Looking back Langley’s past

The Langley marina was a busy place in the first half of the 1900s as most supplies and many passengers arrived via boat. -
The Langley marina was a busy place in the first half of the 1900s as most supplies and many passengers arrived via boat.
— image credit:

LANGLEY — It’s your chance to make history, or at least help record it.

The South Whidbey Historical Society is asking residents for stories, artifacts and pictures.

While pioneer-era memorabilia is still as sought after as ever, the society wants to begin a collection of information from a younger chapter of Langley’s history: the period from the mid-1960s through the 1980s.

“I am interested in people, and not just from the pioneer time,” society member Dan Baker said.

“I want to learn about the ‘70s and ‘80s and the history that we still remember — instead of stories about Anthes, who has been dead for so long,” he said.

On Saturday, Sept. 2, the historical society is inviting the public to go on a history walk through Langley. This time, it’s not about dishing out stories, but accumulating new ones.

The group will meet at 1 p.m. at the Boy and Dog Park.

The society is looking for:

• Pictures and information on the many different businesses that have occupied familiar buildings;

• Pictures of high profile people during the last half of the 1900s;

• Any odd accounts of things, such as the numerous moonshine stills that were in operation on the island during Prohibition;

• Interesting stories about events that happened from the pioneer days to the present.

“These stories don’t have to be dramatical,” Baker said. “An example might be the steer that got out of its trailer on the way to the slaughterhouse and jumped off the ferry and swam back to the island.”

It’s the job of the historical society to record South End history for generations to come.

“But we can’t record what we don’t have,” Baker said.

Baker added that now is the time to share stories.

“People are getting old and passing away and the stories with them,” he said.

To test locals knowledge of the hippie era, Baker has put together a photo collage and there is $100 in it for the person who can pick out the most people. It is currently exhibited in the Star Store window on First Street. The prize will be awarded sometime in September.

Baker said he thought it was a tough game, but a couple of South Enders have gotten very close.

Even though many may clench their teeth at the thought that the 1970s and 1980s are already of interest to the historical society, it was an important era for Langley.

“Langley grew up as a typical logging and farming town,” society member Bob Waterman said.

“But after World War II, in the ’50s the town was kind of dying, some people call it comatose,” he said.

The emerging hippie movement of the 1960s gave Langley the dose of life it needed.

“The hippies brought new energy. Many were educated, they were artistic and they brought small enterprises,” Waterman said.

Many stores such as The Moonraker Bookstore or the shops owned by the LaRue ladies on First Street are products of the era.

In the 1980s, however, the town needed a new focus. And after the Langley Inn was built, more and more tourists found their way into town.

These major cultural shifts had an impact on what Langley is today and needs to be well-documented for the future, Baker said.

Waterman also welcomes lore and photos from locals for other projects. He has been interviewing old-timers in recent years and has collected photographs over the last four years.

His plan is to write an updated Langley history book, or maybe a series of books that focus more on specific historical events.

Waterman is not only an active member of the historical society and researcher, but he is also chairman of Langley’s historic preservation committee.

“I am interested in preserving some of the character, the look and feel of Langley. It’s a major draw that easily could be lost,” he said.

Stories and photos can also be mailed to the historical society at PO Box 612, Langley, WA 98260.

People interested in volunteering for the city’s preservation efforts should contact Waterman at 221-8644.

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