Guardian Angels’ history on display
Fire, police and emergency services personnel will be honoured as part of the Port Coquitlam Heritage Society’s Guardian Angels display set up around the municipality this fall.
Uniforms, equipment and other historical items will be showcased at PoCo city hall (2580 Shaughnessy St.), the Archives (2100-2253 Leigh Sq.) and the display centre (2571 Mary Hill Rd.). The society hopes the event will commemorate the organizations the public relies on in case of emergency and inform the people about their long history in the municipality.
Pippa van Velzen, president of the PoCo Heritage and Cultural Society, said she hopes the display will conjure up memories for residents who may have had experiences with emergency officials.
“We want to honour our guardian angels,” she said. “We are hoping people will submit their memories of how they might have been helped by these people.”
One of the stories society members came across while curating the display was how PoCo’s fire hall burned down in the early 1920s, a tale that highlights how far emergency preparedness has come in the city.
Fritz Radandt, a society member, said in the early days, the responsibilities of both the fire and police chief generally rested with one person, who lived at the fire hall. A blaze in the hall’s kitchen burned down much of the building and set fire to nearby structures before crews from a neighbouring municipality arrived to help.
Firefighters were able to save their truck but most of their hoses and equipment were destroyed in the blaze.
“There was a hydrant outside and nobody thought to use it,” Radandt said. “New Westminster had to come and put it out.”
When PoCo almost went bankrupt several years later, the surviving fire truck was sold and crews responded to emergencies using a converted dump truck. That lasted until the 1950s, when a proper fire truck was purchased from Ontario; that truck is now used annually in the PoCo May Day parade.
Port Coquitlam’s police force also has a lengthy history. When the municipality was first incorporated, two officers worked out of city hall, where the jail was located. In the 1920s, a provincial force took over policing duties in PoCo, then the RCMP took charge in the 1950s.
The St. Johns Ambulance Service and Coquitlam Search and Rescue have also contributed uniforms, equipment and photographs to the display.
The opening for PoCo’s Guardian Angels was to be held today (Wednesday) at city hall. The items will be on display until December at all three locations.
Those who wish to submit their memories of PoCo’s guardian angels can do so by emailing their story to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.pocoheritage.org.