Chuck Davis (1935-2010) devoted his life to being the expert on the city's history. In 2010 he was awarded the George Woodcock Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia.
Chuck has prepared a comprehensive social and economic history with the care and attention to detail of a historian, and with the exuberance and flair for storytelling that have made him one of Vancouver's most successful and beloved journalist/broadcasters. Davis takes an informal, anecdotal approach to his material, retelling the city's history in a clear and entertaining style. His work is a fascinating account of the rich and colourful past of a unique coastal city, and a must-read for historians, visitors and locals alike.
Port Coquitlam is one tough little city with a colourful history. From its beginnings as a humble settlement on the crossroads of two CPR lines, it grew to become one of the five fastest growing cities in Canada, with a population of just over 50,000.
In the early years it survived a tragic depression, only to be hit with the Spanish influenza epide …
A Canadian Hero
He was born Terrance Stanley Fox on July 28, 1958, in Winnipeg and moved with his family to Port Coquitlam in 1966. "He graduated from Port Coquitlam High School:' says Leslie Scrivener in her book Terry Fox: His Story, "with straight As but for one B in English." Then he went on to Simon Fraser University to study kinesiology. He tried out for the junior varsity basketball team, where his coaches noted that while other players maybe had better skills, young Terry Fox "out-gutted" them. He made the team.
In late 1976 Terry began to experience unusual pain in his right knee. He underwent a series of tests and on March 5 was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the bone called osteogenic sarcoma. To save his life, his leg would have to be amputated. He was eighteen years old.
The operation was scheduled for March 9. On the night before, Terry was visited by a crowd of friends and well-wishers, along with his family. Among the visitors was Terry Fleming, Terry's high-school basketball coach. Fleming brought a copy of Runners World magazine. He had marked a certain story, a profile of a one-legged runner named Dick Traum who had competed in the New York Marathon. The Traum story convinced Terry that he would be able to run again, and it inspired him to take on a challenge that would eventually raise hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research.
His goal became nothing less than to run across the country and raise one dollar in research donations from every Canadian.
"I don't know why I dreamed what I did," Terry said once. "It's because I'm competitive. I'm a dreamer. I like challenges. I don't give up. When I decided to do it, I knew I was going to go all out." (He showed that determination when he participated in a wheelchair-basketball team from 1977 to 1980, a slot he got after being recruied by Rick Hansen. Part of Terry's selfdesigned exercise routine was to push his chair along Gaglardi Way, a long, steep climb up Burnaby Mountain toward Simon Fraser University at the top.)
After the operation and sixteen months of chemotherapy treatment, Terry began to train and, eventually, to run daily - painfully short distances at first, but increasing steadily as he developed strength and technique. His running style was his own: two hops on his remaining leg, then a long stride on his artificial leg while lifting his torso and shoulders for leverage. After fourteen months of training he had obtained sponsorship and planned his route, and on April 12, 1980, he was in St. John's, Newfoundland. He dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic, then turned his face to the west to run across the nation. Terry's dream, the "Marathon of Hope," began.
At first there was little media attention outside Port Coquitlam itself, but as he survived dangerous road hazards, semi-trailers that almost blew him into ditches, hailstones the size of golf balls, police barring him from parts of the Trans-Canada Highway, and trouble with his artificial leg, the image of this courageous young man and the story of his crusade began to take hold of the public's imagination. Media excitement built, and by the time he reached Ontario, Terry Fox was famous. He marked his twenty-second birthday in Gravenhurst, Ontario . . . a day on which he ran only 20 miles (32 kilometres), instead of the daily 26 he aimed for. The trickle of coins had become an outpouring of dollars-the Ontario division of the Canadian Cancer Society was getting five hundred pledges and donations a day. On Terry's arrival in Toronto, the Canadian media was overwhelmingly behind him. Terry Fox had become the news of the day.
As his popularity increased, so did the crowds. Schoolchildren lined the streets, contributing their allowances and pledges. Terry overcame shyness and became an eloquent public speaker, raising even more money. "Knowing that there are people who care about what I'm doing," he said, "that I'm not just running across Canada, that there are people who are giving money to help fight the disease that took my leg and to help other people who are lying down in hospital beds all over the world, it's a reward."
But as his run continued westward through Ontario, Terry began to be bothered by a persistent cough and pain in his chest. His last diary entry was made Sunday, August 31, 1980. On an early September day 18 miles (29 kilometres) outside Thunder Bay, Ontario, Terry's run came to a tearful end. "I tried as hard as I could, I said I'd never give up and I didn't."
His cancer had metastasized, spreading to his lungs. He had run in constant pain for 143 days, averaging an unbelievable marathon (26 miles or 42 kilometres) a day, and raised $1.7 million for cancer research. Now he was hospitalized. Canadians flooded Terry with messages of love and support . . . and continued to contribute money to his campaign. The Port Coquitlam post office reported that during December 1980, Terry got more mail than everyone else in town - residential and business - combined.
By the end of December, largely because of a CTV telethon, a total of more than $24 million had been raised. Terry's goal of a dollar for every Canadian had been reached and exceeded. He had, as Leslie Scrivener writes, "more than doubled the National Cancer Institute of Canada's 1980 research allowance."
Terry died in Royal Columbian Hospital on June 28, 198 1, a month short of his twenty-third birthday. His dedication, courage and selflessness are perpetuated through the annual Terry Fox Run and the Terry Fox Foundation. His parents, Betty and Rolly Fox, still work today to keep the Marathon of Hope alive.
The first Terry Fox Memorial Run was held September 13, 1981 at 880 sites across Canada with more than 300,000 participants. They ran, walked, cycled, roller-bladed, swam and wheeled - and raised $3.5 million. Unique ways were invented to raise money. Residents of a Newfoundland seniors home had a rocking chair "rockathon," raising money through pledges, One group of young people had Jello-bath "sit-ins." Canadian peacekeepers in Rwanda held a run. Beginning in the early '90s a deaf man in Prince Rupert began going door to door annually for the cause. He collected more than $39,000 in 1994 and was up to nearly $47,000 in 1995. That year there were more than 275 runs in fifty countries, raising more than $103 million, the most successful single-day fundraiser for cancer research in the world. To date, nearly $250 million has been raised, virtually all of which has remained in the country of origin to fund innovative cancer research, in accordance with Terry's wishes. There are now three hundred Terry Fox Run sites in fiftytwo countries, and over a million people run annually.
Terry Fox's honours and awards are too numerous to list in full here, but they include the following. He was named "Canadian of the Year" two years In a row and was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest honour; he received the Order of the Dogwood (British Columbia's highest award), the Sword of Hope (the American Cancer Society's highest award) and the Lou Marsh Award for outstanding athletic accomplishment. He was made a freeman of the city of Port Coquitlam. The Canadian government created a $5 million endowment fund, the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award, to provide scholarships in his honour and he was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. In 1983 Burrard-Yarrows Shipyard in North Vancouver built an icebreaker named the MV Terry Fox. There is a Mount Terry Fox in the BC Interior, and the Terry Fox Courage Highway runs 83 kilometres (52 miles) between Thunder Bay and Nipigon, Ontario, commemorating the ending of the run. Canada Post has issued two commemorative stamps portraying Terry and monuments have been erected at BC Place in Vancouver, Rideau Square in Ottawa and in Thunder Bay. His high school was named for him, and so is Port Coquitlam's public library. A statue of Terry by George Pratt stands in front of the library. Many schools, parks and roads continue to be named after him.
As 1999 drew to a close, the people of British Columbia overwhelmingly selected Terry as the most heroic figure of the century.
Once in a while someone special comes along who makes us aware of the needs of others. Terry Fox was such a man.
(An excellent video documentary, The Life and Times of Terry Fox, is available from the Fox Foundation.)
-Written with assistance from Rita Woodman
An Early Catastrophe
One of the most dramatic, yet little-known stories of the Port Coquitlam area come to light as a result of a major archaeological excavation carried out in the late 1970s at the mouth of the Pitt River. The dig was conducted by Val Patenaude, who today is the curator at the Maple Ridge Museum in Haney. Many local students were lucky enough to be on hand while Ms. Patenoude and local First Nations people worked at the site. Ms. Patenoude wrote this account of her discoveries especially for this book.
Centred on the foot of Pitt River Road, the prehistoric site spanned nearly a kilometre in length. The impending construction of the Mary Hill Bypass was to destroy much of the site and so excavations were conducted to preserve as much information from the site as possible.
The earliest dates established for use of the site were nearly 4,500 years ago (around 2500 BC). These dates were associated with a hunting, fishing and gathering culture that occupied what were two small islands with sloughs between them and behind them. Overtime the sloughs silted in and more and more of the site became dry land. For three thousand years the artifact evidence indicates seasonal use for fishing and plant gathering. The tools recovered were made of chipped and ground stone and included many exotic types of materials brought in by the Native occupants. In addition to tools were decorative items, particularly beads.
About fifteen hundred years ago a local environmental catastrophe struck Mary Hill. It was most likely a forest fire, which stripped the tree cover off the hill, exposing the sand deposits there to erosion. Over a very few years, ton upon ton of sand washed down the slope, forming a large sand fan around the mouth of Balker Creek. This entirely changed the landscape and the use to which the site was put.
For the following 1,250 years, the sand deposits were used to form earth ovens for the baking of plant foods. Sand holds its heat well and there were indications that cedar boughs were placed over hot coals and that the food itself was wrapped in skunk cabbage leaves - Native wax paper - to slowly steam and bake.
About 250 years ago, catastrophe struck again, but this time of a different sort. The last apparent use of the site was in the mid-1750s when there was a mass cremation. While bone didn't preserve well at the site, many personal ornaments of a type usually passed on to descendants rather than left with the dead were recovered, all with fire damage. This almost certainly represents the first wave of smallpox to hit the south coast - after travelling up the Columbia River, it reached the Fraser at the height of the summer salmon fishing season, well in advance of any European settlers. With losses of 70 to 90 percent of the population, we get a tragic picture of people burning their dead and then leaving, never to return.
At the time the excavations were conducted, neither the Coquitlam nor the adjacent Katzie people specifically claimed this site, even though it is located on the boundary of both territories. While it is possible that Halkomelem relatives from Vancouver Island owned this particular village site on the Fraser, it is also possible that the memory of the tragedy at that site kept people from returning there for so long that its ownership and use went out of memory.
Colony Farm: "An oasis of meadow and forest"
In 1904 the provincial government bought a thousand fertile acres (405 hectares) where the Coquitiam and Fraser Rivers meet, to be used as a farm to provide both food and an opportunity for rehabilitative labour for patients of a mental health facility to be built on the adjacent uplands. The hospital, first called Essondale (for Dr, Esson Young, the provincial secretary and minister of education), was formally dedicated in 1911. Its agricultural component was called Colony Farm. The hospital is known today as Riverview.
The nearest sizeable town was New Westminster, 8 kilometres (5 miles) to the west, and many members of the hospital and farm staff lived right on the site. (PoCo councillor Ron Talbot, for example, whose parents worked at Essondale, grew up on the 'hospital grounds.) The rich flood-plain soil was ideal for crops, and soon the little Essondale community became virtually selfsufficient. "The fertile fields," says a 1995 report written by Michael McPhee, "produced vegetables, meat and dairy products as well as hay for the Clydesdale horses used to till the fields. Colony Farm became one of British Columbia's earliest, and most outstanding, agricultural successes." In 1910, with a few locally purchased cows, the farm began a dairy operation. Holstein cows were imported from New York state and from Carnation Farms of Seattle to upgrade the herd. At its peak, there were 250 cows in the dairy.
"By 1911," says the book Coquitlam: 100 Years, "the farm was considered the best in the west, yielding 700 tons of crops and 20,000 gallons of milk." Its barns, stables, dairy equipment and yards were termed the best in Canada, maybe on the continent. Colony Farm regularly won top prizes at the annual Pacific National Exhibition, and its dairy herd provided foundation stock for most of the province's dairy farms. It did so well, in fact, that it was able to ship surplus foods and dairy products to other provincial government institutions.
"Colony Farm," said Jenny Gardner Lenihan, who grew up there, was absolutely gorgeous. The cattle were knee-deep in straw, the barns were immaculately kept, all the timbers and buildings were painted white, and you could walk in your white shoes and not get dirty . . . It was the province's showpiece."
Fires and the 1948 flood dealt severe blows to the farm, but it came through and survived until 1983, when the economic restraint policies of the provincial government of the time forced its closure after more than seventy years of productive life. The equipment and the famed herds were sold off.
But the land, more than 235 hectares (580 acres), remained.
Some 10 1 hectares (250 acres) of the farm are on the Coquitlam side of the river, with 134 hectares (330 acres) on the PoCo side. The government tried to sell it, but BC was going through a recession in the 1980s and no buyers were found, especially since the farm was in the Agricultural Land Reserve and was unavailable for industrial or commercial development. Still, that land was a tempting target, with highways and residential development pressing in from all sides. Stand in Colony Farm today and look up to the hills: once thickly covered with forest, now they're just as thick with houses.
In December 1993 the British Columbia Buildings Corporation, which administers the land, set up a committee to do a land-use study for Colony Farm. Among the committee members were Port Coquitlam's chief planner at the time, Carlos Felip, Paul Dutton of PoCo Citizens for Colony Farm and Elaine Golds of the Burke Mountain Naturalists. Michael McPhee of Quadra Planning Consultants co-ordinated the study, which involved a series of public workshops, presentations by interested parties and a public open house that was attended by two hundred people. In February 1995 another open house was held at Wilson Centre, but this time there was a draft landuse plan to study and discuss, and more than three hundred people attended.
The Burke Mountain group began to sponsor an annual walkabout at the farm to increase public awareness of its natural history. Nature helped, too: with the land now free of farm workers and livestock (except for some sheep and cattle grazing, mostly on the Coquitlam side), animals and birds displaced by the surrounding development moved in.
"Small mammals - rodents, raccoons, mink and muskrats - moved into the long grasses," says the 1995 report. "Beaver took up residence along the river banks. Song birds nested in the trees and water-fowl frequented the Coquitlam River "This rich infusion of new life began to attract predatory owls, hawks and coyotes. Nature was reclaiming Colony Farm.
And that's pretty much the way it's going to stay. Large tracts of the farm's land have been set aside and will be protected so that wildlife can continue to flourish there. The river has been recognized as an important habitat for salmon, trout and other fish species. The mouth of the river is now an official wildlife management area, with an established colony of great blue herons. Bald eagles and wood ducks are seen, too. More than 150 species of birds have been identified as living on the farm's lands or migrating through. It's a birdwatcher's delight. Says the McPhee report, "Several species considered sensitive or vulnerable are found at Colony Farm. These include the Green Heron, Bald Eagle, Barn Owl and Short Eared Owl. The Farm is the only known breeding site for Western Kingbirds, Eastern Kingbirds and Least Flycatchers within the Lower Mainland . . . The increasing use of Colony Farm by regionally uncommon species of birds is indicative of how critical the Farm has become in providing habitat types being lost elsewhere in the Lower Mainland."
Colony Farm is now a regional park of the Greater Vancouver Regional District, which is developing places to stroll, birdwatch, cycle, jog, walk dogs, fish, canoe and take pictures. Port Coquitlam has inherited a priceless legacy.
In his ambitious magnum opus, The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver, author Chuck Davis embraced 125 years of material, with the signature exuberance and talent for storytelling that made him one of Vancouver's most successful and beloved journalists and broadcasters. This volume represents the culmination of his life as a folk historia …