I decided to write this weeks column about preserving and maintaining our downtown Milk Jug ; the Battle of Vimy Ridge celebrations were in the back of my mind. As you may or may not know, the Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 1917 WW1) was the successful battle of mainly four Canadian units against three German units at a strategic escarpment in the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France. The Canadians were brave and fierce and sacrificed themselves for our freedom and liberty.
Having said that, The Memorial Tower (Milk Jug) was built between 1946 and 1949 to honor men and women who died during the Second World War. The Tower was originally incorporated into the Memorial Gardens complex which was demolished in 2006 due to an aging infrastructure. During construction of the new arena, good sound political decision making was also incorporated, and the tower was salvaged and remains a historic part of our city and heritage. Inside the tower is a wreath and there is a list of the names of local Saulites who did not return home from the War. On game nights when our Greyhounds play, the red beacon on top of the tower is lit red to commemorate those who sacrificed themselves.
My original reason for penning this article came to me as I was walking down Queen St early one morning last week and realized how bland and boring the structure seemed to be, especially in the heart of our downtown core and the proximity to the Agawa Canyon train station and hotels nearby that bring us our tourist influx $$$ from May until mid October.
Our Memorial Tower is a landmark that is on many postcards and local advertising. Having said that, why does it look like an old fading milk jug from the seventies ? Originally it blended in nicely with the original Gardens complex, but now that it stands alone, it seems lost, dazed and confused. It’s been about 11 years since the new arena was built and the Tower is looking like it needs some attention. I know there have been some renovations over the years, but I think it needs a new lease on life. My suggestion is some generous coats of red and white paint and a Maple Leaf or many, incorporated on it.
If you drive through many communities throughout the world, you’ll see sights such as large bright water towers or landmarks rising into the sky ; you’ll see majestic churches with steeples high to the Heavens. Things like this give personality to a community.
I was very pleased a few years ago when the Hilsinger family did what I’d been suggesting for some time (in other Letters/Editorial) ; for the city or a private investor to paint the water tower. It was rusting and looked like hell. It is visible from all areas of the city and from the I-75 in northern Michigan. When people arrive and pass by and there is nothing but rust and an ugly facade, it sends a message that our city is struggling (why invest ?). Even though Mr Hilsinger had his Inn’s logo painted on it and not a city logo, it still makes for a sharp and classy landmark. It is constantly being viewed, as it is in our prime axis for transport and commerce through our city. I always felt passionate about this idea; I started to first take notice years ago on my way to Traverse City and saw a little hamlet named Kalkaska had their tower painted bright and proud. I thought, “ours’ is five times as big and can be seen for miles ; why hasn’t anything been done” ?
Anyway, I found hundreds of Google Images that that show city landmarks painted with all kinds of colorful themes. If you search, you’ll find smiling faces, rainbows, and all sorts of interesting ideas on structures that can be seen or read from a great distance. One my favorites is from a small American town called Gaffney SC ; they incorporate there local peach industry into a water tower. Check this out !! The tower is literally painted like a peach ! It includes the little peach bum and peach fuzz and there is also a leaf at the top. The stem incorporates the city name. This is forward thinking and creates ………..commerce and investment . How so ? How many of you have pulled off Hwy 17 to get a picture of the Wawa Goose ?, or the Mystery Spot off the I-75 just west of St. Ignace ? Yes, as you make your excursion, you stop for gas, grab food, by a post card etc. Maybe Gaffney has a pie stand and pie orchard tours ; Hey, you can grab a piece of Peach pie while standing next to the giant peach on “roids”. These things will put your community on the map. If it’s odd or eye catching, you remember it!. The everyday things don’t stand out, the extraordinary things do……..like a huge “Mackinaw peach Jerry!!” (Seinfeld) or a freshly painted milk jug (Off Cable)….No, I am not joking. That is how marketing and advertising works.
Now, getting back to the milk jug (Memorial Tower), we pay our respects to the heroes of both World Wars every time we sing or stand at attention during out national anthem and this a a tradition that has stood the test of time. It shows our patriotism and it makes us proud to be living in a free and relatively democratic country. Of course we have our challenges in Canada and here in Sault Ste. Marie, but on the whole we are pretty lucky. All you have to do is click on any credible news channel and you’ll be bombarded with war and turmoil.
So for the sake of our country and community, let’s polish this old gem that sits in the parking lot of the (Sault Ste. Marie Memorial Events Centre), and make it stand out again.
There is always money in the city coffers for different projects and various studies, so there should be money in it for something that doesn’t need a study; just a vote. I looked into funding options myself, and there are numerous Heritage and Historical designated grants and funds out there for us to tap into. The problem is I passed out from exhaustion trying to read through the jargon and requirements that needed to be met; so I was thinking that, maybe the city could get an articling student from one of the law firms that are represented at the council table to do the leg work and get this project started.
I formally ask our city councilors to bring about a motion during the next council meeting and in the spirit of Easter weekend, “resurrect our Memorial Tower”
Happy Easter Everyone,
Ernest Skinner Jr.