The story of electricity in Mission is one of conquest and change, of surmounting technological and environmental challenges and of a small, rural community progressing into the modern age.
At first, electricity simply meant light for some of Mission’s settlers — both as a residential luxury and as public street lighting — but as it became more available following the construction of the Stave Falls and Ruskin dams, the uses of electricity in the following decades created new industries and business within the community forever changing the most basic tasks of daily life.
This new exhibit, called Turn on the Juice: The Development of Electricity in Mission, showcases over 60 photographs, maps, drawings, artifacts and documents from the Mission Community Archives and the Mission Museum which chronicle the early development of power in the area between 1894 and 1930.
According to Mission Community Archives archivist Val Billesberger, many of the documents and photos on display across the 16 storyboards haven’t been seen by the public so far.
The exhibit will feature stories and objects on the marketing of electricity by local businesses (1911-1916), Mission’s first power system devised by pioneer Hori Windebank, including one of the first light bulbs sold by Windebank’s Mission City Water, Light and Power Company and the Mission Rural Street Lighting Commission, which was created to manage taxes for funding public street lighting.
Also the exhibit will narrate the dramatic story of the harnessing of the Stave River to develop hydroelectric power through the construction of the Stave Falls and Ruskin dams, featuring a BC Hydro telephone switchboard used to tell when the Ruskin dam railway track was clear enough for another railcar.
The lasting impact of hydro development in the areas surrounding the Stave Falls and Ruskin Dams will also be explored, as the Heritage Places Branch presents a “then and now” look at the sites and personalities that formed the core of these power communities.
The archives and museum exhibit display launches Feb. 19 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Power House at Stave Falls. The exhibit stays there until Feb. 26, and afterwards it can be viewed at the Mission Community Archives until March 26 and then at the Mission Museum during April and May.