Alluding to Tumbler Ridge Elementary (TRE) teachers and parents in the room, George Hartford told a very excited class full of children in Mrs. Beverley Kellough?s grade one and two class, ?Most of you weren?t even here yet!?
A fun fact-filled presentation just under an hour in length was the treat of the day for these kids. The name Hartford is well known in Tumbler Ridge and as a pioneer in this community; George Hartford had some very interesting stories and pictures to share.
Even with the impressive historical accuracy and recollection Mr. Hartford had, the kids were in fine form when he pointed out a truck in one picture, calling it a plough and one child piped up, ?Isn?t that a grater??
At the time of the first stages of Tumbler Ridge, Mr. Hartford was a Dawson Creek Councillor. He reminisced that the stark lots where trailers were put in the beginning, was nicknamed ?Little Chicago?. Picture after picture showed the unbelievable difference between what was once just undeveloped and treed area that has become the beautiful town we now live in. The original Town Hall was called a site office and was located. This and other trailers that housed some businesses in town were located where the highways meet and turn off into town close to the Saddle Club. Additionally, a dentist, medical centre and grocery store were located on the playground that sits near TRE.
In 1982, Miss Anderson was the first teacher in Tumbler Ridge. Each Monday morning she would set out with her students and walk around town to mark the progress taking place. She and the students kept a chart to show buildings, apartments and eventually houses as they were constructed and completed. George?s wife, Janet Hartford then reproduced that chart.
The Community Centre we now enjoy so much was originally a smaller building, located at the site TRE is on. Since the assembly of the current Community Centre, the older building has been relocated and restructured as New Life Assembly church on Murray Drive.
From the very beginning, the grocery store in Tumbler Ridge was owned and still is owned by the Rockwells. The early name of Shop Easy has stuck, even though the current store name is officially Super Valu Number 137.
As Mr. Hartford showed each slide, he would ask the children if they could imagine what those places became. Over excited, the children would call out answers. When asked if he knew the building in the photograph which resembled rounded the Quonset by the ball field, one boy exclaimed, ?My dad?s shop!?
A poignant moment took place when a picture of a lovely plaque once gracing the cement was removed and never saved. It bore a striking resemblance to the current signpost, which now stands to the side of the Roman Walkway
The children were surprised to learn that their own elementary school had at first been a structure free outdoor skating rink at one time. A portable, or trailer served as the first of classrooms. The dilemma was, that with most families having two parents working, the kids living in the apartment buildings had full run of the place. Mr. Hartford murmured, ?That didn?t work out so well?. He added, ?In those days the parents expected the teachers to baby-sit their children after school, which was NOT in their contract.?
In the early days there was no plan to ever build a school in Tumbler Ridge. That changed, however, when the company Kilbourne Construction arrived to start the work, bringing their families with them. Eventually there were 122 students for the first year. Mr. And Mrs. Hartford?s daughter Crosby was the first graduate in Tumbler Ridge. Because they had no ceremony for her, she opted instead to get a graduation t-shirt.
It was a treasured trip down memory lane for Mr. Hartford and a pretty cool history lesson for the kids. What we have now is quite remarkable, with all the amenities in place. Even the golf course was shown in the old days, complete with a furry bear visitor. Quipped Mr. Hartford with a deadpan expression, ?He wasn?t a very good golfer.?