Odd Thoughts: Langley hospital birth a tale oft told

The local ‘emergency’ ward used to be in New Westminster.

Early in 1933, Police Chief Macklin reported that there had been 22 motor vehicle accidents in Langley through the previous year. Two people had been fatally injured, and six were taken to hospital.

Transport to a hospital in those years was no mean feat. Four of the injured went to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, the other two to the Essondale mental facility.

Just visiting friends or relatives that far away rated a mention in the local newspaper. A replacement for the old New Westminster Bridge, was being discussed… but the Pattullo Bridge was still four years away… and was being designed to last a full 50 years (yes, do the math, as you see or read the news items about upgrading getting started now).

Those six had to cross the old bridge. There would not be a hospital in Langley until after the Second World War made one possible.

Langley was not what it is today, except this item in the May 3, 1934, Langley Advance may seem familiar: “Two local doctors… felt building and equipping [a local cottage hospital] would be too costly.”

Plug in “bridge,” “pool,” “museum,” or “theatre” and replace the doctors with other prominent local skinflints and the same story is repeated throughout Langley’s history.

But you’ll also find perseverance in the historical record – like the ladies of the Langley Prairie Women’s Institute who met in 1936 to discuss getting a cottage hospital to Langley… about one month before the gentlemen of the Langley Board of Trade decided that, without provincial money, a fully equipped hospital would be impossibly expensive… maybe a cottage hospital would suffice.

It would be another six years before a committee had a proposal for a $40,000 hospital… and less than a month for a group of eager citizens to up the ante to $100,000, with 35-40 beds shared between Langley and Surrey. But Surrey pulled out and the plan died.

For a time, the ground floor of the Masonic Hall was turned into an emergency hospital, just in case Japan launched air attacks against Vancouver.

Then, a stroke of luck: a $13,000 fund-raising campaign raised $15,000, a successful referendum allowed $75,000 to be raised from taxes… and a surplus military hospital was available to be moved to Langley for a total cost of $9,500.

And Langley Memorial Hospital was officially opened on July 22, 1948.

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