Look to Alberni’s past to compass the future

Celebrating our centennial forces us to look at our past and affords us the opportunity to learn from our history.

Alberni Valley citizens filled the Alberni District Secondary School Auditorium on the weekend to kick off the 100th anniversary of Port Alberni’s incorporation.

Celebrating our centennial forces us to look at our past, and affords us, as Mayor John Douglas stated in his centennial speech, the opportunity to learn from our history so we may forge our future.

It is a good message, and it behooves all of us to take it to heart.

Something that stands out about many stories from 1910–1912, our city’s formative years, is how fleeting business could be—and, moreover, how our predecessors got past it and moved on.

When the city’s first mayor, Arthur Waterhouse, accompanied a fellow Victoria businessman by ship up the Alberni Inlet with plans to build a wharf, the remnants of our community’s first sawmill could barely be seen in the undergrowth. Yet it had only been a decade since the Anderson Mill had prospered.

Mills came, they were a success, they burned down or they burned out. New mills were built. Stores opened, moved, closed. New stores opened in their stead. Business carried on.

This is a valuable message to take away from our centennial celebrations: stasis doesn’t have to be our future.

While our past may define us, it does not have to doom us to repeat the negative parts. Port Alberni is considered the birthplace of the B.C. forestry industry. At one time, we were an economic driver in the province.

One hundred years ago, we were going places. There’s no reason that can’t still be the case.