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Senior siblings cherish memories of Langley’ heyday

Childhood in Murrayville filled with special times for the Fountain sisters
The Fountain sisters, Sylvia, Janet and Barrie, performed at Klondyke Night, a community celebration that raised money for local causes. (Geosits family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Barrie Geosits and her sister, Janet Johnson, sat by a sunny window March 8 in the ‘new’ Porters General Store for a birthday lunch.

On March 9, Barrie turned 88 and Janet’s turn comes up May 12, when she will be 90. The sisters are older than the heritage store that was built in 1939. It is now a cafe.

“I remember shopping in the original Porter store,” Barrie noted.

The sisters, whose birthname was Fountain, spent their formative years in Murrayville and enjoyed returning for a birthday lunch on what just so happened to be International Women’s Day.

Not long after Barrie was born, the Fountain family moved from Meadow Lake, Sask. to get away from the Prairie cold. That was in the late 1930s.

They lived in what was known as Stafford House, one of three houses on top of the hill in Murrayville, up from Five Corners. There were the Fountains, the Porters and another family.

Their dad, Edward, had applied to Langley Township to work on the road construction, but when Horace Penzer saw his experience (finances and banking), he was hired as the clerk, according to Barrie.

“I need people here that understand money,” Penzer told Edward.

Edward ended up with multiple job titles, including assessor, municipal clerk, and treasurer. This was the era when Alex Hope was reeve (mayor) of the Township.

In 1955, Langley City formally separated from the Township, but in the lead up, Edward was hired to work out the details of how to disentangle the two.

“He didn’t want the job,” noted Barrie.

So he quoted what he thought was a discouragingly high price and those in charge at the time agreed to pay it. As the father of three daughters, the money came in handy.

“And that paid for my wedding,” Janet added.

During their time here, the family, along with another, owned a bucolic chunk of land with a creek running through it in the area of 238th Street and 68th Avenue. It would eventually be sold to Dr. Williams, a former UBC dean of medicine. The land is now called Williams Park. It opened as a park in 1967, one of many local projects by the Langley Centennial Committee to mark Canada’s 100th birthday.

Edward would go on to work at Burnaby City hall, commuting from Langley to work in Burnaby for over a year. Then the family moved to Burnaby when Janet was a young woman in the Canadian military and Barrie was in high school.

“It was a sad day for me when I had to move,” Barrie said.

Even after the family moved to Burnaby, the Fountains maintained their connections to the rural community. The family would travel out to Langley often to visit the Porters (P.Y. and Nellie), whom they called uncle and aunt.

When they were growing up here, P.Y. was popular with the kids, for good reason.

“He would buy us an ice cream cone if we could ride all the way up there (the hill on bikes) without stopping,” Barrie explained.

Janet recalls being 13 years of age and riding her bike from Murrayville to Fort Langley to visit a school chum. It was an era when children were more independent but also an era when society laid out stricter gender norms. Schools required girls to wear dresses, which the sisters said did not make for easy bike riding.

The sisters cherish their memories of childhood in Murrayville. Barrie still lays her hand on her hip when she recalls them going to see Dr. Rose who practiced with Dr. McBurney in Langley City. He gave the sisters their diphtheria vaccinations (in the hip).

“He gave us each a nickel to go and have ice cream, because we didn’t cry,” Barrie said.

The three sisters, middle sister Sylvia has passed away, used to take dance lessons in Murrayville Hall. Their dad figured that since they’ve had lessons, they should be willing to perform. The trio of siblings performed at Klondike Night in Fort Langley around 1950. The annual celebration ran from the late 1940s to the late 1950s, and raised money for various community causes.

As kids, the Fountain girls would go and sing for the residents of Langholm, a facility for the aged built in 1942 in Murrayville. They attended Murrayville elementary, which has been incorporated into a condo development, and took schooling in shifts at Langley Secondary. The post-World War II baby boom meant a huge student population so the high school had to run a morning shift and an afternoon shift.

Both the sisters grew up, married and had families. Janet now lives on Vancouver Island, while Barrie lives in Walnut Grove.

As for the traditionally male name, Barrie explained that her dad had seen the name while reading and liked it, saying to his expectant wife, Edith, that boy or girl, the child would be called Barrie.


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Barrie (Fountain) Geosits grew up in Murrayville and recently celebrated her 88th birthday. (Geosits family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Barrie Geosits and Janet Johnson (right) enjoyed lunch in Murrayville on International Women’s Day. As children, they attended Sharon United Church, in the background. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Barrie Geosits and Janet Johnson (right) enjoyed lunch at Porter’s Bistro, a former general store, on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, reminiscing about their childhood in Murrayville. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Heather Colpitts

About the Author: Heather Colpitts

Since starting in the news industry in 1992, my passion for sharing stories has taken me around Western Canada.
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