July 16

Trail Times Celebrates 120 Years – Hospital opens to fanfare in 1954

After purchasing the site in 1948 and four years of planning came a modern 150 bed hospital that remains fully operational today.

Two million bones was a lot of money in 1954.

Looking back, that was quite a deal for the people of Trail and surrounding regions because that was how much it cost to build the Trail-Tadanac Hospital, now the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital.

Opening the “gleaming” new building was so important that the Trail Daily Times published two front pages July 16 that year.

One with the usual front page stories describing world disasters (in this case a fireworks explosion in Maryland) and local commiseration like the drain of Trail-Tadanac tax dollars related to  Trail Memorial Centre operations.

The other (turn to Page 4) was the Trail Times Special Hospital Edition replete with detailed information prior to the official July 17 historical event, and a picture of “happy” nurses (June Haynes, Jewel Mitchell, Beverly Crantz and Elsie McKeown) dressed in whites, traditional nursing caps, and all bearing wide grins.

Construction for the new hospital in Trail, the first being at the corner of Victoria St. and Cedar Ave., was way-sided by the Second World War, according to the Times reporter.

The East Trail bench site wasn’t purchased until 1948, but all it took four years of planning before Bennett & White construction broke ground on the facility.

Within two years, voilá – a modern 150-bed, four-storey hospital that remains fully operational today.

Said to solve overcrowding especially in acute care, the new building had capacity for future expansion of 50 additional beds and the heating plant, kitchen capacity and all other utility facilities were designed with future expansion needs in mind, wrote the reporter. “Many startling architectural features will strike the eye of any persons visiting the hospital,” he explained under the headline, ‘Crowds Estimated At 2,000 Expected to Attend Ceremony’.

“The exterior colour scheme, a ray of brightness in Trail has serviceability as well as beauty,” he added. “It is guaranteed to last for at least 10 years.”

Interesting facts are listed under “Hospital Sidelights and Highlights,” such as construction involved 300,000 man hours of labour that cost $610,000 in wages over two years.

The provincial government paid two-thirds of the $2 million price tag and even covered the “big move” from old hospital to new.

From a costing perspective, a 2014 West Kootenay Regional Hospital District report pegged the cost of a new hospital at $400 million.

Even sixty years ago parking was a problem as the writer stated, “owing to limited parking space,” on the day of ceremony, only official cars were permitted on hospital hill.

That said, buses were available to the public for a “nominal cost.”

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