I just returned from a road trip back to my home town for a class reunion. This year we are all 60 years old and this reunion was a big birthday party to celebrate our survival this long.
However this post is not about that reunion … it’s about a side trip I took while on my road trip.
Several months ago I ran across an article about towns with unusual names. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the name of this tiny community about 140 km south of my home town – but I was.
You see, I had never given this town much thought before – Teenage Me had shown little interest in the neighbouring communities, but in my defense, this town was located off the main highway and I never had any reason to travel there.
Current Me however, now knew I just HAD to visit this little community with the quirky name.
The first thing that comes to mind – at least to my mind – is, how on earth did this town survive World War II without a name change? Although the swastika is an ancient symbol for good fortune, it is now unfortunately forever linked to the Nazi political party responsible for WW II. It is a word that conjures up an ugly history.
But the town name survived.
Coincidentally, the same day I took my side tour, I discovered that the father of one of my former classmates had been born and raised in Swastika. I learned there had been considerable pressure by the provincial government to replace the offending name in the 1940s – but the community refused to do so.
Their rationale was that the town of Swastika had been around a lot longer than Hitler’s Nazis and they were not going to relinquish this piece of their history. They rejected the government plan to change their name to Winston … a patriotic name intended to honour Winston Churchill.
In spite of the resistance, the Ontario government used the passive-aggressive approach of simply replacing all the road signs with the new name, but residents promptly took all the signs down and restored them with the original name.
Eventually the Ontario government conceded.
What I found while on my detour was a pretty, blink-or-you’ll-miss-it town on the edge of the larger community of Kirkland Lake to which it has now been amalgamated.
Swastika’s origins go back to 1908 when it was a railway siding, and the growing town was named after the new Swastika Gold Mine. However, unlike the gold mines in nearby Kirkland Lake, Swastika Gold did not flourish and ultimately closed.
To add further insult, passenger train service in Northern Ontario was discontinued in 2012 and trains no longer stop here, but there is still a sign for bus service even though the building looked deserted and derelict.
Is there a town with an unusual name or history in your corner of the world? I’d love to hear about it.