Smack dab in the middle of Edmonton, Alberta, is a large, concrete public plaza named Sir Winston Churchill Square. Kitty corner from that is the Churchill Wire Centre, a heritage building and former home of Edmonton’s telephone exchange. Take the light-rail train from Churchill station for one stop and you can see the remains of Churchills, a beloved British-style underground pub that has yet to be replaced. A bit further away, in the nearby suburb of St. Albert, chances are you’ll make use of Sir Winston Churchill Avenue, one of the city’s main thoroughfares.
Sir Winston Churchill is an iconic British politician and military commander, to be sure. And there is no shortage of things that have been named after him, all around the world—from nuclear-powered fleet submarines to entire mountains in Antarctica and Alaska. But nowhere on earth has Churchill’s name wormed its way into public nomenclature quite the way it has in Alberta. And nobody seems to know why.
Churchill loved Canada, but he visited Alberta only once, in August 1929, as part of a month-long, cross-country railway trip. While on Mountain Standard Time Churchill gave a few speeches, toured some oil fields, and remarked, upon arriving in Calgary, “I’ve heard so much about this wonderful province of Alberta that I don’t want to miss anything.” That’s about it. Yet nearly a century later, his influence subtly but doggedly lives on through maps and signage.
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