Tour reveals military history of area

A SEPT. 4 bus tour organized by the Little Townsite/Big Celebration Committee revealed a side of Terrace dating back nearly 70 years when it was a hub of military activity in the northwest during the Second World War.

A SEPT. 4 bus tour organized by the Little Townsite/Big Celebration Committee revealed a side of Terrace dating back nearly 70 years when it was a hub of military activity in the northwest during the Second World War.

For more than an hour, the bus, which left from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 13 parking lot, wove through city streets before heading to the airport to look at structures and locations.

A large number of the Canadian military’s buildings in Terrace took the form of H-shaped huts featuring accommodations on the upright portions of the ‘H’ and washrooms in the middle.

The legion building itself was originally a military building as was one of its immediate neighbours, a mechanical shop next door. And down the road is Riverside Park which was once the scene of a large military camp.

A few of those buildings remain standing at what is now the Twin River Estates housing complex and are used for community recreation and other purposes there.

In the early 1950s, the buildings housed the offices of the Columbia Cellulose Company, the first large forestry company to set up shop in the area when the provincial government created Tree Farm Licence No. 1.

In the same neighbourhood as Twin River Estates stands another former military building that was turned into a Red Cross hospital in 1948.

“In 1959, I had my daughter there and that was the first time I saw Betty Campbell. She was the nurse on duty,” said tour organizer Yvonne Moen, who stood up from her seat and pointed out the window as the bus drove by.

The Terrace Minor Hockey bus, driven by Dave Jephson, next stopped at Terraceview Lodge, which was the site of a 300-bed military hospital that was expected to be a key installation had there been an attempt by the Japanese to land on the north coast.

Jephson, who grew up near the site, took a moment to tell the bus passengers of the experiences of being a youngster there when the location was converted into Skeenaview, a psychiatric care home, after the war.

Jephson said he and other youngsters changed bike tires in mechanical shops.

He then turned the bus down from the Bench and into town, proceeding along Davis Ave. in front of MacKay’s funeral home.

What was once a military chapel is now completely contained within the MacKay’s building.

The tour then moved to Terrace’s southside where, among other things, those on the bus learned that an old building that is the paint shop for the Terrace Totem Ford dealership was part of a series of buildings that housed a French-speaking regiment.

The tour finished at the airport, which was built during the war and was home to squadrons of Ventura bombers that patrolled up and down the coast.

Those on the tour also learned that the  large concrete structure still standing across the road from Hawkair’s offices was a “sighting-in bunker.”

The side of the bunker facing the road was filled with sand. Aircraft gunners would fire into the sand to set the aiming sights of their weapons.

Several other bunkers are still located in the woods of the airport property and are used for storage. Other buildings from the war are also still in use.

A co-host of the tour was Branch 13 of the Royal Canadian Legion and past legion president Les Sinnott who acted as tour guide.

Among those on the tour were Second World War veterans Bill McRae and Sandy Sandhals.

Also on the bus was Julia Little, daughter-in-law to city founder George Little, her daughter Linda Bee and Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin.

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