Comox Valley Chamber – 1960-1979: Times They Were A-Changing

July 26, 2019

Dianne Hawkins

Dianne Hawkins, CEO of the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce

COMOX VALLEY – In the face of change and challenges, the Chamber remained a constant

By the 1960s, change had gripped Canada and the modern world. The Cold War, the space race, equal and civil rights all dominated headlines. The baby boom decelerated, and families began moving into the suburbs.

In the Comox Valley, the population grew, and certain sectors started undergoing transformation. Mining and logging began to slow as tourism and service industries blossomed. Courtenay-Comox Chamber of Commerce activities of the day reflected that change. And in this transitional period of history, the Chamber managed to stay relevant.

Staying significant in the sixties – The 1960s started off on a high note for the Chamber. Having just moved into their new location near the airpark, the arrival of the “Deuce” – a 50-tonne locomotive that had plied the rails of the Valley for the Comox Logging and Railway Company (CLRC) – cemented the bureau’s presence.

While mining activity in the region continued to curtail and had families leaving Cumberland in record numbers, with the post-war baby boom as well as improving infrastructure and transportation, Courtenay continued to grow.

Around that time, the Chamber coined the term “Actionland” for the region and displayed it prominently on their letterhead. (While original, we’re happy that nickname hasn’t stuck.) Ongoing Chamber projects pertained to the feasibility of a regional college in the Valley, production of tourism brochures and promoting the area’s skiing and fishing, marketing events to promote businesses on 5th Street and the seemingly perpetual efforts to promote membership.

Slip-sliding into the seventies – The seventies proved to be quieter in terms of getting and retaining members.

In 1972, Mrs. Ruth McKellar, long-time Chamber secretary, presented an impassioned plea to the Courtenay council requesting financial help as there was a possibility the Chamber tourist bureau may have to close. Fortunately, arrangements were made, and the Chamber tourist bureau continued to operate.

“The [Chamber] history has always been one of peaks and valleys… They were in their Grand Canyon period,” noted Mac McCaffrey of his time as president in 1974 in an interview with the local paper some 20 years later.

Despite the challenges of the 1960’s and 70’s, things such as Market Days and the annual Citizen of the Year Award emerged from of those challenging times. But as the Valley headed into the future, membership in 1979-1980 had dropped to 40 members. Things had to improve, didn’t they? And they did! Stay tuned for more…

Dianne Hawkins, CEO of the Comox Valley Chamber: Building Good Business

For more information on the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce, visit: or call 250-334-3234.

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