July 18th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 29
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Local author’s new book gives soul to Frank Slide story
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Anna Kroupina Photo
Local author Ken Roome holding his book Grave Stones: A Frank Slide Story.
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
Crowsnest Pass has some of the most interesting history in Canada, but some of this lore is diluted with inaccuracies and myths.

With his latest book Grave Stones: A Frank Slide Story, local author Ken Roome hopes to preserve the truthfulness of Crowsnest Pass history.

The historical fiction novel details the stories of residents, rescue workers and those impacted by the day on April 29, 1903 when 110 million tonnes of rock slid down Turtle Mountain and onto the town of Frank.

“I hope it brings the fiction a little bit closer to truth and I hope it actually makes an interesting place even more interesting,” says Roome. “Our legends have gone from legends to fantasy or myth. I tried to bring them back with the actual facts.”

For example, Roome cleared up the fact that there wasn’t only one survivor, as is erroneously believed by some people, there were in fact 23 who lived through the slide.

In fact, Roome dedicated the book to Gladys Ennis Verquin, the little baby that was legendary as the only survivor according to an initial report by a journalist at the time, and her brother Delbert Ennis, who was Roome’s neighbour and shared many stories from those coalmining days.
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Setting the stage for 1903 Frank, Roome lays out Turtle Mountain, describes the building of the town by Henry L. Frank and sets the general ambiance of the time with the railroads coming in and coalmining coming in hot the region.

“The adventure starts right from the mine entry. As the wave of rocks passed, I did each story as the rocks hit. At the end, I wrap it up with the people moving across the tracks to the north side of Frank, away from the mountain because they were sure it was going to fall again,” he says.
The self-published book is based on true events the Roome learned through his “72 years of living,” as the author puts it. He spent years speaking with people who lived through the Frank Slide and saw what happened.

You might recognize some familiar names from the book, notable people who are instrumental in the history of Crowsnest Pass. There’s Alexander Leitch, a businessman who died in the slide, or mine workers Shorty Dawson, Dan McKenzie and Joe Chapman.

While all the characters in Grave Stones: A Frank Slide Story are real people, Roome gives them personality, emotions, hopes, dreams and fears.
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“All the people in it are just names, and I've made them people. They’re all given character by me. I've given them characteristics, love and fear and bravery and leadership. My intent is to give character to people that are just historical names. I want them to live when you read this book,” he says.

For example, when you read about Alexander Leitch, Roome hopes you feel that Leitch longs to own Frank one day.

This is Roome’s third novel, the first being a book on golf instruction and another a collection of 56 poems. It was actually in working on his poetry book, titled Poems of the Pass and Beyond, that the inspiration for Grave Stones arose.

"The first 15 poems in my poetry book are historical about the shootout in Bellevue, the Frank Slide, the Hillcrest Mine Disaster,” he says.

He would sell his book along Highway 3 in Frank and got tired of hearing misinformation from drivers passing through the region.

“I thought, "Well, we have to straighten this up,” he says.

A book launch for Grave Stones: A Frank Slide Story was held at the Crowsnest Community Library on July 17. If you missed it, you can loan a copy of Roome’s book at the library.
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July 18th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 29
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