By Kathy Bennett
The official name of the road we lived on was Padgett Road, named after the Padgett family who lived there once upon a time, but locals have always called it “The Valley” or, “The Valley Road” or, “Paradise Valley”.
Locals also know that “THE Valley” isn’t to be confused with a small, spur road off Padgett Road called, ‘Valley Road’.
‘Paradise Valley’ was a tongue in cheek nickname given to the road after a fire swept through in 1918 leaving acres of blackened stumps.
I was born in 1952, and by that time the road had healed itself of the long ago scars the fire had left behind. The road was like a paradise—barely wide enough for one vehicle, and lined with a lush forest of trees and ferns.
The trees that grew on the South end leaned over the road creating a cathedral effect with dappled light. An enormous maple tree was also at the South end. This giant tree took up a large portion of the road and cars had to drive around it.
A little wooden bridge spanned the creek in front of our old house. And our neighbor’s, the Lambert’s, had wide open fields dotted with old farm buildings. Their goats would wander aimlessly across the road. It was a quiet, peaceful road with few people living along it.
Early in the morning, Russell Lambert rattled by in his red panel truck with their daily delivery of eggs and goat milk to the stores in town. Shortly afterwards Barney Markland from the Valley Road stopped his school bus at our house to pick up my sister, Theresa, and later on, picked me up when I was of school age. Around noon Isabelle Dawson, who was also Powell River’s MLA, stopped at our mailbox in her wood-trimmed, burgundy station wagon to deliver our mail.
Mid-afternoon Russell returned home. Then the school bus and then my Dad.
Mom would say, “Your Dad will be coming home soon,” and my brother Paul and I would tear off down the road to “our rock”. We were about three and five years old at the time and thought our rock was a long way away but, when I think back on it, it couldn’t have been more than 300 or 500 feet from our house. We’d sit on this rock and wait. When we saw Dad’s little, white truck coming down the road we’d jump up and down and wave our arms and yell, “Dad! Dad!” and he’d stop so we could climb in and ride the rest of the way home with him.
In the summer, the road grader came along and smoothed the road out. The driver would pull over at our house for his lunch break and Mom would offer him a drink of cold well water. The man would give Paul and me a candy each and let us climb onto the seat of the road grader and play with the steering wheel and the long, metal levers.
In 1960 we moved into our new house, which was still on our property, but just a bit further down the road.
The little bridge had been replaced with a culvert and the road was widened to accommodate the logging trucks that now rumbled by, followed by billowing clouds of dust—dust that Mom vigorously objected to.
If that wasn’t bad enough, someone bought a rock crushing machine and set it up across the road from our house giving Mom more grief with its all-day racket.
With Paul’s help, Mom planted a row of young fir trees along the road edge of our yard. Mom hoped to shelter the house from all this dust and noise, but it would be a number of years before the trees grew to a satisfactory height.
I got a pair of roller skates that first Christmas we lived in the new house. I would strap on one skate and Paul would strap on the other and when we weren’t skating around in the basement we would go on the road and skate on the black, smooth hard pan areas that looked like gingerbread dough. In the spring Lillian DeGroot, who lived on Valley Road, would come over and we’d dig holes in the road and play marbles. I’d play hopscotch on the road with Faye Salmond, whose parents rented our old house.
Sometimes Mom, Paul, Agnes and I would walk down the road to visit the Rumleys or their in-laws the Ganleys.
Along the way there was a lovely stretch of young alder trees growing alongside the road. Paul and I would each climb to the top of an alder in order to make it bend just far enough for us to grab onto the next tree until it too began to lean over.
Mom would holler at us, “Get down from there before you break your necks!” but we’d pretend we couldn’t hear her. We were having too much fun tree hopping.
In the late 60s, the road was widened some more and in the early 70s it was paved. Houses began to spring up and new people moved into The Valley. By this time people figured it was a good shortcut from town to the highway south of town and they would use the straight stretch in front our property to drive really fast.
Mom wasn’t happy about the road being widened, she felt the road crew took too much off the front of our property. She wasn’t happy about the traffic that began to come through either.
“Where are all those people going to?” she’d question, “And what’s their big, almighty hurry?”
But, on they came, going faster and faster. Locals still refer to the road as Paradise Valley, but it is no longer the same back-country road of my childhood.
Kathy is a participant of the Memoir Writing for Seniors program run by the Powell River Public Library.