Ever hear the term plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose? It’s French for the more things change, the more they stay the same and these excerpts collected by Revelstoke Museum Curator Cathy English from a defunct local newspaper 100 years ago perfectly illustrate that adage. A lot of this will sound very familiar… enjoy
From the Revelstoke Mail-Herald, January 7, 1911:
Mayor’s Message: Think It Over
Statement by Mayor Hamilton: Revelstoke is on the eve of prosperity.
The city is in a most enviable position. Let us forget petty differences and all boost for the city. Don’t knock those who are doing the best they can for the city, but help them along. This city has been so mixed up with petty strife that any man offering himself for public office might as well get out of the city. We all have our homes here and should pull together to make the city second to none in the Dominion.”
“Will City Escape Commission Fees? Vexed Power Plant Question Argued Before Meeting of Ratepayers – Engineers May Abandon Fees on Amount Over and Above Estimate.
“(Annual Financial Statement presented at Edison Theatre Thursday night – discussion on alleged mismanagement of construction of the power plant and reasons for discrepencies between actual cost and original estimates.) “Just what the plant will cost when completed nobody seemed to be able to give any authoritative information, although questions were fired pell mell at Mayor Hamilton and Alderman Bews, chairman of the finance committee.”
(Pointed out that contract had been entered into by former councillor and could not be broken.) Mayor: “The contract calls for 7 ½ % of the total cost of the work to be paid to the engineers and they must be paid that, although we are trying to get them to abandon the commission on that part of the work over the original estimate. This I have reason to believe they will do.”
“This in substance was the only ray of hope given out to the few ratepayers who considered municipal matters of sufficient interest to turn out to the meeting. A few ladies graced the boxes and the gallery and added an air of respectability to the meeting.”
(Financial statement presented – Mayor explained that receipts from real property tax were slightly lower than last year, owing to reduction of the rate to ten mills, which, while making a slight difference, did not take into account the arrears of $13,000. Trade licences had been increased to the extent of $1,790 and dog tax was almost three times higher than previous years.)
“It had been argued, he said, that police protection costs the city too much in comparison with the revenue derived. It is a difficult problem to police this city, but by reducing the extra police, the increased fines and crediting the increased weighing gees to the police, this department was practically now on a paying basis.”
(Increased expenditures for public safety due to smallpox outbreak in 1910. Plumbing inspector had been appointed.)
“Considering the efficient work of the firemen, Mayor Hamilton considered the payment to them as small indeed. The job is
no graft and the men are entitled to all they get. Two hundred feet of new hose was purchased for No. 2 fire hall. It was absolutely necessary as the department would be open to severe criticism if at a serious fire the hose should break out in several places.”
(Streets and sidewalks – in the previous year, 463 days worth of work had been done by prison labour. Snow service – city purchased a team of horses and two small ploughs.)
(Power plant – Smith, Kerry & Chase had estimated $32,000. Already spent $90,000. When plant completed, city plans to sell power to CPR.)
(Policing costs high – only about 5% of cases originate in Revelstoke .) “They are almost all from outside places, most of the hoboes and vags giving their homes as Calgary. Whether this is a joke or is done by agreement I don’t know, but Revelstoke is bound to be a central point for these undesirables.”
“They (city Council) were open for criticism, in fact honest criticism was welcome, but he did not like people talking of things they will not take the trouble to look into. “Let them,” he said, “ go to the city hall, find out the real state of affairs and then criticize fairly.”
Revelstoke Mail-Herald, January 11, 1911:
“Storm King Grips City of Revelstoke: Temperature of Zero; Strong Winds. Traffic at a standstill. “There has been little that would induce a man from wandering from his own fireside. To and from their stores the merchants have tramped laboriously and that is about as far afield as anyone cared to go. Field: 30 below zero and fifty mile wind. Can’t keep tracks clear. Train traffic stopped. “The storm will cost the city a whole lot of money and next year’s snow bill will probably show a big advance over that of 1910. Sidewalks are entirely obliterated, roads are filled up and crossroads are piled waist high with the drifting snow.”
Light and Power Cut off Past Few Days – Pump out of commission.
“In the face of present conditions, and the resultant expectancy inspired by these promises, it would be a relief to the public to learn definitely and authoritatively just when light and power can be expected, even if that be several weeks distant. But nobody seems to know or be able to tell. Ask the city clerk or the mayor and the answer is “we expect light tonight.” Perhaps they do, but night after night it is not forthcoming, and the public are beginning to lose confidence in these promises.”
January 14, 1911:
Cheer Up! No light or power for we don’t know when, is the latest announcement from civic circles. The gas producing engine is all frozen up and until the weather takes a notion to warm up the position is almost a forlorn one. Ratepayers can at least comfort themselves with the prospect of lighter electric light bills this month, and in the meantime put in a good supply of coal oil and taper dips. So cheer up!
“Revelstoke must be a bad, bad city, for the very elements seem to conspire against us; they add insult to injury. Around the corners the wind howls and we button up our coats the closer; we hustle along to our stores and offices and sit around the stoves, and through the chinks in the walls the wind seeks us to our discomfiture. The drifting snow holds up our trains so that we cannot get out if we want to, and we could not get in if we were out. We can’t be happy because we cannot get out to enjoy ourselves, and we can’t be miserable because misery loves company and we have plenty of that…”
January 18, 1911:
“If first impressions are lasting, as it is said they are, then passengers arriving in this city will have very little but derogatory reports to give out to the world when they leave here. One would think on arriving at the station that this was a little two-by-four jerkwater place, judging from the way in which they have to climb over snow banks and drifts to get to the main street. The path parallel with the railway track is shamefully neglected when it should in reality receive more attention than almost any other than the main street in the city. T rue, there has been a severe storm, and the difficulties in keeping this path clear is great but it would be worthwhile. The main thing in advertising is boosting.”
February 4, 1911:
Dear Sir: I beg to put in a few words to the City Council regarding the splendid way in which Seventh Street sidewalk is used by teams and express rigs cutting it up and punching it full of holes and causing the walk to be dangerous to anyone, as well as to the people who are obliged to go and come that way. This sort of thing has been going on for some time now, and it is only right to the ratepayers that such a matter should be put a stop to. These rigs should use the street which could be opened for teaming instead of the sidewalk. Taxpayer.”