Recent History – 1999
Cross posted: BN05-18: CHAMBER OF COMMERCE TO CELEBRATE 55 YEARS
June 4, 1999, By Kelly Henschel, Daily News Staff
All visitors to Dawson Creek must report to the RCMP. Or so the sign at the Alberta border read in the 1950s when Ralph Thomsen was a member of the Dawson Creek and District Chamber of Commerce.
He helped cut that down, he said. “Is that any invitation to come to B.C.?” he asks.
At 90 years, Thomsen is the oldest of the past Chamber of Commerce presidents and managers who will be honoured at the organization’s 55th anniversary celebrations on June 10.
He remembers being involved in convincing the railway to come through Dawson Creek and was the first to make the trip from Dawson Creek to Vancouver along the newly constructed Highway 97 in 1951.
The chamber was very interested in promoting Dawson Creek in the days when most people thought the province ended at Hope, he says.
“I always figured if we could promote Dawson Creek then our businesses here would sell too.”
“The Chamber of Commerce is in fact the voice of business,” says current chamber manager Wayne Dahlen.
“We pack quite a bit of weight when it comes to lobbying the government for changes in legislation or in things that affect small business,” he says, using the example of working with the provincial government to create a level playing field with Alberta in the area of retail.
The Dawson Creek and District Chamber of Commerce was officially incorporated on April 12, 1944. In the first years there was no money and fewer than 30 members, says Thomsen.
During his term as president in 1951, the group met mainly in the basement of the Windsor Hotel. “It was interesting,” he says. “You met a lot of good people.”
Today the chamber has a permanent residence in the Dowd Building on 102nd Ave., a board of 17 and boasts more than 250 active members.
“We are now the official coordinating arm for the city of Dawson Creek and for the South Peace Economic Development Commission,” says Dahlen.
One of the recent projects the chamber was involved with is the building of new condominiums for seniors in the city.
“That to me is probably one of the biggest projects and one of the most gratifying,” Dahlen says. “In our view it’s probably going to help kickstart some economic development in Dawson Creek.”
That’s an important function of the chamber, says Thomsen.
“I think everybody should still have that in mind – what’s good for Dawson Creek is good for them,” says Thomsen.
After 55 years of involvement in the community, it’s time to celebrate, says Dahlen.
“We have a pretty nice program lined up,” he says, including a tour by the Cruisers Car Club, a barbecue and various special speakers. “It’ll just be an evening of reminiscing and some fellowship, Dahlen says.”
The event is open to the public and begins at the Sudeten Hall at 5:30 p.m. with cocktails. Tickets are $15 per person or $25 per couple and are available at the Chamber of Commerce office (906-102 Ave.) or by phoning 782-4868.