ODD THOUGHTS: Divorce was inevitable – even in Langley back in the day

Retired Langley Advance editor Bob Groeneveld shares a little bit of timely local history.

by Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance

For most people, the week of transition between October and November is when Halloween happens.

For others, All Saints Day is a pretty big deal.

Yet others will be looking forward to that extra hour of sleep that they’ll get on Sunday – Nov. 5 this year (and maybe for the last time, if Premier John Horgan has his way) – when we all switch out of Daylight Saving Time and return to Pacific Standard Time.

But in Langley, this is the week when, 72 years ago, a divorce could have been avoided.

But instead, the seeds for that very divorce were planted… and they began to grow.

In the last week of October of 1945, Langley Councillor Noel Booth put forward a plan to provide the Langley Prairie business district with street lights. His plan, if accepted by plebiscite, would have lit up what is now Langley City with 336 250-watt lights.

And the area it would have lit up might not be known as Langley City at all.

Langley Prairie businessmen had been clamouring for a better deal from the rest of Langley for more than a decade. They felt they were contributing far more to the municipality’s tax base than they were receiving in return. Langley Prairie, after all, had long since outperformed the business centres of Milner and Murrayville, and even Fort Langley. (And for the most part, nobody ever really thought Aldergrove mattered.)

There were health issues and other infrastructure concerns, but as early as the mid-1930s, street lights were seen as the beacon towards progress.

Those businessmen didn’t like being pushed around by the “rural farmers” that dominated Langley’s political movers and shakers.

Booth’s proposal for Langley council to buy the lights, and then fund only 30 per cent of the $1,260 annual cost of keeping them lit, failed to brighten a darkening debate.

The plebescite failed.

And about 10 years later, Langley Prairie seceded from the rest of Langley, and in a nasty fit of temper, eschewed all other possible names, ensured decades of continued confusion by calling itself Langley City.

The secession campaign, although really about progress on many levels, was finally successful because a Langley mayor declared that council would provide “not a nickel for Langley Prairie street lights.”

The proposal intended to stave off divorce became the ink used to sign the divorce papers.

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