Bridge photo closeup

120 Years of Trail Times – Bridge opening draws big crowd

A look back at the opening of the Old Bridge in 1912.

As the Trail Times continues to celebrate 120 years of reporting local news, we’ve donned white gloves and browsed through historical newspapers, looking to highlight some of the City of Trail’s landmark events.

Within the last three years of Silver City headlines, few stories and Letters to the Editor have been able to outshine the community’s ongoing passion over the fate of the Old Trail Bridge.

So this month was a given – let’s take the reader back in time to Saturday, May 25, 1912. The Trail News front page and ensuing four pages, recounted a regal affair from the day previous. That date marked the 13th year Canadians observed Queen Victoria’s birthday, but more importantly, May 24 was also the official opening of the Smelter City’s new Trail bridge.

“Trail was in gala attire on Friday,” wrote W.K. Esling. “The reason for this being the opening of the new bridge and the observation of Empire Day…The huge and handsome steel structure that spans the mighty waterway and weds the eastern and western sections of the Columbia River valley, with its large areas of fertile land.”

Esling notes that what was most on the minds of celebrants was the large gathering of people from the outlying areas, all of whom were welcomed to the city with pomp, including a procession of horse and carriage and the patriotic music of the Trail band.

A splendid arch bearing the words “Welcome to our city,” as well as strings of flags spanned the principle street, he wrote, while nearly all of the stores and buildings were decorated with bunting.

“Trail’s latchstring was on the outside, and every visitor was made to feel at home, as there was no skimping of the hospitality – it was openhanded and generous.”

Further in the story, under the sub-heading “Bridge Will Last For A Long Time,” Mr. Morrison, one of the bridge contractors from Vancouver, is quoted, saying the day was, “a consummation most devoutly wished for,” and “a good index of the civilization of a people was found in their highways and bridges…”

Later in the day, the writer notes the region’s MLA “Sunny Jim”  Schofield addressed the crowd following his wife’s cutting of the ribbon. “He warmly thanked the visitors for their presence, and said that the Rossland contingent (noted to be more than 600 people) was a particularly large one and that he was not surprised, “as Rossland and Trail were old and tried friends.”

Once Schofield declared the bridge open, and “silken barriers” removed, L.A. Campbell was honoured to drive the first automobile across, because “the auto is owned by him and contained several of his friends.”

To view this historical front page, which also marks the first time that a photo accompanied a story, turn to the pullout on Page 4 in today’s Trail Times edition.

Empire Day, observed annually on the school day preceding the May 24 holiday for Queen Victoria’s birthday, was the most important patriotic rite for children in English-speaking Canada during the half century following its first observance 23 May 1899.

 

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