90 years of serving the community

History Corner

Once upon a time, only Santa Cruz and Watsonville had Chambers of Commerce. Their job was to help make their businesses more successful. In the 1920s, the county was just recovering from 40 years of the lumber industry which cut down most of the trees in the forest. The lumber towns remained and much of the land was sold for some type of development. In Aptos, home sites and resorts were being planned and in April of 1927, the company building Rio Del Mar expressed hope for a centralized county chamber that could help develop the county as a whole. That was not to be however, so the Aptos Chamber of Commerce was founded two months later, on June 20, 1927. The chamber moved into the old laundry building on Valencia Street. A short-lived Rio Del Mar Chamber was also founded in November of 1928 to promote the resort.

The Aptos Chamber was more like a small-town improvement association. The initial name was the Aptos Community Club. The first item of business was to get a fire engine for the town and to obtain all night telephone service. The next item of work was to celebrate the opening of the new bridge into town which replaced an old wooden bridge with a suicide curve in the middle. The chamber planned the ceremony and a big parade.

The company that owned Rio Del Mar gave land for a new school, (Valencia), so, in 1929, the chamber turned the former school building into a community hall where they hosted dances and card parties until 1941.

Aptos is not a city so our services are provided by the county. The Aptos Chamber has always been the liaison between our community and the county. The Aptos Chamber is still like an improvement association but for a much larger town today. The chamber has always provided a place for neighborhood associations to band together and learn about issues that affect us all. The chamber has always waded in on transportation issues including Highway 1, street improvements and the railroad. The chamber has been involved in water and sewage treatment issues, neighborhood parks, community planning, serving visitors, and helping local businesses be successful. We are currently trying to help Rancho Del Mar businesses survive the shopping center remodel. Some things never change.

The Aptos Chamber provides a vital communication and resource link during disasters such as the storms of the 1980s. After the Loma Prieta earthquake, the chamber raised money to keep businesses open as they fought with FEMA and the county to get their businesses back on track.

The Chamber has established a history museum to remember the great stories of those who made our town special and to pass those stories on to third grade classes and future generations. The Chamber office is also an official Highway 1 Caltrans Visitor Center.

From the original card parties and dances, to the “World’s Shortest Parade,” the Holiday Tree Lighting, breakfast meetings, mixers, fashion show fundraisers, Fitness Week, golf tournaments, and seminars, the chamber tries to provide something for everyone.

On Friday, Oct. 27, please join us for our Annual Awards Dinner & Auction. Help us honor the Man, Woman, Business, Organization, and Community Hero of the Year at the beautiful Seascape Beach Resort. Reservations are required: email [email protected] or phone 688-1467. This is our 90th year of providing services and information for residents, businesses and visitors.

If you like railroad stories, Derek Whaley will be presenting, “Hihn's Mountain Railroads: Gold Gulch, Valencia Creek & Laurel." Derek is the author of “Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains.”

This will be the first of this season’s “Coffee, Tea and History” presentations by the Aptos History Museum. The event will be Nov. 4 at the Rio Sands Hotel, 3-4:30 p.m., $10 for Museum members and $15 for general public. The event will also include a tasting contest for Favorite Soup from “Soup Du Jour.”