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Death of Albert "Ginger" Goodwin Transcript
Robin Folvik: My name is Robin Folvik and I'm joined by Anna Rambow as representatives of the Cumberland Museum and Archives and the Miners Memorial Organizing Committee.
We are both honoured to be here with you to reflect on events that happened around the 100-year anniversary of Albert "Ginger" Goodwin's death. And they were held in Cumberland, BC, unceded K’omoks territory back in 2018.
I'd like to acknowledge others in the room that were involved that joined us today: Marianne Bell, Karen Melnyck, and Joanna Lord. I believe Mayor Leslie Baird might be here as well, I'm not quite sure yet.
So, Albert "Ginger" Goodwin - “Ginger" because of his hair - was a coal mine originally from England who moved to Cumberland in 1910 to work at the Number 5 mine. He quickly became prominent in Cumberland and across BC as a labour organizer and activist, a socialist, a very outspoken critic and eventual resistor of World War One. He advocated for a complete overhaul of the socio-economic order and viewed the war as an extension of the capitalist system he hoped dismantle.
On July 27, 1918, he was shot by Special Constable Dan Campbell in the mountains near Cumberland under suspicious circumstances, which brought downtown Vancouver to a halt, was one of Canada's first general strikes, and resulted with showdown with returned military veterans.
It also resulted in one of the largest funeral processions ever witnessed in Cumberland, with returned veterans and full military dress, including Cumberland's Chief of Police joining in and marching at the front.
In Cumberland, the community divides at the time were more firmly rooted and longer-lasting over who had scabbed during the big strike of 1912 to 1914, rather than one stance on the war.
If not for being shot, perhaps if he'd been killed in a mining accident instead, it's hard to determine how Goodwin would be remembered today. He's certainly left a mark on BC's labour movement, but locals are quick to tell you that there were others that were engaged in the same battles.
But because he was shot and the story translatable into something about being about someone who was killed because of their principles, his death and how it happened has given his story heightened meaning and captures attention. People want to learn more.
He's become a symbol and starting point for unpacking a more complicated, but more complete history, that includes the perspectives of working people, of those that held anti-war perspectives, of different definitions of courage and sources of community pride.
It doesn't escape us that Goodwin and his contemporaries might be a little surprised to find out that we were standing here today with you, both his supporters and his detractors. Some might be surprised today.
The appearance, disappearance, and then reappearance of highway signs marking Ginger Goodwin's way near Cumberland provides but one example of the continued controversy surrounding him.
But we should not shy away from controversy and challenging moments from our past. While the types of history we value and celebrate has expanded, there remains a narrow window of knowledge and dialogue on a larger scale.
The spotlight can shine brightly on certain figures or moments that seem unifying or that are deemed worthy of study or commemoration by historians or funders.
It takes greater effort at a grassroot level to insert a more disruptive historical perspective and I think that's what we accomplished with our 2018 events.
Anna Rambow: So leading up to the event, there was an exciting convergence of minds. We were community engagement professionals, curators, historians, longtime residents, artists, and labour activists who recognized that Goodwin's story had acted as a catalyst for change and was deserving of proper recognition.
But how best to do this? As a small rural museum in a village of 4,000 people, the commemoration could only be successful and meaningful if guided by community input and opportunity.
The programming needed to reflect and celebrate the diverse voices who have contributed towards keeping Goodwin's memory alive. We also wanted to use many different approaches to engage new audiences, volunteers and partners.
We began reaching out to anyone who might have shared interest in this moment. The 2018 events took on a life of their own; they became a magnet for people inspired by Goodwin's fight for a better world, alongside those who were seeking a different kind of historical celebration and community experience.
Over the course of the three-day commemoration, there were 20 distinct events with one piece of programming becoming the centerpiece for engagement.
In the years leading up to the event, community member Florence Bell, a Cumberland resident with a long story of fighting for justice, began insisting we recreate the photograph from the 1918 funeral procession.
At first the idea was viewed as impossible, given Cumberland's small population, the size of the museum, and the work involved to make it happen, but as "Flo On The Go", as she likes to be called, kept insisting, we began to ask ourselves, "Really, how could we not?"
The funeral procession reenactment became the highlight of the events and a memorable point of connection, bringing together the many people moved by Goodwin's story.
The front of the procession was a mirror of the past: a brass band led the way, a theatre group provided costumes and heritage performers for key roles, the Miners Memorial Choir shared the labour and working songs which they had learned over the course of six weeks and there was, of course, a coffin complete with pallbearers. Community members followed and Union banners proudly brought up the rear. A transition from front-to-back symbolizing the continuation of Goodwin's legacy from past to present.
We paused for this photograph, in the same location that Ken Hayashi had captured the iconic image of the funeral procession 100 years earlier. In those moments of silence, as we waited for the photograph to be taken, we collectively reflected on what it must have been like to have stood there 100 years ago.
What kind of person in our own lives would bring out such a response? What kinds of struggles today would we be willing to get involved with to make our collective lives better? More than a few tears were shed.
Through this act of remembrance and community engagement, we were honouring and paying tribute to Goodwin's life and death, while also creating a new chapter in this multifaceted history.
We would like to share this moment with you through the following video.