The history of the Langley Advance is intertwined with the history of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.
The Langley Board of Trade, as it was originally known, was founded early in 1931.
It was the Board that gave the early Advance a boost when it came along six months later. Local businesses wanted a paper to succeed, and the paper needed the support of the business community to survive.
The chamber of commerce was born when 63 residents, mostly merchants, shopkeepers, and tradesmen, signed the papers. Langley’s population was not much above 5,000 people at the time – today more than 135,000 people call the Langleys home.
Early minutes show that many of the same issues animated the Langley business community as today. Roads and transportation, taxes, and parking issues show up over and over again.
They were also active in one of the biggest events in Langley’s political history. The early chamber called for the separation of Langley into City and Township, a move backed by many merchants downtown.
Some of the earliest records of the chamber were destroyed by the flood of 1948.
The chamber continued into the 1960s and 1970s, but started to suffer a serious decline in membership.
The number of members taking care of chamber business fell.
“It got to the point where just a few of them were doing everything,” said Lynn Whitehouse, the recently retired executive director of the chamber.
A motion to wind down the chamber and close the doors was put forward.
That finally got a significant number of people to turn up at the next meeting, to vote it down.
“It was like a shot in the arm,” Whitehouse said.
The chamber still wasn’t full-sized, as there were three separate chambers in Langley by the 1980s, representing different neighbourhoods.
In the 1980s, it became focused on visitor services in the buildup to Expo ’86, one of the biggest international events Greater Vancouver had seen at that point.
When Whitehouse took over in 1986 as executive director, there were 247 members.
Meetings were held at relatively small restaurants in the 1970s and ’80s, such as at The Pagoda and The Praire House.
They now have just under 1,000 members. Meetings moved years ago to Newlands and then to the Cascades Casino to accommodate more members.
The Langley Chamber ran a number of services that have now been spun off or shut down.
It was also a tourism centre for many years, until the creation of Tourism Langley.
The chamber also ran a small bus service in Langley in the 1980s.
The Langley Transit Service had two buses that drove a route from Langley City to Brookswood, Langley Memorial Hospital, and to the Willowbrook Shopping Centre and Walnut Grove, Tuesdays to Saturdays.