COLUMN: Reflections on a Cloverdale pioneer’s life well lived

Alan Davidson a key part of Surrey’s ” greatest generation.”

Alan Davidson, who died on July 25 at the age of 99, was a key part of Surrey’s “greatest generation.”

The term “greatest generation” comes from the title of a book by longtime NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw. He applied it to the young men and women who lived through the Depression of the 1930s, took part in the Second World War and, on returning home, had much to do with all the advances that followed.

Davidson qualifies on all counts.

Born in Vancouver in 1918, he grew up on a small farm in Tynehead, not far from Barnston Island. He came to Cloverdale to attend Surrey High School – the only high school in the municipality. He graduated in 1936, and despite it being the Depression, was offered a job as an office clerk at the real estate and insurance office run by Fabian Hugh and Frank McKinnon.

He was the Cloverdale firm’s lone employee, coming in before school to light the fires, while doing entry-level chores in the office in the afternoons and Saturdays – dusting, sweeping and learning to type.

He stayed there until retiring in 1983, taking four years away during the Second World War as a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

After his return from the war, Hugh & McKinnon offered a partnership. He took care of the insurance side, with McKinnon handling real estate and Hugh in charge of estates.

Davidson was heavily involved in the community from the beginning. He was a member of the volunteer fire brigade, the Cloverdale Jaycees and the Masonic Lodge. He was not alone – Cloverdale was the centre of Surrey at the time. Many young men of that generation started businesses, organized events such as the Cloverdale Rodeo and actively promoted Surrey.

He and his partners brought a number of lots on the east side of Cloverdale’s main street and sold them to aspiring businesspeople. Thus businesses like Venus Cleaners, the Clover Inn, the Clova Theatre and new larger premises for the Bank of Montreal and Hugh & McKinnon all helped to make Cloverdale a more complete business community.

The “greatest generation” – which included many active community-oriented people in Surrey’s two other towns of that era, such as Craig Frazer in Whalley and Don Munro in White Rock – also got married and had families. In 1947, Davidson married Doris McBeth –who predeceased him in June – and they had three children. They would have marked their 70th anniversary in September.

They supported school, sports, community and charitable endeavours.

Surrey grew rapidly in the 1940s and 1950s. Hugh & McKinnon played a major role in that, and established branches throughout the city.

Davidson played a major role in the broader industry – serving as president of the Insurance Brokers Association of BC – and he was chairman of the Cancer Control Agency of BC. He remained active until very recently.

Davidson will be remembered at a memorial service on Friday, Aug. 18 at Victory Memorial Park in South Surrey. As his death notice states, his was “a life well lived.”

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News.