My personal ramblings usually reflect back to Delta's early history. I like to think it keeps me grounded and I hope it's a chance for others to appreciate the underpinnings of our present lifestyle.
Having paused to remember our fallen on Armistice Day brings memories of a bit of World War history located on the southeast corner of Highway 10 and 72nd Street in East Ladner. In 1941 the federal government purchased approximately 1,500 acres of farmland, first utilized as a civilian flying school. The site was quickly converted into cement runways and taken over by the RCAF as an operational training unit.
The airport was home to a fighter squadron and Lancaster bombers assigned to protect B.C.'s coastal waters from possible invasion. As a youngster, I have memories of regular civilian training with air raid sirens, searchlights crisscrossing the night sky and full blackouts of homes. The station trained upwards of 6,000 men yearly until the end of the war.
The site was then transferred to the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals involved in electronic warfare during the cold war. A high chain link fence protected this facility with full security at its gated entry. Now known as the Vancouver Wireless Station, it functioned as a "monitoring" station from 1948 until closure in 1971.
At its epicentre was a three-storey concrete facility located in the middle of the virtually abandoned airfields surrounded by a large antenna field. Searchlights prowled the surrounding fields and army vehicles continually checked the perimeter fencing.
The property had its mystery with its fenced and gated community and its uniformed personnel protecting its electronic surveillance operation.
Over time the station evolved into a community of its own with married and singles quarters, with social facilities, an administration centre, engineering and transport sections, and sports fields. A place of worship for Protestants and Catholics was established.
A kindergarten and an elementary school for three grades was opened in 1950 and enlarged to five grades by 1953. Mrs. Sawatsky opened the first kindergarten and Stella Husband was appointed the station's first teacher in 1950 and later principal of the two-room school.
Donna Lusignan joined the teaching staff in 1953 and later married Claude Tyson, an army man at the station. They were two of many who integrated into the Ladner community.
Others that come to mind include the Sawatskys, Spooners, Vaughan-Smiths, Phillips and Rogers, to name but a few. No offence intended to others as I'm limited in space.
Some of the largest fan base of amateur sport involved competition between Ladner and wireless station fastball and hockey teams. One of the airport hangars was converted to Delta's first indoor hockey rink in the late 1950s.
The Boundary Bay Airport is now a flourishing reminder of its past. The once-gated community shows its age and neglect as personnel and buildings are long removed. The infrastructure of roads, trees and some foundations remains.
Delta's heritage committee has done a good job with maps and photos showing the original layout. In the interim, the site is home to dog walkers, bird watchers and those interested in a little piece of Delta's history.
And a good night to you, Walter.