Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Growing Up in Ranch Park in the 1960s: A True Blessing


A shorter version of this story was submitted to the Coquitlam125 website. You can read it here:
http://www.coquitlam125.ca/growing-up-in-ranch-park

From 1963 to 1982 I lived in Ranch Park. My parents, Bill and Marlene, my sisters, Karen and Joanne, me and our 3 cats lived on The Lazy A Street. I still drive by our house and through the neighbourhood quite frequently as my church, Coquitlam Alliance Church, is located at the top of Ranch Park. Our home had an amazing view of the Golden Ears, Mount Baker in Washington state (a volcano) and the Coquitlam River valley.




Lazy A is the crescent in the middle of the photo.


One of my friends once proclaimed that growing up in Ranch Park was like growing up on the television show “The Wonder Years”. And she was right. Ranch Park, particularly on Lazy A Street, was a magical place to grow up in the 1960s. 



My parents bought our quarter acre lot in 1959. In 1963, shortly after I was born they built their dream house. It was a mid-century modern that they designed themselves. Both my parents had grown up in East Van and were thrilled with the large lot and the gardens and lawns they soon developed.
In 1967, my father had a large hole dug in our back yard and using forms from one of our neighbours (Mr. Ellison, a shop teacher) and had our pool built. The excavators dumped all the dirt from the excavation into three big piles onto the lot next door which conveniently belonged to my parent’s best friends, Sunny and Don. Those three big piles of dirt became play "homes" for the neighbourhood kids. We all played house together on those big piles of dirt. Such a wonderful memory.




Lazy A and the surrounding streets were filled with young families. There were so many children of every age, shape and size. We were like one big family. We all knew everything about everyone. There were no play dates in those days, you just went outside and you immediately found someone to play with. Or you would knock on their door and out they would come, ready to play. Our mothers knew we were around somewhere. I knew she would call (and by call I mean stand on the sundeck and yell out our name) when lunch was ready.



Ranch Park was very isolated in the 1960s. We were Coquitlam yet our mailing address was Port Coquitlam. It was very confusing. There were no corner stores in Ranch Park. There were no services of any kind. Harry’s Corner, which was an old dilapidated gas station, was at the corner of Westwood and Dewdney Trunk. In the 1960s, Westwood was the Lougheed Highway. There were still farms along Dewdney Trunk. Children who lived on those farms went to school with us. During the summer when we were bored, we would walk to Como Lake Village to get candy. It was a 3 km walk one way. And we surrounded by bush. Oh the adventures we had. We would cross streams on logs, manoeuvre through swamps, knock down spider webs as we traversed through paths surrounded by giant, moss covered cedars and endless ferns. Ranch Park Elementary School was surrounded by forest on two sides. Everyone who grew up in Ranch Park remembers The Rocks!  We would jump from one giant granite boulder to another. I sprained my ankle twice on The Rocks. My ankle still gives me issues! Summer nights the kids in the neighbourhood would just all naturally come together. We would play kick the can and hide and seek until the street lights came on which meant it was time to go home. And we all did. Those spontaneous games still bring me joy when I think about all the fun we had.



One winter when I was probably around six years old, we had a tremendous snowstorm. We often would slide our sleds, toboggans or crazy carpets down the slopped pathway into Ranch Park between the Brook’s and Washington’s houses. But this particular year someone decided to slide down Daybreak. So soon everyone was sliding down Daybreak. I’ll never forget my father trudging up the hill in his suit carrying his briefcase looking miserable. He couldn’t get his sports car up the hill so had to leave it somewhere at the bottom like everyone else. I thought he was pretty cranky that day until a police car with chains came up Daybreak and told us all to go home and told the adults that they should be ashamed of themselves for allowing Daybreak to become a sheet of ice. We all ignored him and basically went back to sledding.



Lazy A is a crescent that surrounds the actual park called Ranch Park. Every summer, the Coquitlam Parks Board put up a shed in the park as in all the other parks in Coquitlam. There was an activity person on staff every week day. The shed was filled with every piece of sports and play equipment you can imagine. As soon as the activity director who was usually a young college student, we would all flood into the park. We spent our days there playing every game imaginable. I learned my lesson pretty quick and disappeared as soon as Red Rover started. I had sticks for arms and was always a good target for breaking through. We had field trips once a week to places like Alouette Lake, White Rock, Stanley Park and anywhere that there was something fun to do. A big bus would pick us and our park activity person up along with kids from the other parks and off we would go. No parents were there helicoptering over us to make sure we were safe.



Every afternoon my mother would invite neighbours, relatives and friends over to swim in the pool. Thinking back on the amount of treats available every afternoon during these swimming parties, I am amazed I stayed stick thin all those years! My sisters and I were like fish in the water. We spent hours in that pool playing with other children. What fun we had! We would tan for hours experimenting with baby oil to get better tans and putting lemon juice in our hair to make it blonder. 



Indeed, growing up in Coquitlam in the 1960s and the 1970s really was the Wonder Years. I am so blessed to have grown up in such a fun and beautiful neighbourhood. Our panoramic view of the Golden Ears, the Pitt and Fraser River Valleys and Mount Baker was spectacular and I wish I had appreciated it more growing up. I am thankful my parents picked such an amazing place for my sisters and I to grow up.

**The photos are all courtesy of my mother Marlene and my grandfather Sandy. 

7 comments:

  1. Hi Kathy,
    What a wonderful story you've written that brought back so many happy memories for me too! Your childhood was a wonderful time for me also!
    With love,
    Your Mom

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  2. I remember playing football in the park after school until it was dark or someones mother would yell supper time. It was truly a great place to grow up. Thanks for the nice article and pictures. FYI There are three people on Salt Spring who grew up in Ranch Park. Cheers Scott Simmons

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    1. I have never been to Salt Spring Island. I have heard it is beautiful. I loved the sounds of everyone playing in the park. I took my sons there once when they were young and it was empty. It made me so sad.

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  3. I wonder if that's the house my friend lived in? I lived on Fleet Street but in the early 90s. My friend was on lazy a and had a pool, I think on the west side of the little park!

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    1. My father sold the house in 1988 so it could be.

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  4. Wow brought back a lot of memories i also lived on Lazy a st.I was friends with your neighbour Andy Russell (he passed away feb 2016). I lived on the dead end and terrorized the neighbourhood for several years -Larry Aikenhead

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