In the earliest days of McBride, power was only available to the Grand Trunk Pacific Station as they produced the only power in town. When the Empress Theatre brought in movies and required power to operate, the railway would provide the power and for the most part, kept everything running smoothly. By the 1930’s , CNR (which had taken over GTP), was providing limited power to the town, which meant that Monday was wash day and you had to be done by lunch time as power was only on until noon. Tuesday was ironing day, and again, if you needed power for this, it had be done by noon. The schools also had the same restrictions—movies had to be shown on Monday’s or Tuesday’s before lunch time or not shown at all. It wasn’t until later that CN’s machinist, Jim Flemming, managed to establish a diesel generator that ran 24 hours a day, supplying the town with power.
In 1954, power generating was taken over by a provincial commission, when they built a power station in this location. October 9th, the switch was turned on for the first time. Although thrilled with the new system, the euphoria only lasted a few years. Within three years, there was considerable dissatisfaction with the high cost and quality of power that was being created.
It wasn’t until November 29th, 1982 that McBride was finally attached to the provincial power grid. With complaints about the frequency of power outages, BC Hydro installed back up generators to be used when power goes out outside of the town. Today, many residents use the analogy that McBride is at the end of a long extension cord on BC’s power system.
Photo by Matthew Wheeler.