A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Last week we started looking at nicknames or civic slogans of local communities.
Given the output of its mines, Rossland was appropriately nicknamed the Golden City, which first showed up in lowercase form in the Rossland Prospector of Sept. 20, 1895: “A.H. Buchanan, financier, of Nelson, visited the golden city at the foot of Red Mountain on Wednesday.”
The first known example of the upper case version is in the Nelson Miner of Sept. 11, 1897: “C.E. Race … settled his affairs here and left on Wednesday morning for his new home in the Golden City.”
The Ledge commented on Sept. 22, 1898: “The Rossland Miner is endeavoring to attach to that city’s name the appendage ‘The Golden City.’ No harm in this and it looks well in print so why not?”
The name survives in Golden City Days, held each September, as well as Golden City Manor.
Rossland’s elevation of 1,023 meters earned it another nickname, Canada’s Alpine City, which is much newer, dating probably to the 1980s. The earliest known example is in an ad in the Calgary Herald of March 8, 1980 offering a “large corner lot situated in Alpine city of Rossland,” but it doesn’t appear to have been formally adopted yet.
It appeared as the tag line on the City of Rossland’s logo from at least 1996 through 2007 and begat Alpine City Electric. Since 1972, Revelstoke has also claimed Alpine City status.
An undated envelope in the Rossland Museum and Discovery Centre archives calls Rossland “The City of Seven Hills” and “The Hub of the Golden Kootenay.” The seven hills concept survives as Seven Summits — a name given to an acclaimed mountain biking trail completed in 2004, a school that opened in 2013, and a coffee company.
Trail, meanwhile, is the Silver City, a name adopted in March 1950 as proposed by the local board of trade and approved by city council. It referred to the smelter’s output and was apparently intended to replace another name, as the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reported: “The board said it felt the new name would be more conducive to tourist interest than the traditional ‘Smoky City’ applied to Trail since its founding more than 50 years ago and made known to Canada by Trail Smoke Eaters …”
Yet no earlier references have been discovered, at least not to Trail — Pittsburgh was saddled with the Smoky City nickname, and their sports teams sometimes informally known as the Smoke Eaters.
In fact, Trail’s previous nickname was Smelter City, a name that could have applied equally to Grand Forks, Greenwood, Nelson, or Pilot Bay. It first showed up in the Vancouver Province of Aug. 21, 1902: “[T]he blowing-in of the copper furnaces at the Canadian Smelting Works will work wonders in the Smelter City.”
Silver City is perpetuated in Silver City Days, held each May, plus Silver City Stage Lines, Silver City Trap Club, Silver City Gardens, and Silver City Crossfit.
(Trail wasn’t West Kootenay’s first Silver City, though. The title once belonged to Sandon, as adopted by the Independent Order of Oddfellows. According to The Paystreak of Jan. 30, 1897: “Application was signed for a lodge of the order in Sandon to be called Silver City.”)
Trail has also styled itself the Home of Champions. An early, isolated reference was in The Vancouver Sun of April 20, 1935: “Trail is the home of champions in western sports.” But it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that it became officially established. MP Bob Brisco stated in the House of Commons on Aug. 21, 1987 that “The Canadian Little League Championships are being held in the beautiful city of Trail, British Columbia, home of champions.” On Jan. 29, 1988 he added: “I stand in the House to commend the people of Kootenay West, the home of champions.”
In the latter year, Greater Trail’s community economic action committee adopted the motto “Home of Champions – In Industry, Sports, and Lifestyle.” Since 1996, Trail native sons and daughters have been inducted into the Home of Champions monument, celebrating their accomplishments.
For a while, Trail also flirted with the nickname Key City. The Rossland Evening Record of April 6, 1897 had headlines reading: “Key City of the Kootenays baptized in lightning” and “Trail, the key to the Kootenays,” but Cranbrook took over as the Key City in 1899, when its IOOF Lodge adopted the name.
Two other nicknames for Trail appeared in the Trail Times of Sept. 11, 1928: the Payroll City and the Pulse of the Kootenay. Neither caught on.
One final curiosity: while Rossland and Trail are now the golden and silver cities, Golden was originally known as Golden City while Silver City was an 1880s mining town in East Kootenay.