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Thirty-four years goes by quickly

A "hello" column from David Willberg's trip to northern B.C. and Yukon
North Klondike Valley
North Klondike Valley, Tombstone Territorial Park. Autumn.

Most of the important moves in my life have occurred in September.

In September 2000, I moved from B.C. to Estevan. (As an aside, Sunday marked 21 years in Estevan. Thanks, southeast Saskatchewan for putting up with me for that long. As a further aside, I'm not moving).

A year earlier, my folks moved from Langley city to a horse farm in nearby Aldergrove, which would be their home for 20 years.

And in 1987, my family move from Fort St. John, B.C., to Langley. 

Incredibly enough, I had yet to make it back to Fort St. John since that time, with the exception of a 30-minute layover at the Fort St. John Airport in 1999 on my way back from volleyball nationals in Grande Prairie, Alta. 

The drought ended last week, as part of a family vacation to northern B.C. and the Yukon. We weren't there long, just an overnight on the way to the Yukon, but you didn't have to be there long to see the differences.

When we left northeast B.C. in 1987, Fort St. John was of comparable size to Estevan today. Now, Fort St. John is a comparable size to Moose Jaw. 

Any community will change a lot in 34 years. If someone came to Estevan now after not being here since 1987, they'd be stunned with how much the community has changed. And if you left Estevan tomorrow and didn't return until 2055, the changes to the community would floor you.

Even though I was eight years old when we moved in 1987, I still remember a lot about the community. We lived a short drive from the city's mall; I still recall a lot of the time spent there, some of the businesses and even some of the layout. I remember a few of the restaurants and hotels in the community. I remember the neighbourhood convenience store and some of the recreation facilities in the city.

And because I'm a newspaper guy, I remember the Alaska Highway Daily News coming to our home each day. 

I could have driven from the Alaska Highway to our old house without a map or a GPS.

And if it would have been winter, I might have grabbed a toboggan and gone sledding down the hill that was our front yard, to see if I could still cross the street and reach the neighbour's yard.

I remember, just before we left in 1987, there was a powerful thunderstorm that rolled through in the middle of the night. I can still see one person paddling a canoe through the parking lot of the mall.   

The preschool I attended and the schools I went to are still there. When we left in 1987, there was a sign for a church that would be built there one day. That church has now been there for a while.

But when you consider that the city has more than doubled in size, most of what I saw wasn't there 34 years ago. 

I didn't bother to see if anyone I knew from 34 years ago was still in the community. They likely wouldn't remember me. And most of my friends were the kids of my dad's fellow RCMP officers. They were all gone within two or three years of dad's transfer.

One of the really nice aspects of this trip is the opportunity to see areas I haven't seen before. While we were familiar with the areas surrounding Fort St. John, and while we spent time in Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge and Hudson's Hope, the northern areas were a mystery. To my knowledge, the furthest north that we went was a nice restaurant about 50 kilometres outside of the city. We never went to Pink Mountain or Fort Nelson. Certainly, we never went to the Yukon.

I remember going to Charlie Lake Provincial Park many times and catching my first fish there, but that's it. 

As I get older, I have a greater desire to see the areas that I haven't seen before or those that I haven't seen in decades. And there are a lot of those areas. 

It was great to be in Fort St. John for the first time in 34 years. I hope it won't be 2055 before I make it back again. 

But if it is, at least I'll have more memories of the city the next time I'm there.