McGregor Says: Looking back on the age of innocence

These were simpler times, when a couple of kids could sit with rifles across their laps as a royal entourage passed by

Today, the wait to cross between Canada and the USA can last for hours, and getting across the line requires a passport, but our columnist recalls a time when slipping over the border for a beer was no big deal.

Watching the recent protests at the Peach Arch reminded me that I grew up in a sheltered time in our country and our world.

I was born after the Second World War, I was too young to serve in the Korean conflict and too old to be asked to help out in Afghanistan.

The Peach Arch Park was a popular place for family picnics with the wide expanse of lawn and challenging trails took us down to cross the tracks to the beach.

We would often walk over to the arch itself and read the inscriptions on the inside, “Children of a Common Mother,” “Brethren Dwelling Together in Unity,” and “May These Gates Never Be Closed.”

“Going to the States,” for an afternoon was never an issue.

Maybe it was to a big church picnic in Bellingham or a company outing in Birch Bay or Point Roberts, we were pretty much just waved through the border crossings, coming or going, and there was never a fear that our nationality, race or religion would ever be challenged as we crossed this long undefended border.

As teenagers, an impromptu suggestion that we go to Lynden to go roller skating meant a bunch of us piling into a couple of cars and zipping across the Aldergrove crossing for an afternoon of laughter and skinned knees.

Trips for cheap gas, milk, cheese and ice cream cones were common on a Sunday afternoon and the little grocery stores across the line were popular places when we were suffering through one of beer strikes in B.C.

There were many creative ways devised to bring the cheap booze across the border and I have no doubt that the border guards knew them all and just ignored what we were doing.

Confiscating a 24-pack of watered down Budweiser from a thirsty Canadian would certainly be considered an international incident.

Bill’s Tavern and Bob’s Tavern in Blaine usually had more Canadians than locals as patrons on any given night and when you pulled up to the kiosk you just said, “Going to Bill’s for a while,” and they nodded and raised the bar.

Seldom were you asked to show any kind of ID. After all, it was good for their economy.

After dancing and drinking and working up an appetite, we stopped at Denny’s for a Yankee Doodle omelette.

They were simple times.

A friend shared a story with me about his buddy who was about eight years old, and he and his friend were plinking at rats off the Gueho Bridge with their 22 rifles one morning.

As they walked back into town, one of the local merchants told them that a parade was coming down Fraser Highway.

A member of the Royal Family was on a visit and the streets were lined to watch them pass and the two young boys sat on the curb with their rifles across their knees and no one reacted. They innocently waved as the parade went by.

The recent Royal visit cost taxpayers millions in security.

I am fortunate to never have had to do battle to defend my country.

I have never been asked to risk my life to lead the life I have. I truly hope that my grandchildren can say the same thing.

When it comes time for someone to stand up, be the one who stands up; when it comes time for someone to speak up, be the one who speaks up.

At least that’s what McGregor says.