Giving directions can be challenging

When Langley roads had names, strangers and visitors often got lost

In a recent column, I mentioned that a family used to live on 88 Avenue. One of my sharp-eyed readers who has nothing better to do all day than correct me, pointed out that back then, it was actually McClughan Road, not 88 Avenue.

You can always tell when you are talking to an old-timer, because they eventually slip back in to calling the roads by their old names. Many years ago all the Langley streets and avenues were named after pioneers or war veterans, and we all got around just fine. It was only the strangers or tourists who got confused, when they were travelling along Bigger and suddenly it became Swain, or Telegraph Trail came to an abrupt stop only to pick up again miles away. But we knew where we were going.

Eventually the road names switched to numbers, to facilitate a regional system of marking streets and roads. I can only think this was precipitated by some high-ranking official in the Ministry of Highways who kept getting lost when he came out to Langley to visit his mother-in-law.

We had those experiences going the other way. We had an uncle who lived in Coquitlam. Whenever we went in to visit, my Dad would make a wrong turn and we would get lost somewhere in the Westwood Plateau. My Mom was always brave and would try to tell him to turn as we were approaching the corner, but Dad always ignored her advice.

As soon it became painfully obvious that we were lost, Dad would turn around and yell at us kids, “Why don’t you all shut up so I can concentrate on where I’m going?” Somehow it was our fault he was lost. I often wondered what people without children did in those situations.

My Mom has never driven so her directions have always been suspect. She was once describing a new complex my aunt had moved in to. “It must be on both sides of the road, because she says if we come from the east we turn left but if we come from the west we turn right.” My Dad lowered the paper and gave me one of those looks that said not to bother correcting her.

We rely on familiar landmarks in our community to guide us around, and when we are away from home we have to rely on others. We were heading for an uncle’s farm in rural Saskatchewan for a reunion. As the road was getting narrower, there was no farm yet in sight. We encountered a farmer on a tractor and stopped to ask directions.

He tipped his cap back and pointed off in the distance, “You see where the horizon is? You drive to that twice more and you’ll come to their farm.” Sure enough, the dusty grid road eventually became a driveway and we were there.

Then there is the old story of the excited lady who phones the fire dispatcher to report her  rural house on fire. “How do we get there?” asks the dispatcher. She pauses and replies, “Don’t you have those big red trucks anymore?”

Now we have GPS and maps are a thing of past. Certainly there is no excuse to get lost any more, right?

You can recognize us Langley old-timers. We still look both ways when we cross the one way section of Fraser Highway. At least that’s what McGregor says.

Langley Times