Computers, COVID, space travel, even penicillin – there’s so much about modern life that would have been unimaginable back in 1931.
That’s the year the Langley Board of Trade was formed.
The business-oriented group was created two years into the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn the world had ever seen.
It’s doubtful that the local merchants and tradespeople who started the organization – that would evolved into the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce – would have guessed they were creating an institution that would live on for more than 90 years.
Past staff have commented on the accomplishments achieved through all those years.
So much has changed about society, but for Langley business – it’s still about providing goods and services for local clients.
For the business organization, the biggest change has been technology, namely how technology allows it to help and interact with its members – the businesses of this community, said operations director Kristi Maier.
But reflecting back to the beginning, she noted that some of those early founders still have their names attached to roads, streets, parks, and schools around the community – carrying on their legacy for generations to come.
Near the top of that list is Dr. Benjamin Marr, a First World War veteran and Langley’s first resident physician after he arrived in 1907.
Noel Booth, the longtime Township councillor, signed his election papers listing his job as merchant. He would go on to have a school and park named after him.
P.Y. Porter, whose general store still stands at Murrayville’s Five Corners, added his name to the board of trade roster in its infancy, too.
The professions listed as board of trade movers and shakers in the day include quite a few merchants and storekeepers, along with a real estate broker, some hotel keepers, tailors, shoemakers, engineers, carpenters, farmers, a veterinarian, a cafe jack, and a man who listed himself as unemployed.
Some of the board of trade early documentation mentions the most recent census in 1929, which put Langley’s population at just 5,012 people.
Some of the earliest records, from the 1930s, were lost – apparently in the great flood of 1948. Records in the day were often kept in people’s homes or place of business, in storerooms, or other storage space – meaning they often didn’t survive.
But, when the first hand-written minutes, taken in the early 1940s (during eh Second World War) emerged, they show that local business owners have always had the same concerns.
Flipping through a few of the yellowing papers, and deciphering the spidery handwriting, it’s clear issues such as transportation, taxes, and parking jumped out – even back then.
Transportation has been a concern in Langley since the day the first wagon came to town.
Early minutes also contain references to the board of trade opposing the introduction of parking meters in Langley City.
The board suggested a parking bylaw instead, and parking time limits remain in place in the City today.
Also in 1944, one of the first items discussed at one meeting was tolls on bridges.
In that case, it was the Patullo Bridge, then the only fixed link between the north and south side of the Fraser River, that local merchants were worried about. They wanted tolls removed.
Changes in technology and institution have erased other concerns.
Minutes from a 1945 meeting contain a suggestion to the volunteer firefighters. When they are out at a call, one man should remain at the nearest phone, in case a second fire begins in another part of town.
In an era of cellphones, and professional firefighters, that recommendation seems to have been met.
While the popularity and strength of the board of trade, and later the chamber, have waxed and waned through the years, the organization continues all these decades later to be the key voice of local business.
In the early 1960s, the old board of trade renamed itself the chamber of commerce, a trend that was sweeping Canada at the time.
The 500-people turn out for the annual general meeting in 1959, was much higher than the turn out for modern AGMs.
But, by the early 1970s, the chamber almost vanished.
A motion was actually put in place to dissolve the entire organization, after a few years of low attendance at meetings and limited participation.
Fortunately, the shock motivated more members to return, and within a few years the chamber had returned to fighting strength.
For most of its history, the Langley chamber operated out of businesses, holding its meetings in restaurants and halls.
In some cases, meetings were even held as far a field as White Rock.
While the chamber had an office by the 1980s, it moved around a bit through the subsequent years, settling into its current and larger location at 8047 199th St. back in 2015.
The chamber has continued to innovate, as technology changes the way people do business, but the reason behind this organization’s creation will remain constant.
It will continue to serve as the voice of business for this community.
Advocate, promote, and serve the business community – those ideas and visions have been the same since 1931. While the chamber has changed how it achieves those goals, it’s still the steadfast mandate.
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