Editorial: What’s in a name

Wednesday's grand opening of the new Timms Centre got us wondering about the origins of the building's name

A new, state-of the-art Timms Community Centre will open next week in Langley City.

As the big day approaches, we’ve been wondering about the origins of the building’s name.

What is the story of the family upon whom the honour was bestowed many years ago?

The tale, as it turns out, dates back more than a century.

George Young Timms and his wife Harriet immigrated from England to Toronto in 1873, then relocated to Langley Prairie in 1911.

The family would go on to become a major force in the community.

Their story is told by historian Warren F. Sommer in “From Prairie to City: A history of the City of Langley.”

George and Harriet Timms built a large craftsman style home just south of the British Columbia Electric Railway and near the family greenhouses.

It was called Timms house, and it was considered one of the “largest and grandest houses in the municipality,” Sommer writes.

The Timms family business grew into one of the largest wholesale flower operations in North America.

George Y. Timms also ran a printing business and published one of the first Langley newspapers, known variously as the Langley Journal and the Langley Press.

A picture of G.Y. Timms at the time shows him posing in front of the movie theatre operated by one of his sons, Edward J. Timms.

Next to the “Photoplay” sign behind the elder Timms, the theatre offers to sell patrons tobacco, ice cream and soft drinks.

It was the first motion picture cinema in Langley and it ran silent films with a piano providing the soundtrack.

When the piano was upgraded to an organ in 1924, the New Westminster Weekly Columbian gushed that it would be “capable of producing many splendid effects” for films like “The Arab” starring Ramon Navaro.

The son was more interested in theatre than greenhouses, it appeared, and  E.J. Timms went on to sell the greenhouse business while he continued to operate his movie theatre and dabble in land development.

He also operated Langley’s first restaurant, a tea room, out of the Theatre Block where the movies played.

The tea room would became the Timms’ Grocerteria, which sold Fraser Valley butter for 45 cents a pound, choice bulk tea for 60 cents a pound and a 10-pound bag of sugar for 79 cents.

The Theatre block, a multipurpose building if there ever was one, also rented space to the community’s first drug store in 1920.

No surprise then, that the family name would end up adorning a more modern multi-purpose facility.

Next week, the latest version of the Timms Community Centre will hold a soft opening on Monday, with an official opening on Wednesday.

The $14.3 million, 35,000-square-foot building is a marvelous addition to the civic amenities provided by the city, one worthy of the name, Timms.