The Langley Advance hit the streets for the first time on July 23, 1931. By the end of the 1930s it had become Langley’s premier source for community news and information.
The community was home to about 5,000 people at the time and the first printing was 500 copies.
The real beginning can be traced to early in 1931, when Ernest J. Cox sold his interests in a North Battleford, Sask., shop and moved to B.C. to take a half interest with Gerald Heller in the Abbotsford News. At the same time, the Langley Board of Trade had been negotiating with Heller to set up a new paper in Langley Prairie (now Langley City).
Cox undertook the task of getting the Langley Advance started. Within a few months, the partnership between Cox and Heller was dissolved, with Cox retaining the Advance and Heller staying in Abbotsford.
Cox was helped by his wife and their two teenaged children, Fred and Kathleen. In spite of the hard times of the depression, the Advance grew.
When the newspaper makes news
E.J. Cox and his family were sitting around the dinner table one night in 1934 when the phone rang: the Yale Garage, next to the Langley Advance office on Fraser Highway, was on fire.
Well-meaning friends were taking out as much of the equipment and supplies as they could.
E.J. called to his daughter, Kay, to put the files and ledgers in the back seat of the car.
All the business’s books and records, including all of the file copies of the Advance printed to date, went into the back of a blue car – but it wasn’t the family’s car. Despite advertising the loss, nobody ever came forward with the files.
The Advance bought back many issues of the paper for its files, at $2 each.
The subscription list was also lost, but the customers all knew when their subscriptions were due, and they simply came in a paid up for the next year.
During the turmoil, young Harry Clarke carried the printer’s stone out the back door of the building. The next morning Fred Cox called him up and asked him to come and put it back.
“Are you crazy?” responded Clarke. “I can’t lift that.”
“You did last night,” said Fred.
The ‘stone,’ the stone-topped workbench where type was set, weighed several hundred pounds, and it took three men to put it back in place.
The Advance office was not actually damaged by the garage fire.
But when the family returned home several hours later, they found a cigarette had fallen from an ashtray, and had burned a hole through the dining room table.
Those early years
Both the 1930s and 1940s were decades in which local concerns were shaped by global forces.
In the 1930s, Langley found itself dealing with an influx of people who were fleeing terrible economic conditions in other parts of Canada – often to discover that things were not much better here.
During the war years, people left – some of the best and brightest young men of the community went off to war.
And many did not return.
In the 1930s, Langley struggled to find relief money to help those whose livelihoods had been devastated by the Depression, and goods and food were often easier to find than the money to pay for them.
In the 1940s, Langley dug deep into its pockets to support the war effort.
It was also in the post-war years that a movement grew beyond any proportions that it had had achieved in earlier incarnations – a movement that would change Langley completely in the coming decade. Although the first serious petition attempt failed in the mid-1940s, Langley Prairie’s successful secession from the rest of the municipality, creating Langley City, would occur in 1955.
The war years were also difficult, with Fred leaving to join the armed forces. After the war, Fred returned to the Advance, along with George Johnson, an RAF instructor in the Empire Air Training Program, who had married Kathleen. In 1947, Jim Schatz joined the staff.
In 1948, the Advance founded a paper in Aldergrove. The Optimist lasted nearly four years before it was abandoned.
In the meantime, the Langley Advance Publishing Co. Ltd. was formed in 1949, with E.J. and Fred Cox, Johnson, and Schatz as its principals.
In 1958 E.J. Cox went into semi-retirement and Fred Cox sold his interests in the company, but purchased the commercial printing portion of the business.
Jim Schatz would become owner. He died suddenly on Feb. 4, 1990. His wife Norma took over as publisher, and his son Ian became general manager, running most of the business’s day-to-day affairs. The paper was sold to Marilyn Boswyk on Sept. 14, 1994.
Boswyk aligned the newspaper, still independently owned, with the Southam-dominated VAN network of newspapers operating throughout the Fraser Valley.
In the late 1980s, a weekend tabloid format, free-circulation “advertiser” had been revamped into a second edition to the mid-week broadsheet. The broadsheet, which had been sold by subscription only, was later published as a tab and both editions went to blanket distribution into all Langley homes.
“News” was added to the Advance name to re-assert the paper’s emphasis on community news and information. In response to community and business needs, the Wednesday edition was shifted forward to Tuesday publication in 1996.
In the late 2000s, the paper became a division of CanWest MediaWorks Productions Inc. before it was sold a few years later to Postmedia, and then to Glacier Media in 2011, and to Black Press in early 2015.
PHOTO: How many people do you know have a job as a devil? This photo from the mid 1950s shows Delbert Anderson as the printer’s devil (an apprentice). Jim Schatz took this photo. The first linotype is being run by Boris Granholm, the second typesetter is Bruno Mueller, E.J. Cox is standing in the middle, and Fred Cox, in a white shirt, can be seen standing with George Johnson. The press operator was Vic Roosum. (Langley Advance files)