If you live anywhere in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada or travelled in the area, you’ve probably driven by it before. ‘It’ is the Charlie Perkins Memorial Tree.  I’ve lived in Langley my whole life – almost 43 years – and have driven by the tree thousands of times.  I’ve wondered, many times, but never bothered to stop and investigate…until today.

On the way back from picking my son up at an event in Burnaby, I took the risk (and believe me – you’re taking your chances getting off and then on the Freeway at this location) and visited the site.  Below are the photos I took and a transcription of the plaque I found.  I will only add that standing there, I was impressed by the power of standing up for what you believe in, especially if it’s important and it’s right. That power put a bend in a major highway – a bend that exists to this day!

      “Originally, the Memorial Tree was a 210 foot Douglas Fir surrounded by firs and Vine Maples in a small park like setting. The Memorial Tree was first given recognition in 1919 by a resident named Charles Perkins who had recently returned from World War 1 as a flight instructor with the Royal Flying Corps.” 

    

“Mr. Perkins chose one of the tallest trees on the property and planted ivy at its base, as a simple tribute to buddies who were killed on battlefields in Europe. The tree was bravely saved from fire in 1920 and stood in remembrance in the family for many years. By 1960, construction of the Trans Canada highway was planned to run through the memorial, destroying it. Persuasion by Charlie and many members of the local community influenced then Highways Minister Phil Gaglardi to divert the east-bound lane around the tree. In the years to follow, the tree was vandalized twice by fire and the highways department had to cut the ailing tree to 12 metres in 1968. To this day, “Charlie’s Tree” still stands in tribute to those who lost their lives. Lest we forget.”

Read more about “Charlie’s Tree”:

18 thoughts on “Charlie Perkins Memorial Tree

  1. What a great story, Antonio.

    I, too, have driven by this location many times. It is great to finally ave an understanding of the memorial and the story surrounding it. How interesting (and heart warming).

    Thanks for stopping and then sharing the stor with the rest of us.

    Tia

  2. I have recently looked up information about this tree as I too have passed it often over the last 30 years. I am going to do a write up on my site, Miss604.com and I would love to use an image of yours from this feature – may I have your permission to do so? Perhaps Photo0244.jpg (bottom left). I would credit you and link back here if that’s ok. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for sharing this information with me. Charlie was one of my great-uncles and I am thrilled to get a little more information about the tree. I have driven by it a few times, and always get a little chill when I do.

    1. Hello Ken,

      Our CBC Radio program BC Almanac is preparing a book to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW I in 2014. It will feature stories from a B.C. perspective and I’d like to make contact with you to gather information about your Great-Uncle Charlie (and possibly a photo of him too). Please contact me at: mark.forsythe@cbc.ca

      This is a non-profit book project with net proceeds going to the Canadian Letters and Images Project based at Vancouver Island University. It features an on-line archive of letters sent home by Canadian soldiers in various conflicts.

      Cheers
      Mark

      1. Hi Mark,

        I think you mean Ken, the relative, who left a comment below. Feel free to add anything you see here from me. Thanks for your interest in this story!

        Antonio

  4. Typical of our politicians, always late, this time by almost 100 years. Finally, 2012 brings
    a highway sign not far from Charlie’s tree memorial, indicating “highway of honor”

  5. I first saw Charlie’s Tree back in 1973 driving out from Burnaby dating a girl from Aldergrove. I have since driven by the Tree hundreds of time if not more and always wondered about this memorial to Charlie.
    I finally googled and got some great history. If the property around it is owned by city of province, they should make a park adjacent to the Tree.

    Charles

  6. Hi Antonio,
    Harbour Publishing is publishing a book on BC history by Mike McCardell and it features a chapter on Charlie’s Tree. With your permission, we would like to use one of your photos. Please contact me as soon as possible, at morgan@harbourpublishing.com.
    Looking forward to hearing from you!
    Morgan

  7. I’ve often wondered about that tree.

    I think that they should put in a pull out lane so that people can stop there safely and look at the historic site. I’d love to!

  8. How can I get to this tree from the hwy? Do I have to park then walk? I would love to see it up close! Ive been driving by it for 29 years!

  9. Thank you Antonio for sharing this wonderful authentic learning experience. I have driven past that tree many times and have always wondered who Charlie was. Your thirst for knowledge is inspiring. I have shared your blog with my Social Studies 11 class and hope they learn as much from you as I have.
    It’s a good reminder that soldiers from close to home have fought, and continue to fight, to give us the liberty and freedoms we enjoy here in Canada. Merci.

  10. I was told when Charlie was drafted with his brother Charlie’s father planted 2 trees, if the both returned he would chop the trees down if they didn’t return it would be a memorial
    Is this tree a memorial for Charlie’s brother that did not return?

    1. Hi Dave,

      To be honest, I’m not sure, but that is a great story! Given the size of the tree, I suspect that the planting of the trees is just a story. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Antonio

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