By Cathy English, Revelstoke Museum & Archives
People in Revelstoke have always known how to throw a good party. From the early days of settlement, people here have never missed an opportunity to have fun and enjoy themselves. Pioneer residents formed clubs such as the Quadrille Club, where the members met to enjoy group dances, or the Snowshoe Club, where they would snowshoe or ski several miles out of town and then have a party. No Queen’s Birthday or Dominion Day went uncelebrated, usually with elaborate gatherings that included sports programs and plenty of food. From the 1920s to the 1970s, May Day was celebrated annually with a parade and May Pole dances and other festivities.
In 1944, the citizens of Revelstoke took the notion of a community party to new heights, with Golden Spike Days. The July 1 weekend celebration was an opportunity for the local citizens to bring some needed revenue to the town and to cheer up a population saddened by five years of war. The Kinsmen Club spearheaded the event, and most of the town got on board. Several local gentlemen took part in the beard growing contest, which was won by Archie Fleming, who had an advantage with his flaming red hair. The men also staged a reenactment of the driving of the Last Spike.
A huge parade took place, with elaborate floats created by many community groups and with children participating in a bike parade. The citizens were encouraged to dress in period costumes of the late 1890s, and a local dry goods store that hadn’t kept up with the latest fashions soon found its long-neglected supply of bowler hats and ladies gloves depleted. Golden Spike Days continued to be held annually into the 1960s.
It appears that the first actual Homecoming event was held in 1971, when Old Home Week was held. In 1974, a week-long Homecoming celebration was held from July 12–20 to mark the 75th anniversary of incorporation of the City of Revelstoke. The committee, headed by Harry Croft, planned a fun-filled week of events that included at least four dances, a parade, beer gardens and a Little League baseball exhibition. A special banquet at the Civic Center was held for senior citizens of 70 years and over, and the former residents of Arrowhead and Sidmouth held a reunion that attracted more than 500 people. During the Homecoming week of 1974, the Revelstoke Museum and Archives opened in its new home in the former Post Office and Customs building. It was estimated that more than 1,500 people attended the various events.
The 75th anniversary of the Revelstoke High School was celebrated in 1979, and as many former students as possible were invited back for this event. 1985 was the 100th anniversary of the driving of the Last Spike, and Canadian Pacific Railway was very involved in the huge celebrations and homecoming held that year. The next event was in 1988, when a Swinging ‘60s reunion was held.
Since the 1994 Rediscover Revelstoke event, homecomings have been held every five years. The 1999 homecoming was part of a full year of events celebrating the centennial of incorporation of the city, starting with a big celebration on March 1, the actual anniversary of incorporation. There were 12 conferences and conventions held in Revelstoke that year, including the B.C. Museums Association, the Okanagan Mainline Municipal Association and the Rural Doctors Conference.
The 2004 homecoming celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first high school in Revelstoke, and Homecoming 2009 was the 110th anniversary of incorporation. A highlight in 2009 was the participation of Lord Revelstoke, the great-grandson of the man after whom our city is named. Lord Revelstoke was delighted to visit and to explore the connection between his family and the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Homecoming 2014 will be an opportunity for former residents to see the changes in the community over the last few years, with tours of the new school facilities, and the chance to visit the ski hill. As always, it will be a time for people to reconnect and celebrate our shared love of this remarkable community. A fun new event of this year’s Homecoming will be a community picnic at Williamson’s Lake. Most former residents have memories of this popular local swimming spot, and it will give everyone a chance to relive their childhood memories and see if the lake is really as big as they remembered.
Each homecoming brings back hundreds of former residents, but newcomers to town are every bit as welcome to attend. Homecoming 2014 will have something for everyone.