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Cloverdale’s heritage charm is a draw for provincial conference

A statue on Cloverdale
A statue on Cloverdale's 176 Street recalls the historic Surrey town centre's years as a B.C. Electric Railway hub.
— image credit: File

A walking tour of Cloverdale, a bus trip to Surrey’s Historic Stewart Farm and Crescent Beach, a book fair and a visit by B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor are sure to be be highlights when the B.C. Historical Federation’s 2014 conference gets underway next week.

With its small-town ambience and heritage charm, Cloverdale is an obvious choice for hosting an event like this one, lead organizer Barbara Hynek told The Reporter.

The conference, open to anyone with an interest in history, runs June 6 and 7 at the Surrey Museum and other local venues.

A ride on the heritage Interurban railway out of Cloverdale Station is just one of the excursions awaiting delegates, who are converging from across B.C. for the two-day event, being held in partnership with the Surrey Historical Society.

Most of the conference seats have been snapped up, but the public is encouraged to drop by the book fair or tag along on the bus tour.

The book fair on Saturday, June 7 (noon-4 p.m.), is presented by the B.C. Genealogical Society at the Surrey Museum.

Authors of B.C history will be on hand, providing an opportunity for the public to meet the authors.

The  B.C. Genealogy Society will have special materials available, which should help lure genealogy buffs, Hynek said.

“There are pamphlets that have been designed for beginners who are just starting their research. A lot of our members are interested on personal levels.”

As a former librarian, Hynek can attest to the enduring interest in researching family roots and connections. Records are increasingly moving online, bringing them within easy reach of anyone with a WiFi connection.

“In the old days it was so cumbersome.”

Cloverdale’s heritage as a transportation hub, its evolution from bustling city centre to the historic heart of Surrey with many original buildings intact, help make it unique – as does its impressive, present day heritage attractions, from the Surrey Museum to the Interurban, operating weekend passenger excursions to Sullivan Station and back on a restored, B.C. Electric rail car, 60 years after it last passed through Cloverdale.

“It’s been an amazing thing for a volunteer group to have done, then operate it,” she said, referring to the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society.

“I don’t think there’s anything like it in B.C., where people can go ride an Interurban, on the original line, in an original car, in the community it served.”

The Honourable Judith Guichon will be awarding this year’s recipients of the federation’s awards for historical writing. The Friday evening reception at the Surrey Museum is the conference’s main event.

To be eligible, a book must be about an aspect of B.C. history, and published in the 2013 calendar year.

Past winners of the Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing include Derek Hayes for British Columbia: a New Historical Atlas (2012) and the late Chuck Davis, for The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver (2011). The awards include prizes for books, best historical society newsletter, historical article, and best website devoted to B.C. history – an honour bestowed upon Surrey’s Jack Brown in 2013 for Surreyhistory.ca.

The keynote speaker is Henry Ewart, an author who’s a prominent expert on the history of the B.C. Electric Railway.

The British Columbia Historical Federation is a collective organization made up of historical associations and museums working to build interest in B.C. history.

The federation awards post secondary scholarships to B.C. students. Another focus is its quarterly publication, British Columbia History.

“We have an exciting past and there’s so many unique stories to be told,” Hynek said. “I think we help in that line by promoting B.C. writing, and through our magazine, by publishing those stories.”

It’s a relatively small conference in terms of size. The majority of those attending belong to local historical associations in their hometowns. They’re not museum staff, but volunteers.

Previous conference locations have included Campbell River, New Westminster and Victoria.

– For more information, visit bchistory.ca, or bchistory.ca/conferences/2014.

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