Modern Abbotsford is the busiest city in the region with concrete multi-lane highways snaking endlessly through the landscape.
But not so long ago, one man’s rickety dairy truck frequently careened along the town’s early shoddy roads in a rush to bring milk to Vancouver.
Frank White recounts the story of a changing Abbotsford and his place in it in his memoir, Milk Spills & One-Log Loads: Memories of a Pioneer Truck Driver. This marks White’s debut into publishing at the age of 99.
When White moved to Abbotsford in 1919 at age four, the Matsqui and Abbotsford community had about 4,000 people. White was one of the hard-working pioneers that helped propel the town to its current busy industrial state. He has watched that population multiply 30-fold.
As a teenager, White began driving Abbotsford’s first Ford Model T after his father purchased the vehicle to run deliveries for the family butcher shop on Essendene Ave.
With that practice, White landed the job of driving the first bulk hauling milk truck in Abbotsford, bringing shipments of 10-gallon milk jugs to Vancouver.
“In those days, many people grew up in Abbotsford without ever having gone to Vancouver. It was just such a journey,” said White’s son, Howard, who also published the memoir.
Milk trucks competed to sell their lot in the big city, and drivers frequently took a corner too quickly or collided in their enthusiasm, spilling milk everywhere. White recalls major roads running with spilled milk.
A truck was a rare commodity in those days. White – like other drivers – made cash on the side by transporting hitchhikers and the big contraband of the day: spuds. The humble potato was tightly controlled by a marketing board, and people who hit their local sales limit would hire White to do midnight spud runs into Vancouver.
Later on, Frank started driving one of the first logging trucks in the Valley. The old rebuilt delivery van barely crawled up Sumas Mountain and struggled under the weight of tree logs. Back then, some old growth logs were eight-feet thick and only one log would fit on the back of the truck.
Milk Spills & One-Log Loads weaves through the development of the dairy and logging industries in Abbotsford through one man’s first hand experience. The raucous book covers White’s time until just after World War II; the author is already working on the second memoir that would complete his life story.
Howard explains that his father was a working man who didn’t finish high school. He never considered that he could write a book or that his life would be of interest to others. Encouraged by his son and many others, White has been trying to record his unique story – and that of the city in which he lived for most of his life – for years.
Milk Spills & One-Log Loads: Memories of a Pioneer Truck Driver is available at Coles bookstore in Sevenoaks mall, at the Black Bond Books in Mission’s Junction mall, and on Amazon.ca.