By Mel McConaghy
The Old Red Barn stood on Second Avenue, below Queensway Street. It was ran by a man by the name of Roy Burwell. I don’t know when it was built, sometime in the 1930s I imagine.
It was a throw back to the days when not everybody had cars or trucks in Prince George, and horses were still used in the lumber industry. It was a place where people could also rent, or buy, a horse. Prince George, during the 1930s and early 1940s, was still a very small town. People were still moving in, and homesteading places that are now within the city limits. For some of them, their only means of transportation was their team of horses and a wagon, so when they made the journey to town to purchase what they needed, they required a place to park their horses, and have them fed and watered while they went shopping.
I remember going to the Red Barn as a kid and hanging around, looking at the horses and brushing them, hoping that they’d let me shovel out a few stalls in exchange for a ride around the corral on one of the horses. I still remember the odors of that barn, the smell of straw on the stable floor, mixed with the warmth of the horses and their musty manure. Now, the smells might be considered revolting to modern society, but, as anyone who has horses, or grew up using horses will tell you, stables have earthy, pleasant odors. They are scents from a past filled with hard work and struggle, families trying to survive on their few acres of land. They are odors that remind us that families fiercely fought nature to make a home for themselves, and farms to sustain them. They fell trees to make their homes, dug out the stumps, and labored to remove all the rocks and roots from fields when ready. Then they sowed their crops, and prayed that Mother Nature would bless them with a crop abundant enough so that they could sell some of it, to help support their family. It was all done with horses, and so that’s what these odors meant to me.
When I left Prince George to go to sea in 1954, the Old Red Barn remained, but the horses were long gone, lost to the relentless march of progress.
Hooves had given way to the wheels of noisy automobile and trucks. The soft whinny of horses was replaced by the rattling of the internal combustion engines. The Old Red Barn became a warehouse for a trucking company, and the pleasant smell of horses was replaced by the pungent smell of hot oil and choking exhaust fumes from engines. Yes, the memories of the sounds and smells are still with me, and I’m glad that I had the pleasure to have lived during that period of time, the era of The Old Red Barn.
My Life Through a Broken Windshield by Mel McConaghy
Mel McConaghy is a retired trucker and author from Prince George, British Columbia. Mel’s tales are his views of life “through a broken windshield”. They are entertaining and humorous in a folksy style.
Visit Mel’s website at www.melmcconaghy.com