On Saturday night (Dec. 2), when the City of Langford hits the switch to usher in Christmas by lighting the great Sequoia at Memorial Park, Lanny Seaton will be in the crowd. For Seaton, seeing the tree mark the season will undoubtedly evoke some unique memories.
That’s because, some 70 years ago, Lanny helped plant the seedling that grew into the majestic heart of Langford.
“My sister figures I was about 12 years old at the time, but I’m not really sure. I do remember that they were just building the Masonic Lodge and one of the members there was a gardener at Government House,” said Seaton.
“He took two seedlings from there and brought one of them here to plant on the grounds of where the lodge was going to be. I helped him plant it and it was only about as high as my waist at the time.”
Today the tree stands about 80 feet high, and its prodigious trunk would defy the efforts of three people to encircle it with their arms.
“We decorate this tree every year – we have for years now,” said Cody Everett, Langford’s team leader for Beautification. “It takes about 15,000 lights and this year we’ve added a few dozen giant snowflakes. It’s going to be quite fantastic.”
But the heart of Christmas in Langford was briefly in danger of being lost to the community when, in 2021, plans were revealed to redevelop the land and build a grouping of five and three-storey buildings along with commercial space on the ground floor. The old Masonic Lodge would be demolished and a new lodge would have its facilities within the complex.
“I was on council at the time (Seaton served for 26 years on Langford City Council) and looking at the footprint of the plan, it was obvious that the tree would be lost. I went to (Mayor) Stew Young at the time, and we looked for some alternatives,” explained Seaton.
The development was shelved and the land, previously owned by the Masonic Lodge, was purchased to make possible the expansion of the adjacent Veterans Memorial Park. Work on the expanded park will start soon and the Masonic Lodge will relocate to a different site.
“I was really happy when that happened. The tree is safe now and the green space is what Langford needs. You don’t just build over the past like that if you don’t have to,” said Seaton.
And, Seaton knows more about Langford’s past than most as he was around to see it unfold.
“Langford was a great place to grow up. Everyone knew everyone else, and we’d walk to school down Goldstream … that was the Trans Canada Highway back then … all the way to Langford Elementary,” Seaton said.
He will always love the community he grew up in, even as it changes. But that love, he explained, is mixed with an abiding respect for the things that made Langford special those many years ago – when he planted the great tree that now celebrates the season.
“We, my family and I have always been a part of Langford. In fact, my wife still volunteers to play Mrs. Claus every year and she’ll be there in the gazebo come Saturday,” Seaton said. “And when the tree is lit, I’ll probably smile thinking of when it was planted.”
Details on Saturday’s light-up event can be found at www.goldstreamgazette.com/community/schedule-of-activities-released-for-langford-light-up.