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”:
- Famous Trees of the Lower Mainland
- Surrey’s Place Names (see under Memorial Tree)
- The History of Metropolitan Vancouver (near the bottom)
UPDATE COMING SOON: Charlie’s Tree falls after 300 years!