Editorial: Happy Birthday. Again

Trent Ernst, Editor


If you’re having feelings of déjà vu, you’d be right.

Three years ago, Tumbler Ridge celebrated the town’s thirtieth birthday.

Now, we’re doing it again. In the immortal words of my daughter: what the…?

Back in 2001, we celebrated thirty  years since the town was incorporated.

But here’s the thing. When that paper was signed? There was nothing here. No town hall. No houses. No community centre. No nothing except untrammeled wilderness.

But in a feat of community building rarely seen in this province, two mines were built, along with a community to service them.

In less than 1000 days, the entire town was built, and the community decided, quite rightly, to have a grand opening party, opening the town and the Northeast Coal Project.

If you want to split hairs, the original signing of the incorporation documents wasn’t really TR’s birth, more it’s conception.

While the town had been in the works for years before, it was April 8, 1981, that they finally signed the papers, a bit like how me and my wife talked about having kids for a number of months, if not years, before we finally decided to take the plunge and procreate.

So you could argue that back three years ago, we celebrated TR’s conception, while now, we are celebrating its birth.

But that’s being pedantic. Personally, what I think is that Tumbler Ridge, unlike most towns, has a reason to celebrate a major birthday (10, 15, 20, 25, 30) every two or three years, and have a big party.

And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

In getting ready for this issue, I’ve been combing through the old papers. Back in 1984, Tumbler Ridge was served by the Chronicle-Mountaineer. One of the most interesting parts of looking back at the old papers is how many issues that plague Tumbler Ridge now were around then. Coal prices and diversifying the economy and rules around ATVs and even rumours of LNG development all appear in those early papers. And while we no longer have Bullmoose Mine, Quintette still appears in this paper as Teck debates whether to re-open or not.

Even some of the faces are familiar; Mike Caisley shows up in some of those early photos and stories, a town councillor (then called an Alderman) even back then.

Of course, not everything that was happening then is happening now. The week before the grand opening, Ellen Conn was crowned Miss Tumbler Ridge. Pageants like this mostly died off years back.

Looking forward a few weeks, the 1984 Canada Day issue has a couple of female mud wrestlers on the cover, another thing that you probably wouldn’t see in this day and age.

The biggest change is seen in the advertising. On a two page spread (much like the one inside this issue), businesses congratulate Tumbler Ridge on its Grand Opening. The District is there, as is Quintette (then owned by Denison Mines) and Sears, but the majority of the businesses that appear on those pages simply don’t exist. Comprehensive Construction Management, DC Operations, Wolverine Sports and RV, Manulife, A&D Delivery, Cigas, Flowers by Liz, Pre-Cam rentals, Quadra Redi-Mix, the Ridge House, The Royal Bank, Dixie Lee, Irly Bird, Marlin Travel, Wajax….

Some of the businesses are still there under new ownership. Shop Easy occupies the space that SuperValu once did. TR Insurance is now better known as Hub International.

Looking back thirty years, one can’t help but also look forward and wonder what the next thirty years hold for this community. What businesses that are here now will be here in another three decades? Will Tumbler Ridge still be dependent on coal, or will we finally have made the leap to something else? And if so, what?

By looking back, we can understand our past and learn from our mistakes and our triumphs. Looking forward, we can start to steer ourselves towards the future that we want for this town and take the steps needed to keep Tumbler Ridge alive and viable.

So happy thirtieth, Tumbler Ridge, and here’s to thirty more.