We went searching for Peninsula Co-op member #1

WatchThe Island institution has been handing out membership numbers since the seventies. 100,000 people have signed up for numbers and we want to know who was first.

It’s a question islanders have been answering since 1977: “What’s you Peninsula Co-op number?”

Since opening its doors more than 103,000 customers have signed up for a Peninsula co-op membership, and with every gas tank fill-up and grocery store checkout, they’ve been asked to provide their number.

But who was first? Who has that coveted membership #1? For that matter, who’s in the top 10? Who has the luxury of reciting a single digit to the clerk when they’re at the checkout counter?

With Peninsula Co-op still operating its original grocery store in Central Saanich and with gas centres now scattered across Vancouver Island, we decided to go on the hunt for the co-op’s first members.

Here’s who we found:

Nan Brown, Peninsula Co-op Member #3

She wasn’t first, but she was pretty close.

The former Times Colonist reporter was one of seven original board members tasked with getting the co-op off the ground.

“We never thought about anything other than the grocery store,” she recalls.

Brown says the first 7 membership numbers went to the board. She was given #3. According to Peninsula Co-op, the only number other than Browns that is still active today is #6.

The number has turned into a conversation piece, especially when Brown pays for groceries which often requires her to repeat herself.

It’s not everyday Peninsula Co-op employees come across a single-digit member.

“And I say three, and they say pardon? And I say three,” she says.

At 88, Brown says she still makes a weekly trip from her home in Metchosin to the original grocery store that she had a hand in creating.

“I feel very proud that we actually got a store going,” she says.

Brown says she plans to pass her #3 membership off to her granddson.

Louise Parton, Peninsula Co-op Member #8

Louise Parton wanted #1 and she thought she was going to get it.

In 1977 she remembers seeing the membership form in the newspaper. For years she wanted to be part of a co-op and this was her chance.

Parton says she filled out the form and took it to the Peninsula Co-op office hoping she would get her form in first.

But there was a problem. The office was closed.

“I pushed the form underneath the door and thought, now I’m going to be number one, because I’m the first one,” she recalls.

“When they walk in in the morning they’re going to walk on my envelope.”

Parton says she wasn’t upset to discover the board received the first seven membership numbers.

“I’m just happy I have that number, it’s neat, it’s a conversational thing,” she says.

Parton has plans to give her #8 membership to her daughter.

Alex Campbell, Peninsula Co-op #24

Alex Campbell’s been cashing rebate cheques for a very long time and has become quite skilled at cutting down potential delays at the till, especially when cashiers expect a membership number longer than two-digits.

“I’ve got in the habit now of saying it’s only 24,” he says.

He says for many years he didn’t think much of the number and admits there was a period when he didn’t use it very much.

But when he became a more frequent customer he quickly realized his number was unique.

Campbell’s four sons all have their own membership numbers and plans to pass #24 off to one of his grandsons.

He says the fact that he’s still using the number more than four decades later.

We’ll have the full story tonight on CHEK News.

Joe PerkinsJoe Perkins

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