Peterborough's past has a lot in common with today

It’s always interesting to peek into the past to see what changes have come about, however, I think more often than not we find how little things have actually changed.  Several weeks ago when Chamber staff found a film canister and then converted the contents to digital form we got a pretty solid look at the building of an iconic Peterborough landmark (or watermark), the Little Lake Fountain.  When Chad Hogan, Member Marketing Advisor for the Chamber dropped off the film and its canister to the Trent Valley Archives he returned with an interesting gift, a document called the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce Scrap Book.  The scrapbook is a list of some of the events, speeches, elections and advocacy issues between the years 1928 and 1937.  

Like today, the business community of the late 20s-early 30s was concerned about bringing people and business to the area, along with brainstorming ways to showcase Peterborough to the world.  It was also a similar economic climate.  The stock market had crashed in 1929 and yet most of the documents described could be considered rebuilding or rebranding in today’s terminology.  In our recent past is the downturn of 2008-2009 and the issues of rebuilding and rebranding dominate once again.    

Along those lines think of Peterborough today, in 2015, what issues stand out for the business community and by extension the community as a whole?  

  1. Shopping local
  2. Transportation
    a. Highways
    b. Rail
    c. Air 
  3. Promoting tourism as an economic driver
  4. Trent Severn 
  5. Waterway
  6. Parking downtown
  7. Manufacturing
  8. Workforce

This list could also apply to Peterborough in the late 20s and early 30s when businesses, through the Chamber of Commerce, were also talking about these issues.  Here are some of the headlines from articles of that time frame:

  • Central Ontario Communities encourage highway extension
  • Boat builders make protest against luxury tax
  • Give a man a job campaign
  • Canadian tourist trade worth promoting, and should punish hotels that hurt our image
  • CNR planning to close railway lines from Port Hope
  • Board of Trade not opposed to building of Severn Locks
  • Editorial: Complete the Canal
  • US Tourists spent $517,706 in District
  • Downtown shopping promotion being deferred; idea liked, but too short lead time for Christmas
  • Boatmakers complain the depth of the Trent Canal is sometimes less than six feet that is advertised
  • Business men think it a good idea to promote Kawartha’s through big US sports shows
  • Water supply on Trent holding strong; can operate large factories
  • Parking time on George Street to be limited to 20 minutes

There is also interesting insight into the Chamber and its operation. In March of 1928, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce was 39 years old and had 334 members.  Subsequent scrapbook entries add to the Chamber story.  Like today, the AGM was an annual March event and featured a guest speaker, members elected their directorate, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce was involved federally through the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and we were involved in public service campaigns, just as the Chamber is today.  

A peek into this particular time in Peterborough's past looks a lot like reflections on today.  As in the past, we are a strong voice at the provincial and federal chamber levels.  And moving through our 126th year, the Peterborough Chamber continues to be the voice of business and fulfill its original mandate to strengthen the business community. 

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn

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