The Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce has waxed and waned during the past 85 years.
As the Chamber prepares to celebrate another big birthday this year, its members, board, and staff can look back on a history that has seen it weather the Great Depression, floods, and near dissolution at least once.
Go back just a little way, and when asked about the Langley Chamber of Commerce, there were competing claims for the title.
“There used to be three chambers of commerce serving the community,” said the Chamber’s executive director, Lynn Whitehouse. “Nowadays, business doesn’t really know any boundaries.”
The three Chambers had been around for years, into the late 1990s. An Aldergrove Chamber represented merchants in Langley’s eastern-most community. North of the highway, the Fort Langley Chamber had expanded to Walnut Grove and become the North Langley Chamber.
All three finally merged through the course of about two years, and the old Langley Chamber added “Greater” to its name to mark the expansion.
The Chamber was born in 1931, two years into the Depression, with 63 residents signing the papers to form what was then called the Langley Board of Trade.
Many of the prominent locals who signed have since had their names become part of Langley’s landscape: Dr. Benjamin Marr, Noel Booth, and P.Y. Porter.
Those early signers were mostly merchants and shopkeepers, some tradesmen, farmers, and a veterinarian. One was A.G. Fulton, station agent for the B.C. Electric Railroad.
They represented a cross-section of business owners and labourers in a Langley that had a population of a little more than 5,000 people.
While some early records were lost in the flood of 1948, some of the earliest surviving Chamber minutes show some things have not changed.
Issues of taxes, transportation, and parking show up as frequently 60 years ago as they do now.
Whitehouse has overseen many of the more recent changes personally. She started working there in 1986, the year of Expo, and that meant a lot of tourism work.
“We were the tourism organization,” Whitehouse said.
Tourism was a huge part of the work of Chambers of commerce, including in Langley, where all three Chambers at the time ran tourism offices.
“It was actually fun, really fun,” Whitehouse said of all the public interaction.
Being provincially funded tourism offices meant a requirement to stay open seven days a week in July and August, and that Victoria got to pick the interior decor.
A tourism tax on hotels was instituted in 2007, and promotion of the community to visitors split off to Tourism Langley.
Another big change through the years has been location.
When Whitehouse began working for the Chamber, the offices were downtown at Fraser Highway and Glover Road.
When the road was realigned, they moved a few doors down. Then they moved again, to bigger quarters on Glover Road.
Last year the Chamber staff relocated again, having sold their mortgage-free Glover Road digs. They now have a second-storey office in the Carvolth area just off 200th Street and north of 80th Avenue.