By Chris Parker
During the installation of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, communities with the unlikely names of Craibenn, Lamming Mills, Knole, Snowshoe, Kidd, Bend, Cariboo, Rooney, Crescent Island and others were created to service this need. Some survived, some changed their names and still others have ceased to exist except for lonely cemeteries that remind us of places like Loos for example. McBride not only survived but was to prosper and grow into a major repair and assembly yard for the railway, at one time the largest such facility west of Winnipeg.
Built to a fairly standard design, the community sprang from clay and rocky soil just across the Fraser River from where the train track and the rough servicing road met. McBride was to become a train-, then lumber- and later farming-based community. Some 50 years later a nursing station became a hospital, and still later the creation of snowmobiles was to create another new industry – McBride became a tourist town during the winter months.
Over the last few years the population of McBride itself has shrunk somewhat, but with the acreage subdivisions on Eddy Road, Mountainview and others the area’s population has stabilized. Still there are those who worry that McBride, like Shere and Croydon before it will also disappear and be just another memory. However there are some who treasure the history and believe in the future prospects of this vibrant village, known for its welcoming and helpful spirit. There is the recent arrival of a number of oilfield workers and others who are finding reasonably priced homes in which to house their families, and leave them in a safe and welcoming community while they return to Fort McMurray, Vanderhoof, or Fort St. John to earn their living.
McBride with its Recreation Centre, fine schools, hospital, and full village services, has recently built new seniors residences. These 600 square foot homes were especially built to provide seniors with a local housing option so they don’t have to move away from their home village in later years. The focus on providing quality of life (sidewalks, trails, housing and ongoing senior’s activities) also means that the town is ready and able to accommodate all ages.
When these facilities are coupled with events of long standing, you see the quality of life here. For example, events like the popular ‘Pioneer Days and Adventure Weekend’, which was once again hosted by the Elks and Royal Purple Clubs this past weekend. With its annual parade, slowpitch and horseshoe tournaments, plant sales, garage sale, children’s races, heavy horse pulls, outdoor food vendors, pancake breakfast, loggers competitions, raffles, model airplane flying, dinner, dance, river boat rides and more, there was something for every age. Special invitations were sent out to former residents, and people returned from as far away as Vernon and St. Albert. The spirit, warm smiles, and handshakes evidenced the enjoyment by locals and visitors alike.
Huge crowds attended the Heavy Horse Pull with its spectacular Belgian and Percheron horses – 3600 lb teams were pulled nearly double their body weights. All of the competitors this year were from out of town, with teams from Fort St.John, Barrierre, Prince George and other locations. Typically support for local teams draws the crowds, but the beautiful animals and their magnificent equipment drew lots of support. The total event is one of the largest annual fundraisers for the 80-year-old Elks Club and its sister club, the 65-year-old Ladies of the Royal Purple.
In only days our little village will again host regional visitors with many events planned for the Canada Day Celebrations, put on by our active and growing Chamber of Commerce. This is a special year, because it marks the 100th Anniversary of the naming of the Village. After a short break over the summer the hectic schedule returns in early September. We’ll see Old Tyme Music, craft and quilting displays, horse demonstrations and lots of good food at events culminating in the Reunion Weekend. Also known as the Fraser Heritage Festival 2013, it’s set for September 27th to 29th.