COLUMN: Building on a sense of community

In a place as large as Surrey, it's been a long time since a sense of community enveloped the entire city.

The sense of community in large cities like Surrey and Vancouver is sometimes difficult to fathom.

While it exists in many ways, in organizations and neighbourhoods, a citywide sense of community is usually absent.

Certainly in Surrey, it’s been a long time since the vast majority of residents have been deeply committed or moved by any single event.

In White Rock, it still exists. That’s a key reason why White Rock separated from Surrey in 1957 and why it remains a separate city today. It’s one reason there has been a lot of attention paid to the takeover of the White Rock water utility by the city and more recent plans to add chloramine to the water supply.

The latter has prompted a furious reaction that landed at city hall. City council last week passed a unanimous motion to halt chloramination, but to some degree it will be out of their hands. Fraser Health Authority has told the city total coliform counts over the summer indicated “we have a problem with the distribution system,” requiring secondary disinfection. At least some of the wells also have high levels of arsenic and manganese, close to the allowable limit. That means the water system does need improvements, something the city is undertaking.

There will be much more discussion in coming months, as the disinfection plan gets more discussion and as details about the sale price emerge.

On the subject of community, Cloverdale at one time had a strong sense of community. It is still more significant than in Surrey at large.

That sense of community was obvious at a memorial service for longtime businessman Allan Dann on Saturday. He died in December at the age of 91.

Dann lived an amazing life. Born in 1924, he lived and worked in Cloverdale for most of it. He took over his father’s radio and electrical business after returning from service in the Second World War, working for many years alongside his mother Doris. When he closed his business in January 2013, his family had operated it for almost 92 years – the oldest continuously family-operated business in Surrey, by a long shot.

His grandson Ben, who lives in Houston, Texas and works on the international space station, noted his grandfather was a member of what Tom Brokaw labelled “the greatest generation.”

Cloverdale was a great place to grow up in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a small town, but it was made up of a lot of “greatest generation” people determined to make something of their lives, and raise their kids so they could experience even more opportunities. Many, like Allan Dann, had experienced the war firsthand, and came back ready to make a better world. They started new businesses, strengthened existing ones, taught school, got involved in community organizations and turned Cloverdale into a thriving community.

The town was small enough that we all at least knew of each other. People shopped at local businesses – there were no malls or big department stores. There were no freeways. The biggest store in town was the Surrey Co-op.

Many business people were part of the local volunteer fire department. Longtime volunteer chief Alan Clegg noted on Saturday that one time, Allan Dann was called to a fire and, when he took down the address from the dispatcher, and he realized it was his own house that was on fire.

He, Clegg and George Coupland, longtime co-publisher and production man at the Surrey Leader, responded with two trucks, and knocked down the fire. Thankfully, his wife Brenda and their children were safely out of the house.

In a community like that, people take care of each other.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News.

Peace Arch News

Just Posted

Most Read