Clarence Carter probably knows Mission better than anyone, he just turned 100 years old and is now reflecting back on his century here and how much things have changed.
“I was born in Mission and lived my entire life here, except for World War Two,” Carter said.
“I was born before they even had a hospital, the building on the corner of bridge … was just a doctor’s building.”
On July 4, Carter officially became a centenarian. He worked for 35 years in Mission’s post office
He remembers a time when there were stables and blacksmiths on every block in Mission’s downtown, a time when there was only one policeman, the city’s half dozen cars had trouble turning on to Main Street because the corners were too sharp, and there were no school buses.
He remembers having to make a trek out to Silverdale Elementary in the mornings.
“One of the [truck drivers] who hauled groceries out from Vancouver everyday would put benches on the back of his freight truck every morning – that was our school bus,” Carter said. “It was a big step up for the little girls to get up the back, so one of the boys would get up there and pull up the girls.”
He said it was cold in the winter but, “That was the only way to get to school.”
The only time Carter wasn’t living in Mission was during the Second World War, when he joined the Canadian Airforce and was stationed in Newfoundland.
“Mission had a population of around 10,000 at that time, and there was over 1,000 that joined the armed forces,” Carter said.
There he was part of crew that flew escort missions in a Liberator Wireless Airgunner for convoys supplying shipment to the Europe’s western front.
In 2018, Carter was interviewed for a Youtube series by the Veterans Memorial Restoration Society about his participation in the “biggest battle between a plane and surface vessel in World War Two” on Feb. 14, 1944.
After the war, Carter started working at Mission’s post office in the 1950s, and stayed there for 35 years.
“At that time Mission, Abbotsford and Langley we’re about equal size in population. At the time they thought Mission would grow out the other two because of it’s location on the train tracks going into the States and Vancouver as well.”
Another memory that sticks out for Carter was the Flood of 1948 that destroyed 22,000 acres of farmland and forced 16,000 people from their homes.
“My father-in-law has a little fish boat on the river,” he said. “We went around to all the houses and took out people. For the duration of the flood, they used us as transportation [across the river] … We’d go back-and-forth and back-and-forth.”
Carter, and his recently-passed wife of 73 years, Elsie, lived in a house on Grand Street for 60 years. When his wife had trouble walking she was moved into The Residence in Mission care home (TRIM).
But she wanted to come home, so Carter joined her at the facility.
“I was up on the third floor and she was on the second. I’ll be darned if we didn’t try to get closer together.”
His daughter, Sherri, said Carter always talks about there being no place better to raise a family.
“A lot has changed,” she said “But when I come back out here, it does feel like coming home.”
Carter says that after all this time, Mission still feels like a small town.
“I couldn’t think of a better place,” he said. “It’s one of the best places in the world.”