Sunday, April 12, 2009

History on the Streets - Burnaby British Columbia Canada

Since June 2008, the city I live in, Burnaby, in British Columbia, Canada, has been wrapping traffic signal boxes as an anti-graffiti measure. There's one at the pedestrian crossing I use most days. It's very pleasing to my eyes as it's covered in irises - one of my favourite flowers.

But lately historically wrapped boxes have appeared around Burnaby. These traffic boxes feature references relevant to the area they're placed in. Excellent idea!

I live a block away from historic North Road, built along a trail laid out by the Royal Engineers in 1859 - 150 years ago - from Sapper town (Sapperton, New Westminster) on the Fraser River to the Burrard Inlet near Port Moody. All the boxes in my area illustrate North Road history - with a rather large picture of Colonel Richard Clement Moody who commanded the Royal Engineers while they were posted here.

Quite a number of Royal Engineers stayed in British Columbia (but none of the officers, I believe). Many became well known locally. There is a lot of interest in their history here.

Over the last two years, researchers Jacqueline Gresko and Anita Bonson have been tracing the families of the Royal Engineers who did settle in BC. An article in The British Columbia Genealogist (Volume 37 #2, June 2008) discussed their project. They'll be speaking about their research to the New Westminster Historical Society in November, 2009. And, the Royal Engineers Living History Group, a lively group of re-enactors, is "dedicated to keeping alive the memory of the Royal Engineers and their times." Members are often seen in New Westminster and beyond. It's well worth attending one of their events.

While the Colonel is not one of my own favourite characters from British Columbia's history, I certainly appreciate having these very visible historical references in my city. If you live in Burnaby, don't just walk (or worse, drive) by a traffic box. Stop carefully and have a look.

Congratulations go to those who thought up this project, to those who approved it, and to those who put it all together!

Photographs taken by M. Diane Rogers with her little telephone, April 2009.

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