapore in 1990. He’s the same age I am, and we talked for quite a while about the changes in Southeast Asia and in BC over the years.

Blackie Spit Park
This photo popped up in my Facebook Memories as I was writing this post, so it’s obviously supposed to be included πŸ™‚ From September 1969, this was bandit drag racing at its finest, on Latimer Road in Langley. A few days before I shot this photo, I had bought a 1969 rs SS Camaro from Westminster Motors for $4,395 plus tax. In less than 2 years it was a wheel-standing beast, and I spent many nights at these bandit strips.

Latimer Road bandit racing, 1969
At 1:00, I reached my motel, the Days Inn in downtown Langley. Langley had been chosen for the reunion rather than Surrey because it has better facilities and isn’t quite as crazy-busy as Surrey.

Days Inn in downtown Langley
Room 313 was exactly as you’d expect in a hotel like this – immaculate and well equipped. When I fired up my laptop to do some work on my Pioneer Cemetery project, the wifi was fast, so life was good.

Room 313 at the Days Inn in downtown Langley
The view wasn’t inspiring, so there was nothing to distract me from important things – including an afternoon nap before the reunion banquet that evening.

The view from room 313 at the Days Inn in downtown Langley
Another of the grads and I had planned to get photos of each person as they arrived, but that didn’t work out, so the first order of business once everyone (we thought) had arrived was getting a group photo. One of the spouses got a photo of me setting the shot up (thanks, Bob). Yes, I was having fun.

Murray Lundberg setting up a group photo
There are only 60 people in the photo, so it seems that many people who registered didn’t come. A 10-second timer on the shutter allowed me to get into the 3 shots I took.

The 1968 grads of Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School, in 2018
We had a 20th anniversary reunion in 1988, and it didn’t seem like most people had changed that much from high school.

Some of the 1968 grads of Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School, in 1988
The added 30 years had changed us all, but many are aging very well. One of the things that was quickly confirmed is that good friends are always good friends – after 50 years, conversation with them is still easy. It was a wonderful evening, and I was really glad I came down for it. It was overwhelming, though, and I didn’t get to talk to nearly as many people as I had hoped to. I hoped to rectify that somewhat at a school tour the next day.

Some of the 1968 grads of Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School, in 2018
On Friday, I drove around the Newton and Scottsdale parts of Surrey looking for anything familiar, but it’s all gone. The next photo shows the lot where the home I grew up in used to be.

An empty lot in Surrey, BC, where the home I grew up in used to be.
The school that we attended was bulldozed many years ago, but when some of us gathered in the office of the new Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School for the tour, I was pleased to see a series of paintings of the school we knew.

Paintings of the old Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
The school principal, Paulo Sarmento, had offered to show us around the school. I was very quickly impressed by his love of what he’s doing, and by his respect for the school’s history.

Paulo Sarmento, principal of Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
They don’t build schools like they used to! I knew from touring my grand-daughters’ high school about 3 years ago that it’s a different world now, but it was interesting to see this direct comparison. The murals in the gym are wonderful – a lion has always been the school emblem.

Lion mural in the gym at Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
One of the teachers dug the school yearbooks from 1966, ’67 and ’68 out of the library archives, and we spent a while going through them.

Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
Although they were damaged while being moved from the old school, all of the old class photos have been restored, some with huge effort, and are hanging. A current student spent quite a while talking with us there. It occurred to me that this visit would be like the Class of 1918 coming to visit us in our final year there – it seemed to be a big deal to everyone we met, students and teachers alike.

Old class photos Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
We interrupted a few classes, and had fun doing it πŸ™‚

Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
The main hallway is beautiful. There are 1,300 students at Princess Margaret now, about double what there was in 1968, I think.

Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
At the end of the tour, Mr. Sarmento (that sounds funny but “Paulo” doesn’t seem right πŸ™‚ ) presented each of us with a t-shirt that proclaims “Once a Lion Always a Lion”. Peggy and John allowed me a photo of theirs. What a great souvenir – very appropriate.

Once a Lion Always a Lion - Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
We gathered for a group photo at a totem pole that was created many years ago by students working with elders from the Semiahmoo First Nation. It has a very interesting history, and has survived two attempts to destroy it.

Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
Fred John was my math teacher for his first 3 years of teaching – he also taught art. At 77, he’s still teaching, and was a big part of our reunion. He’s a good example of the quality of teachers we had 50 years ago.

Fred John, math teacher at Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
The special needs class has been given control of the school sign on 72nd Avenue, and told to have fun with it. They are indeed having fun with it, no doubt putting a smile on many faces of people driving by! πŸ™‚

Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC

The school tour ended up being over 2 hours long. It really was quality time – with fewer people, it was easier to get into conversations – and was an excellent way to complete the reunion.

That night, I went to another airport restaurant, Adrian’s @ The Airport in Langley. It was a fine way to end the day, and brought me back to the Langley airport the next morning.

Langley (Langley Regional Airport – YNJ) was my primary airport during my flying years. Much of my training beyond my basic private licence as done here at Skyways, whose office is now home to Adrian’s restaurant. When I owned my own plane, it was tied down here. So in a light rain on Saturday morning, I wandered around the airport. As with everything else I’d been seeing the past couple of days, not much was familiar.

The Canadian Museum of Flight, which I put many volunteer hours working at, is now based at Langley. They didn’t open until 10:00, which was too late for me, but I had a look around at what I could see. One of the gems in the collection is CF-PWH, “Spirit of the Skeena”, the oldest surviving DC-3 in Canada. Built on February 24th, 1940, for American Airlines as “Flagship Texas”, she later served in the USAF, and with Trans Alaska Airlines, Queen Charlotte Airlines, Pacific Western Airlines, Great Northern Airways, and Trans Provincial Airlines. Her flying career ended in 1972.

CF-PWH, 'Spirit of the Skeena', the oldest surviving DC-3 in Canada
I had thought about doing some more wandering, but the rain wasn’t really conducive to that, so I returned to the Vancouver airport a couple of hours early. I can always amuse myself there watching airplanes. This Air Canada Dreamliner, C-FGDT, was throwing up a good spray on her takeoff run.

Air Canada Dreamliner C-FGDT throwing up a good spray on her takeoff run at YVR
Even in the secure area, you can wander for what feels like miles, and there’s always something going on. My Air North flight was at gate B-18, in an area where most of the other gates had WestJet 737s at them.

WestJet Boeing 737s in YVR
We boarded the plane at 1:00, but were delayed for a long time. Within a couple of minutes of taking off just before 2:00, we had vanished into the low clouds. But I had seen a forecast showing sunshine in Whitehorse so had high hopes for my window seat. Just north of Stewart, it started to clear, and a little while later, the community of Telegraph Creek, badly hit by wildfires a few weeks ago, was below.

Atlin Lake often provides a stunning view, and yesterday was one of those. Teresa Island is in the centre of the photo, the Llewellyn Glacier is on the left, and Juneau is on the shore of the distant salty waters.

Atlin Lake
Looking down on the community of Atlin a few seconds later.

One final shot of Lewis Lake, commonly called Lewes Lake, as we descended into Whitehorse. Cathy had been getting Bella and Tucker excited about my arrival, and I got a wonderful greeting from my family.

There is now talk about planning more reunions for the Class of ’68 – every 5 years perhaps, or even small annual ones. There are many people I’d still like to talk to, so I hope these happen. Except for that, the odds of me returning to Surrey are pretty much zero – the world I knew no longer exists.


A quick trip down memory lane in Surrey, BC — 7 Comments

  1. Very interesting. They had a high school reunion for our high school (any class) in early August and I would have loved to have gone but my wife had surgery the previous week and I wasn’t about to leave her.

  2. My first job when I finish my degree in 1986 was at the Canadian Museum of Flight When it was near Cresent Beach. Was lucky enough to catch a flight in a Tiger Moth. Only hopped from their airstrip to the Delta Air Park but it was fun.

    Loved climbing down into the old pool area to dig out files I was digitizing for them. Small world.

    • We probably crossed paths then, Iris – I was working with them in 1985-88. I supplied and drove the semi to move a hangar from Richmond to the Crescent Beach property, and the Sopwith Camel replica they built was built in my garage in Fort Langley.

  3. Loved that Judge in the drag photo.
    It’s funny you had a 69 rs as this was the same car a friend of mine (and former boss until he retired this summer) had when he was a teenager in Vancouver in the early 80’s. Bought it used of course. But had told me many stories of the drag racing that used to go on out that way. I can only imagine how that would have been like in 69! My experience has been heavily influenced by the Fast and Furious era as I got my learners in high school just as the movies were hitting it big in the early 00’s and I don’t feel like it is the same. Then again I am biased towards those big 60/70’s muscle cars!

    • By about 1975, the best days of bandit drag racing were long past in the Vancouver area – a combination of increased population, and increased enforcement. Automotive technology may be far ahead now, but the muscle cars of 1964-1971 will never be equalled as adrenalin/testosterone-pumping beasts πŸ™‚

  4. Loved how you mixed in so many elements of your life in this single posting…school, old friends, cool cars, airplanes and flying…! Just great. Very glad you got so much out of the trip.