October 05, 2004

"This was your past, but not anymore. Now go away."

Trying to revisit the past doesn't always work out

A number of years ago, my wife and I were driving and we found ouselves on the Fraser Highway in Langley. Looking at some street signs, I realized that we were actually very close to where I had lived when I was in Grades 2 and 3. I became excited and said "let's follow 248th and see if we can find my old place!"

Right before 248th crossed over the Highway Number 1, I saw a familiar narrow gravel driveway with a rusted mailbox.

"That's it! Turn down here! Turn down here!"

"But it says 'No Trespassing'" my wife pointed out rightly, but we went down anyway.

The narrow gravel road curved down to a level about 30 lower than the main road, and ended at a gated access road leading into what was like a small, green valley. My wife said "John, we should go" but I wasn't listening. Stepping out of the car, I walked ahead to the locked steel fence (with a "No Trespassing" sign) and sighed as I reoriented myself with the fields and trees that had once been part of my backyard.

This property was originally 77 acres, owned by a bunch of doctors. Back when I lived there, it was mostly dirt and low-lying scrub brush - an unfinished, industrial-looking place. It was also the transmitter site for my Dad's employer, CJJC Radio AM 800. There used to be six high-voltage radio antennas stretching 100 feet into the air, but they were long since dismantled after the radio station shut down.

The story I had heard from my Dad was that after we left, the son of the radio station owner had lived in the trailer which had been our home for two years. Unfortunately, he accidentally burned it down. Now, the acreage was covered in green, and the properties that fronted onto 248th looked like they extended farther down onto the acreage, giving their livestock (horses, cows and bulls) all the more room to graze. It was extremely peaceful and beautiful little valley now.

Behind us, I heard a voice yell "This is private property!" I turned to see a man holding a rifle, walking towards us with a Doberman Pinscher at each side. I stammered something about how we were just leaving. We hopped back into the car and left and I have never been back.

* * * * * * *

A few weeks ago, my sister phoned to tell me that she had located another place we had briefly stayed at as children: The Blue Star Motel, also near the Fraser Highway, outside of Langley. We had stayed here maybe only a few nights until our Dad managed to find us the little trailer on the transmitter site.

My memory of the Blue Star was that it was very bright and clean, and had nicely trimmed green lawns.

Oh my god, but was I ever in for a surprise as my sister and I drove up to this dingy, faded and overgrown place, which looked like it was now condemned. The same sign was still up, but the drapes were drawn at the manager's office and a few people gathered around a car with the hood up, about 100 feet back towards the rear of the lot. It looked like a total dump now, and I didn't really want to see much more.

There's a saying that goes "You can never go home again". It means that part of what makes a place home is your connection to it, and that this can be lost with the passage of time, and the natural changes of life.

But scary people, guns, and guard dogs can have a big impact too.

"This was your home, but not anymore. Now go away."

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