In the early 1960s, a group of 40 Campbell River women founded SMASH — the Society for Making a Safer Highway.
Morgan Ostler, a young mother at the time who co-founded the group with Sandra Baikie, is speaking about the history of the Inland Highway and ongoing safety concerns this Tuesday.
At that time the highway was a network of twisting logging roads that had been paved over. In 1965, thirteen deaths in one year motivated the women to lobby the government to build a new inland highway from Victoria to Campbell River.
“We were pole-vaulted into publicity from our usual daily lives at home with our children” Ostler said. “It was definitely a women’s movement.”
They struggled for 37 years, being accused of grandstanding and told it couldn’t be done, but their safety concerns compelled them on.
Ostler said the politics of the day were a real challenge, with a Social Credit party that she believes was more focused on the Interior.
People from the Parksville Qualicum Beach area became active in the movement, Ostler said, and the bus carrying lobbyists to Victoria would often stop and pick up a group here.
As a result of the longest lobby in B.C. history, the highway was finally built and Morgan Ostler, by now one of the “SMASHing Grannies” was there to cut the ribbon in 2001.
Ostler is speaking as part of the regular speakers series hosted by the Qualicum Beach Historical and Museum Society, along with the Qualicum Beach Family History Society, and is open to everyone by donation.
The meeting is this Tuesday, March 1, at 7 p.m. at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre.
— By Lorraine Bell, Office Administrator, Qualicum Beach Museum