Plaque remembers Governor General’s visit

Urban Oddities: Sixth in an occasional series

Then-Governor General Ed Schreyer visited Nelson on May 30

No matter how many thousands of times I’ve walked down Baker Street, there’s always something I’ve missed.

Case in point: a plaque in the 500 block amenity area outside the Twisted Tomato which reads: “Nelson Heritage Centre/Dedicated by His Excellency/Edward Schreyer/Governor General of Canada/May 30, 1983.”

The commemorative marker is camouflaged against the stonework and well below eye level, so I never noticed it until recently. But the Nelson Daily News of the following day reveals all.

Schreyer, a former Manitoba premier and MP, arrived at the airport by helicopter and was escorted to city hall to meet with mayor Louis Maglio and council. They repaired to the Hume Hotel (then called the Heritage Inn) for lunch, which included a unique menu: smoked kokanee salmon, borsch, quiche, and huckleberry tarts with locally-picked fruit.

Schreyer told assembled dignitaries he first visited West Kootenay in 1971 at the conclusion of a conference in Victoria thought key to the patriation of the constitution. (Turns out it took another 11 years.)

Schreyer went to Nakusp to visit his former House of Commons seatmate, longtime Kootenay West MP Bert Herridge, “whose support and affinity for the Crown was as solid as that of any friend I have ever known.”

Asked about his role as vice-regal, Schreyer said he wrote 10-page letters to the Queen four times per year describing Canada’s situation.

After lunch, the gathering moved to Baker Street where Schreyer unveiled the aforementioned plaque honoring Nelson’s downtown revitalization program.

“The sidewalk was crowded with most of the student body of St. Joseph’s School, as well as a smattering of students from other elementary schools who had taken a short break to meet the Governor General,” the Daily News wrote.

“Faced by the sea of children, smiling eagerly and holding their hands out shyly for a shake, Schreyer became animated, chatting cheerfully with the youngsters as he moved along the sidewalk, flanked by mayor Maglio.”

After speaking with master stonecutter Lawrence Simpson, who supervised the cutting of the granite blocks for the amenity area, and stonemason Gerhard Renk, Schreyer placed a lucky penny above the plaque and smoothed concrete over it.

He “conveyed greetings from the Queen to the crowd and then accepted an honorary badge from a group of Girl Guides,” the newspaper said.

Afterwards, he toured Nelson’s heritage buildings — those recently restored, and others that still needed work.

Schreyer was Governor General for about another year after visiting Nelson.

According to Wikipedia, he was “praised for raising the stature of Ukrainian Canadians, though disparaged for his lacklusture vigour in exercising the role of Governor General.”

However, he was a hit on his visit here.

He went on to serve as Canada’s High Commissioner to several Pacific Rim nations, and ran unsuccessfully in the 2006 federal election — a first for a former Governor General.

Schreyer is now 75.

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