Venus Cleaners sits shuttered, along with many other Cloverdale businesses, because of COVID-19. Walter van Halst strolled through Cloverdale one day and reflected on its storied history and indefatigable resilience. (Photo: Walter van Halst)

Venus Cleaners sits shuttered, along with many other Cloverdale businesses, because of COVID-19. Walter van Halst strolled through Cloverdale one day and reflected on its storied history and indefatigable resilience. (Photo: Walter van Halst)

Cloverdale Strong: our town in a pandemic

Shuttered businesses dot Cloverdale’s empty streets

By Walter van Halst

Special to the Cloverdale Reporter

A short walk down 176th Street and adjacent parts of historic Cloverdale gives any long-time resident pause for concern. COVID-19 has turned our lives into waking nightmares. Yet, as I pass the quiet streets and shuttered businesses, reassuring signs of resilience arise and an image of #CloverdaleStrong reminds me of this town’s character and hardiness.

Strolling north from No. 10 Hwy., even chain stores like Sleep Country and De Dutch Pannekoek House are closed because of the pandemic.

Incredibly, Ron’s Barber Stylists, with its iconic rodeo window painting, is also closed. Instead of feeling the chills of history it feels more like Hell has frozen over because Ron cut my father’s hair for more than 40 years.

But before I casually sidestep H&R Block, where Shirley Nadeau knows my taxes are due, I do see a sign of life. At the Hawthorne Beer and Market Bistro, the owner, Aaron Hotel, is finding a way to make a go of it. With a red checkered table on top of some beer kegs, he’s offering great takeout food and off sales. How can a rugby man say no?

A little further down, both the Toolbox (Surrey Hospice) and Inn for Women thrift stores are closed, which makes me wonder where these great causes will get their funding.

As I pass the shuttered Venus Cleaners, I think about the owner, whose daughter goes to my school. She always goes above and beyond. There is no way I would take my dry cleaning anywhere else.

SEE ALSO: A trip to Cloverdale’s ‘sister city to the south’

Next I see the Vault restaurant is, perhaps ironically, locked up. My friend (the football coach) and his wife love this place and my dad did too. The seafood is incredible and once the tables are appropriately spaced out, they won’t be empty long enough for the cutlery to be set. This is just one more business I would bet on because people are hungry for it to reopen.

Around the corner, I spy Aaron’s Pizza, where I first went with the 1st Surrey Centre Cub Scouts. It was so long ago, we went door to door collecting newspapers instead of pop cans because they were more valuable.

Next the Clover Lanes comes into view. How many birthday parties and office bowling nights has that place hosted? Each time another long-standing business appears it becomes obvious it has survived for a reason.

Further up 176A Street, the site of many a rodeo bed race, the Cloverdale Bakery still offers Canadian and Danish pastries, including their famous “Copenhagens.” If you want a better Danish, you’ll have to trek to Denmark.

Continuing south, both the Cloverdale Library and Museum of Surrey may be closed, but six weeks is nothing compared to the history of Cloverdale. This is a town built by pioneers, two railways, many generations of immigrants and the faithful who floated the wood beams for Christ Church up the Serpentine River in 1882 and then hauled them by horse-drawn wagons because there weren’t any roads between here and the closest sawmills yet.

Approaching No. 10 Hwy. again, the Natural Nails salon may be closed but the Golden Medal Asian and Chinese restaurant is open. Both symbolize our diverse and resilient country.

SEE ALSO: Rugby trip a first in Tweedsmuir’s 101-year history

Walking east along No. 10, the iconic Stampede Feed and Tack sign comes into view. I worry about the impact of a cancelled rodeo on their business because I know the owners are so generous and community-minded.

Heading South on 180th Street I feel drawn by an old rugby teammate and his son to Turkey’s Party Makers. I can’t imagine how Turkey is getting by when all social gatherings are banned, but I know he’s a warrior. Who else could love going to parties so much he actually found a way to make a living out of it?! I smile thinking about the outrageous turkey costume he wears at the bed races and his “Gobble ‘Til Ya Wobble” corporate logo. You don’t bet against men like this.

Even more inspiring, I see the Pacific Community Church, where the Cloverdale Community Kitchen is located. The director, Matthew Campbell, is the ultimate example of someone making a difference. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night his crew of volunteers serves dinner to those who need it and the need is greater now more than ever. They also deliver food door to door and accept donations of non-perishable food on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 4-6 p.m. and on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to Noon.

Banking a left on 180th Street, I approach Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, where I teach. The school may be empty, but the kids are still learning. It’s not like today’s kids are reluctant to go on computers or use their cell phones to research something on the Internet. If this pandemic had happened when I was their age, the impact on learning would have been much worse.

SEE ALSO: Cloverdale high school teacher chats about teaching and life during the COVID-19 crisis

Heading down the hill on 60th Avenue, I see the Stetson Bowl and the Agriplex. I’m reminded the fairgrounds were once the site of a World War II air base and that our little Cloverdale has seen much worse than COVID-19. This is a place where real cowboys still fall and get back in the saddle.

Working my way down 57th Avenue, two more buildings symbolize strength. For me the famous Beaver Lodge, the Surrey Beavers rugby clubhouse, truly represents the friendship, honour and courage of the men who own it.

Finally, the ultimate symbol of #CloverdaleStrong is Branch No. 6 of the Royal Canadian Legion. It reminds us all, after a mere six weeks of COVID-19, the “Greatest Generation” first endured 10 years of the Great Depression, followed by a six-year war in which 45,000 Canadians – and perhaps 70 million people worldwide – were killed.

We may be living through a difficult time, but the proof is all around us of how strong we really are.

Walter van Halst is a history teacher, commissioner of boys high school rugby and a long-time resident of Cloverdale.

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