A Rose By Any Other Name …

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.

Swastika

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.

Swastika4

Swastika train and bus terminal in the background

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.

Swastika2

What I thought was a pretty little church, I decided on closer inspection was now likely someone’s home.  Oops – so sorry for trespassing.

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.

Swatista

Fireman’s Park

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.

 

 

Swastika3

Former railway and bus terminal.

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.

Swastika5.jpg

Is there a town with an unusual name or history in your corner of the world?  I’d love to hear about it.

 

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in Random Stuff, Things I Like, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

96 Responses to A Rose By Any Other Name …

  1. Pingback: A Rose By Any Other Name … — My Life Lived Full – The Punk Rock Hobo

  2. reocochran says:

    I am glad you went to your big reunion, Joanne. My 40th reunion was in 2014, I was thrilled to see a few faces, but most of my friends didn’t come. I am going to be 61 this year.
    As far as towns with cool names, I like how a north bound road from Delaware, Ohio to Lake Erie (rte 4) has towns with girls’ names, like Amanda. My oldest daughter on our way to my parents’ house would tell us as we went through the town before Caroline, OH~ “We are almost to MY town!” (We call her Carrie, mom of Skyler and Micah.)
    I am not sure if I would want to live in Swastika. Maybe it would be fine if I lived there all my life. The town’s story was a great one with a sense of humor intact. The townspeople prevailed! 😀
    The church transformed into a pretty home, the train station and bus now cancelled, makes me both happy for life going on and sad for a previous productive town along the tracks being no longer a “stop.” Great post!

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Robin. Our class has been meeting every 5 years since we turned 50, but most people in fact don’t attend.
      We noticed that those who have moved away tend to come back for the reunion while those who stayed and made their life in our home town, don’t make the effort. We aren’t sure why.
      I’m hoping that the older we get, the more inclined people will be to reconnect.

      Liked by 1 person

      • reocochran says:

        It is different with my friends, they scattered far and wide like seeds in a windstorm! New York, New Jersey, Mississippi and Texas. I live two and a glad hours away, in plain old Ohio.
        I was sorry to read about your shoulder and will hope a new adventure will come along to distract you from time, space and the old goal of getting to Thailand. Hugs!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. mickscogs says:

    Here in Victoria, we have a dairy town called Poowong. The locals emphasize the second syllable. There is a place called Spanker Knob in East Gippsland. No, not Spanker’s.
    But my favourite is Pakenham Upper. I know it’s a bit twisted, sorry.

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  4. Thank you for this side trip. I am laughing at the image of the townspeople sneaking out at night to take down all the signs. 😀

    There’s a Nowhere Else in Tasmania. Even funnier, there’s one in Queensland too. Australia seems to have a liking for double-barrel names – Wagga Wagga, Woy Woy, Woop Woop, Bong Bong. Probably people asking the local indigenous people the name of the place and the aborigines repeating it assuming the visitors were a bit slow. I still remember Spike Milligan absolutely hanging it on Woy Woy. (He lived there for a time in the 60s.)

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  5. Nancy says:

    You guys crack me up! I loved you post Joanne. What an interesting little town. I’m going to look for some unusual names down here in New Jersey since Joe seems to have Pennsylvania covered!😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How unfortunate that the ‘Good Luck’ name came to have such evil connotations. It seems that after the war, the town ceased to have any good fortune. Maybe they should have agreed to a name change. Parts of the town look really pretty, andI love that someone is living in the little church. 🙂

    Like

  7. Wow – Firstly, I still can’t believe they (Swastika) chose that hill to die on and then didn’t even die! Not the name of a town I’d be proud to live in….
    Great travel story! Love small town Canada….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Back in the ’70’s my husband and his two brothers worked for a company that laundered towels, linen, uniforms etc for many hotels and business in Dublin and surrounding counties. It was called the Swastika Laundry and was formed in 1912, but in 1939 with the Nazi party using the same ancient symbol, the company didn’t change its name but modified it to The Swastika Laundry 1912. The crazy thing is my husband’s surname is Reinhardt – his g g grandfather was Prussian.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bun Karyudo says:

    What an amazing story. I wonder if the neighboring towns of Goose Step and Sieg Heil came under the same pressure.

    Like

  10. Thanks Joanne, it’s always interesting to visit small town Canada and because there are thousands most we will only visit through other’s blogs.

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    • joannesisco says:

      That’s a good point Cheryl. The same could be said about travels around the world.
      My list is impossibly long now … all the more reason to savour the adventures that others have experienced 😉

      Like

  11. It’s hard to beat Swastika for unnecessary offensiveness and can’t believe they resisted a name change although Winston is boring. Some of the little towns you see when travelling the back roads – like Snowball, Bond Head, etc are interesting and almost always have a back story worth knowing …but hanging on to Swastika just because it had a ‘history’ of being named after a short lived mining company? Getting off the highway for side trips like this though is a great idea!

    Like

  12. boristoronto says:

    I’ve always wanted to check this place out. We talked about the name quickly via your IG post. I’ve been fascinated with the town because of that history. Also the photo’s of the church turned home are lovely.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I think this trip north has inspired me to do more of this exploration off the beaten path. When I head north, I’m usually on a mission to spent a few short days with family and friends and there isn’t usually time in there for me to explore.
      This little side trip was a pleasant treat though and I’m prepared to do more of that!! 🙂

      Like

      • boristoronto says:

        Northern Ontario has always both inspired, scared and intrigued me for years. A beautiful yet harsh environment. I’ve always wanted to visit the most remote of settlements, especially ones that are out of the way and not near the main roads to see who would live there, why and how they manage. It’s a fascinating place.

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  13. joey says:

    Trippy. That’s all I can say about that. Trippy. I wouldn’t want to live in Swastika. I don’t even like typing it. Ick. I wonder what motivated the townspeople to adhere to their original name?

    Indiana is loaded with weird names. I went to Ball State University, aka Ball U. Yeah, so that’s a thing. Ball U doesn’t make people think of ball jars, hm?
    We have French Lick, Wanamaker, Floyd’s Knob, Santa Claus, (yes, really) Friendship, Hope, Harmony, Liberty, Progress, Carbon, Gas City, Toad Hop, Warsaw, Gnaw Bone, Munster, and a host of interesting Native American names.
    I think all of these are better than Swastika.

    Like

  14. Wow, what an interesting story. I love the church converted into a home. I used to live in Missouri, we had Cherry Box and Climax Springs.

    Like

  15. Well… returning home I passed Orgia, if it counts 😀 Great to hear about the town. I admit that if I heard about the town, I’d think reasons for calling it thus lie elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. RuthsArc says:

    Fascinating Joanne. What courage the locals of the 1940’s displayed in choosing to keep the name.

    Like

  17. It cracked me up that the government put up new signs and the townspeople took them down. The name is a little usual. I probably would have been on the side that wanted to change it 🙂 Beautiful photos, Joanne. Hope you had fun at your reunion!

    Like

  18. What a neat side trip, and pretty church turned house. I’m not sure I’d want to live there with that name, but since they didn’t want to change the name I’m glad they got to keep it.

    Names of cities in California that make smile or giggle are: Chowchilla, and Weed. Death Valley used to make me stop and wonder what happens there when I was girl. 🙂

    Great post and images!

    Like

  19. Rebekah M says:

    This was really interesting. I love how they resisted the name change, but I certainly wouldn’t want to say “I’m from Swastika”. Unfortunately that word and sign is forever etched in out minds as the symbol of evil, no matter what it meant before.

    I’ve been through Saint-Louis-de-Ha!-Ha! many times. Wouldn’t want to introduce myself as being from there either. Newfoundland is good for oodles of cute and funny place names.

    Like

  20. Swastika held firm, while Waterloo, Ontario, which used to be called Berlin, gave in and changed its name.

    Like

  21. bikerchick57 says:

    I Googled “strange town names in Wisconsin” and this is what I got:
    http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/wisconsin/towns-wi/

    Funny thing, I’ve known most of these towns/cities and I don’t find any of them strange. One not listed there: Zittau. It may remind you of a teenager’s skin issue, but they have the best cheese curds in the area. And Slim & Mary Ann’s bar has been there forever, still going strong. Very small town, if you blink, you’ll miss it.

    Like

  22. Su Leslie says:

    Great post Joanne. I’m impressed that the town resisted a name change at a time when patriotic fervour and Nazi hatred must have been intense. I love that your side-trip was enlightening. Since the Big T and I have been contemplating moving out of Auckland, we’ve been trying to go to those places we’ve driven by for years and never explored. We haven’t found any stories as fascinating as yours, but it’s great to at least fill in the gaps in our local,knowledge. Britain is so full of weird, funny, risqué place names it’s difficult to know where to start. When we lived there, we could spend hours with a map planning cycle routes that would take us through as many villages with silly names as possible.

    Like

  23. Tippy Gnu says:

    I just love it when people can get away with resisting officious governments.

    Southern California has a number of unusual city names. Just consider Anaheim. It’s famous for being the site of Disneyland, but it’s still a funny sounding name to me. We also have Rancho Cucamonga, Azusa (which claims to have everything from A to z in the usa), and Diamond Bar (named after a pattern formed by several freeways that come together in that town). But my favorite name is Oxnard. Kind of a disgusting sounding name, when you think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. DailyMusings says:

    Such an interesting history of what seems like a quaint town- but the name just conjures up evil for me when seeing it. I understand a town not wanting to change it, but it can’t do much for tourism I would think 🙂

    Like

  25. What an interesting history lesson! Although I understand why some would want to change the name, I’m glad they resisted. It’s not like it was originally named after something that is no longer considered proper (a racist name, for instance that is no longer acceptable). As far as where I live, I think you already know about Zzyzx. Then there is Tarzana which is actually named after Tarzan.

    Like

  26. Mara Eastern says:

    That’s such an interesting story! I understand that the locals are defiantly proud of their town’s name, no matter what its connotations might be. It’s like the mother loving the ugly child nonetheless… I’ve been to a village called The Other World. It had indeed a very other-worldly feel about it. It was very small and there were no people to be seen anywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joannesisco says:

      I liked this story because it made me believe that even a small town can fight and win against the bigger government 🙂

      The Other World? I wonder what the story behind that name was!!

      Like

      • Mara Eastern says:

        Yes, sometimes the small manage to win over the big, which is good news 🙂 I too wonder what the story behind The Other World village name is, but there was no one around to ask, so it remains, conveniently, a mystery.

        Liked by 1 person

  27. Chez Shea says:

    I love this. Place names are so important. As you say, the name itself predates any political hijack which happened. It has it’s own integrity.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I had the aha moment after I published this that we are talking about it BECAUSE they kept their name. Obviously if this tiny community was now called Winston, it wouldn’t be interesting at all.

      Like

  28. I looked through the list of NH towns and didn’t find anything near as controversial as this. If I had a choice, I don’t think I’d choose to move to Swastika but I liked the photos and the town history. 🙂

    Like

  29. Dan Antion says:

    That’s a pretty interesting name. I’m not sure I’d want to have to deal with that, but I think I’m glad they kept it.

    Like

  30. Norm 2.0 says:

    I love that the townsfolk didn’t cave to the dimwit provincial government bureaucrats. Great shots with this post too 🙂
    In Quebec, just southeast of Rivière-du-Loup on the way towards New Brunswick there’s a town called Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! – and yes the town name includes the exclamation marks 😀

    Like

  31. jan says:

    There’s a group of libertarians in Northern California who want to secede from the United States and start a new country called Jefferson. Not as controversial as Swastika or silly – just goofy.

    Like

  32. What an interesting story. Current you was smart to stop there. 🙂

    Like

  33. nrhatch says:

    Like Joe, my thoughts gravitated to some of the funny community names in Pennsylvania Dutch country ~ like Bird in Hand, Intercourse, Paradise, Fertility, and Blue Ball.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancaster_County,_Pennsylvania

    Like

  34. I know there are a lot of towns with dirty names.I’ve never gone to any though. I don’t know though, Swatstika just doesn’t seem to have great luck. Maybe they should change the name. If they had the name first, I see the rationale in keeping it but I would constantly be worrying that there was some kind of karma attached.

    Like

  35. Sue Slaght says:

    Joanne that is fascinating. Especially that the little town refused to change and took down the provincial signs. Growing up on the prairies there seem to be a lot of interesting names such as Moose Jaw.

    Like

  36. Joe says:

    I love this post Joanne along with the images 😊 I often look for odd named towns when traveling and we have our fair share of them in the good old USA. Personally I would rather live in Swastika than Intercourse or Blue Balls Pennsylvania 😳

    Liked by 2 people

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