Odd Thoughts: Old joke not worth a plug nickel

Wait a minute! No, don’t tell me… I know this one.

I’ve heard it before.

The answer has something to do with nickels, streetlights, and taxes.

I think someone added a casino to the punchline a few years ago.

Yes! I’ve got it!

The answer is “amalgamation.”

It’s an old, old joke in Langley, and to tell the truth, it wasn’t even all that funny the first time.

But there’s always some wag in the Langley Township council chambers who’ll bring it up again for the cheap chuckle.

It’s like the least favourite uncle who likes to try and embarrass you any time the family gets together, by telling the story about how you were convinced that you accidentally almost drowned the cat when you were seven years old.

Somehow the cat survived, and although he’s tried to tell the story six different ways from five different angles, it’s only ever funny to the handful of adults who were in on the joke in the first place. They were the ones who almost drowned the cat, and the joke is a lame attempt to convince themselves that laughing about it will let them forget how stupid they were.

The frayed-around-the-edges amalgamation joke keeps coming up in different forms, ever since the people living in the Langley Prairie neighbourhood — now Langley City — finally got fed up with being treated like they were an idiot second cousin.

They’d been the butt of the joke since the early 1930s, and it was in the 1950s that the Township mayor pushed it all over the edge by muttering something about how Langley Prairie could buy its own streetlights and wouldn’t get a nickel from the rest of the Township for the project.

In the 1960s, the joke’s punchline had morphed into something about recreation, until an agreement was struck for shared facilities. Part of the deal resulted in the construction of Langley Civic Centre in 1972 — renamed the George Preston Recreation Centre in the mid-2000s, after one of the few Township mayors who realized that Langley City’s secession in 1955 was, in fact, not a joke at all.

By the time 1980 rolled around, the folks sitting around the Township council table were snickering again. The wise folk of the Township were convinced that the real joke was the recreation deal struck with Preston’s help, and the Township was also hard done by an earlier deal that took Langley City’s police contingent out of City Hall and mixed them in with a new cop shop built in the Township on Murrayville Hill — right about where the Blair Pool sits right now, if I recall correctly.

And they figured the rubes of Langley City were terribly overtaxed, and wouldn’t it be better for everybody if the City folk would just kiss and make up and rejoin the rest of the Township?

Several Township mayors and councillors were elected on platforms that included forcing the City back into the Township.

There was even a City mayor elected with an amalgamation study as a minor platform plank… but only a cursory study convinced Joe Lopunshinsky, like all the Township wannabe fathers of amalgamation (don’t recall any women got seriously into it… until now), to abandon the idea in plenty of time for his re-election.

The current version of the old Township council joke is back to policing costs, apparently based on the idea that only City people commit crimes in the City, while Township ne’er-do-wells stick to the Township.

The usual escalation to talk of amalgamation is not on the table… yet.


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