By Francis Mansbridge
Last July I made my first visit from Vancouver across the Port Mann Bridge to the offices of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board. My mission was to see what I could do to improve the order and usefulness of records that had been gathering dust in a closet at FVREB for much of the last hundred years. There they were, mystery boxes, stacked up in an empty classroom, daring me to disturb the repose to which they had become quite accustomed.
At first, I was a little intimidated. Where to begin? The silent boxes stared at me blankly, giving me few clues to their contents. But gradually I found a path into their recesses, as I began to get some understanding of the way a Real Estate organization works. My descent retrieved previously lost treasures that evoked some delighted responses from myself and others. Many staff were thrilled with the discovery of a 1930s cash book in which elegant penmanship recorded the revenue and expenses from nearly a century ago. And others were intrigued by a large collection of photographs of the Fraser Valley Dirt Bike Marathon, which, over a number of years in the eighties, raised tens of thousands for the BC Disabilities Association, while the riders enjoyed the trails of the Fraser Valley.
And then there were artifacts which came with mostly unknown stories – two full beer bottles and a wine glass (but no wine), and many plaques and trophies recognizing the FVREB for its community work. Trophies for dirt bike riding and baseball. And the most impressive of all – a large ornate brassiere covered with watches. What stories could that tell!
And gradually a picture emerged of the nature of the organization and its development. over the years, uniquely linked with the Fraser Valley communities.
There’s no doubt that this is an enormously successful organization, helped by its unique position in one of the most prosperous real estate markets in the country. But they have not forgotten the communities that are responsible for their success. Many of the disadvantaged have benefited from food and shelter programs such as the Blanket Drive or donations to the Food Bank. And with Realty Watch, the Board has worked with the RCMP to ensure the wellbeing and safety of residents. More recently, donations to the new Simon Fraser University campus in Surrey gave financial recognition to the importance of creating an educated and professional community.
Many thousands of photographs reveal members and staff engaged in work and play. Some are formal photographs of people at dinners and awards nights; others are snaps of a multitude of activities–a golf tournament, a computer tech show, a play, garden contest winners. In many ways they chronicle not only the changing nature of FVREB but also how the interests and activities of our society have evolved.
By the end of December 2021, the records were arranged in archival storage files and boxes. But archives are a deep pool where you never hit bottom. Closer examination of their contents tells increasingly more about the organization and its people, their lives and stories which should not be forgotten. There are stories behind every photograph and every record. They will always be here, connecting “our now” with the past that was.
FVREB has recognized that their past provides a link to the future. And in case you’re wondering, the records look a lot happier now!