To the Editor:
When I read in the Smoky River Express that the town of Falher gave away their train station to McLennan, I was outraged and ashamed of the town council’s decision. I feel the people of Falher should know the facts leading up to this travesty.
I spent four years on the Smoky River Tourism Board as the municipal representative for the M.D. of Smoky River. We were tight on funds but managed to make the ends meet. We were able to hire summer students to work the information booth and meet tourists from all over. This showcased our wonderful area, communities and attractions. Each summer, about 300 tourists visited. My son, Charles worked for tourism two years and was proud to display our history and talk about the entire Smoky River area.
McLennan representatives regularly visited, but only complained about the area their community was allotted in the building, even though they had one-third of the display area. The rest of the area was devoted to Alberta, Girouxville, Guy, McLennan, Donnelly, Jean Cote, local agriculture, honey and the rich history of the area.
The tourism staff did everything to accommodate the community to no avail. McLennan pulled out of the group and pulled their portion of financial support. This was the start of the demise of the Smoky River Tourism Board and the train station.
Our family moved here from France in 1912 and are proud of the area. My grandparents relied on the train and train station to get supplies and to travel. They regularly used the station to catch the steam train to travel to Edmonton for well deserved rest or business each year. In 1948, my parents, used the station to catch the steam train to Edmonton for their honeymoon. The train station was an integral and important part of the area.
Past town councils worked hard to save the train station and Falher ratepayers paid bigtime to renovate and prepare a basement and foundation, landscape the area, plant trees and move the station to its current location. Dan Dibbelt was also on the project to save the station. Doesn’t the current Falher council care about decisions of their predecessors?
This is a community building which was supported by Falher residents. It was an integral part of the development of the community and many communities would give their soul to have a similar building they could be proud of.
What about another of Falher’s heritage buildings, the old Smoky River Express building. This is the oldest and first building that was built on its present site. It was built by Adelard Giroux in 1914. The train came in 1914 and missed the community already established with a church, general store, and school, called St. Jean Baptiste de Falher. The majority of the people and the store, DeWindt, moved east of Falher’s present site to the Petrin siding.
This was the location where the train stopped to load and unload people and supplies. In 1919, Adelard Giroux donated the land to make the present location of Falher. The area donated was the block with the shopping centre, where a huge cathedral was built and property east where the school was built.
I tried to save this building, but had problems with my chosen mover. He was too busy and his mother passed away. Now the town is going to demolish one of our proud heritage buildings.
I know that some people are not interested in local history, heritage or have pride in the accomplishments of our predecessors in the development of our community. Governments spend a lot of money making museums and funding heritage sites and the like to preserve our past.
Even though councillors were not born and raised in the town or area, they should respect past town council decisions. People like Adelard Giroux’s involvement, St. Jean Baptiste de Falher church, this train station, etc.
One Falher councillor approached me this spring to get our 100th Anniversary History Books out of the train station, NOW! I tried to argue the benefits of keeping this building and he just did not care and told me “I should stop living in the past.” I hear this same councillor resigned lately. Wow, he sure cared a lot.
I have no grievances with McLennan. I have good friends and family that reside there and are involved in the development of the train museum, but doesn’t anyone remember the McLennan train station. McLennan wanted to preserve and restore this building.
The people didn’t want to spend any money on this and burned it, not once, but three times. I remember, when it burned the second time, there was not much left and they still wanted to rebuild the station. So it mysteriously burnt again at night.
McLennan has a nice train display and this is great, but I suggest the Falher train station be left alone. Falher’s memories are not McLennan’s memories. Perhaps, we should move the McLennan Cathedral to Falher as a religious museum. Would McLennan ratepayers appreciate that?
When McLennan pulled out of the Smoky River Tourism Board, it started the demise of the tourism Board and now I read in the paper, McLennan wants to take over the tourism in the area and have it in McLennan and promote Falher, Donnelly and Girouxville in their building. Nobody on this end should promote this after how they destroyed the Smoky River Tourism Board located in the Falher train station.
Citizens, please let it be known your concern and disapproval of the actions of the current Falher town council. Perhaps this atrocity can be reversed and corrected before any more actions can be taken by the council and these heritage buildings of the Falher community can be saved. It is not only that the Falher town council gave away our heritage, it’s about how they did it without asking the residents or studying the matter.
The decision was made very quickly, as if all they wanted to prove was that they could make a decision however council pleased with no regard for their ratepayers. Shame on you, Falher council. Most people I speak to are outraged. Change your decision, keep our heritage and be proud.