Robert Wark

CRUISE-IN: Cars have long local history in Langley

This community's automotive history began before the First World War.

Langley has been a centre of auto enthusiasts for decades. But when did Langley’s love affair with the car begin?

There are two candidates for the first car owner in Langley, according to local historian Warren Sommer.

A man named Patrick Hickey may have had the first vehicle. But most accounts say it was the better known Robert Wark who bought and drove the first car in Langley.

Wark, who was reeve (mayor) of Langley during the First World War, was photographed in 1913 at the wheel of his vehicle in front of the Wark-Dumais house, which still stands today near the Kwantlen Polytechnic University campus.

Also still in place is the oldest piece of paving in the Langleys – the Wark home’s driveway, off Glover Road.

Wark had two strips of concrete laid to his house from the road, with gravel between them. This was more than a decade before Old Yale Road would become Langley’s first paved street.

“The story is that people would have come out to marvel at his folly,” said Sommer. “There wasn’t a lot of entertainment in those days.”

The first garages came during or just after the First World War, as car and truck travel became more common.

“A lot of them, of course, were blacksmith’s shops that adjusted,” said Kobi Christian of the Langley Centennial Museum.

Reid’s Blacksmith Shop in Fort Langley was started around 1910, but spent most of its working life as a garage. The site now hosts the Blacksmith Bakery named in honour of its original purpose.

One of the early garages that stuck around was owned and operated by Alf Marr, the brother of Langley’s first doctor.

Marr’s Yale Garage opened in 1926 and operated in Langley Prairie until a New Year’s Eve fire in 1935 burned it to the ground. Marr rebuilt and ran the garage until 1940 when he retired.

A few years before Marr closed up, the longest running shop in Langley’s history opened on Fraser Highway.

Barron’s Service opened its doors in 1938. It would run on the same spot as a service station and repair shop until 1997, with founder William Barron and then his sons Delroy and Walt running it.

Buying cars in Langley didn’t begin until the 1940s.

In 1941, mechanic Ernie Greenfield opened his own garage, after working in several others in what was then called Langley Prairie.

He would later become Langley’s first car dealer – not that he actually had cars on the lot.

Greenfield’s Langley Motors sold British-built Austins, but if you wanted to see one, you had to make an appointment and have one brought out from Vancouver.

Fraser Valley Motors followed in 1945, with Ford and Mercury vehicles, and Langley Used Car Sales opened in 1948.

That business opened at 200th Street and Fraser Highway. More and more auto dealers followed, and by 1973, advertised themselves as “Langley’s Automotive Row.”

PHOTO: Barron’s Service was the longest-serving gas station and garage in the Langleys. (Del Barron photo)

 

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