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Barbara Nevill

Reminiscences of her life in early Surrey


Memories from a Centurion... recorded by Ellen Edwards
This article was published in the Surrey Stories summer/fall 2012

Barbara Nevill turned 100 years old on November 29, 2012. She has referred to herself as a centurion for some time.


Ellen Edward and Barbara Newell

The author Ellen Edwards with her aunt Barbara Nevill


Barbara enjoys memories of the old days, even though times were tough. The Henry Tompson family lost their fine Kitsilano Beach home during the stock market decline during in the WWI years, so had to move to their summer home in Port Kells. (See the Tompson Family)


"Yes, I remember those days", Barbara says. "We lived on Edenholme Road (187th) near the railway (Harvie Road) and there was a small stream through our property. When we wanted to go into Port Kells or into Vancouver, we would wave down the train at the crossing. We were always intrigued at the stories about Baron Mackenson, the spy!"


We had 3 cows named May and Joyce, and Couver Boy. My little brother Johnny named it! No idea why! She would follow him whenever he walked through the pasture. He cried when they took her away... Our father was a Post Office man and we couldn't believe that he would milk the cows, but he did! We also had a horse that was clever. If I dropped my handkerchief, he would pick it up and give it to me. We would put a saddle on him so we wouldn't fall off. We loved riding!

Our house had no inside stairs, so we 5 kids had to scoot outside with our little oil lamps and up the stairs whatever the weather, to get to our beds. No heating up there and no lights! Close to the house were flowers as our mother Nell loved the fragrance of Dorothy Perkins roses and climbing honeysuckle, marigolds, pansies, asters and daisies.

Mr. Wong did the gardening, laundry, heavy housework and repair work, and helped with the cows. He lived in a cabin out by the barn. He used to sneeze a lot! He helped Mother so much, as she was very fragile and could hardly walk or do the cooking.

Our whole family played tennis and had a tennis court close to the house. We lost some balls near the thorny Devil's Club plant that was under the stained glass piano window that our Bloomfield uncles made for Mother as their wedding present for her. We think that plant was there to protect any burglars from stealing that lovely blue window. No one went near that Devil's Club plant. After my older sisters went to Vancouver, the tennis court became a special pasture with clover. The cows would come there when we rang a cowbell, and we would give them bran and water, which they considered a real treat, along with the clover.

Father worked at the Vancouver Post Office, but he also planted wheat and oats, and I remember the different colours of the fields.

We had musicals on Sundays with our friends, the Nevills, and they played the violin. Father played the cello and my sisters the piano. (Yes, I married Ralph, a Nevill son. They had a grocery store in Port Kells).

Our piano teacher was Mrs. Schou and her husband was the Judge in Vancouver. She would come by tram to us at Port Kells. We were all proud of my sister Cara who played the organ at St. Oswald's when she was only 12 (1917). One day the Archbishop of Canterbury (really?) was visiting St. Oswald's, and my sister was very nervous.

Port Kells was supposed to be a major port city and lots were sold, but New Westminster took over. Because we always had home tutors for our schooling, it was very hard for me to adjust to public school, when we had to move to Cloverdale. We were so shy. My brother John and I had to be tested and we were at our grade levels. John told me that instead of adding the big numbers on the math test, he multiplied them, and thought this was so hard for a little kid only 8 (1922). The teacher told him he had them all wrong, and John was devastated. Then the teacher realized what John had done, and told him he got them all right! Whew! We went next to Woodward's Hill School to Miss Perrim's class. This is my school photo.

Barbara Newell as a school girl

Barbara Nevill as a School Student


Christopher Orchard was bored one day and was chewing on his ruler. Teacher asked him what was he doing? "I'm a cat eating fish!"

Then I went to the Surrey High School. We could get a ride on the trolley bus past the g ravel pit and farms to Cloverdale. Someone said that one day along the New McLellan Road there would be stores and industries and houses, but we didn't believe it.

We remember Fry's Corner, usually misty and swampy. But it would freeze over in the winter. Some youth skated with skates tied to their boots, and some just had fun sliding around! Later, our family moved to a house on a hill over the Bear Creek on the Kings Farris Trail, once a railway. They felled large firs right over the creek to make a bridge. We used to watch the loggers in the huge ancient trees in the Green Timbers. The logs were piled on trains and went out by rail. There were no logging trucks. We used that trail to get to Newton to the tram, and to Lew Jack's store. Johnny and his new friend Harry Baker went to Newton School. (See Newton)

Mother and her younger girls moved to Vancouver to finish our high school there. We missed the pioneering adventures of Surrey.


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