My Time In East Burnaby

In the early 1950s, I was born in the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, and brought home to 345 East 15th Avenue in East Burnaby, a new two bedroom bungalow that my parents had bought as soon as they knew I was coming along.  What was then known as Burnaby General Hospital did not open its doors until a few months later, and was actually farther away from our home than the Royal Columbian.

My parents had been living with my mother’s parents at 525 5th Street in New Westminster since the end of the 1940s when they were first married.  They had planned to buy a less expensive older house, but did not have the 50% Down Payment required in that era for a First Mortgage.

Meanwhile, Mr. Schaub was an East Burnaby farmer who realized that, once World War II was over, there was more money in building houses than farming.  He and his two sons began in the North East corner of his land, building houses on both sides of East 15th Avenue between Cumberland and Wright Streets.  Some of those first houses were sold to some of his relatives with young families.

As the rest of the houses on the street were completed, they were sold to couples like my parents.  Through the sales to his relatives, he had realized the importance of financing, so was offering Second Mortgages to all of his buyers, whether they were related or not.

A Second Mortgage made for a Down Payment that my parents could afford.  But the total monthly payments for the two mortgages did not leave much for the necessities.  The First Mortgage had a 5.5% interest rate and had to be paid off in 10 years.  The Second Mortgage had an 8-9% interest rate and had to be paid off in 5 years.

My mother, meanwhile, quit her job to take care of me.  Suddenly, Income was down and Expenses were way up.

As a Municipality, rather than a City, Burnaby was able to keep taxes and utility costs fairly low.  East Burnaby was also close to my maternal grandparents, and to where my father worked: the American Marietta plant at the Foot of Keary Street in New Westminster.  A savings in both travel time and expense, including bus service half a block away from our house that got us just two and a half blocks from my grandparents.

I certainly did not want for anything before the Second Mortgage was paid off when I was four and a half years old.  Because my parents could not afford a television until then, I had not been exposed to most of the advertising aimed at increasing young children’s demands for toys, breakfast cereals, soft drinks and candy.

Even so, I did have a nice wooden wagon in those early years.  Unfortunately, I used it to reach for something high up on the clothes tree which my mother put in my bedroom to dry clothes long before Dryers were a common major appliance.  Having wheels, the wagon began moving as I reached up and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor, missing one of my top front teeth.  Fortunately, I got a new one when I was six years old.

As for Mr. Schaub and his sons, I remember seeing them on the roof of what would be the Brovold’s house on 14th Avenue, nailing down the shingles.  I would have been five years old at the time, and Mr. Schaub’s farmland still touched 15th Avenue in one small one lot wide section where a lot of the children on the block would go to see his one remaining cow, which he kept for milking.  That is where I learned that each family had its own word they taught their children to refer to manure.

How I Got There

Since they were first married, my parents had lived with my maternal grandparents at 525 5th Street in New Westminster. I was their first child so my parents began looking for a house of their own as soon as they knew that I was coming along. They had intended to get an older, less expensive house, but did not have the 50% Down Payment required for a Mortgage in those days.

After a lot of looking, my parents found Gus Schaub, a farmer who, with help from his adult sons, was slowly building new houses on his East Burnaby farmland, and was willing to offer my parents a Second Mortgage to reduce the Down Payment required. East Burnaby appealed to my parents not just because it was close to my grandparents, but also because it was close to where my father worked: the American Marietta plant at the Foot of Keary Street in New Westminster.

About seven months before I was born, my parents moved to what was then known as 345 East 15th Avenue in East Burnaby between Wright Street and Cumberland. The Wright Street-16th Avenue-Cumberland perimeter had all been subdivided into residential lots in the 1920s, with many of the houses dating from that era. That led to the odd layout of lots when the farmer began developing the North side of 15th Avenue. The back 18 feet of each lot was given to the Municipality of Burnaby as Lane Allowance, as well as 18 feet on the side of the lots behind the houses on Wright Street and Cumberland. The final layout of back lanes was in the shape of an “H”, though the entire “H” was Bush for many years to come. In fact, it took nearly 17 years before the final piece of lane, behind our house, was completed.

I can still remember some of the houses being built and a cow grazing in the remaining farmland. 15th Avenue was originally gravel with open ditches.

I went to Second Street Elementary School in the beginning wave of Baby Boomers, with 40 students each in three classes of Grade 1. Although the school was built in 1928, it was Grade 5 before my classroom was in the original part of the school. Second Street did not yet offer Grade 7, so I was part of the first Grade 7 class at Armstrong Elementary School before going to Cariboo Hill Junior Secondary, which was so close to our house that, just a few years earlier, I would often walk over to watch it being built.

The summer after Junior High, my parents bought a Lot in a newly developed area of South Burnaby, and had a house built on it.