by Melissa Rollit/Special to The News
Any long-time resident of Maple Ridge will tell you that the winters of today are nothing compared to those of their youth, when Maple Ridge would turn into a veritable winter wonderland.
One resident who would undoubtedly agree is the late Joan Elizabeth Jones (Harper, Byrnell, Neal), who was born in 1923 and lived in Haney during multiple periods of her life.
The museum holds a copy of her informal memoir, a written collection of her memories, which tells her incredible life story and includes some delightful winter memories from her childhood in Maple Ridge.
During the cold months, the Fraser River would freeze over, so much so that people could drive across the ice.
One such crossing that left a lasting image in Jones’ mind was the daily crossing of Mr. Edge from his home in Langley to the Haney Post Office to collect his mail.
He must have struck quite the figure out on the frozen river, rolling a large log in front of him to ensure that the ice was thick enough to withstand his weight.
The frozen river also gave ample opportunities for the classic winter pastime of skating, which Jones would do after school.
From Haney, she would walk east along the train tracks towards Kanaka Creek bridge, where the creek empties out into the Fraser.
At the time, Lougheed Highway was not a paved road, and instead of today’s bridge, there was a trestle for the Abernethy and Lougheed Logging Company trucks.
Jones and friends would skate underneath this trestle, sometimes seeing the ice move and creak as the tide came in and out.
Sledding was another favourite childhood pastime of Jones, who remembered the older kids building bobsleds to use at night. Her and her sisters would be allowed to go out on the big sleds with them for an hour, where they would hurtle down the hill on 224th Street, passing River Road and crossing the train tracks before coming to a stop at the Haney Wharf.
Jones noted that night was the time of choice since many of the older boys worked during the day having quit school, as early as Grade 8, to supplement their family’s income during the time of the Great Depression.
No roundup of winter memories would be complete without mentioning Christmas, which was for Jones and her family a day-long affair.
The evening celebrations would start markedly early by today’s standards. Jones recalled family friends joining them for an early dinner at 2 p.m., followed by aunts and uncles arriving at 3p.m. for dessert and presents.
With her parents and siblings, they would then brave the elements and make the trek to an old family friend’s house where the festivities would pick up in earnest with games, dancing, and – of course – more food.
As we head into the upcoming holiday and winter seasons it is unlikely that Maple Ridge will have a season similar to winters past, but one thing’s for sure; this season will be unlike any before.
– Melissa Rollit is the curator of the Maple Ridge Museum & Community Archives
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