A 60-year-old photograph is an ice-cold reminder of skating outdoors in Surrey, at the place known as Fry’s Corner.
When chilled enough in winter, the flooded Cloverdale farmland was a popular place for people to lace up their blades, near the corner of Fraser Highway and 176th Street.
In mid-January 1962, Leader newspaper editor Stan McKinnon photographed an estimated 4,000 skaters who’d flocked there “from all over the Lower Mainland” on a Sunday afternoon. “Not only skating,” reads a photo caption published on the front page, “but for playground hockey, figure skating, sleighing and sliding as well as picnics on the dykes surrounding the field.”
Snow and cold weather, followed by more moderate temperatures and bright sunshine, all combined to attract the skaters that day, reported McKinnon, whose panoramic photo has become a popular one in the Surrey Archives collection.
“Wherever there was a flooded field or a natural pond,” McKinnon wrote, “the skaters were out in force, with the whole family taking part in the fun. There were stretches of ice on the South Westminster flats, at Colebrook, the Serpentine flats inwards Sullivan, and in the river valleys around Cloverdale.
“Biggest crowds were at Fry’s Corner,” he continued, “where there was a 60-acre field of the former Weaver property, with the whole area covered with ice three inches thick. The field is completely dyked, making it a huge outdoor skating rink.”
By Sunday afternoon, McKinnon added, “cars were parked on both sides of Trans-Canada for over a mile, with another mile of parking on one side of Harvie Road. Skaters parked on both sides of Pacific Highway, back from Fry’s Corner, for almost half a mile. Three policemen were busy directing traffic at Fry’s Corner in the middle of the afternoon.”
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) December 8, 2021
Fry’s Corner is where the Honeybee Centre now stands.
“In the 1920s, it was a barren crossroads in an area popular as a rest stop for travellers driving between Vancouver or New Westminster and the United States,” explains a post on Discover Surrey’s website.
“While many looked and saw a lonely bit of land, Martin William Fry, an Englishman from California, saw an opportunity. In 1925, Fry opened a grocery store and gas station and the intersection came to be known as Fry’s Corner. It wasn’t without its challenges, though. The parking lot had to be built on heavy pilings and the house built on stilts because the site was susceptible to flooding.”
One upside: outdoor skating during frigid winters.
“Over time traffic circumstances changed. Fry sold the store, the station closed and the building was eventually demolished in 1968. But the name remains, and so do the memories.”
Surrey Now & Then is a look back at Surrey-area landmark sites, events and people. Email story ideas and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. We thank Surrey Archives for assistance with this series.