This was last weekend but it turns out this blog is not chronological. Cumberland has a working class history founded on now defunct coal mines and every year the Cumberland Museum hosts a 3 day event, Miner’s Memorial Weekend, celebrating the history of labour in the region, with pancake breakfasts, walking tours, a song night with a bunch of artists singing “Songs of the Workers”, and various lectures and such. This year there was also a reading of The Ginger Goodwin Story, which is a play in development. I was really interested in that but couldn’t go because Step and I went to the CVCollective launch party instead (that’s for another post). Albert “Ginger” Goodwin was a coal miner who lived in Cumberland for about 10 years in the early 1900’s, and he was a labour activist with a strong sense of moral justice. He was also a pacifist and conscientious objector who evaded the draft during the first world war and was shot dead by the police, probably more for his union organizing than for his draft evasion, although this is still a point of controversy even today. His death sparked the first general strike in Canada’s history. The Island Highway Connector to Cumberland was called Ginger Goodwin Way for a very short time, but when the BCLiberals came into power they immediately changed the name to a more romantic Comox Valley Parkway. They did this on Labour Day, I guess just to underscore their disdain for the taxpaying, working class constituents of this village. Every year, though, during Miners’ Memorial Weekend, some people of the village put the name back up. This has been going on for 15 years now. There are images of Goodwin around the village. The mural on the header of this blog features him; it’s from a mural painted on the side of the Gas ‘n’ Go.
I once bought a T-Shirt from Cumberland Museum that says “What Would Ginger Do?”, and I wondered, what would Ginger do? I read “Ginger: the Life and Death of Albert Goodwin” by Susan Mayse to find out. Well, it turns out no one really knows what Ginger would do. The book was very well written, but the life of Goodwin was not well documented so it was full of people saying things like “I knew Ginger as a child and I don’t remember any specific anecdotes but I remember everybody loved him and he was fun to have around” and also a lot of “we imagine Ginger might have done this”. What is known about him is that he was a peace lovin’, draft evadin’, socialist (dare I say commie?) agitator who was unstoppable in his quest for social justice and working class rights, and was turned into something of a martyr by his murder. One of the activities of Miners Memorial Weekend is a vigil by his grave. So he is more of a symbol than a man in his death, and I imagine Ginger would appreciate that.
I only attended the Song of the Workers event, held at the Old Age Pensioners’ Hall, and I was surprised by how well attended it was, and there was lots of entertainment from away, with guests like the Left Coast Labour Chorus. People knew the words to a lot of the songs and sang along, and Meaghan got a standing ovation for her singing of “Bread and Roses”. I met some people there that are working on a film about Cumberland’s labour history and future, because there is a new coal mine proposed here, and the film is called Goodwin’s Way. The trailer and their written pitches look pretty good. They have an indiegogo campaign if you want to help them out. I know I do!