It was thirty years ago today…

Trent Ernst, Editor


At the April 17, 1984 council meeting, June 6 of that year was declared a civic holiday.

The resolution read: “Council would declare that the 6th of June 1984 will be observed in the municipality as a public holiday.”

The day was set aside to celebrate “the official opening of TR and northeast coal.”

According to then-newspaper, the Tumbler Ridge Chronicle-Mountaineer, the mayor of the day, Pat Walsh, declared that businesses “are not obligated to provide time off to employees for June 6th.”

In the May 9 issue of the same paper, publisher Jacqueline Costerd writes that “dozens of people are busy working behind the scenes in preparation for this enormous event.” She says that “it is estimated that 300 reporters alone will be here.”

By Wednesday, May 23, the cover of the paper proclaimed “Grand Opening excitement,” as 11 committees and numerous volunteers “put in long hours behind the scenes organizing and finalizing details for the grand occasion.”

Plans included concession and novelty stands set up in the parking lots downtown. It was here, says the article, that the excitement would take place. “There will be horse rides and children’s games and contests with fish ponds, darts, art shows and craft displays. The school children are busy making banners and posters and there will be entertainment for all,” said organizer Glenda Radies.

All the clubs and societies in town got involved. There were two beer gardens (one run by the Lions) and three barbeques planned.

Entertainment included Wayne Primeau, who wrote a song called “BC Dream” specifically for the occasion.

Headline for the show was comedian Dave Broadfoot, best known for his work with the Royal Canadian Air Farce. “His shows feature satiric views of contemporary North American life,” says the paper. “Mr. Broadfoot appears at 8:30 pm in the arena at the new community centre.”

Tickets to the big show were free, but were “distributed on a first come, first served basis,” said Radies. “This is the only gesture that is being extended to all the volunteers who put the whole celebration together.

“Everything has been done by volunteers. The Dave Broadfoot show was paid for by contractors who worked or are working in Tumbler Ridge.”

The day before the grand opening, the paper had a story about Tumbler Ridge, called “Largest BC Municipality.”

“Population,” says the article, “Three hundred people made up of the one hundred families of the employees.”

“Destiny—to become a self-contained, self-governed community of 5,600 by 1987 with the possibility of eventually reaching 10,000.”

Over five hundred housing units, which included single family dwelling and apartments, “should be ready to accommodate the expected 3,500 residents due by fall.”

The next week’s paper was all about the opening of the town, of Bullmoose Mine, and of the Tumbler Ridge Secondary School, which was officially opened two days later, on June 8.

“TR opening a smash hit” proclaimed the cover of the June 13 issue. The unattributed story goes on to say the celebrations had “young and old packing downtown parking lots even before events started”, and “Flags, banners and flowers hanging from light standards set the mood.”

“The atmosphere was festive for the thousands, not just from Tumbler Ridge, but from all over, who were here for the day. License plates showed visitors from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario among others. We took pride in putting on this event and even though it’s all over now, the community of TR will continue to be proud for years to come.”

According to the article, the day began with a beer garden sponsored by the Lions Club. It remained one of the busiest areas until it closed at 10 pm. The Lion’s more traditional beat, running the BBQ, was covered by the Chamber of Commerce, offering “Wabco burgers”.

The local students ran a cotton candy machine, but, says the paper, it was difficult to tell who got more, the customer or the workers as “one lad was covered with bright punk fluffy stuff from head to toe.”

On the same day, dignitaries, officials, employees and media were on hand for the grand opening of Bullmoose Mine. The then-premier Bill Bennett triggered a blast, marking the occasion.

The grand ceremonies were attended by many Japanese officials, too, including Mr Nemoto, who was honoured as “the father of Northeast Coal” by then mine manager Mike Lipkewick.

Don Phillips praised the people responsible for building the town and the mines for bringing the town together “on time and within budget.”

Premier Bennett described the Northeast Coal project as “The most significant single project in British Columbia since the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.”

Finally, the Ambassador of Japan, Mr. Mikanagi, summed it up when he said “thank you for the opportunity to share in this historic event.”