50 years after leaving Inuvik, former teacher reconnects with familiar faces

50 years after leaving Inuvik, former teacher reconnects with familiar faces

A lot has changed in Inuvik since Ann Pauls moved from the Arctic town of Inuvik 50 years ago.

For one thing, she doesn't remember there being many street names. And the N.W.T. community's only traffic light on Mackenzie Road didn't exist.

"To my knowledge… there were very few cars here, because everything had to come up on the barge," she said, thinking back to the 1960s. That included food.

Pauls visited Inuvik earlier this month, but it wasn't her first time going back; she also went to see the community 25 years ago.

But this time she said even more had changed.

'Something's missing'

Pauls said one of the first things she noticed was that Sir Alexander Mackenzie School, where she used to work, had been taken down. 

- FROM 2014 | Inuvik's Sir Alexander Mackenzie school demolished

The building used to stand across from Jim Koe Park, in the centre of town, until it was demolished a few years ago.

"It just seems like a bit of a gap here, like something's missing. There's porta-potties here now!" Pauls laughed.

Pauls now lives in Lethbridge, Alta. She headed to Inuvik this month as part of a bus full of people travelling across the country with a Southern Manitoba country band.

"We've been across Canada probably about three times … and when we travel, we take people with us. We have a 56-passenger bus," said Ken Lodge, who plays drums in the five-person musical group.

Lodge said the band sings "old, classic country music" by artists like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Kitty Wells.

Last November, Pauls went to a concert that Country Blend was playing at in Lethbridge, and got the idea to join them on their travels.

"I heard they were making a trip North," said Pauls. "And since this is 50 years since I left [Inuvik], it just seemed to be the right thing to do."

Lodge said the group heard the new highway had recently opened from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, and they decided they wanted to go.

Their trip started in Baldur, Man., with stops along the way in Alberta, B.C. and Yukon, before they made it to their final destination in Tuktoyaktuk last week.

Reconnecting with former students

Despite the years between her last visit to the North, Pauls managed to run into a handful of people in Inuvik who she remembers from the old days, including some former students.

One of them brought her a mug from the old school "which I really appreciated," Pauls said.

She also ran into the brother of another former student, who Pauls heard now lives in the Czech Republic. 

"I've really enjoyed this, and I've been amazed that I've made the number of connections that I have," Pauls said. "I just hope I can come again, but I better not try to wait 25 years."

- MORE NORTH NEWS | Beyond expectations: Highway makes Tuktoyaktuk an all-season destination

- MORE NORTH NEWS | Gov't replacing sign on Inuvik Tuk Highway after complaints about shoddy translation

With files from Wanda McLeod and Rachel Zelniker