Hope’s power history gets a boost

Local energy heritage examined in celebration of B.C. Heritage week this month

Kimberly Campbell and Inge Wilson

Contributors

Every year in February, British Columbia Heritage Week celebrates the rich history of our province.

In 2012, the designated theme is “Energy in BC – A Powerful Past, a Sustainable Future.”

Today we often take energy for granted. We tend to forget that the lights illuminating our houses, the furnaces keeping us warm, and the refrigerators cooling our food all require power. We don’t give much thought to where that power comes from and how it reaches us.

In the latter half of the 19th century, some of the modern conveniences we know today were being developed. However, it was not until after the First World War that the electrification of the household became more common.

During the First World War, women took manufacturing jobs to help support the war effort. This meant increased money and decreased time, and so started the fashion of employing labour saving devices in and around the home.

In the early 20th century, North America saw the development of household conveniences such as the vacuum cleaner, toaster, refrigerator and electric iron.

After the Second World War, more and more homes became outfitted with washing machines, clothes dryers and self-cleaning ovens. The days of domestic servants were out and the concept of the “nuclear family unit” in.

A modern, electrified home full of creature comforts and labour saving devices was the ticket to happiness according to mass media. The only complication was finding a source of energy to meet these middle class desires.

Prior to the mid-1940s, Hope had limited electricity provided by a local diesel generator.

In 1946 the B.C. Power Commission became responsible for Hope’s electrical needs, greatly increasing electrification of the community.

B.C. Power sold its holdings in Hope five years later to the B.C. Electric Company, which then built a new 60,000 volt power line to Hope. This new line was celebrated by residents as it increased Hope’s electrical capacity and consistency, making Hope a more viable location for industrial investment.

On Sept. 4, 1957, chairman of the Hope Village Commission, Frank Rolufs, officially connected Hope to the newly constructed natural gas system, ushering in a new era of power possibilities for the community. Scores of homeowners could upgrade from dirty coal or oil fired heating systems to cleaner and hassle free natural gas furnaces and hot water tanks.

There are many energy related stories in Hope’s history and throughout February weekly Hope Standard articles will examine four of these:

• Feb. 8 – The fight to save the Skagit Valley from being flooded by the High Ross Dam

• Feb. 15 – The Wahleach Power Project west of Laidlaw

• Feb. 22 – The oil and gas pipelines through the Coquihalla Valley

• Feb. 29 – The power potential of the Fraser River and its tributaries

Demand for energy is constantly growing and by looking into our energy past, we can be better prepared and more informed in dealing with the sometimes challenging realities of our energy future.

Throughout the month of February, visit the Hope Museum display at the Hope Library to learn more about the power and energy heritage of the Hope area.

If you have any questions, comments, stories, or pictures related to power and energy in the Hope area, contact the Hope Museum at 604-869-7322 or email destinationhope@telus.net.