Pat Nelson

Pat Nelson

Armstrong plays out page in history

Only In Armstrong - The First 100 Years looked at the first council meeting held in Armstrong in 1913.

Three ladies appeared as a delegation to talk about the Armstrong Cottage Hospital.

The Armstrong Band asked for $20 in funding for the year.

The Board of Trade was seeking annual funding of $20 to “cover expenses and promote a healthy vibrant business core right here in the Heart of Country.”

A member of the Red Apple Boys lacrosse team presented council with the Shaw Cup, which they had won for the ninth year in a row.

And sheep may have been responsible for the design of the city’s unique one-way streets.

Armstrong residents got a bit of a history lesson (with some admitted creative licence) Tuesday as current council members – with help from some stellar acting from community members – re-enacted the city’s first council meeting as part of Armstrong’s 100th birthday celebrations.

The play, titled Only in Armstrong – The First 100 Years, and written by Coun. Ryan Nitchie, Wayne Ashton and Gail Salter – drew near-capacity crowds for the two shows at the Centennial Theatre.

“It was an exceptional evening,” said Nitchie, who portrayed Alderman T.K. Smith, owner of the Armstrong Sawmill which was a major employer in the area. “We really celebrated our birthday quite well and it seemed the audience and actors all enjoyed themselves.”

Ashton portrayed Johnny Serra, who wrote the first history book about Armstrong and served as the local jail caretaker. Serra was the narrator for the play, which opened with local partier (portrayed by Lindsay Grout) being hauled into the jail by RCMP officer (played by actual member Len Carlson) for celebrating an Armstrong lacrosse victory over Vernon too well.

The play then moved to the first council meeting with Mayor James Milton Wright (current Mayor Chris Pieper) calling things to order. First order of business in 1913 was determining a start time for future council meetings.

Council then heard from a number of delegations, including Mr. George Murray of the Armstrong Band, who requested $20 for funding to cover the band’s expenses.

When told council would give due consideration to the request, Murray – portrayed by local singer/musician Paul Moore – showed his applause by breaking into a rousing rendition of Danny Boy.

Steele Fisher, a member of the Armstrong Red Apple Boys lacrosse team (played by Pat Nelson, dressed in Chuck Taylor Converse running shoes, white knee socks, Lance McGregor’s shorts, an old Armstrong lacrosse jersey and a leather helmet circa 1930s), presented council with the Shaw Cup after a 13-5 win over Vernon.

“I trust you found the field, which was newly seeded with clover, to your liking?” asked Mayor Wright of Fisher. “Perhaps it was the luck of Armstrong’s Shamrock Field that propelled your team to victory.”

“Perhaps it was, your worship,” replied Fisher. “And I must say: Armstrong’s Shamrocks has quite a ring to it.”

Board of Trade president Mr. Young (Andrew Laird) requested $25 from council for yearly funding to cover expenses.

Alderman Leverington (Coun. Sully O’Sullivan) didn’t want trade members working on Sundays.

Three ladies – Amy Hayhurst, Dorothy Schon and Miss Richardson (played as nurses by Doris Faris, Sue Gubbels and Penny Taylor, respectively) asked council for a monthly grant of $25 to help local doctors accommodate serious cases and surgeries in Armstrong.

But what got the audience roaring was a discussion from Mrs. Wolfenden (Janet Macdonald) about problem sheep “clogging our roadways, trampling our boardwalk, disturbing our peace with their incessant bahhhhing, and defecating wherever they please.”

Said Alderman Smith: “I too have noticed chaos and confusion within our two main traffic corridors, quite often the sheep are confused and move in an east-to-west direction on the north side of the street, then will change and move in a west-to-east direction on the south side of the street. Some days it is reversed.”

Smith moved that council designate the north side of the street to allow buggies, horses and motor cars to move in an east-to-west direction, and on the south side, traffic – including sheep – will move in a west-to-east direction.

“Why not the other way around?” deadpanned Leverington.

The scene was an homage to Armstrong’s Pleasant Valley Boulevard, which does have one-way streets going in an east-to-west and west-to-east direction.

“We did take some licence with that,” laughed Nitchie, but a picture held up by Macdonald during the scene clearly showed the road overrun by sheep moving in an easterly direction. The incident happened in the 1950s.

The inaugural council meeting was held in the opera house which stood where Nelson’s Glass is currently located. The opera house burned in July 1919.