Skip to content

Celebrating 50 years as one city

The city has unveiled its plans to celebrate 50 years of amalgamation

THUNDER BAY - Next year will mark 50 years since two cities joined together to become one and city officials are hoping despite many people still identifying as either from Port Arthur or Fort William, everyone will come together to celebrate the city’s coming together.

“I have no problem when people refer to Port Arthur and Fort William,” said Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro. “They are just like neighbourhoods like Current River, Westfort, Northwood. We are a community of very defined neighbourhoods. That’s part of our history.”

It was back in 1970 when the city of Thunder Bay was officially born following the amalgamation of Port Arthur and Fort William.

To celebrate Thunder Bay’s past 50 years as a united entity, the city is marking 2020 as its anniversary year and will be holding events throughout to celebrate.

The year will begin with a special celebration in conjunction with HMCS Griffin during the New Year’s celebration, as well as the opening of a time capsule buried 25 years ago.

“So 25 years ago, the city of Thunder Bay put things into a time capsule, sealed it off, welded it shut, and we have no idea what’s in it,” said Shelby Ch’ng, chair of the 50th Anniversary Committee. “That will be our event to kick off the year.”

“Over the course of the year we will be thinking of things to put into the next time capsule,” Ch’ng continued. “So people are going to be able to submit their ideas and possibly things to put in the next one to be opened in the next 25 years.”

A 50th Anniversary logo was also designed and unveiled on Tuesday and includes a ‘5’ representing images from Port Arthur and a ‘0’ with images representing Fort William.

Events held throughout the year will include 50th anniversary themes and the city will be hosting special events including a dedicated art transit bus, legacy projects, and a Homecoming birthday celebration in August.

“One of the big things I am really excited about is the digital walking tour,” Ch’ng said. “It is an app on your phone where you can take tours around Thunder Bay and it’s an audio tour as well. It’s being developed right now for our 50th anniversary.”

Looking back on the last 50 years, Mauro said it’s fun to think of what might have been, and what should have been.

“Politically there is a part of me, I don’t mind saying, I think if we had remained two cities, there would have been some political friction that would have existed that probably would have been to our benefit,” he said. “I think the competition amongst municipalities, especially when you are as isolated as we are, can be a good thing.”

There is also the story people love to tell about how Thunder Bay got its name, and how it probably shouldn’t have.

When it was determined the two cities would be amalgamated, a vote was held to find a name for the new city, which included three options: Lakehead, The Lakehead, and Thunder Bay.

“Certainly Lakehead and The Lakehead combined garnered by far the majority of the vote and if they hadn’t done that, we would have been Lakehead,” Mauro said. “So somebody was doing something back then and having some fun and wanted Thunder Bay and got Thunder Bay and that’s what we are.”

But whatever the name and whatever the reasons for joining two cities together, Mauro hopes people here and from afar will take some time to remember the last 50 years and celebrate moving forward.

“So it’s lots of fun, lots of reminiscing,” Mauro said. “I’m hoping the word will get out and maybe a lot of people will find their way to come back Thunder Bay during 2020 to revisit the city that was their home.”

For more information visit the city’s 50th Anniversary website.  

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
Read more