The new book about the history of the Ladysmith and District Credit Union (LDCU) is very much a celebration of community, and community support played a huge role in its completion.
Author Patrick A. Dunae says it was a challenge to put together Ladysmith: Our Community. Your Credit Union. A History, a book commemorating the LDCU’s 70th anniversary that came out in late April, because they didn’t have a lot of time to get the book done, but it was a wonderful project. The book was commissioned by LDCU CEO John de Leeuw. Dunae started working on it in October and needed to have the book finished by the end of February to allow for production and printing so that it was ready for the LDCU annual general meeting at the end of April.
“This has to be one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve ever worked on,” said Dunae, a public historian, writer and consultant who lives in Victoria. “The fact that we didn’t have a whole lot of time really focused the mind.”
Dunae started out by looking at archival records of the inspector of credit unions in BC Archives and Central 1 Credit Union in Vancouver.
He says the Chronicle became a good resource during his research.
“I relied on that,” he said. “It’s just a tremendous record of local history, and it was one of the best weekly newspapers I’ve ever read in my career as a local historian. From the 1940s to the 1970s, the AGMs of the Credit Union were front-page news in the Chronicle. From those reports, I was able to identify a number of the original members.”
Duane consulted microfilm copies of the Chronicle at BC Archives and copies of the paper at the Ladysmith Archives, operated by the Ladysmith and District Historical Society.
“The Ladysmith Archives is another wonderful source of information, and in my experience, it’s one of the best community archives I’ve seen in the province,” said Dunae. “The volunteers at the Archives were able to identify many of the early members and put me in touch with their descendants. Dave De Clark was a tremendous help; Dave helped identify many of the early residents who were founding members of the credit union.”
Duane found the volunteers at the Ladysmith Archives helped him find people to interview for the book, and he also found their historical cookbooks were very helpful because they contained biographies of so many families.
The Archives’ collection of photographs was also very helpful.
“We used about 80 photos in the book,” said Dunae.
Dunae says it was actually a bit of a challenge to find suitable photographs to illustrate the last 70 years of Ladysmith’s history because most of the photographs at the Archives are from the mining era. He encourages community members to consider donating images of Ladysmith since the Second World War to the Archives to expand the selection.
When he first started the project, Dunae was introduced to Rob Johnson, who gave him a walking tour and gave him lots of information.
“His father was one of the earliest members of the Credit Union, so he was able to tell me how the Johnson family was involved in the early days of the Credit Union,” he said. “He also helped me clarify lots of parts of the local history.”
Dunae says that after a while, he got to recognize some of the names of some of the prominent families in Ladysmith.
“I was really happy to see the connections through different generations,” he said, noting as an example that Lorna De Clark was the Ladysmith Princess in 1954, and then he found a photo of 2013 Ladysmith Ambassador Kristy De Clark, and he found out Kristy is Lorna’s niece.
“It was a real pleasure and privilege to meet so many interesting people and to have them share their recollections of not only the Credit Union but of the community.”
When LDCU wanted to write its history, John Hinde recommended Dunae because the tow were colleagues at Vancouver Island University, and Dunae had written a history of the Nanaimo Credit Union before, explained Dunae.
“That was helpful because I knew which government records to look at,” said Dunae.
de Leeuw and his assistant, Linda King, contacted Dunae at the end of September, they met, and de Leeuw commissioned Dunae to go ahead with the project.
“[LDCU board of directors president] Brian Childs was also very helpful because he knew very many of the early members, like Rod Glen, and Brian was also a key player in the revitalizations in the 1980s,” said Dunae. “When I started this project, I had very little idea about the history of the credit union or Ladysmith, and I was delighted to find some major figures in B.C. history related to Ladysmith, like Sam Guthrie of the CCF (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation). Rod Glen, a native son of Ladysmith, was a giant in the international credit union movement, and not many people in Ladysmith seem to know that
“There were all sorts of distinguished people associated with the Credit Union and the community, and it was a treat to learn all about them.”
Copies of the book can be purchased at the LDCU for $20, and all proceeds from the sales are going to the Ladysmith Archives and the Ladysmith Museum.