The Fall Fair might be turning 100 this year, but that isn’t the only element of the event celebrating a birthday.
It was 70 years ago, in 1949, that the fair’s first ever parade — now a staple of the event — took place.
As for the event, it was organized by a then-constable with the B.C. Police named Ed Corson Sr.
At the time, Corson Sr’s son Corson Jr. was a high school student in Smithers working for Herb Leach, who owned the Smithers Cash & Carry grocery store.
Corson Jr., who is returning to Smithers for this year’s fair, said he doesn’t remember too much about the parade itself because he was so busy putting together a float to enter for Leach grocery store.
“He directed me to take the Ford pickup truck which made deliveries out to friends house and create a float on it on behalf of the store.
“Well I did that and he wasn’t overly happy with what I did because I had one of the young people that worked at the store sit on a chair right behind the cab of the truck dressed up as a king with a crown on his head and a baton in his hand, and I had signs on both sides of the delivery truck [saying] ‘Leaches sell the cheapest groceries in town’ … like I said, my employer was not overly happy with the theme.”
Discussing his father, Corson Jr. said he was a real community-oriented individual, regardless of where he was living.
“He used to have a PA system that was mounted on top of his car [and] if there was any local event taking place he’d drive around town announcing the date and the time and the place of where these things were and what they were fundraising [for] or whatever it was — he would make those announcements for them.
“When it came to the parade he was out just about every night when he wasn’t working .. they had a fair number of people in attendance considering the population was only about 1,500 at the time.”
Recounting the event, Corson Jr. said his father got his girlfriend at the time, along with five of her friends, to march at the front of the parade.
“He corralled [her] and five of her female chums and arranged for them to be majorettes in the parade. Somebody in town instructed them how to twirl their batons and things like that. And they marched at the front of the parade.”
Corson Jr. said his father had always been a community-minded man, whether living in Coleman, Alta. where he would eventually take over as chief of police or in WW2-era Courtenay where he organized a softball league with teams from the Air Force, Navy and Army.
“During the war you couldn’t obtain baseball equipment — you had to play softball — so he organized that league,” said Corson Jr.
Recalling a Labour Day weekend baseball tournament his father put together (with a cash prize of $1,000 — quite a lot of money in those days) Corson Jr. remembers a particularly tense scene during a 4-4 tie in the final.
“[One team] had bases loaded, but it got so dark that they couldn’t see too well, so rather than have a riot which the people were inclined to do in those days — they took their baseball quite serious — my dad convinced them into calling it a tie and they split first and second place place between the two teams.”
Ever the community man, while living in Coleman as chief of police, Corson Sr. would go on to organize a town parade in conjunction with their July 1 celebration.
“I guess coming out of Smithers he carried over his experience into Coleman,” joked Corson Jr.
“He always kept telling me all the time the parade in Coleman was longer than the Calgary Stampede Parade — whether it was or not I don’t know, but he maintained that was a fact.”
Corson Jr. said the last time he was in Smithers was a little over a decade ago, when he drove up while he was visiting his son in Terrace.
“I found an awful lot of changes … I found that there were a few of my old school mates but recently I talked to one of my closest friends in those days [and] in a conversation with him on the telephone he was of the opinion that he and I are probably the only two that are still alive at this point in time from the ball teams that we played on.”
When asked about the irony in that he won’t be seeing the parade his father helped organize until its 70th anniversary, Corson just said he was happy to get to see the Fall Fair so successful after all these years and said he is looking forward to finally sit down on the side of Main Street and take in a part of local history his father was instrumental in helping to cultivate.
“I really never got much of a chance to watch the parade so this will be the first time I’m able to do that.
“I’m kind of excited about seeing how it’s progressed and so on and so forth. That’s going to be quite interesting, really.”
The parade this year is being held on August 21.
The Fall Fair celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and is being held between August 22 to 25.