by Lynne Wright
Abbotsford lost an early community builder on March 19.
Charlie Mathers wasn’t born in Abbotsford. His father, fondly known as the “Mayor of Straiton,” was away at war in 1916, so his mother, Jessie, moved to Vancouver with her daughter to await the birth of her baby.
After the war, the Mathers moved back to Sumas Mountain where Dave’s store “The Upper Store” served the needs of the soldier resettlement project going on at Sumas Lake. Like other pioneer kids, Charlie helped out at home, in the store and in driving the family cattle up the mountain in a family move in 1925. By then, Sumas Lake was drained and 30,000 acres were made available for farming.
There was a lot happening on Sumas Mountain. The underground mines were in full swing, supplying clay to the forerunner of the Clayburn Company. There was a need for timbers for the mines, land that needed clearing, and forest to harvest. Dave built a home on a farm on what is now Mathers Way in Straiton. In 1938 Charles bought his first truck and went into business. He and his brother-in-law, Cliff MacKenzie, had a sawmill in the winter of 1949/50. Louis Dionne donated land, Charlie and Cliff cut framing materials, and community volunteers started building Straiton Community Hall, which has long been considered the heart of Straiton, one of Abbotsford’s enduring neighbourhoods.
His was a musical family. In the ’50s, The Mathers Accordian Band helped build memories in downtown Abbotsford, giving young people a chance to learn music and march in parades. Charlie’s wife Marion led the band and their son, Barry, would later become a musician, singer and songwriter, part of the Cruzeros, an award-winning Canadian country band. The Cruzeros, “This Old Road” commemorates Dave and Jessie and their way of life. Another song, “November 11th”, recognizes Charlie’s brother Bob, a veteran of WWII who lost a leg in the Italian campaign and was a recognized character swinging along on his crutches on his way to events at the Royal Canadian Legion.
After over 40 years in Abbotsford, Charlie moved to Osoyoos where he formed a land development company, bought a cattle ranch, and built the Osoyoos Sage and Sand race track and the first local golf course at the Osoyoos Golf and Country Club. From Osoyoos he moved to a farm in Rutland (Kelowna) that he owned until his passing.
On April 13 at 1:30 pm, Straiton Hall will be filled with memories of one of the men who built it and laid a foundation for the community life enjoyed today.