The official opening of the Lake Cowichan Credit Union (site of present day Island Savings Credit Union) took place in September 1959. Miss Credit Union Margaret Majer shakes hands with Credit Union board chairman Archie McMillan while Lake Cowichan Mayor Bing Wise

Lake Cowichan’s 61-year history with a credit union

The hard work of a small group of local citizens established the area’s first credit union 61 years ago, in 1950.

The hard work of a small group of local citizens established the area’s first credit union 61 years ago, in 1950.

The original building, at the corner of King George Street and Lakeview Avenue, is the same location where the current Island Savings Credit Union building stands today.

Founding members, who numbered fifty-four, elected Ernie Boulet as the credit union’s first chairman of the board. Other officers included J. C. Bailey as secretary-treasurer, and Ken McCaffery, Percy McGladdery, Bert Ogden and Henry Perreaux as board members.

Prior to purchasing the King George Avenue property, “temporary offices were located at Mr. Bailey’s residence” where banking business was conducted during his “leisure hours,” according to Cowichan Lake Region Heritage Inventory, by Richard Rajala.

During the early years, once a week a member of the credit union would arrive at Stanley Gordon Elementary School and set up a small table in the hallway to allow the long lineup of children to deposit their pennies into their own account.

A little bankbook was presented to each child who opened an account.

The book was updated with each deposit and was treasured by the children as they watched their balance grow.

Although this would never happen in today’s world, it was a wise move on behalf of the Credit Union administration, as many of those children became long-time customers.

As the business grew, it took on a life of its own and was soon the number one financial institution in the Cowichan Lake area. With its success brought the necessity to purchase property and build a permanent modern facility.

Financed by members, the new (and present day) Lake Cowichan Credit Union was officially opened in September of 1959.

Many village residents turned up for the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony.

In 1968, a second grand opening took place in the newly remodeled premises. The business flourished for many years until the closure of the last of the area’s “big three lumber mills” in 2000.

In its final years it was described as “One of the smallest remaining independent credit unions in British Columbia, with 2000 members and assets of $22 million,” according to Galleria, Stories of the BC Co-op Movement website.

Change finally came in 2005, when Island Savings Credit Union assumed control.