By Bob Groeneveld
A walk through the local history of a place like Langley can take you from the informative to the tragic, and all the way across to downright fun.
The Great Depression, for instance, filled local newspapers with a wellspring of interesting articles.
In the day, newspapers, and especially the small mom-and-pop ones, as the Langley Advance was at the time, were to their communities practically what the internet is to the world today.
Everything worth knowing could be found in the newspaper – news, interesting tidbits of useful (or useless) information, gossip… especially gossip: who visited whom, who drove all the way to New Westminster to visit a sick aunt, why somebody wasn’t at church on Sunday.
In balance, however, it was unlike the internet in that nearly all of the information in a community newspaper, as arcane as it might sometimes be, could be trusted.
And just as it is often said that today’s news is tomorrow’s history, surely enough, there’s wondrous history to be gleaned from old newspaper pages.
It’s the small stuff that tends to intrigue me most. In the fall of 1932, it was reported from Teece’s Cash & Carry Grocery that the price of butter had “jumped” to 26 cents per pound. It’s hard to find a pound of butter for less than $4 these days.
And consider the cost of lodging at Langley Hotel that summer: $2 per night, or $3.50 with breakfast. If the price of a room for the night seems like a steal compared to today’s rates, consider the exorbitant cost of brekkies. Today, if you could find a $100 room, the equivalent breakfast would run you 75 bucks. Even at today’s food prices, that’s a lot of scrambled eggs and bacon.
The following summer, Langley, as small as it was (they rolled up the sidewalks when the annual picnic drew 600 residents out of town… or would have, if there had been sidewalks) drew the attention of national political leaders stumping for the upcoming federal election.
When J.S Woodworth rolled into town, the crowd of 2,000 who came from near and far to see the leader of the CCF (forerunner of today’s NDP) held a silver collection to help pay for the campaign… and took in a whopping $135.
It may seem counter intuitive to think that a community as hard-right conservative as Langley has been over the past four decades could ever have been represented by anything else in Parliament. But in addition to Liberals, both CCF and NDP MPs have taken up Langley’s case in Ottawa, as well as in Victoria.
But before my red-necked friends despair of a shady local past, the left leanings of those who represented Langley were always endorsed by neighbouring communities that shared much larger ridings that spread as far as New Westminster.
A close look at poll by poll election results shows that Langley voters have always resided at the right end – sometimes the far-right fringes – of the political spectrum.