January 8th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 1
Looking Back - John Kinnear
2013 and what was writ that year
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
John Motil photo
Bellevue Union Cemetery apres June 20th flood.
This time of year I usually find myself looking back at the Looking Back columns for the year and wondering where the hell all the stuff that I write about comes from. God forbid anyone ever cuts my head open cause the filing system inside will look like après Fukashima. I thought I might go back over the 24 offerings for last year and perhaps update the readers on some stories or share my thoughts on why they was writ.

The year started off with the Johnstown Flood story which outlined the 1889 disaster caused by the indifference of the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club to the state of their man-made Conemaugh resort lake where the likes of elite industrialists like Andrew Carnegie hung out. In the end it cost 3,200 lives after the dam failed and sending twenty million tons of water downstream to Johnstown. As I said at the story’s end: “just because people are in positions of responsibility does not necessarily mean that they are behaving responsibly.” And as with most stories of this type we find that lawsuits filed later on were unsuccessful.

Following that was a piece on Robbie Burns whose poetry, written for the common man, reminds us all that we are all brothers. That is to say we are as good as the Carnegie’s and just as deserving of respect and rights.

Next is was once again time to kick the Americans around a bit, this time about the 2002 US Congress’s resolution to acknowledge Antonio Meucci not Alexander Graham Bell as the inventor of the telephone. We all saw what this so called American government body was capable of (or not capable of) this year so I guess aside from dismissing their puffed up resolution one should probably not take this good old boys club too seriously.

It seems I get particularly irked by American’s screwing with history so twice more last year I took them to task, firstly about their pathetic Argo movie and its portrayal of the Iranian hostage crisis and secondly about the movie U-571 and the capture of the Enigma coding device. While U-571 is fictitious you and I both know that many have come away from this movie believing the good old US of A saved the day. We all also know the true story of who did what in 1979 in Iran and that John Sheardown and former ambassador Ken Taylor are the true heroes.

Four times in 2013 I chose to share personal stories that I thought were column worthy and was surprised by the responses to pieces like “Tales from the House on the Hill, A Summer Student’s Memories, Once I Was a Bucker and Eureka and Back-Just Barely.” It seems that when I reminisce about places and times that people can identify with it evokes memories similar to my own and I get good feedback. And the feedback is what keeps me going, searching and contemplating that weekly question: “What shall I write about next?”

In early April I took readers on a trip to a piece of hidden treasure near the Oldman River Dam known as the Three Rivers Rock and Fossil Museum. If you haven’t made it out there put it on your bucket list for this summer. Larry Dwyer’s remarkable collection will take you into a world of dazzling mineral specimens and mind blowing fossils and is one you won’t soon forget.

After that story came a rerun of an April Fool’s tale I had done in 1997 about a gal named Aprile Pazzo and a man named Loof Von Lirpa. Even though I posted an author’s note at the end about the ruse some people were still taken in by this bit of tomfoolery. April first this year was going to land on the Herald’s publishing date but the paper is now out on Wednesday’s so any contemplation of foisting a bit of “is it true” monkey business will have to wait to next year when the two dates coincide.. Maybe!

The 100th anniversary of the Frank Slide was acknowledged with a piece on giant slides around the world just to put Frank in perspective and then I floated the story of the bouncing bomb on its 70th anniversary. It was terrific to discover a local connection to this story in that of Revie Walker, born and raised in Blairmore who was one of fifteen Canadian pilots to survive the dam busters Operation Chastise. Digging a little deeper into the Blairmore Enterprise newspaper archives I discovered Revie came and spoke to some of the school classes after the war about the story. Imagine being in that classroom listening to Walker speak!

Through the summer and fall I took readers to places like the old Bellevue Union Cemetery and dug out (bad word choice) some stories linked to the beautiful markers there. I flipped open Crowsnest and Its People and randomly picked a family name to profile (Dick Shone) and revisited the story of the Christmas Troop Train crash of 1917 in France that took the lives of 700 French soldiers being sent home for a Christmas break. I guess it was the Lac-Megantic tragedy that sent me digging for the very worst, as usual. There were columns about historically deadly forest fires, bridge building past and present, my life with parrots and an in depth look at the amazing hillcrestminedisaster.com website.

Probably the highlight of my researching this year was to meet Alison Glass and Pat Goulden, intrepid researchers for findagrave.com. Alison and Pat swept into the Pass this summer to finish their important work on graveyards here and to search out some of the more remote ones like Lille, Hosmer and Corbin. I can report that every marker in all Pass cemeteries is now listed on findagrave, including Passburg which was done this fall. These gals will be hard at work this winter posting the pictures to go with the marker info for all our cemeteries. Now that’s what I call volunteerism.

2014 is shaping up to be yet another interesting year. I am sure as the world turns this year it will slowly reveal to me what to share with you the reader in Looking Back.

For all of my columns from the past 5 years, you can visit the archives section of passherald.ca
January 8th ~ Vol. 84 No. 1
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