Marian Albert and Dale Alexander remember the day they took their brother Dave down and the destroyed Dave’s World. It was a January 1998, about 2 a.m., and it seemed like a foreign army had invaded.
“You couldn’t have dreamed it up from a movie, it was so bizarre,” recalls Marian.
“It was like there was an invasion of another country going on.
“It was the worst nightmare I’d ever seen.”
How could this happen in Canada, she asked herself.
Searchlights seared the night along the sealed off Lougheed Highway in Whonnock. A bus load of police rolled up and descended from River Road above, on to the old gas station site at 269th Street that had become a sprawling outdoor museum, or junk collection – depending on your point of view.
Police secured the scene, enforced a court order, then brought in the excavators, clearing the site within hours.
The night raid culminated a growing antagonism between the District of Maple Ridge, which wanted the roadside attraction (or distraction) cleaned up and Dave Alexander – whose interests ranged from poetry to butterflies, old tools and old toys, and history – moved out.
Dave’s World had become a place for tourists, for kids to drop by and see how previous generations played, and for truckers to honk at as they drove by what became a milestone signifying the entry to Maple Ridge.
The place was so popular your arm would get tired waving at all the honking motorists, recalled Dave’s brother, Dale, during a visit Friday to the overgrown site.
His roadside emporium has had become an embarrassment for Maple Ridge, which was growing up and trying to take its place in Metro Vancouver’s world.
After 14 years, hardly any trace of it remains. Trees have overtaken was a parking lot, and tall grass and shrubs cover the rest.
Dale can barely place where everything used to be.
But it still remains empty, not used by anyone, points out Marian, as she sat on a concrete barricade where Dave used to display his old Tonka toy trucks.
Dave Alexander, who was living in a mobile home in Silverdale, just past the Mission-Maple Ridge border, died last Tuesday at age 65.
Alexander, a tall, large man with long hair and long white beard, had heart surgery a year ago, although the cause of his death is not yet known, according to family. He’s survived by his daughter Karma, and brothers and sisters Patty, Gloria, Marian, Roy and Dale.
“He wasn’t in good health,” said his niece, Sheri Albert.
While outsiders could have seen him as an eccentric hoarder, his brother and sister knew the real Dave:
Dave, the non-conformist, who didn’t back down;
Dave, who twice ran for mayor of Maple Ridge;
Dave, the gregarious big guy who loved people and artifacts and education and books and, above all, history.
“He was a showboat,” said Dale.
“Very much a people person.
“He wasn’t shy.”
According to Marian, Dave amassed a collection of keepsakes because he couldn’t bear to see them buried in a dump. Among his favourites was collecting old tools, butterflies, antique dolls, red “Flyer” wagons, and cowboy stories.
At one point, he taught poetry in a night school class in Coquitlam. “He loved education. He loved books,” she added.
Sometimes, he made the old curios himself, such as the furry ‘Muffalope,’ which stood outside on the highway.
“When he found something old, it was a treasure from the past. He read constantly, and it was always history.”
One of his rituals was his morning breakfast at Bruce’s Country Market, where he breezed through crossword puzzles. Then it would be off to the Ridge Meadows Recycling Depot to look for more treasures.
Kim Day, executive-director with the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society, remembered his visits.
“He was one of our regulars – a regular shopper.”
Alexander would pick over the bits and pieces that are for sale in the Re-used Store at the depot, “looking for treasures,” she added.
Then he’d put them on display at Dave’s World for everyone to appreciate.
He was also an easy hit for the big city TV stations. He once told human interest TV reporter Mike McCardell that a contraption for winding up barbed wire was for combing Alexander’s long white beard, a tale that McCardell bought for a while.
“That’s what he loved to do. He just loved to make people laugh.
“He loved people and if anybody needed help, he’d give you the shirt of his back,” adds Marian.
The 1998 raid had Dave and Dale facing charges of resisting arrest. Dave also faced an assault charge. The judge didn’t buy it, however, after seeing the police’s own video of the demolition, and there were no convictions.
“There shouldn’t be any police involved here. This is really getting to be a fascist town,” he told The News then.
It was only after the District of Maple Ridge bought the property a year later that Dave had his final notice and had to leave the property.
The eventual closure and the dispersal of his treasures and livelihood took its toll.
“It was his life,” said Dale.
Without the store, Dave was out of the limelight and missed the usual chatting with people.
Sue Schulze, at the Whonnock post office, just above where Dave’s World was located, knew him for 25 years and used to see him every couple weeks, such as last week, when he picked up his mail.
She remembers the night police came. She hasn’t noticed any difference in the area from when the collection was there and the following years when the lot stood empty.
“Dave was Dave.”