There is not much that can deviate the Trans-Canada highway, but this 300 year old Douglas Fir located beside the east bound lanes between the 176th and 200th Street exits did.
It was not much to look at these days and you probably saw it, a tree stump covered in English Ivy with a white cross, a wreath, and the moniker “Charlie’s Tree”.
Five life long friends as children used to swim and fish near this Port Kells location in the early 20th century. Five of them went to World War One in Europe. Only one, Charlie Perkins, a Royal Flying Corps flight instructor returned. To honour the memory of the four friends who had died in war Charlie Perkins memorialized a grand Douglas Fir with ivy, wreaths and flags.
The memorial was accepted by the community and was never questioned until the Surrey leg of Highway 1 wanted to locate the road through the field-and the tree. Charlie was incensed. As reported by True Surrey
“Charlie was a senior but that didn’t stop him protesting. In fact, he hauled a chair out into the middle of the road, placed a gun across his knees and didn’t budge. It wasn’t long before he was joined by friends, neighbours – true Surrey citizens. Folks who valued this living epitaph enough to make a stand. And amazingly, they won! Highway 1 weaves around Charlie’s tree to this day.”
More information about Charlie Perkins is available here.
The tree had been torched by vandals in the past and had been topped. But the Whalley Legion still places a wreath at the base of this old Douglas fir every year. On the weekend the stump of the tree split, and crashed on the highway. While there was a car crash, no one was hurt. Let’s hope the memory of Charlie’s Tree continues on this British Columbia Day.