What­ever hap­pened to Pear­son’s Peak?

The Compass - - OPINION -

As soon as I spied the post­card at an auc­tion, I knew I wasn’t “los­ing it.”

It’s a de­pic­tion of our prov­ince’s so-called Trans-Canada High­way Tower, more fa­mil­iarly known as Pear­son’s Peak. Ac­cord­ing to a no­ta­tion on the re­verse, the rock pil­lar was erected at the half­way mark be­tween Port aux Basques and St. John’s to com­mem­o­rate the com­ple­tion of the TCH in New­found­land.

I vividly re­mem­ber as a child driv­ing with my par­ents and sib­lings past this im­pos­ing ob­ject which tow­ered above the trees just off the high­way. Truth be known, we prob­a­bly left the road and drove up the 100 or so me­tres to take a closer look at it.

How­ever, in more re­cent years, I had never seen Pear­son’s Peak in my fre­quent trips across the is­land and of­ten won­dered what had hap­pened to it. Had it fallen down or been dis­man­tled? Or, as seemed more likely to me, had the high­way taken a dif­fer­ent route, by­pass­ing it al­to­gether? I won­dered if I would ever learn the truth.

Two weeks ago, whi l e on a re­search trip to Al­berta, I asked my brother about Pear­son’s Peak. Be­ing older and, I sup­pose, wiser than me, he sug­gested I could prob­a­bly find the an­swer on the In­ter­net. All he had to do was type th­ese words into a search en­gine: “half­way marker across New­found­land.” Ev­ery­thing I wanted to know about the mon­u­ment was there in plain sight.

Mark Richard­son, in a blog about a trip he took on the TCH, ex­plains, “When Premier Joey Small­wood drove west from St. John’s in 1965 to greet Prime Min­is­ter Lester B. Pear­son, who was driv­ing east from Port aux Basques, they met just out­side town here (Grand Fal ls) at the half­way point of the fully paved Trans-Canada High­way. In do­ing so, the TCH was de­clared com­plete across New­found­land. “We fin­ished this drive in ’65,” de­clared the signs and posters. “Thanks to Mr. Pear­son.”

Pear­son had agreed to fund 90 per cent of the to­tal cost of con­struct­ing the road. His in­ten­tion was to get it fin­ished while he was still in of­fice. Ac­cord­ing to Richard­son, “the prov­ince set to with vigour while Small­wood knew the funds were avail­able.”

The New­found­land premier, want­ing to show ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Pear­son’s largesse, de­cided to erect a mon­u­ment at the half­way point. A rock pil­lar, roughly 25 me­tres high, was put in place. Named Pear­son’s Peak, it com­mem­o­rated the gen­eros­ity of the feds.

In­ci­den­tally, Maclean’s mag­a­zine pub­lished a photo of Pear­son pre­par­ing to un­veil his plaque at Pear­son’s Peak.

That was the very ob­ject I had seen as a child criss­cross­ing the is­land with my fam­ily.

“But there’s noth­ing there now,” Richard­son notes. “No­body here is quite sure what be­came of it. Long­time res­i­dents re­call that it fell into dis­re­pair af­ter the two back­slap­ping Lib­er­als left of­fice; it be­came un­safe, with pieces of rock some­times fall­ing from it near the cars that were parked by amorous cou­ples. There was noth­ing else to do there, af­ter all — no picnic area or green space, just a cir­cle of asphalt sur­rounded by bush with a pil­lar in the mid­dle, about 100 me­tres up from the road.

“The prov­ince chose the cheaper op­tion by dis­man­tling it in­stead of re­pair­ing it; again, no­body is quite sure when, though it was prob­a­bly 15 or 20 years ago. The en­trance to the paved drive was dug up to pre­vent cars from go­ing in, and aside from some rub­ble and fire­wood sticks, there’s noth­ing what­so­ever to mark the spot.

“What hap­pened to the bronze sign on the peak? Ap­par­ently, it was found at a landfill site, but where it went then, no one can — or will — say.”

Per­haps it’s re­flec­tive of my age, but I lament the de­struc­tion of Pear­son’s Peak. Mean­while, my per­sonal post­card col­lec­tion now con­tains a pic­to­rial rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the marker.

My brother, ever the wag, sug­gests, “You will have to wor­ship else­where.” Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at

bur­tonj@nfld.net

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/the Com­pass

Lance-Cpl. Matthew Taylor of the 2372 Avalon North army cadet corps races around an ob­sta­cle course in the phys­i­cal train­ing demon­stra­tion as a part of the corps 4th annual cer­e­mo­nial re­view held May 6 at Amal­ga­mated Academy in Bay Roberts. Taylor also picked up the green star award.

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