We have all heard of putting your stamp on a place, who knew it was literally possible. All it takes is a major event, like turning 100, an incredible amount of paper work, and people. In this case, two people who took the idea and ran with it.
July 11th saw the McBride Post Office hold a special event – the unveiling of a commemorative stamp depicting McBride’s historical train station with Beaver Mountain in the background. In addition to the commemorative postage stamp, Canada Post authorized and issued a unique cancellation stamp to be used by the McBride Post Office celebrating the 100 years McBride has had a Post Office.
The event was well attended and people lined up to get their stamps and cancellation marks. Many of the local residents purchased Matthew Wheeler’s specially designed McBride envelopes and the commemorative stamp which they then had cancelled to save as a keepsake for themselves, friends, and family. Even tourists were excited by the event. A couple from Oregon heard about the unveiling and came by to get a set to keep as a remembrance of their trip.
When asked how this all came about Kristine Drader, the local post mistress and Matthew Wheeler resident photographer and historian, pointed fingers at each other and said, “It’s his/her fault” After everyone laughed it was decided that it was a joint effort.
Wheeler went on to explain McBride’s first station was built and opened in 1913. It was the centre of the community, being the only transportation and communication link to the outside world. People gathered there every day to wait for the mail to come in on the train. The first post office was built near the railway station in February 1914. Passenger trains continued to serve as RPOs (Railway Post Offices) for about 50 years with their own RPO postmark for this railway line. In addition to the post office, post boxes sat on posts at each end of the station for letter mail to be posted east or west, picked up by Canadian National trains, until around the 1980s. Passenger trains continued to carry mail to McBride until the early 1990s. The railway station, said to be the largest between Winnipeg and Prince Rupert when it was built, burnt down in 1918. The station pictured on the postmark design was built on the same foundations but with a smaller second storey, opening in 1919. Closed by the railway in 1991, it was bought by the village and is McBride’s central attraction and a federally designated heritage building. It now houses the visitor information centre, a gallery representing more than 80 of the valley’s artists and a new version of the famous railway bistro.
Story and photos by: Chris Parker