We all enjoyed a fairly decent Canada Day weekend last week, not hot enough to cause a sunburn and not so wet as to dampen events around the community.
During a conversation about past long weekend activities someone mentioned that one of their favourite pastimes as a Langley kid was going to Aldergrove Beach on hot summer days.
Yes, there was a beach in Aldergrove, situated where the Aldergrove Regional Park is now. If you walk west from the parking lot, there is a large expanse of gravel and some quiet trails. But there used to be a huge man-made lake on that spot and it was anything but quiet on a summer day.
The free pool was opened as “Aldergrove Beach” in 1963 by property owner Harry Keillor, and taken over by the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now known as Metro Vancouver) in 1969. It served as a close-to-home summer vacation destination for thousands of Langley and Abbotsford residents until it was shut down in 2011 because of new B.C. Public Health Act regulations that defined the “lake” as a public swimming pool requiring an operating permit.
With a stroke of a pen, summer days were changed forever for many families.
The pool was a large oval surrounded by white sand that was perfect for spreading blankets or setting up lawn chairs. In the middle of the ‘lake’ a four inch pipe gushed cold water up in a fountain and a common dare was to swim out there and see how long you could hold onto the pipe.
You had to get there early. The parking lot and the beach filled up quickly and you wanted to find a spot where you could get some sun, watch the kids, put your cooler and picnic basket under the shade of the trees and be not too far away from the toilets, changing rooms and concession stand.
There was a floating dock in the middle and it was just deep enough to dive off, although the signs told you not to. There was a roped off area for the little kids and often mothers would yell at bigger kids who were chasing each other around in the little kids’ area.
In the summer of 1969, the site was the location of the Aldergrove Beach Rock Festival. Fresh on the heels of Woodstock, many music festivals sprang up in small towns across North America. Some of the big acts at the three-day event were The New Vaudeville Band and Guitar Shorty, Black Snake and Trooper.
Canadian singer Valdy, was inspired to write his hit song, Play Me a Rock and Roll Song after being heckled and booed for playing his folk songs on the Aldergrove stage.
It was a big deal for us country boys to wander through the steady, heavy crowds, 25-30,000 people over three days, in the thick smell of pot smoke, watching our old swimming hole being transformed into a rock concert.
I have no doubt many local families went there in the evening after a hot day in the fields for a quick dip to cool off. It was close by, it was free and you always saw someone you knew at the little country swimming hole.
Somehow, no matter how much we had eaten, I always got talked into stopping at Dairy Queen on the way home, because a day at the beach always has to end with ice cream. At least that’s what McGregor says.