Travel through time

A look at the past provides a glimpse of the future

The earth trembles as monstrous coal haulers roll up the road towards the Battle River power plant. It’s the oldest coal plant in Alberta, and it’s still not quite half as old as SAIT.

We crane our necks and watch them roll past, and, realizing that we’ve taken a wrong turn, head back down the dirt road, towards my family reunion.

You don’t have to look far to find a slice of the past in Alberta, and nowhere is that more true than at a Bridge family reunion.

In the words of Shyla Bridge, my third cousin, twice removed, “You know you’re surrounded by old people when everybody is talking about where they got their teeth.”

At night, we sat around a bonfire, miles away from cellular service and even further from Wi-Fi, and we talked and watched the lightning flash over the canola fields. We listened to the fire and the thunder, and we talked, the way people used to talk 100 years ago.

We talked about how my grandfather rode a horse and buggy to school in the 1930s.

We talked about how my distant-cousin Elmer can still remember when radio first took off in Alberta.

But, most of all, we talked about how much things have changed.

In 1916, when SAIT was founded, landline phones were a luxury item, and today, they are becoming a thing of the past. Ford’s Model T was at the height of its production, and cars were finally becoming commonplace.

The TI-84 calculator that we all used in high school has 11 times more random access memory than the 1969 lunar module.

The next time you see that 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado drive down 16th Avenue, remember that our school is twice as old.

When you see on the news that there has been another terror attack overseas, remember that in 1916, Canadian soldiers were dying in trenches at the battle of the Somme. When you walk these halls, remember that SAIT has stood through two world wars.

And When you see our nation’s flag fly, remember that SAIT had stood for nearly 50 years before we adopted the maple leaf.

Over 150 people came to our family reunion this year. As always, I hardly knew anybody there, and I was glad to come home. But, it’s important to remember where you came from, to recognize your roots.

That’s why every three years, since I was a year old, I’ve travelled out into the middle of nowhere, away from all the cell phones, office work and Game of Thrones, to talk to people I hardly know.

Before we left, we drove out to take another look at the Battle Creek power plant. With a pang of regret, I recalled that it is scheduled for decommissioning, and one day, coal plants will probably be a thing of the past.

On the drive back to Calgary, I saw new wind turbines off on the horizon. I suppose they stand as a reminder of how far we’ve come, and of how far we have yet to go.

Futurists can sit around and ponder the possibility of interstellar travel all day. Maybe we will see meta-humans or artificial intelligence in our lifetime, or maybe we won’t.

But, as the adage goes, the future is what we make of it.

The machines of tomorrow will be made by tradespeople who learned their craft at our school, and who knows where you will take us.

Let us open new doors, and may we never forget where we came from.

As Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip said, before he left Calgary for good, “We’ve survived it all. Take care of yourself, Calgary, I know you will.”

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Connor Goodfellow