George Lockerby got to ride in a gleaming 1931 Ford Model A roadster to mark his 98th birthday.
But he didn’t have far to go to hop in. The car is his, shined up by family for the celebration.
Lockerby still lives in the home built by his father, David, which is the site for a big family celebration that included a bagpiper and tours in George’s prized automobile.
David Lockerby came to Canada in 1911. His wife, Florence, was to follow with two children. She went to buy tickets on a new luxury line called the Titanic but was unable to and had to settle for the next ship.
When the Depression hit, the Lockerby family traded a large Vancouver lot for land in Langley around 1930.
The family had bounced back and forth between Vancouver and Langley due to health issues.
“Mother had TB,” he explained.
Tuberculosis would claim his mother and one of his three sisters.
George, born Aug. 12, 1923, enjoyed growing up in rural Langley.
His dad worked as a carpenter. They kept four or five cows and the milk was shipped on the Interurban rail line to New Westminster. Five gallons of milk brought in $1.
With no bathroom indoors, the family ritual was setting out the bath tub in the middle of the kitchen floor once a week and heating the bath water on the wood stove.
With his lunch in a tin pail, George walked about two miles to Glenwood School which used to be a one-room schoolhouse located about one mile south of Glenwood’s current location. He stayed in school until about Grade 6.
George delivered 40 copies of the Vancouver Sun. He rode five miles on gravel roads to pick up the newspaper from the Interurban station. The cost was three cents per newspaper, and he got to keep one of those three cents.
To make money, he also collected pine cones, dried them out until open, put them in sacks and sent them on a milk truck to New Westminster so the seeds could be used for tree planting in the Cariboo.
George kept rabbits which provided occasional meat, tended to the farm animals and would shoot deer, renting space in a cold storage facility. He would fish Campbell Valley Creek with a gaff hook for salmon, and bike to Blaine, Wash., or Fort Langley to catch oolichans.
Despite the rural location of the family home, it had telephone service with party lines (two or three homes sharing each phone line).
“People would pick up the receive quiet and listen in,” George said.
They lacked one key amenity.
“We didn’t have electricity,” George said about the farm. “Just coal oil or gas lamps.”
As an adult George had a small logging company and worked around B.C. as a young man.
About 70 years ago, he bought the home he still resides in in South Langley from his father. His brother, Norman, owned the house next door. The family owned a fair chunk of land in South Langley, including some of the land that is now Campbell Valley Regional Park.
At the age of 29, he married Marguerite Bytelaar (1931 to 2005) who came from a family of 13 kids.
Together they had seven children between 1955 and 1969, including a set of twins.
George recalls Marguerite was “as big as a blasted balloon.” These were the days before technology allowed parents to know the sex of their babies. They didn’t know they were also having more than one. George was none to impressed with the “smart alecks with the stethoscopes.”
“The nurse come out into the hall and said congratulations, you have a baby daughter,” George said.
Figuring he would head home, he started to leave.
“The nurse came running. ‘Don’t go yet. There’s another baby coming’,” he said.
They raised their family on the rural Fernridge property, expanding the house to accommodate the growing brood, and adding an indoor bathroom in 1969.
He said so much has changed about this community.
“I guess people have it a lot easier than a way back. We used to walk everywhere on gravel roads,” he commented.
George still lives in the home where he and Marguerite raised their family but has a caregiver to help with daily needs since he was 95. COVID has kept him from some of his usual activities, such as going to the Brookswood Seniors Centre, but he still enjoys the occasional beer and a daily drink of red wine.
He never really thought about what he would do if he achieved such an advanced age but figures he knows why he’s made to to 98. He enjoys his vegetables and gave up smoking decades ago.
“I just try to live sensible,” George said, adding “Most people they eat to damn much.”
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