White Rock Hospital Society Formed 1947

The Official Launch of the PAH August 25, 1954.
The Official Launch of the PAH August 25, 1954.

After several articles on the major developments of the expanded Emergency Department, coupled with the Residential Care and Hospice Facility, we conclude with a look back at the roots of the hospital with Ellen Kennett, who at 82 years of age, and still a very active member of the Hospital Auxiliary, was a founding member sixty-eight years ago.

Kennett: I go back to when Cloverdale was still the centre of Surrey and White Rock was part of the city. The municipal hall was in Cloverdale, as were the school board offices, the only high school in Surrey, the Bank of Montreal, the only bank in Surrey. There was a chief of police, three constables and one RCMP officer.

Ellen Kennett, Founding member of the Hospital Auxiliary in the lobby of the current Peace Arch Hospital.
Ellen Kennett, Founding member of the Hospital Auxiliary in the lobby of the current Peace Arch Hospital.

Doctor Sinclair, the only physician in Surrey was based in Cloverdale. You didn’t make an appointment to see him. Very few people had telephones, so you just went to his house, and rang the bell to his little surgery. Mrs. Sinclair would let you know if the Doctor was in or out. If you looked really ill, she took your name and address and then later in the day, evening, or maybe the next day, the very busy doctor would make a house call. As well as caring for all the people and driving all over Surrey, he and his wife visited every elementary school once a year to examine the children. It was ears, eyes and throat and a little thump on the chest that the doctor did. That was really a Godsend to many children who were getting poor grades because they needed eye glasses.
People were beginning to say that they needed a hospital, but nothing happened until the Royal Columbian in New Westminster, advertised that they no longer wished to accept patients from Surrey. I believe that was in 1946 that the Reeve of Surrey created the Surrey Hospital Society with a group of businessmen from across Surrey, including three from the south end. Ultimately, unable to agree on a location, they formed the White Rock Hospital Society in 1947.
One hundred and fifty-seven thousand dollars had to be raised by the community before the Ministry of Health allowed a hospital. It was decided that, rather than go to a referendum, which probably wouldn’t have passed, they would fundraise the amount themselves. That was a lot of money then and the population of White Rock was six-thousand people. The roads were all gravel, there were no traffic lights and anything beyond 16th Avenue was just bush.
In 1948, despite not having the actual hospital, the hospital auxiliary began and by the end of 1948 they presented a cheque for one-thousand dollars to the hospital society. Of course the community had many dinners, dances and raffles.
What really made the dream possible was a woman named Amy Weatherby, who donated 5.5 acres of land in 1951, where we are still located today, to build the hospital. She was not a wealthy lady and the value of the land at that time would have been about $10,000. That was a lot of money at that time.
So finally with the money raised and the land in place, the shovels and the bulldozers hit the ground. Our first little 45 bed hospital was opened on August 25th 1954. What an exciting day!
But it was just the beginning, because now we had to raise money for equipment, which continues to this day.
The auxiliary opened a Superfluity Shop in a little old house on Vidal Avenue. I remember we sold baking along with all the second hand goods. Rules were much more relaxed in those days.
We’ve moved since then, but I can remember when the shop was doing $50 per week. We thought it was doing well. Now, that Superfluity Shop brings in about $45 thousand per month.

I’m so very proud of the hospital auxiliary. It has raised $13 million over the years. They gave a million towards the MRI, one million dollars for the new Maternity project, and a few weeks ago they were honoured because they have pledged to give $1.5 million to the new Emergency Department.
I attend those meetings between the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation and the Auxiliary and it’s great to see what can be done with fewer numbers of members. As well as doing this, every year the auxiliary gives about $350,000 for equipment. I think, because of the generosity of people in our community and the auxiliary, we have a very well equipped hospital, which allows us to attract and retain good staff.

Here is something really nice I just came upon a little while ago that Amy Weatherby, who provide the land for the hospital, wrote:

“I love White Rock and its people.  I love the springs and autumns, and the glorious summer days. Every time I thought of selling my land, the thought of a hospital with well kept grounds and driveways would flash before me and I felt that the site must be kept for no other purpose.”  What a gift she gave us.

For more information on the projects at Peace Arch Hospital and the Hospital Foundation go to www.pahfoundation.ca