Where did we come from? How did we get here? Who built these surroundings? Where might we be headed?
These questions all have to do with history, even the latter one because the history of a community has an influence on its future. A lot of communities have little or no dependable history in written form and are the poorer for it.
Langley doesn’t have that problem. The first history books devoted exclusively to South Whidbey were written by the late Lorna Cherry in the 1980s. She focused on South Whidbey families, and by reading their histories one acquires an appreciation for the excruciatingly hard work the homesteaders put in and the hardships and pain suffered in the days before modern transportation and medicine.
Now along comes another generation of dedicated community members who fortunately won’t let history rest in peace. They’ve followed in Cherry’s footsteps, but with a different approach. The narrative of their new book, “Images of America -- Langley,” is limited but very informative, paying homage to founder Jacob Anthes and various city eras. But it’s predominantly a collection of vintage photographs. It’s an easy read and a joy to look through.
Co-authors Robert E. Waterman and Frances L. Wood put in untold hours acquiring and identifying photos of the buildings and people included in the book, and in accurately describing the landscape. Those involved in upgrading today’s marina will be surprised that Langley had a much longer dock at the foot of Anthes Street nearly a century ago. First Street businesses change through the years, but many of the buildings from the ‘20s and ‘30s are identifiable today. The Masonic Temple, for example, was built in 1948 but now serves as Langley City Hall.
Another pleasure of the book is that its history doesn’t stop before any of us were born or came her to live. Photos run into this century, with last-page pictures of the 2005 Halloween parade and a scene from the relatively new Langley Village with Paul’s Barber Shop boasting the most visible sign. That, too, is now part of Langley’s history.
In 2013 Langley will have a number of events to celebrate its centennial. This new book is one phase of that celebration. Buy it so you can better enjoy the upcoming celebration, and so you can acquire a fresh look at the Village by the Sea’s fascinating history. Shop locally and buy it at The Commons or Moonraker Books.