Hats off to all

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist takes a moment to applaud her city's growing level of sophistication

If you are a Facebook follower you likely know what TBT means. Throwback Thursday, or TBT, is the day of the week when some Facebookers post old pictures of themselves. For the most part it’s entertaining, especially when posters are good sports and willing to show sometimes embarrassing pictures.

Those old school pictures evoke days long gone by, but which seem like just yesterday.

The other day a friend posted a picture of herself from about the mid-80s. There she stood with her permed big hair, leg warmers, fingerless gloves and glitzy clothes ‑ sort of a mix between Madonna and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.

Once I got over the laughing, I took a closer look and realized that she was standing in front of the High Arrow Motor Hotel.

For those of you old timers, the Arrow, or as it was sometimes known as the Hairy Arms, was definitely a throw back. I had just moved to Castlegar from the States in 1977 when I first saw the Hi Arrow. Imagine the shock when I noticed there were two front doors. One was marked Gentlemen, while the other was marked Ladies and Escorts.

I viewed this as segregation at its finest and yet was perfectly acceptable in those days. So where did a single lady fit into this mix? The suggestion, in my opinion, was that if a woman was single, she wasn’t a lady. An interesting read regarding the dual doors can be found at ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/bcstudies/article/download/982/1019. Apparently, there was a time when a single woman drinking at a beer parlor or such was viewed as being a prostitute.

Anyway, as usual I have veered way off topic.

Those throwback Thursdays, and in particular that one previously mentioned, brought me back to when I first arrived in these parts. Let me tell you, the Castlegar of that era bears little resemblance of the Castlegar of today.

Back then, the first thing a person noticed when arriving in town was the not so lovely smell of a pulp mill. Think rotten eggs. The second thing one noticed was the obvious lack of pride and the dinginess of the city itself. There was one stop light and not much else. Does anyone remember Valley Maid Foods which was where Shaw Cable has their office or Bob’s Pay N Take It where the Element now stands? Then there was our library stuffed into a small space where Dawn’s Sunshine Café now is.

Of course there was a functioning Eremenko’s complete with its indomitable Mrs. Eremenko who ran her store like an army sergeant. Dixie Lee Chicken was the chicken of choice and the bus stop used to be at the Marlane Hotel where tired passengers, young and old alike, had to walk past the exotic dancer doing her thing if they wanted to use the bathroom facilities.

The Castlegar of today more assuredly exhibits the civic pride which has been carefully and thoughtfully nurtured since then. As I look around our streets adorned with planters full of flowers, Sculpture Walk and the Millennium Park project currently underway, I can’t help but reflect how our city has grown and evolved.

With such growth sometimes comes growing pains. Castlegar has had its share. But growth borne from vision and careful planning bears hardy fruit, despite that pain.

Castlegar is no longer known as Smellgar or other such derogatory terms. It is a city blooming with civic pride and for the most part has been gently guided by our leaders and defended by our vocal residents who refuse to quietly accept each thing which comes their way.

To our leaders, I say well done. To those residents who truly care, I say thank you.