Just a few millions of years after the central bulk of a whirling disk of dust and gases on the outskirts of the Milky Way collapsed into a giant nuclear reactor, the tidal forces it generated caused much of the remaining disk’s debris to coalesce into several huge balls of gas and a few relatively small rocky planets, one of which became known as Earth.
It would be another few billion years before the natural progression of the solar system culminated in the creation of the first edition of the Langley Advance on July 23, 1931.
Until recently, Earth was thought to be an ordinary world in an ordinary star/planet system, a yardstick that could be used to interpret telescopic exploration of millions of similar systems throughout the galaxy.
But astronomers have discovered, after finding hundreds “exoplanets” – planets whirling around suns other than ours – there’s nothing ordinary about our solar neighbourhood or, indeed, about the planet on which we reside.
It turns out that Earth is one of a kind – or at least, a rarity – in the cosmic allness, a peculiarity formed by a specific course of events not evident in any other system yet discovered.
The Langley Advance is also one of a kind, with a creation story all its own.
It began with a group of business people in what was then Langley Prairie. They were prepared to become the nucleus of a community that they hoped would coalesce around them, a community that could grow and prosper with them, a community that would set its own course and give life to what they felt was a magic word: progress.
To that end, their first order of business was to form a working association, which they called the Langley Board of Trade. And the first order of business of that association was what they believed was crucial to maintaining a cohesive community.
The concept of “community” was strong back then. Especially then. It was 1931, and Langley, along with the rest of Canada and most of the world, was in the throes of an economic downturn so terrible that to this day it is still simply referred to as The Depression.
Without community, survival was an unlikely proposition. The trade board members knew that.
They knew that the beating heart of a community was – and still is – communication. A community needs to know what it’s doing, where it’s going, what its strengths are, and in order to keeping improving itself, where it is failing.
They also knew that the first and foremost tool for keeping the internal lines of communication open would be a community newspaper.
So they chatted up a fellow who was at the time working for a community newspaper in Abbotsford – a newspaper similar to, but not exactly the same as what they envisioned for Langley – and asked him to start a paper for Langley.
E.J. Cox became the first editor of the paper he started. And he did it with a community commitment that was accepted in full by all three editors who have succeeded him.
An aside here: as individual as the Advance’s origin story may be, it is even more unusual that in the entire 85 years of its existence, Roxanne Hooper is only the fourth person to serve as editor. Cox sat the editor’s desk for about 20 years, Jim Schatz followed him for more than 30, and I occupied the chair for another 30 before handing the blue pencil to Roxy last year. In each case, the handoff was to a seasoned local reporter with an abiding – and long term – commitment to community, and particularly to the community of Langley.
The Advance is very different from the newspaper that Cox had printed in Abbotsford before setting up his own press in his Langley operation on Fraser Highway, with the cooperation of what is now known as the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.
And yet, it’s very much the same.
Just as it was 85 years ago, it remains (as Schatz used to say when I was a young reporter, and I have oft repeated since – because I like the way it sounds) the story of Langley’s births, deaths, and everything in between.