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ZYTARUK: Heck, I still prefer the name Whalley. So there.

Whalley is heritage, albeit heritage lite. Surrey City Centre is not.

So let it be written…

I suppose I’m opening myself up to ridicule here, but the other afternoon I was driving northbound on King George Boulevard (which used to be called a highway) when I was struck, I mean really struck, in an epiphanic way, by Whalley’s burgeoning skyline.

Sure, I’d noticed the buildings before now (duh), but this was the first time I could really appreciate what our future downtown will look like, and all the promise it represents. It will be impressive.

Maybe it was the lighting — for a brief moment, I didn’t need my windshield wipers on. For the record, I was also keeping my eyes on the road (for the record).

I’m not that old, but old enough to remember seeing SkyBridge being built to bring SkyTrain from New Westminster to Surrey. I remember Bill Vander Zalm opening the Scott Road SkyTrain station in 1990, and covering a press conference where mayor Bob Bose, wearing a countenance not unlike that of a proud father, leaned over an architect’s board containing all kinds of little plastic model skyscrapers that were the imagined future of Surrey’s “city centre.”

I never liked that name, City Centre. To me, it’s Whalley, and always will be, dagnabbit.

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I guess this bit of stubbornness might have something to do with the way I was raised, and, at least in the first eleven years of my life, where. I grew up in the shadow of Louis Riel’s grave in St. Boniface, Manitoba. The cathedral was nearby, and I liked nothing better than visiting Lower Fort Garry on weekends.

I also remember as a young lad playing knights and archers at Chirk Castle in Wales, with my cousin Christopher.

The castle was built in 1295, and of course we have nothing like that here in Canada. But the sheer oldness of my mother’s native Britain would lead her to often say what a shame it is how Canadians so often fail to preserve their heritage.

And for me, locally, Whalley is heritage, albeit heritage lite. Surrey City Centre is not. It’s an incredibly unimaginative name, in my opinion, as is MetroTown in Burnaby. Heck, even Batman got Gotham City, and, from what I’ve heard, he’s actually a fictional character. Don’t real people deserve better?

I broached this subject of Surrey City Centre, and all the blandosity this name represents in a column entitled “Little rationale for name change,” back in the deep past of 1992. I imagined a child 20 years in the future — which, strangely enough, is now five years in the past — strolling downtown with his mother, and asking her where the name Surrey City Centre came from.

“Oh, some bureaucrats thought it up,” she’d reply. End of story.

Or is it?

At least one major land developer downtown, Charan Sethi, intends to pay homage to old-school Whalley by incorporating a heritage-district element into his Flamingo block project. He told me, some while ago, that there are a lot of people who are proud of living in Whalley and don’t want to see its name wiped off the map.

Alas, as the skyscrapers go up, the Battle of Whalley, at least for using that name instead of Surrey City Centre, has long been lost.

One for the history books. Kind of a shame, I’d say.

So let it be done.

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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