From North Thompson sawmills to a Canadian ocean liner disaster, this year’s Kamloops-Thompson Regional Heritage Fair offered a glimpse into what interests students about history.
The annual event, which was held at Henry Grube Education Centre on Friday, marked the culmination of months of work for the 120 elementary students from the Kamloops-Thompson School District who attended.
For Sara Kate Smith, a Grade 7 student at Barriere elementary, it was her family’s history in the region that attracted her attention.
Using history books and interviews with family members, Sara explored the life of her great grandfather, Gilbert Smith, who founded Gilbert Smith Forest Products in Barriere.
“I wanted to do it more so on his personal life so everyone would know the history behind the name,” she said. “I wanted to make him proud.”
She learned Smith had four sons, the youngest of which is her grandfather, Carman Smith. Her great grandfather was born in Northern Saskatchewan in 1890 and came to Kamloops with his family in 1906.
Smith worked for the forest industry in various capacities until his later years, when he was told he wasn’t allowed to leave waste in the woods where he was logging, she said. As a solution, he started his own mill.
Sara built part of her display from wood cut at the Gilbert Smith mill and mounted a written version of her interviews and family pictures on it. She also found a hat like the one her great grandfather wore and an old saw from the mill.
The project gave her a better understanding of where she came from, said Sara.
Her classmate, Danny Purcha, examined the history of the RMS Empress of Ireland, which sunk in the St. Lawrence River on May 29, 1914 following a collision with a Norwegian vessel.
He was attracted to the project because, in his mind, this is a Canadian tragedy on par with the more widely publicized sinking of the Titanic.
Of the 1,477 passengers on board, only 465 survived. Among the dead were 134 children, he said. The last survivor, Grace Martyn, died on May 15, 1995, one day before her 89th birthday.
He pointed to pictures of the Empress and the Titanic, showing how the vessels looked the same. Danny said the Empress is actually smaller.
Fair chair Catherine Gorman said the five top finishers at the regional event will go to a provincial heritage fair in Abbotsford in late June or early July.