Peace Arch history documented in book

Published on Thu, Jun 5, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

Read More News

Peace Arch history documented in book

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

A 1960s picture of an interesting, unknown footbridge at Peace Arch state park, recently appeared in The Northern Light in the Pictures from the Past section, and the day after it was published, local historian Richard Clark walked in with an answer. The answer was neatly typed on page 254 of his book �Sam Hill�s Peace Arch: Remembrances of Past Dreams.�

Born in Wenatchee in 1930, Clark moved to Sweet Road in Blaine when he was two years old. He lived in Canada for 12 years, but was always connected to the Blaine area. While working on his masters degree from California State University, he wrote a 20-page paper on the history of the Peace Arch.

It was this paper that served as the starting point and inspiration for a Peace Arch documentary that would later appear on television screens across America, care of the History Channel. He had also written a book, � Roberts, U.S.A: The History of a Canadian Enclave,� which he gave (copyright and all) to the Point Roberts historical society.

And in 1988, he started writing this book on the Peace Arch, complete with hundreds of bibliography listings. Although the book is near completion, Clark is looking for an interested publisher or local group. �There is one Canadian publisher who�s very much interested. But local history�s no easy sell,� he said.

No other book of its kind exists, making this book a valuable historical resource for the Blaine community, as well as the United States and Canada. Research took many years, and much of it came from past publications. �Newspapers provided the most news I�ve ever found. Back to the 1920s,� he said.

This book records all kinds of items about the Peace Arch, from the early days of the Peace Arch Association inception to the people responsible for its care, to the events held there that bring regional, national and international attention to it.

The International Peace Arch Association was started in 1921, just before the dedication of the international monument. At this time in the world, war between several countries had started and ended. One thing that interests Clark is the behavior portrayed between the countries during these times.

�It�s interesting to see how graceful Canada was when America was not in the war,� Clark said about the time prior to America�s involvement in World War I. �The Peace Arch has given me a perspective on war as well as peace.�

As for relations between Canada and the United States, there has been only one time, Clark said, that he knows of a disagreement between the two sides. �Canada was at war, we were not at war. And it was very interesting to see how nice Canada was,� he said. �It only got ugly once.�

And that one time was on June 11, 1938 at the Women�s International League for Peace and Freedom. �Oddly enough, an argument burst forth between two men, both clergyman,� Clark said. The Reverend Burt Mitchell from Seattle and the Revered Theodore Pagesmith of Vancouver argued about World War II.

�It makes no difference who wins this war, dictatorships are going to rule. A just peace can only be secured by solving the economic problems,� Mitchell said, as reported in the Vancouver Sun that week.

�Germany will not win this war if all the democratic countries harness their forces together. This is no time for isolation or neutrality when a nation like Germany has run amuck to overthrow all other nations,� Pagesmith responded.

According to the Blaine-Journal, the �stormy session was near eruption.�

Clark even records some of the ideas for the Peace Arch that never came into existence, such as the Peace Highway. Just before the Peace Arch was built, Clark said, Canada proposed a peace highway be built, reaching from Sumas to the Peace Arch. The center line would be on the 49th parallel and road markers were to be placed along the sides.

�The highway was to truly be a memorial highway,� he said. �I think it was a beautiful idea, but it was rejected.�

Other rejected ideas included Peace Arch College and a peace radio station. After World War II, mayor William Mott, of New Westminster, and KVOS radio station owner Rogan Jones proposed construction of a Peace Arch college or university in the park area.

�It was going to be right in the middle of Peace Arch park and students from all over would be able to attend,� he said, adding the main concentration would be peace studies.

As for the radio station, Clark said, it was to broadcast peace messages in 31 languages. �Imagine a powerful radio station sending messages of peace,� Clark said. Suppose we had this radio station. What would it be like today? That, plus the college, imagine what it could have been like.�

Regarding the name change debate in Blaine, Clark has an idea for a name, but he�s been thinking about it long before the current debate. �The city of Peace,� he said. �It would be the only city in U.S.A. so named.�

As for the Peace Arch footbridge picture that appeared in the Pictures from the Past section, Clark said that idea was rejected.

Back to Top