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Museum virtual exhibit harkens to the Spanish Flu era

Sonja takes in the “social scenery” and a little Smithers history
Across the Valley - Sonja Lester

I will start this week’s column with a thank you to everyone who has contributed by giving me tips or an idea. Our valley has an enormous presence in the past as it does in our present — which glimpses us into our future. As my daughter says, it is nice to feel the “social scenery.”

A friend gave me a clipping of The Interior News from April 18, 2018 about an exhibit by the Bulkley Valley Museum that traced the deadly Spanish Flu to its arrival in Smithers. Because the exhibit must go virtual again this year, Kira Westby, the museum curator sent me a link.

It is considered that in October 1918 the Spanish Flu came to Smithers by train. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was a major link between Prince George and Prince Rupert for both passengers and railway workers.

We had neither a doctor nor hospital. The nearest doctor was Dr. Horace Wrinch in Hazelton. The last week of October, 2018, our then gov’t agent, Stephen Hoskins, converted the Smithers Public School, near King and Second, into a temporary emergency hospital.

With the help of many in the community they quickly had the hospital “in good working order,” the paper stated. “By the evening of Oct. 30th all of the beds in the emergency hospital were full.’

Dr. Wrinch was the only doctor between Terrace and Vanderhoof and he was responsible, within his communities, to control the spread. He implemented bans on public gatherings, social events, cancelled school classes and church services.

“Daily life in Smithers was effectively on hold for the time being,” the article read.

By November 14, 1918 the outbreak was coming to an end with no new cases at the emergency hospital.

There is much more in the virtual link, such as with the two young adults who sadly died, the effect on the Indigenous communities and the flu aftermath.

I was able to print a copy if anyone needs one.

Please contact me or call 250-847-4414 if you have anything that can contribute to our social scenery.