But in the face of change and challenges, the Chamber remained a constant
By the 1960's, change had gripped Canada, as it had much of the modern world. The Cold War and the space race dominated headlines. Equal and civil rights, too, began making the news. As the baby boom decelerated, families began moving into the suburbs.
In the Comox Valley, the population grew, and certain sectors started undergoing transformation. Mining and logging began to slow as tourism and service industries blossomed. Courtenay-Comox Chamber of Commerce activities of the day reflected that change.
In one of the most transitional periods of history, the Chamber managed to stay relevant during the 1960's and 70's. Our look back in this centennial year highlights just how constant the Chamber's presence has been in the region through the past century.
Staying significant in the sixties
The 1960's started off on a high note for the Chamber. Having just moved into their new location near the air park, the arrival of the “Deuce” – a 50-ton locomotive that had plied the rails of the Comox Logging and Railway Company (CLRC) – cemented the Chamber's presence.
Built in Pennsylvania in 1910, the locomotive became the property of the Canadian Western Lumber Company, parent organization of the CLRC. Assigned as the #2 locomotive (aka, the two-spot), she was soon christened the Deuce and worked hauling logs, crew cars and ballast around the Island for almost four decades.
When it came time to replace her with a more modern diesel locomotive, it seemed only fitting she return home to the Comox Valley to commemorate the age of steam and all it had done for the region. With her whistle tooting and paint gleaming, she ran up the E&N Railway from Ladysmith and was mounted on display at the edge of the highway next to the new Chamber building in September 1960 to be admired by all.
Was the Deuce a harbinger of the changes coming to the region? Perhaps.
Mining activity in the area continued to lessen, with families leaving Cumberland in record numbers. Courtenay continued to grow due to the post-war baby boom, as well as improved infrastructure and transportation. New schools and businesses popped up throughout the 1960's.
Around that time the Chamber coined the term “Actionland” for the region and displayed it prominently on their letterhead, as well as touting various area attractions, such as “deep water harbours,” “daily air, bus and train service,” “winter and summer playground for Vancouver Island,” “industrial possibilities – large supply of electric power,” “sportsmen’s rendezvous – game paradise,” among others. Then-Chamber President, Don Watson, signed off the President’s Newsletter from March 1966, saying “Let’s have more ‘Action’ in our land.”
Ongoing Chamber projects during that time pertained to the feasibility of a regional college in the Valley, production of tourism brochures that promoted the area’s skiing and fishing, marketing events to businesses on 5th Street, such as Christmas lighting and window displays, and the seemingly perpetual membership drives.
Slip-sliding into the seventies
The seventies proved to be quieter in terms of getting and retaining members. Even though board members carried on advocating for citizens and businesses in the Valley, it can be noted that it was not the best of times for the Chamber.
In 1972, Mrs. Ruth McKellar, long-time Chamber secretary, presented an impassioned plea to the Courtenay council requesting financial help, as there was a possibility the Chamber tourist bureau may have to close:
“Chamber members recognize that, in the past, channels of communication between the Chamber and the City have been almost non-existent. We consider this to be a tragedy, for just as you gentlemen are here to make the city a better place in which to live and work, so is the Chamber of Commerce. Surely, two can work together and accomplish more than one. We invite you to work with us in 1972. . ."
“We must seek good secondary industry for our area and tourism must be promoted for the benefit of all businessman, not only motel and hotel owners. Your Chamber of Commerce should be a supporting voice for council.”
Arrangements were made, and the Chamber tourist bureau continued to operate.
Despite the challenges of the 1960's and 70's, things, such as as Market Days and the annual Citizen of the Year Award, emerged from those challenging times. As the Valley headed into the future, membership in 1979-1980 had dropped to 40 members. Things had to improve, didn’t they? And they did! Stay tuned for more..