Any community that has ever been labelled a “mill town” carries both the promise of prosperity and the constant threat of collapse, its fortune hinging on a single industry whose performance is as much related to the whims of a global economy as it is to the abundance of a key natural resource. The people of Port Alberni, located deep in Vancouver Island’s Alberni Valley, know all too well the highs and lows that come with such a label.
Jan Peterson, who lived in Port Alberni for two of the town’s most tumultuous decades and worked as a reporter for the Alberni Valley Times, describes how the town’s people persevered through three decades of boom and bust, developed a vibrant arts and sporting community, and strived to make life better under any circumstances. From the prosperous 1970s, when Port Alberni earned the reputation of “forestry capital of Canada,” to the decline of the industry in the 1980s, when economic uncertainty signalled a need for diversification, to the environmental protests in nearby Clayoquot Sound, which polarized the community, Port Alberni tells the town's story from a perspective that is rarely heard. Through fascinating interviews and meticulous historical research, Peterson captures the heart and soul of a town so often defined by dollars and cents.
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About the Author
Born and educated in Scotland, Jan Peterson immigrated with her family to Kingston, Ontario, in 1957. In 1972, she moved with her husband, Ray, and their three children to Port Alberni. With a lifelong interest in painting, writing, and history, she is recognized for her many years of involvement in the arts and community service. As a reporter for the Alberni Valley Times, she won a Jack Wasserman Award for investigative journalism. Jan and Ray retired to Nanaimo in 1996, where she continues to research and write. She is the author of eleven books, including Mark Bate: Nanaimo’s First Mayor; Port Alberni: More Than Just a Mill Town; and Kilts on the Coast: The Scots Who Built BC.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 A New Beginning 11
Chapter 2 A Macmillan Bloedel Town 16
Chapter 3 Getting to Know the City 28
Chapter 4 Unions and First Nations 62
Chapter 5 Community Recreation and Preserving Heritage 84
Chapter 6 The Arts Community 100
Chapter 7 Sugar in the Fridge; Mice on the Table 128
Chapter 8 The Recession Hits 140
Chapter 9 Fighting Back 159
Chapter 10 Forestry in the Hot Seat 173
Chapter 11 The Floodplain Dilemma 190
Chapter 12 A Year of Celebration 193
Chapter 13 Interviews of Note 208
Chapter 14 People of the Alberni Valley 217
Chapter 15 A Changing Forest Industry 240