Celebrating a milestone in Old Perlican
Town to mark 40 years of municipal government this summer
Forty years ago, the community of Old Perlican was a different place. There was no breakwater, no garbage collection, no streetlights, and little in the way of local government, excluding a local road committee operating with a small grant to fill potholes.
In July of 1971, a path was set that would change all this. That summer, residents of the community elected its first town council. This August, the town will celebrate the 40th anniversary of incorporation with a series of special events.
Fred Cram, a retired teacher and former principal at E.J Pratt High School in Brownsdale, which closed in 2003, was a member of the original council. He started out as deputy mayor, but 11 months in he switched places with Warren Green and served as mayor for almost 10 years.
Cram says the roots of incorporation started with the Old Perlican Harbour Improvement Committee, which was elected in 1966. While it was focused on matters relating to the harbour, talk periodically covered other issues in town.
“ They saw the benefits of having a town council,” says Cram, who served as a secretary on the committee.
In 1967, the committee was in discussions with the federal Department of Regional Economic Expansion, a forerunner to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. It was looking for funds to go towards providing a freshwater supply to the local fish plant, operated at the time by Bird’s Eye Seafoods.
Funding was available to provide not only water from Bell Pond to the plant, but also to provide water and sewer services for resident of the town. To obtain those funds, Old Perlican had to incorporate.
The area’s Member of the House Assembly at the time, William Saunders, encouraged the committee to contact the Department of Municipal Affairs, setting in motion a community vote on the topic of incorporation in 1968. The first attempt at incorporating failed. Funding was secured to provide a water line for the fish plant, but the rest of the community was left out, as a result.
“I think people are afraid of change,” says Cram. “This was a big change. The rumour mill started immediately that your chopping block would be taxed.”
Cram goes on to say people could not initially comprehend the benefits of incorporating, which overpowered any disadvantages.
The committee remained determined to form an incorporated community. This led to a second vote in the winter of 1971, and this time residents chose to accept incorporation, with 54 per cent of voting residents offering their support.
The vote was a prelude to the first municipal election for Old Perlican on July 23, 1971. Elected were Cram, Green, Ronald Bursey, Frank Burt, Robert Cram, Erik Strong, and Chesley Squires, who received the most votes in the election. Six of the seven elected members had already served on the harbour committee. A month after the vote, W. J. Squires became Old Perlican’s first town clerk.
From there, council worked on improving roads in the community, replacing wooden bridges with steel, corrugated pipe, introducing garbage collection and a new dump site, installing streetlights, and establishing an ambulance service.
Council drafted a town plan that focused on creating an economic base for the community and providing water and sewer services. The fishery was a big part of the economic portion of the plan, and obtaining a breakwater was considered a key development, says Cram. He says pushing the federal government to build two breakwaters was probably council’s most significant accomplishment at the time.
Today, the fishery remains a pillar of the community, with Quinlan Brothers operating three plants in the community.
“Things have prospered here, and the last 40 years have found that even with the slump in the economy and the cod moratorium and all the things that have gone against us, Old Perlican didn’t smirk. Old Perlican became better and better.”
To mark the 40th anniversary of incorporation, the town has formed a steering committee headed by Mayor Harry Strong to plan activities for the summer. Mayor Strong says celebrations will take place Aug. 10-14, and the town will be promoting 2011 as a come home year for Old Perlican.
It has been 40 years since residents of Old Perlican voted to become an incorporated municipality. From Aug. 10-14, the town will be holding events to celebrate the anniversary as part of a come home year.
Fred Cram served on Old Perlican’s original council in 1971, and a year later he became its second mayor, a position he held until 1981.