RIH AT 100: The regal opening of a state-of-the-art hospital
It was mid-afternoon on a Tuesday in September when all of the school children in Kamloops gathered outside the awe-inspiring new building atop a hill on Columbia Street.
The girls in their white dresses and the boys in their light-coloured dress shirts sang as the guests of honour stepped out onto a temporary stage.
The date was Sept. 17, 1912, and the children had gathered — along with most of Kamloops’ population — to watch the Duke and Duchess of Connaught officially open Royal Inland Hospital.
The royal couple had arrived in Kamloops about an hour earlier, at 3 p.m., aboard a specially outfitted train that came from the Rocky Mountains.
They were in Kamloops to open RIH and to help the city celebrate its 100th birthday.
Upon arrival at the Canadian Pacific Railway station on Lorne Street, the Duke and Duchess — along with their daughter, Princess Patricia — were met by local politicians, military officials and Tk’emlups Indian Band Chief Louie.
They were then taken on a brief tour of the city by car.
“During the ride through the city with military escort, the members of the Royal party expressed surprise at the many evidences of modern improvements in the place, the fine lighting system, concrete sidewalks, and the general prosperous appearance of the whole community,” read a story in the Kamloops Standard.
“The reception given by the public was warm and cordial and all along the route were cheering crowds while even down in Chinatown the celestial welcome was every bit as hearty.”
By the time the royal guests arrived at RIH, the throngs of residents who greeted them with cheers at the train station had made the hike up to Third Avenue and Columbia Street.
The crowd gathered around the temporary stage outside the brand new hospital building — blocking the view of the school children, who were singing Maple Leaf Forever.
“Hardly had the first shrill soprano notes been raised when the Duke smilingly motioned aside the plug-hatted gentlemen and the handsomely gowned ladies and he and the Duchess and Princess Patricia walked over to the railing,” the Standard story read.
“All three graciously acknowledged greeting of the singers and by the kindly and thoughtful act gave the little ones a view of their presence which would have been otherwise denied the children, who were as cosmopolitan as the crowds on the streets, there being Chinese and Japanese, fair-haired Scandinavians and negroes and Indians, representatives of nearly every racial characteristic on the globe, but everyone sang Canada’s national song with a vim that could not be excelled by the most enthusiastic of the native born.”
The ceremony got underway with an address from city clerk J.J. Carment, in which the royal couple was welcomed to “the province which holds the most westerly gate of the Empire.”
“We are convinced that the present visit of Your Royal Highness in the most westerly of the provinces in the Dominion will make for increased interest in this outpost of the Empire, and lead to increased knowledge of its immense potentialities and boundless resources,” Carment said.
“We desire to assure Your Royal Highness of our unmixed loyalty and devotion to the British crown and His Majesty’s person.”
The Duke, in his reply, congratulated Kamloops on its 100th birthday.
“I am very pleased that my visit comes at the moment you are celebrating the centenary of your foundation and it is more interesting to see what has been achieved here since Kamloops was first settled by the fur traders a hundred years ago,” he said.
“That you have drawn full profit from the various advantages conferred on you by nature is very evident and I wish you to accept my heartfelt wishes for the success of Kamloops and all its enterprises in the future.”
After presentations of a fruit basket and bouquets to the royal visitors, R. A. Bethune, chair of the local hospital board, took to the podium.
With a gold key in his hand — “made of British Columbia gold,” according to the Standard — Bethune thanked the Duke and Duchess for attending and expressed hope about the future of health care in Kamloops.
Bethune handed the Duke the key and the ceremony came to an end.
“The hospital was formally opened, after which the party inspected the building, which is one of the finest institutions of its kind in the whole West and equal in point of equipment, if not in size, to any similar institution anywhere,” the Standard story stated.
The celebrations then moved on to Riverside Park, where the royal guests were treated to a parade and historical pageant before the Duke dropped the ceremonial ball on a lacrosse game.
By nightfall, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught and Princess Patricia were back on the rails, headed west.
And Kamloops, after its brief royal whirlwind, was finally home to a state-of-the-art hospital.