Taylor: The decline and fall of almost everything

Once a mining boom town, Sandon reminds me of the mainline churches in the 1950s and early ’60s.

It was once the biggest city north of San Francisco, but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of it.

Sandon is a ghost town in B.C.’s Kootenay region. But during the height of the region’s silver/lead/zinc mining heyday, it had 29 hotels, 28 saloons, two breweries, two rail lines, several theatres and an opera house, a flock of churches, a cigar factory, a schoolhouse, a hospital, even a curling rink and bowling alley.

And 40 brothels—the biggest red light district in Western Canada.

Sandon was a most unlikely place to have anything, let alone a boomtown. Carpenter Creek, named after the discoverer of the silver lode in the surrounding mountains, tumbles down a narrow canyon. To create enough level space for all those buildings, the citizens had to channel the creek underground.

Sandon’s downtown core was built on top of a giant culvert.

More than 8,000 people lived in Sandon, or in its surrounding mining camps. Over 300 mines honeycombed the mountainsides. A Sandon brochure claims that those mines produced more than $35 billion (in today’s dollars) of silver, lead and zinc—worth more than the California, Cariboo and Klondike gold rushes combined!

The two railway companies fought over the rights to transport the lucrative ore to markets. One of them, the Kaslo & Slocan Railway, raided the mighty CPR in the middle of the night, destroyed its station and demolished a crucial trestle on its competitor’s line.

Sandon was so prosperous, it must have been impossible to imagine that the ore would ever run out. That people would move away. That the core of the town could be ripped out by a flash flood.

Today, Sandon consists of little more than a few houses and a museum.

Sandon reminds me of the mainline churches in the 1950s and early ’60s.

During that post-Second World War boom, my denomination alone dedicated a new church or a church addition every week of every year, somewhere across Canada. Pews were packed. Sunday schools overflowed. Money poured in. It was impossible to imagine that the good times would ever end.

But they did.

A century ago, the British Empire extended so far around the world that it could honestly be said that the sun never set on its colonies.

But the empire broke up, eventually—in part, at least, as a result of the Empire’s emphasis on educating its subjects.

Thirty years ago, few employees of Big Oil could imagine running out of conventional petroleum reserves. But today, those companies are re-branding themselves as energy companies, not oil producers.

There is, as the unknown author of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes commented 2300 years ago, a time for everything.

Like flowers, all things have their summer. They bloom, then fade in fall.

It’s futile to bewail the coming of fall. Even more futile, in the middle of winter, to pretend summer never ended.

I can’t speak for empires or oil companies. But for churches, preaching the same message, singing the same music, running the system the same way, expecting the same results, leads inevitably to ghost towns.

Like Sandon.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Armstrong’s Jesse Crowe, shown at the home of golf, St. Andrew’s in Scotland, has been named the Royal York Golf Course’s director of golf operations. (Facebook photo)
Armstrong golf pro soars to home course position

Jesse Crowe becomes director of golf operations at Royal York Golf Course

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

Interior Health officially declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Creekside Landing in Vernon on Jan. 3, which was followed by the first death from the virus 10 days later. (Kaigo photo)
Despite additional death, COVID outbreak over at Vernon care home

Creekside Landing cleared of coronavirus, despite additional loss in last day

Two North Okanagan-Shuswap rural communities, including Lumby, will receive B.C. government grants to support new jobs and economic opportunities to help them recover from the impacts of COVID-19. (Black Press file photo)
North Okanagan-Shuswap communities collect government grants

Lumby and Blind Bay to benefit to help recover from economic impact of COVID-19

Accelerate Okanagan has announced the six finalists for the 2021 OKGN Angel Summit. The remaining entrepreneurs will compete for a chance to receive a $145,000 investment in their business. (Eryca Stirling photo)
Finalists named for Okanagan entrepreneur summit

Accelerate Okanagan has named the final six competing entrepreneurs in the OKGN Angel Summit

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Ranchero Deep Creek firefighters respond to a blaze involving two adjacent structures at a property off of Deep Creek Road on Sunday, Feb. 21. The buildings were believed to have been used as part of a cannabis growing operation, and RCMP are investigating. (Sean Coubrough/CSRD photo)
Ranchero Deep Creek firefighters respond to a blaze involving two adjacent structures at a property off of Deep Creek Road on Sunday, Feb. 21. The buildings were believed to have been used as part of a cannabis growing operation, and RCMP are investigating. (Sean Coubrough/CSRD photo)
Shuswap firefighters responding to structure blaze find cannabis grow operation

RCMP investigating, attempting to track down owner of property

(Stock photo)
EDITORIAL: The freedom to read

Books have been challenged many times in the past

Most Read