The days are long, the sun is warm and the snow is gone from the beautiful peaks of Golden Ears. With summer here, people are heading off on vacation; some will pack up their bags and head to exotic and faraway destinations, while others will stay closer to home, exploring our own beautiful backyard.
For the latter bunch, one of the most cost effective and popular ways to travel is with campers and trailers.
Organized in 1955, the Wally Byam Caravan Club was one of the largest trailering clubs in the world.
Its goals are simple: organize local caravan chapters, find a place that everyone would like to visit, then take off and enjoy the trip with a big group of like-minded travellers.
On July 6, 1962, the American northwestern chapter of the Wally Byam Caravaners rolled into our then very small town and was greeted with open arms.
Nearly 2,000 individuals in 700 trailers parked at the George Davison farm, occupying a 25-acre space.
Though the group had made a previous visit to Haney in August of 1960, their arrival in 1962 marked the largest group of foreign-owned trailers to ever visit Canada.
The five-day-long Maple Ridge stop, which was part of the caravan’s six-week long tour of British Columbia and Alberta, was a major event for the municipality, drawing local, provincial and international attention to this suburban area.
“Each and every member of the Wally Byam Caravaners is personally welcomed to Haney and the district,” gushed the Gazette newspaper.
“A civic welcome will be held for the caravaners. Reeve Peter Jenewein, members of the council and the board of trade merchant-tourist committee will be escorted to the meeting by the Legion Pipe Band.”
More than a 100 caravan children joined local kids for a lively swim in Centennial Pool, while parents were provided with a hot dog supper and horseback riding lessons at the Dunning home.
The two biggest festivities to welcome the caravaners, organized in conjunction with the Frontier Days celebrations, included a pancake breakfast in the Legion auditorium and an open-air western dance at the Haney Plaza, with music supplied by a local six-piece orchestra, the Haney Swing Masters.
While the caravaners were here, stores, businesses and organizations from all over Maple Ridge filled the Gazette newspaper with “Welcome Caravaners” advertisements.
One of the cheekier pieces of publicity aimed at the caravaners came from Norm Gregory, who owned the Super-Valu grocery store. The front of his advertising sheet declared, “Go Home Americans,” while the inside read, “With smiles on your faces.”
The Gazette ended its editorial on July 12th, 1962 with a heart-felt statement that reflected the feelings of many residents at the time, giving a strong indication of the character of our community: “Good luck, caravaners. Welcomed as strangers, may you leave as friends.”
Sandra Borger is a researcher with the Maple Ridge Museum.