by Gordon Parsons
Labrador City is affectionately known as the Iron Ore Capital of Canada(IOCC). True to its slogan "Built on Industry -- Thriving in Nature", most residents are extremely proud of our mining heritage and history. The town crest features a Snowy Owl, a Caribou, a Black Spruce tree and a spade situated on a mound of red earth representing our primary resource - iron ore. Our motto Kamistiatusset", is a native word meaning, "Land of the Hard Working People".
In 1962 what had been previously known as the "Carol Project" had a name change and became Labrador City. It was incorporated as a Local Improvement District however the first election for a Council did not take place until 1981.
During the 60’s construction began on the Roman Catholic Church and the Town Hall was built. The Carol Lake Shopping Center was completed and the first local social club, The Ashuanipi, opened. It later became a dance bar and is now a Youth Center. That year Labrador City held its first winter carnival. In 1961, the Smokey Mountain Ski Club was established and is now touted as “Atlantic Canada’s Best Kept Secret” because of it’s long skiing/snowboarding season and 100% natural snow.
The Captain William Jackman Hospital opened mid decade as did the Labrador City Arena followed by the Carol Curling Club. More Churches, schools and recreational facilities also opened their doors The town was becoming of age with a youthful population of just over 5,000. Centennial Playground, in the heart of the town, was opened and today is one of the better places for family fun in the summer time and Christmas light displays in the winter.
In the 70's the current golf club, Tamarack, opened. The Labrador West Regatta began at Duley Lake. The era saw The Menihek Nordic Ski Club established and today it ranks as one of the best in the province. The Labrador Mall, still the biggest in the territory, opened as did the road to Fermont/Mount Wright, PQ, live TV arrived as well as another 3,500 residents.
With an expansion at IOCC and a need for more housing, the Harrie Lake sub-division opened and when completed it contained just over 500 trailers. We got both an A & W and KFC, but both are now gone.
The 80's saw the first layoffs at IOCC in response to a slumping world demand for iron as the town celebrated its twentieth anniversary. A major storm in January '82 brought wind chills of -130 degrees Celsius. Residents of the Harrie Lake sub-division were evacuated from their homes and a major repair project took place to get everyone back home after lots of broken water pipes and storm damage.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary replaced the RCMP and the road to Baie Comeau opened. The Arts and Culture Center was built and it became mainstream for local entertainment. Harrie Lake sub-division saw about half of the trailers moved out during the late 80’s.
In the 90's the road to Goose Bay opened, the population passed the 9,000 mark and IOCC celebrated its one-billionth ton of ore mined. With the turn of the century Labrador City celebrated its 40th Anniversary. The Gateway Labrador opened its doors as did Wal-Mart and McDonalds. Cain's Quest, Labrador's longest of trail snowmobile endurance race began. The Catholic Church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, was designated as a Basilica, the second in the province. This church is built of local stone is one of the most architecturally pleasing in the Labrador West area.
In recent years there was a major expansion underway at IOCC, housing construction was at a long time high and temporary workers abounded. There were several new iron ore mines under way or about to get underway nearby, most notably, Alderon. It was a great time to be a miner. Unfortunately, recent slumps in global iron ore prices has put all expansions on hold and has caused shutdowns and layoffs.
Visitors to our town can avail of modern accommodations, excellent food service and good night life. Of course we have great shopping facilities plus two new and two used car dealerships. Our recreation facilities are second to none. We have a few fair walking trails. There is both good fishing and hunting close by and several outfitters operate from town.
A new hospital was recently constructed on route 500 west, as was a new building to house the College of the North Atlantic. Our industrial park is bursting at the seams. Harrie Lake sub-division is again full and new sub-divisions were being built to house the increase in population. A new motel opened which will give the traveler more choice in accommodations.
We are the only part of the province that can be reached by road, rail and air and while a few souls have traveled out by water I don’t know of any who have arrived that way. Our fully landscaped town has won awards for its beauty in both summer and winter. Most all streets have sidewalks and the snow clearing in winter is on par or better than any northern community.
Come visit us, stay awhile, we welcome you.
A long time resident of Labrador West, Gordon Parsons is a regular contributor to the Gateway Labrador website. With his knowledge of the local area and local attractions, Mr. Parsons has been able, through his written contributions, to guide us through all that Labrador West has to offer.