As our familiar Christmas decorations appear on 224th Street and along Lougheed Highway in the form of bells and garland, it is likely that our newer citizens don’t understand the depth of their roots in our community.
In 1966, a group of Haney business owners approached municipal council with an offer they couldn’t refuse. The merchants would purchase the elements of the decorative street lighting, while the district would supply power and storage between seasons.
The price of the decorations was $10,000 in 1966, so it was a substantial contribution to the community by the merchant group.
The leaders of the effort were two familiar men-about-town – Ro Veinotte from Fuller Watson and Graham Mowatt of Esquire Men’s Wear.
It was part of a general move to revitalize the downtown core and to encourage people to shop locally (sound familiar?) for the Christmas season. It was a much shorter season in those days, with no serious Christmas advertising done much before the beginning of December. In addition, the whole of Canada was moving into a big Centennial year in 1967, so community-oriented projects were at the forefront of most people’s minds.
When first purchased, as they do today, the decorations lined Lougheed Highway between 6th (222nd Street) and 10th Avenue (227th Street) and from Lougheed to Dewdney on 8th Avenue (224th Street). Before they even approached council with the idea, the merchants had to first get the agreement and support of B.C. Electric Company (now BC Hydro) as it owned the power poles that were used to mount the decorations.
After 1972, when the power lines down Haney Boulevard were buried, the decorations were switched to lamp standards running down the boulevard in the configuration we see today.
Mention of the installation of these decorations for their 46th season has brought a flood of memories from the participants in the “We Call it Haney!” Facebook group. They bring back memories of younger days and simpler times and recall Christmas time in Haney for those who no longer live in the area.
Descriptions include “classic” and “Great small town feel,” though many feel that the garland portions would benefit from a return to the older style of lighting rather than the dimmer and harsher LED lights. Some of the bells were replaced in the late 1990s, but as the replacements are identical to the originals. No one noticed.
In a world where everything seems to be changing too rapidly and replaced too quickly, the familiar decorations maintain a feeling of normality. I doubt that those merchants and politicians of 46 years ago knew they were sponsoring what would become a much beloved tradition.
Further reminders of winters and Christmases past can be found at Haney House, where the whole house has been dressed for winter and the holiday season. There will be a special open house on Thursday, Dec. 15, from 2 to 4 p.m., when you can tour the house and share some holiday cheer with members of the historical society.
Be sure to check out curator Allison White’s Christmas displays in the lobby of the Maple Ridge library during December, as well. Her topics this year are the history of wrapping paper and the traditions of Christmas dinner.
Val Patenaude is a director of the Maple Ridge Museum.