top of page

History of the community

Lisa Sygutek

Apr 26, 2023

I remember being a little girl driving through the Frank Slide and wondering why there were so many rocks on the highway.

This year marks the 120th Anniversary of the Frank Slide, the fateful day that changed the valley.

I remember being a little girl driving through the Frank Slide and wondering why there were so many rocks on the highway. It’s a memory I have as a little girl, like it was normal and just was. 

My brother Ricky was killed among those rocks on October 15, 1976, when he was a passenger in a car. It was one of those foolish games of ‘highway chicken’ that resulted in the tragedy of two lives taken and two lives forever changed.

I had a friend pop in the other day telling me that he felt we need to divest the community of the cloud of tragedy that the community seems to have. A victim mentality of accidents and deaths. From the Frank Slide to the Hillcrest Mine Disaster, to the Bellevue Mine Disaster to the Rum Runner shoot out and hangings to the Train Robbery in Bellevue. We have had our share of tragic events in this community.

It got me thinking. Do we have a victim mentality in this community or a perceived dark cloud hanging over the community? Do we give out the sense to visitors that this community is a place of doom?

Do we need a refresh and new perspective?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and these are my thoughts.

We are a community based on tragedy. We have had, I wouldn’t feel it’s wrong to say, more tragedy then most if not any community in this province. Does that make those who have lived here for generations have a victim mentality. I don’t think so. I think the history of this community is what makes this community so incredibly unique. Tragedy brings people together. A common understanding, a community grief that binds and builds resiliency.  

I believe it’s because of our history that each community in this beautiful valley wants to maintain its unique identity and celebrate those unique qualities. I know it’s why we have such passionate people who love the communities in which they live, who volunteer and work to make their community successful and prosperous. 

Is that a bad thing ... I don’t think so!

When new people move to the community, they don’t carry the history of it on their backs. They are not hung up on past practices and see things from a new and unique perspective. That’s great too.

My friend wanted us to celebrate the future of the community, not the past tragedies that created it. My answer is: Why can’t we have both?

We have the unique situation where we have both natural and historical tourism, and it doesn’t have to be either one or the other. 

People can come here to climb the mountains, fish the rivers, bike the trails but they can also visit the Crowsnest Museum, the Allied Art Gallery, the Bellevue Underground Mine, and the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre.

You can pretty much do it all here and spend at least a week and probably not get it all done.

Our community is changing. People are moving here, some to work in the mines, some to work remote. Who wouldn’t want to live in the Crowsnest Pass? It’s the most beautiful community in this province and it’s still some-what affordable when compared to other mountain towns. What we can’t forget is the history in which this community was forged. It was built on the backs of coalminers and the tragedies we endured. It was built on immigrants who wanted a better way of life. It was built with an identity with little snippets of all pieces of history from rock-slides to prohibition, to wars to disasters. 

So, as we move forward let us never forget what makes this community so special, that of our collective past!

bottom of page