Here’s how the story goes: It was World War I, and Charlie Perkins and his four friends were sent to the Front. Only Charlie – a flight instructor with the Royal Flying Corps – came home.
But he wasn’t going to let the memory of his friends die. On returning to Canada, Charlie created a memorial from the tree – a glorious old Douglas fir – that stood near the swimming hole the five use to play in as children. He planted ivy around the tree’s base; laid wreaths; hung flags. And with time, his heartfelt memorial became something of a local institution. But trouble lay ahead…
In 1960, the Surrey leg of Highway 1 began construction and its proposed route ran right through the glade in which the tree stood. By now, Charlie was a senior but that didn’t stop him protesting. In fact, he hauled a chair out into the middle of the road, placed a gun across his knees and didn’t budge. It wasn’t long before he was joined by friends, neighbours – true Surrey citizens. Folks who valued this living epitaph enough to make a stand. And amazingly, they won!
Highway 1 was built to weave around Charlie’s tree, and for many years the magnificent Douglas Fir stood at the little bend in the road between 176th Street and 200th as a testament to Charlie’s loyalty to his friends and was christened ‘Charlie’s Tree’. The tree took on an even greater significance, the story become legend as a reminder for those who fought for the freedoms that Canadians exercise each and every day. Over the years, Charlie’s Tree endured a lot. It was set ablaze and topped, but just like Charlie, the tree persevered. Visitors decorated it with flags and flowers.
In the summer of 2016 the stump that was left of Charlie’s Tree fell. But in the true spirit of remembrance, the tree and the memorial will live on. A granite memorial has been erected and a young tree has been planted in Charlie’s Tree’s stump to commemorate both the lives of those who served Canadians, and to forever remember Charlie and his conviction to commemorate his friends.