Halloween for 2003 had just come and gone when a pick-up truck slowly made its way up the Kuldo Extension.
Inside the truck were three teenagers, grade 12 students from Mount Elizabeth Secondary School. They were just in the first stages of a clandestine operation when they ran into a problem. They didn’t have enough pumpkins.
The group would have to think fast. There they were with close to 70 pumpkins, and faced with the length of the extension of Kuldo Boulevard from the Whitesail neighbourhood to Kildala, their hope to have the whole road lined with pumpkins was fading like a child’s supply of Halloween candies.
Plan B: a small rock face along the same road, just wide enough and tall enough to display their pumpkins to passing motorists, like a giant, natural, trophy case.
And that’s how Kitimat got its great Pumpkin Wall.
But there’s still the question of why. Why did a small band of students from the eventual 2004 senior class decide to go out of their way to decorate a portion of a dark, rural road?
That story begins in Nanaimo. Sort of.
Trevor Thomschke was one of those grade 12 students in the truck that night. With Halloween in the near distance, Trevor happened to overhear a conversation between his father and his friend, Steven Latham.
Latham had left Kitimat for Nanaimo, and he discovered when he moved that locals in the Vancouver Island community had their own pumpkin tradition; on a rural stretch of road called Jinglepot Road, people would line up their old pumpkins, light them up, and leave them to be a visual feature for drivers along the stretch.
Trevor was inspired. Kitimat needed its own pumpkin feature.
“Back when we did this the Kuldo didn’t have any lights yet, so [Latham] was telling us that Jinglepot Road was a lot like the Kuldo Extension here in Kitimat,” said Trevor.
Trevor recruited his friend Jonathan Lewis and Jonathan’s girlfriend at the time, Jessica Morgan, to join him to fill up his dad’s pick-up truck with pumpkins.
“Once we got on the Kuldo we realized we would need the whole town’s pumpkins to accomplish what we had in mind,” he said. “We thought we had a lot of pumpkins but 70 pumpkins spaced out didn’t look as impressive as we thought it would.”
But what really made the pumpkin wall look extra special that first year was a large decorative spider donated to the cause by the late Mary Duguid.
“She’s gave us about 10 pumpkins and gave us that big spider,” he said. “When the Sentinel first took the photo of [the wall] back in ‘03 it was on the front page and it had the big spider over all the pumpkins.”
In 2004 Trevor decided to do it again, this time without the help of his friend Jonathan, who had by then moved to Edmonton.
For the wall’s third year, 2005, Trevor stepped back from putting pumpkins on the wall, but by then the community had caught on and the wall miraculously filled up with pumpkins without him.
“I was happy to see people were still remembering and doing it themselves,” he said.
Halloween 2006 was the year the pumpkin wall really took off, though, and when he saw all the pumpkins up there that year he and his wife Stacey filled them all up with tea light candles.
Trevor, who now works at Rio Tinto Alcan, said it took an hour to light all of the pumpkins, but it was worth it. People stopped their cars to look, or rushed home to get their cameras.
“Now I think it’s caught on and the town’s just doing it themselves.”