The lifeblood of four years of research – capturing the history of the Trail Gulch and displaying it for all to see – was at the heart of a small gathering on Rossland Avenue this week.
As the idea-man behind mapping out the Gulch of days long past, Fred Romano gave a sigh of relief to see the treasured undertaking finally come to light.
“The Gulch Map, completed in 2019, is a significant display of the history and people of the Gulch,” Romano told the Trail Times. “The map is of interest to the community as well as the many families that lived in the Gulch, and it is centrally located (outside) the Colombo Lodge,” he said.
“What it shows, is a ‘City within a City.’”
Another key contributor, Roland Perri, was on hand to watch the map go up.
“Having grown up in the Gulch, I got very interested in the Gulch Map Project when Fred was seeking input,” Perri explained. “Fred asked me to look over his draft map and lists of names, especially the Byers Lane area and name spellings. I wanted to help so I easily got drawn into the project.”
He says they had to be diligent and accurate, which required several time-consuming revisions and a delayed completion.
But the end product made all the pain-staking precision more than worth it.
“The Gulch Map captures and reflects an important part of Trail’s history and heritage through the people who lived in the Gulch,” Perri said.
“The map will be of considerable interest to anyone who has had any connection whatsoever to the Gulch. The names, addresses, and captions, will bring on storytelling and nostalgic moments, while preserving local oral history,” he shared.
“Overall, it was fun and satisfying. One thing for sure, without Fred’s initiative and persistence there would be no map to enjoy and valuable local history would be lost.”
Romano grew up on the now-defunct Ceccanti Street in the 1950s, the heydays when families and businesses were bursting the seams of the Gulch.
“I wanted to re-capture the Gulch the way I remembered it as a kid,” Romano said. “Especially the time we spent at the Byers Lane Park. I always thought about producing a map of the families and businesses that lived in the Gulch.”
So recreating this historic Trail neighbourhood and the families that called it home, was a personal calling that began, in earnest, in 2015.
That’s when he happened upon some old papers in the vault of the Trail Historical Society, which back then, was still located upstairs in city hall.
His vision started to take shape by piecing together those old pages he found in the archives that collectively, were an insurance map from 1953.
“It took a lot longer to complete than I expected,” Romano said. “It started with one sheet on Ceccanti Street and I had to put all the other sheets together to look like a map.”
Steven Harder from Interior Signs, also played a key role by volunteering hours of his time to get the look of the map, just right.
“I got involved with this because of the history, I love historical things and always enjoy seeing all the old photos and learning about the past,” said Harder.
“Fred asked if I would help out and I jumped at the chance. My role was to come up with a design and the best way to install it,” Harder said.
“It involved about 80 hours of designing the two signs, and changing them up, until they looked perfect.”
The complete Gulch map – installed in the Colombo Lodge Piazza on Thursday – was also sourced from information in the public domain, including the 1952 West Kootenay Telephone Directory (British Columbia Telephone Company); the 1953 Property Tax Roll for Trail; and, the 1953 British Columbia City Directories for Trail.
Some of the long lost family names were unearthed using local knowledge. In other words, the researchers tapped into the memories of city pioneers, ensuring that all the homes and businesses were identified.
“It was a great experience talking to many people that lived in the Gulch in the 50’s. It brought back so many memories,” Romano shared.
“But now that the map is completed, I feel relieved that it is all over.”