An 18-year-old Edna Webb looking to establish herself in her new muddy home of Kitimat, BC — a town on the edges of B.C.’s frontier — became 1955’s Miss Kitimat, and later Miss PNE.
It was a notable claim to fame for her and her family, who had just moved to Kiitmat on April 8, 1955.
It was probably the first memorable moment of her two-year stint in the community, followed by nearly gliding her car in to the Douglas Channel next to the Delta King. We’ll come back to that later.
Back to Miss Kitimat, she was encouraged to apply by her them-employer, Kitimat Concrete.
“I worked for Kitimat Concrete, my family had just moved here and they wanted me to run for Miss Kitimat.” she said. “I had only moved here and I thought ‘Oh my goodness, I might get fired if I don’t agree to it.’”
She ended up getting the most votes, but she didn’t immediately get the crown.
She said there were some backroom dealings ensuring the original winner, but the official word from an advertisement in the July 14, 1955 Northern Sentinel was confusion over eligibility.
Webb had been a Miss Frazerview in the past so the ad as printed expressed confusion over elgibility.
Whatever actually played out behind the scenes of the 1955 Miss Kitimat competition, whether misunderstanding or bribery, Webb would eventually be given her crown.
“I was crowned later, which wasn’t as nice because I was just taken to a room and crowned, and that was it.”
She was flown to Vancouver for that year’s PNE and earned the Miss PNE title there too, which she tied with Miss Nanaimo.
Unfortunately for Webb the prize money, $1,000, was given to Miss Nanaimo, as organizers felt she needed it more due to her mother being in a wheelchair.
At least she came back to Kitimat a winner. It was when she came back that she caught the eye of a local RCMP officer. At least she did when her family parked their car in a no-parking zone.
“All we had in Kitimat was Helen’s Cafe, the Kitimat Hotel and the chip truck,” she said. “We had nothing to do so the big thing was to go get a side of fries.”
Her mom parked her car and two officers soon approached to write a ticket for being in a no-parking zone.
“I go so nervous when he said that, when I got the chips I gave it to them and we drove off,” she said. “That’s how I met my husband.”
Young love can prove distracting. She said some time later she was doing a bank run for her boss and as she left she noticed two officers — one of them the one she fancied — and decided to go back inside.
“So I pulled back up and I didn’t put the emergency brake on, so when I came out of the bank, the car had rolled down and across the street and was just about in the drink. A taxi driver came along and stopped it.”
Webb had a notable time in Kitimat. After working for Kitimat Concrete she worked at the hospital and then later was the RCMP matron, escorting prisoners by plane to Vancouver.
Kitimat was a different place then, even the theatre hadn’t quite arrived.
“My Saturday night entertainment was to sit down at the hotel and watch the drunks come out and get picked up,” she said.
Today’s Kitimat is almost unrecognizable to her. She said driving around earlier in the day she even got lost.
“You’ve got so many new streets, so many new houses,” she said. “It’s just totally different.”
But she said it was wonderful to come back to see how the town has changed since the last time she’d been back, 1958.
“When we arrived on April 8, 1955, with my mom and my siblings, my mom was really happy that my dad had brought her up here. And I looked at my brother when we pulled in to Kitimat and all there was mud and snow and rain and sleet. It was really dark and gloomy. I looked at my brother — we both left good jobs — and he just looked at me, and said ‘Oh Edna, my God, what have we done?’ I said ‘Lets just shut up, we’re here for mom.’”
Two of her brothers didn’t even want to get off the boat.
But they nevertheless learned to love Kitimat anyway.
“We fell in love with the place because we were the pioneers. I can’t explain to you, there was nothing. There was one road, up to Nechako.”