WHALLEY’S CORNER: In face of area’s rebranding residents fight to hold onto history

EDITOR’S NOTE: In our special series we call Waking up Whalley’s Corner, we will share stories of Whalley’s Corner, the area around 108th Avenue and King George Boulevard. We will delve into its struggles, its triumphs and what lies ahead.

Pete Nichols smiles as he gazes across the street from his business at the RCMP District 1 office in Whalley.

A large street sign painted on the building reads, "Whalley’s Corner."

Underneath that, it says "Historic district."

It’s a daily reminder that the city and RCMP are honouring the area’s past.

pete nichols whalley

On June 27, the city placed new street signs at six locations along King George Boulevard, in an effort to recognize both the area’s history and the commitment of locals to enhancing the area. And in a show of support, the RCMP painted the blown-up street sign on its building.

It’s a big win for the community, said Pete Nichols, who has run Whalley Printers since the early ’80s.

Why?

Put simply, they’re proud of their roots, and it wasn’t long ago many felt that the city and developers were trying to get rid of the name Whalley.

Nichols spoke out in 2009 after the city considered changing Whalley Ring Roads to City Centre Ring Roads.

He saw it as the first step in getting rid of the Whalley name and any negativity attached to it, as the city pushed forward with City Centre as a commercial district. City council insisted that wasn’t the intention.

Ultimately, Whalley was only stripped from one – West Whalley Ring Road is now known as University Drive, while East Whalley Ring Road is called Whalley Boulevard.

A city report at the time said renaming of the roads was hoped to "shift perceptions" of City Centre.

"Why ruin a community that is really happy with the name?" asked Nichols as he looked at the recently installed historic signage. "If you put it to a vote, I’m going to say a majority of people would say we would sooner keep the name. We identify with that.

"We should stay Whalley."

City Centre they are not, and City Centre they don’t want to be.

But left behind isn’t what they want to be either, and that’s the general feeling from many businesses in the area as they’ve watched development boom south of 104th, but remain stagnant north of it, he said.

The perception of being ignored is what spurred the community to band together about two years ago to form the Whalley Community Improvement Association. They aim to shine light on an area that feels forgotten.

They meet once a month to talk about things like safety, transit and more in an effort to make positive change.

pete nichols whalley

"Nobody has grasped the importance of Whalley’s Corner," said Nichols. "This is the gateway to Surrey and it’s become an even more predominant gateway since they put in the toll bridge.

"We want more involvement of what goes on in our area. We’re proud of the Whalley Ball Park. We’re proud of being able to be in business, with all the bad things that have happened in this area…. When you think about it, it would’ve been easier for us to move into a nicer area. It probably would’ve been more economical for us. But we’re proud of this area and we want that show of pride to continue. So signs? It’s a great deal. Is Whalley the best name? Probably not. But it’s our name."

While celebrating a win, the group is up against other issues that have plagued the area for decades.

At its most recent meeting, developer Charan Sethi with Tien Sher Group expressed frustration after one of his employees was threatened with a knife. Nichols said street people congregating and drinking is not being dealt with. Jonquil Hallgate with Surrey Urban Mission said the building has been broken into eight times in the last seven weeks.

Despite the issues, they vow to stay and push forward together.

"We have faith."

WHERE WHALLEY GOT ITS NAME

People began settling in Whalley as early as the 1880s.

The municipal council in 1908 requested a grant to build a road from Fraser Bridge to present day 108th Avenue.

The road cut off a portion of Old Yale Road known as "Snake Hill" because of its steep, dangerous curves. The route later became part of King George Highway.

In 1925, Arthur Whalley, a bootlegger, moved his family from Cloverdale to a threeacre triangle of land at the future intersection of Ferguson Road (108th Avenue), Grosvenor Road and the King George Highway.

After clearing the land and spending their first winter in tents, they built a service station, which included a general store, soft drink stand and tourist cabins.

Whalley had a shack closer to Cloverdale but had to move it further away to avoid being raided by the police stationed in the rodeo town. The added distance, as the story goes, bought him more time to hide his stuff from police.

When Pacific Stage Lines established a bus stop at Ferguson and Bergstrom Roads, the place became known as "Whalley’s Corner." The area was officially named Whalley in 1948 after the board of trade held a contest to rename what had become known as "Whalley’s Corner."

The name beat out "Binnieville," which had been recommended in honour of Tom Binnie, a local real estate and insurance broker who had fostered Whalley’s growth as a commercial centre.

– City of Surrey and Tom Zytaruk

areid@thenownewspaper.com

NEXT WEEK: We talk to several longtime business owners in the area of Whalley’s Corner about what it’s like doing business there.

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