Chamber looking for help in rediscovering former businesses

Katherine Cust (left) and Chamber manager Jaye Parrent hold a couple of glimpses of Morinville's business past. The Chamber is teaming with the Morinville Historical and Cultural Society to put together a 100 year retrospective of Morinville's business past.

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Each year the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce’s Trade show offers residents and visitors to Morinville an opportunity to learn about long-standing and new businesses in the area. But this year’s show is adding an extra element, a look back at Morinville’s 100 year history of commerce.

Tying into Morinville’s centennial celebrations, the Chamber has partnered with the Morinville Historical and Cultural Society to put together a retrospective of Morinville’s business community over its past 100 years as a town.

Historical and Cultural Society Director Murray Knight said the society is honoured to be a part of the project and are looking forward to helping the chamber with the research into Morinville’s business past.

“They want to salute the businesses past to present in the Chamber, so they are providing us with a list of names of businesses, and our goal is to flesh them out, find pictures through our records or other means,” Knight said. “The whole goal of this is to put together some dates, locations, business name, longevity of the business and put that in a PowerPoint presentation.”

Knight explained the presentation will be run throughout the spring tradeshow to give visitors a glimpse at Morinville’s business past while people take a look at the community’s commercial present. It is a glimpse of Morinville’s past that Knight believes may surprise some who view the show, particularly those who are new to the community.

“Over at the museum we were looking at some pictures and there’s a picture of Main Street there with a couple hotels, a livery stable, a general store, and you can see the church in the back,” Knight recalled. “It was pretty nice – dirt streets with a couple ruts in it, wooden sidewalks. This was a bustling town. There were businesses. It was a centre of commerce.”

But Morinville has changed gradually from the dirt road days, even over the past 30 years since Knight moved to Morinville when the community had a population of around 3,500. “Some streets just down by the Royal Bank weren’t even paved in those days,” he said. “They were still gravel.”

Local businessman Jim Turner, one of the organizers of this year’s trade show, has also seen the changes in Morinville’s business community over the years.

“When I was a teenager, Paul’s Confectionary used to be the place,” Turner said. “There was an arcade in there, pinball machines, a barber shop. That used to be sort of the hub where people would pick up their paper and get the latest news.”

It is this glimpse into Morinville’s recent and distant commercial past that the Chamber is hoping to assemble with the help of the Historical and Cultural Society and the community.

Turner said the Chamber of Commerce is currently looking to the public and business community for assistance in gathering the raw data the Historical and Cultural Society will work with.

“It’s a call out to have them bring in information or photographs of the old stores or pictures of them [former business owners] at their work,” Turner said. “Just looking at the whole history – especially if they’re new to town – I’m sure people, even who have been around for a long time, will enjoy a nice step back in history they’ll get to reminisce about.”

Anyone with information on Morinville businesses of the past can send the information directly to the Chamber office by e-mail, fax, regular mail or by dropping the items off at the chamber office off prior to their Mar. 1 deadline.

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