From left: Tim Palmer

Ceremony marks 50th anniversary of Trans-Canada Highway

Ceremony at Revelstoke's Woodenhead Park marks 50th anniversary of opening of Trans-Canada Highway.

About 50 people attended a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Trans-Canada Highway in Woodenhead Park in Revelstoke Friday morning.

The ceremony was an occasion for several dignitaries to go celebrate the history of the highway and tout its benefits to the province and the community.

The Trans-Canada Highway opened in the summer of 1962. There were two ceremonies marking it’s opening. The province held its opening on July 30 with a ceremony about 12 kilometres east of Revelstoke. Then, on Sept. 3, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker attended a ceremony at Rogers Pass marking the official opening of the highway.

Friday’s ceremony was attended by Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks, Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald, Cathy English of the Revelstoke Museum & Archives, most city councillors, Bob Gaglardi, who’s father Phil was the B.C. Minister of Transport when the highway opened; and Rob Hart, who’s father was a civil highway engineer for the Department of Public Works when the highway was opened.

They each took turns going over the virtues of the highway. Wilks talked about how it helped open up Glacier National Parks to the public and he praised the “hard work that goes into keeping this vital route open and safe for those travelling through this stunning mountainous terrain each year.”

Councillor Gary Starling, standing in for Mayor David Raven, talked about how the highway was a boon for Revelstoke and how it provided access for people and commerce to get here.

Cathy English went over the history of the construction and opening of the highway. “The opening of the Rogers Pass section of the Trans-Canada Highway was extremely significant both for the country and for Revelstoke,” she said. “I think a lot of people were aware it was going to change the town significantly.”

Indeed it did, marking the beginning of a long, slow change from a mostly resource-based economy to one with a heavy tourism component today.

While most dignitaries used the occasion to recite history or talk about the significance of the highway, Norm Macdonald used the occasion to push for improvement to the highway.

“I think we need to use these sorts of events to push to continue to make improvements on this section of highway,” he said in his speech. “I think that’s one of the messages that we take out of this event – that we need to continue to push to take a road that in places is still 50-years-old and bring it up to a standard that’s appropriate for the travel that’s here.”

During the ceremony, Rob Hart, who’s father Nick Huculak, helped design the Rogers Pass section of the highway, drove in from Calgary to present English with the survey transit that his father used to plot out the last bend of the road through Rogers Pass. He also recounted meeting John Diefenbaker at the opening ceremony.

“It was a huge event and I can remember I was just a shade over 4.5-years-old, too scared to shake John Diefenbaker’s hand,” he said. “Everybody was twice as tall as I was and he was kind of an ornery looking old man to me.”

Once the speeches were done, many of the dignitaries got into the classic cars of the Revelstoke Vintage Car Club for a drive through Rogers Pass to the main ceremony at the new Donald Bridge near Golden.

What was the construction of the highway like 50 years ago? Check out this slideshow of pictures from the Revelstoke Museum & Archives to get an idea:

Note: An earlier version of this article indicated the historical photos came from Parks Canada. While Parks Canada did provide us with the photos, they originated with the Revelstoke Museum & Archives.

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