BMO celebrates centennial in Maple Ridge

Was the first bank in a town called Haney

Jayne Westwood

The entry in the dusty old “current account ledger” shows a general account balance of $2,675.90.

That was the state of Pitt Meadows’ finances in June 1954, written in pencil, and recorded in the cumbersome book, one of a handful of artifacts on display at the Bank of Montreal on Lougheed Highway and 224th Street.

It’s the local branch’s 100th year and to celebrate, staff have dragged out the tools of the last century – before online banking, smart cards and smart phones changed finances.

Beside the ledger are a few pairs of old spectacles used by eagle-eyed clerks, along with the wall-mounted bank calendars that anyone over 40 will remember, some rubber stamps, an old typewriter used in the original Port Haney location, and even some deposit slips, which recorded transactions in paper and ink.

“What’s really interesting is we’re the first bank in Maple Ridge, so that’s kind of cool,” said branch manager Jayne Westwood.

As did most businesses, such as Fuller Watson Furniture and Appliances across the street, the bank moved from the Fraser River front in Port Haney, where it used to occupy what’s now the Billy Miner Pub.

A new building was built in 1933 on the Lougheed Highway location, followed by a major demolition, expansion and rebuild in the same spot in 1956.

Maple Ridge Museum curator Val Patenaude said the Billy Miner, built in 1910, was used as a rooming house during the Depression in the 1930s. It stood vacant for awhile, then was bought by Don and Bernice Gehring in 1972. It’s still in use today and recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.

The Billy Miner is likely the only commercial building that dates back that far, Patenaude added.

“They really were the first bank to serve the district.” As an historian and archivist, she appreciates the bank’s stability and longevity.

“Banks, in my experience, are generally fairly good record keepers of history. I don’t think they ever throw anything away. I love that.”

Some companies that frequently change names and identities don’t want to preserve their history, she points out.

She added that BMO also bought out the Bank of Hamilton in Port Hammond, now the home of Haney Hawgs.

To mark the Maple Ridge branch’s birthday, old photos and posters are on display, and on Friday, employees dressed up in period costume and hosted the mayor and customers with birthday cake.

Westwood said she was proud to have contributed to Maple Ridge’s social and business life over the last 100 years. But despite the steady growth of cyber commerce, many bank transactions still require paper records which must be kept for 10 years.

“It’s a paper nightmare being in banking,” Westwood says.

Loans supervisor Kathy Hayter, who’s been with the Maple Ridge branch for 37 years, says many people still like to deal with tellers at the counter, rather than do banking on their computer. Many of BMO’s customers are third-generation farm families who still do business with the bank.

“We have people that come in here, they go to the customer service representative, then they go to the ATM to finish off.”

With the branch heading into its second century, the current location is also scheduled for a major interior renovation this year, said Westwood.

“We were going to relocate at one point, and I talked them out of it because I think this is the best location in town.”

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