By David F. Rooney
About 60 people gathered at Woodenhead Park on Friday morning to mark the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Trans-Canada Highway.
This was a huge event in the history of our community. The massive highway construction project was a boon to the local economy and it promised to bring, as it does to this day, first thousands, then hundreds of thousands and now millions of vehicle along the highway that runs through town.
‘It shared vision of federal and provincial governments,” Acting Mayor Gary Starling said at the ceremony. “In BC it was the vision of Phil Gaglardi, who was the transportation minister in WAC Bennett’s government.” Gaglardi’s son, Bob, attended the event in his father’s memory.
MP David Wilks noted that the highway, which crosses through four of Canada’s Mountain National Parks (Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Yo Ho and Banff) was a tremendous achievement appreciated to this day by the national government.
“This is a big highway that has had a significant impact,” said MLA Norm Macdonald.
It created, thousands of jobs and brought Canadians together in a new way. Just as the CPR had stitched the country together in 1885, the TCH made it possible for any Canadian family with wheels to jump in their car and, if they chose, drive from one end of the country to the other.
One guest of honour, Rob Hart, presented Revelstoke Museum Curator Cathy English with a surveyor’s transit once owned by his father, Nick Huculak, who was civil engineer on the project. His dad also chauffeured Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to the official opening in 1962 and gained possession of some papers Dief left in the car. He also presented those to the museum.
Cathy English said that even through the TCH helped connect Revelstoke to the rest of BC and Canada it couldn;t help the city regain its former position of prominence. Once one of the three largest cities in the Interior (with Kamloops and Nelson) it did not benefit as much from the highway construction boom in the earlier decades of the 20th century.
“Once highways began to be built Revelstoke began to be little left behind,” she said.
The TCH nonetheless had an immense impact on Revelstoke. Hotels and other services were built, first to accommodate the highway workers and later the thousands of tourists who stop here each year. (I should say here, that my family stayed here overnight at what I think was McGregor’s [now the Powder Springs] Motel in May 1962 on our way East to Montreal and from there to Switzerland from Vancouver.)
But building the TCH through Revelstoke was a close-run thing.
“One of the routes they were recommending was through Jumbo Pass, but it was Minister Gaglardi who was adamant the highway go through Rogers Pass,” she said.
Now, there’s a good reason to thank Flying Phil Gaglardi.
Here are a couple of photos from the event as well as a selection of historical photos provided by the Revelstoke Museum and Parks Canada: