July 2nd, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 26
Proud mining heritage lives
on in Crowsnest Pass
John Pundyk - Feature Writer

The 100th anniversary of the Hillcrest Mine Disaster gave us, yet another, opportunity to reflect on our community and why we live here. When an explosion ripped through the Hillcrest mine in 1914, it took 189 lives from this very small, mining town.
To this day, the tragedy remains Canada’s worst mining catastrophe. Almost everyone in the community experienced the horror personally, as they buried husbands, brothers, fathers and friends.
Attending the memorial service at the Hillcrest cemetery was a stark reminder that we were not only commemorating those who died that fateful day, but were also celebrating the resilience of those left behind to carry on.
Crowsnest Pass started its existence as a mining community at the turn of the last century and, through ups and downs, remains a mining community to this very day.
Those of us who have been around mining for any length of time know the sense of community and brotherhood the miners bring to its members.
This sense of community extended well beyond the mine’s gate, and it was this sense of community which allowed the Crowsnest Pass to persevere after the 1914 disaster and to continue with its proud tradition of coal mining right into the twenty-first century.
Yes, first and foremost, we are still a mining town. Unlike other communities in Alberta where coalmines shut down, Canmore for example, the coalmines of the CNP just moved further west.
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A hundred years ago, when walking was the primary mode of transportation to get to work, you can bet walking from Frank to Hillcrest was a bigger chore than driving to a mine near Sparwood.
When the mine closed in Canmore, a decade or so before the Calgary Winter Olympics, the town had to reinvent itself into a non-mining town. I remember driving through Canmore after the closure and it was a bleak place.
Over the years, I have sold many properties in the Crowsnest Pass to old Canmore expats. Most of them told me what they missed most about ‘the old Canmore’ was its sense of community. This is not to criticize what was achieved in Canmore - they did what they needed to do in order to survive.
Crowsnest Pass on the other hand, and contrary to what some people think, has never faced the existential question in the same way it was faced in Canmore. We may have lost our local mines, but we have not lost our mining jobs.
Most of all, the robust sense of community built on that strong base of mining brotherhood was never broken in the CNP. Because of this, we are self-sufficient and resilient as a community and it points to the important fact that a community is much more than a sum total of its improvements. A community, by definition, is the sum total of its people and here is where we shine.
This is what I was thinking when the light rain eased and the sun broke through the clouds at the Hillcrest Cemetery during the anniversary Friday.
July 2nd ~ Vol. 84 No. 26
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