Street Names mean something.
Over the last five years, the City of Salmon Arm’s Community Heritage Commission has been working on a program that acknowledges the historic names of our roads. They were names that meant something in community development.
So far, 38 streets have been designated. They have stylized brown signs above the Calgary-grid-inspired numbered streets.
The street names were replaced with numbers in 1973. It seems the community leaders of the day wanted a whole new approach that made it easy for newcomers to find locations. A similar scheme had been proposed in 1968, but found a very vocal opposition.
“The whole idea is stupid; old names mean something, numbers don’t,” Ethel Belli-Bivar told the municipal council.
Some ideas don’t go away. When the item came back on the agenda for a second time, community leaders thought that a grid system, no matter how many of the streets curved, was better. Perhaps Ethel was not her usual vocal self.
When Robert Hobson was contracted to create a Heritage Strategy for the City of Salmon Arm in 2009, he spent some time in the community figuring us out. He looked at the street names. He noted the lack of community history. One of Hobson’s recommendations to council was the program we have today.
The city leaders accepted the Hobson strategy and created the Community Heritage Commission to spearhead the work.
Every year the committee has worked away at the recommendations Hobson made. It chose streets, buildings, and spaces that should be on a heritage register. It created a template for street signs and plaques.
Jump ahead to 2014 when a friend had a medical emergency shopping at Askew’s, the local grocery store.
My friend and the mother of my surrogate grandchildren, had her girls Jasmine and Morgan with her.
The girls ran to get help.
An ambulance was called.
But what were the staff at Askew’s to do with the two lively eight-year-olds?
When asked for their phone number, neither Jasmine nor Morgan knew it. Memorizing the number was on the mom’s list of things to do.
Where do you live? The girls were asked.
The two surrogates were healthy and active and could probably have walked their way home, but they couldn’t tell the clerk what their street address was.
“What about a grandparent?” The clerk asked. The staff at Askew’s were skilled.
The girls knew their grandma’s name. First and last.
Askew’s staff checked the telephone listings and called for help. They were connected to the girls’ other local grandma. Mom was going to be okay.
So fast forward another year. Travelling to or from one of our adventures, I asked the nine-year-olds sitting in their booster seats, “Where do you live?”
“On Leech Hill,” they chimed in unison. Their actual street address – a number – was still a mystery.
Almost 50 years later, I have to agree with Ethel Belli-Bivar. Names mean something, numbers don’t.
-Deboarah Chapman is the curator of the Salmon Arm Museum located at R.J Haney Heritage Park.