The photographs spill out of files and pile up before us. Here is Jack Burge in a farm truck with his brother Doug and his nephew. There is an immaculate barn with healthy cows at milking machines which are the last word in technology of a long-ago period. Over this, Jack places photos of delivery trucks, of dairy store fronts, and, in a moment of revelation of another kind, he tentatively covers them all with a picture of himself as a strapping young man in a suit, squiring a lovely girl, his wife, to an annual dinner dance.
As we talk, the distance between the stop-timed youth of the photos and the older man speaking shrinks, and it is 1936, the year the Burdge family moved to Vancouver Island to manage the farmlands known as Broadmead. We are sitting in Jack’s house on Beckwith Avenue, right next door to the house that the family moved into and lived in until the 1950s. Through his eyes we see the rich farmlands stretching into the distance where now streets of houses cut off the view.
With his words and pictures, Jack vividly evokes various areas familiar to us. Where Thrifty Foods and the Fireside Grill now hold court, the Burdges once cut their hay. The vast reaches occupied by Canadian Tire and Broadmead Lodge were once woods with stands of Garry Oaks. As the newly-arrived Alberta boy, Jack saw this place as “the Wild, Wild West”, especially when he rode the horse boarded with the family, “my” horse, as he put it, across the open land.
When his father retired, Jack stayed on the land. To him, dairying was more than a career: it was a life. As he speaks, his face tells the whole story. It is suffused with the glow of good memories, of a life well-lived, and of satisfaction with purpose fulfilled.
Our area began to change in the 1950s in the face of challenges fostered by development. When asked about his feelings as landscape changed from rural to semi-urban, Jack used a phrase that cut straight through the heart. It was “emotional devastation in slow motion”. But regret is simply not within this good man’s frame of reference. He has his life, his moment in time, and a fine present.
For us he is a living history of Broadmead, with his spirit and his DNA forever on the land.
Please contact John Lucas at email@example.com, so that we may continue to compile a human history of our beloved wetland.
John Lucas – firstname.lastname@example.org
BARA Bugle (Broadmead Area Residents Association Newsletter), Fall 2005 – John Lucas