Twin Cities: Alberni - Port Alberni


392 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88982-140-2
DDC 971.1'2





Reviewed by Geoffrey Hayes

Geoffrey Hayes is an assistant professor of history at the University of


This second instalment of reporter Jan Peterson’s history of her
community covers the story of Alberni and Port Alberni, British
Columbia, from 1922 to 1967, when the two fiercely competitive towns
were amalgamated. The book provides highly detailed portraits of the
towns, whose livelihoods were bound to the sea and the forests. Because
the two communities remain isolated, there is little context in which to
understand the area’s development. The result is interesting but

There is still much to commend in this local history. Peterson’s
research is extensive, particularly in local and provincial newspapers.
Frontier communities always have their share of good characters and
controversies, and Peterson describes many of them with a journalist’s
style. From the bawdy house called the “goat ranch” in the 1920s, to
the “hunger march” to Victoria in 1933, the area had all the rawness
expected of a frontier. It also had its personalities. Among them was
H.R. MacMillan, whose purchase of the local sawmill in 1936 effectively
ended the Depression in the area. Some locals remembered his visits to
the local grocery store in a gold Bentley. Another was A.W. Neill, the
area’s Independent MP from 1921 to 1945. Neill strongly advocated Old
Age Pensions and the interests of the fishing industry while in
Parliament; he also urged the government to intern Japanese Canadians in

Peterson’s main focus is on the people of the area and the community
they built. Economic downturns, wars, and tidal waves are only
background to the emerging local scene. Readers will find here no graphs
or statistics, and no attempt to anchor the Albernis’ economic or
social growth in a broader context. Peterson leaves this task to others.
She is content with providing the details, and she has done it well.


Peterson, Jan., “Twin Cities: Alberni - Port Alberni,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 12, 2024,