By Bob Groeneveld
Like so many good things that happen in Langley, the local hospital started as an idea that was shot down by experts before becoming a dream that was shot down by pragmatists before becoming a topic for discussion that was shot down by community leaders before becoming a recognized necessity that was shot down by local politicians before becoming a proposal that was shot down by skinflint taxpayers before… well, you get the idea.
Delve into the archives of the Langley Advance Times and you’ll find records of a number of false starts spanning decades before happenstance took over and dropped Langley Memorial Hospital into the community’s lap.
As far back as 1934, a couple of prominent local doctors proclaimed their opposition to plans that had resurfaced for building a local cottage hospital. Building and equipping such an extravagance would impose too great a financial burden on the good, cost-conscious citizens of Langley, they opined together.
But two years later, the busybodies were at it again. The Langley Prairie Women’s Institute – with the prestigious backing of Mrs. Clive Rogers – once again raised the spectre of a wallet-emptying hospital to cater to to the needs of any Langley citizens not nimble enough to stay healthy.
Two years later, a watered-down version of a medical facility, nurtured by promises of financial aid from the provincial government, slipped out the back door and made its escape when Langley’s movers and shakers learned that the province would only help out if Langley taxpayers could agree to building a fully equipped hospital.
Fast forward a half dozen years, and the realities of war raging abroad and sucking the youth out of cities, towns, and villages across Canada have a range of impacts on communities like Langley. Perhaps that’s why a committee of prominent citizens was struck to address the perceived need for a local hospital.
Langley’s committee comes up with a $40,000 plan, but organizations throughout the community dream bigger. Only a fortnight later, they get together to discuss a $100,000 proposal.
Enthusiasm ran high, the proposal grew, and soon the discussions slipped across the line into Surrey.
An emergency hospital was officially opened in Langley, but the real deal stalled while Surrey considered whether or not to go ahead with plans to build a full hospital to serve both communities.
When Surrey pulled out, plans were scaled back to $65,000.
But by now, the fires were lit locally.
A proposal for a $120,000 hospital, with some provincial help, gained traction, particularly when the world war ended, and Langley was able to appropriate a 67-bed hospital through federal war assets disposal.
That meeting hosted by Mrs. Clive Rogers exactly 94 years ago this week was just one beginning of the drive that delivered a war surplus hospital to Langley in 1947, and eventually the huge – and growing – complex that serves the community from Hospital Hill today.
Big things can start small, when they grow from the great minds of ordinary people.
In a past life, Bob Groeneveld was editor of the Langley Advance and the Maple Ridge Times. Now he writes when and what he feels like. He has been sharing his Odd Thoughts with readers for more than 40 years. Visit with him on Facebook.