A B.C. high school is considering jettisoning the wartime moniker used by its sports teams.
Early internal discussions about dropping the name of Nelson’s L.V. Rogers Bombers have begun, according to principal Tamara Malloff.
Malloff said staff feedback about proposed Bombers apparel led to talk about the name, which has been used by the high school since before the current LVR building opened in 1956.
“The sentiment is it is time,” said Malloff. “The world is changing, the impact of globalization and media and information and our understanding of how things are is changing. That was part of the impetus too, is looking at who is it we want to be and represent in the future. So it’s just at a starting point right now.”
Professional sports teams and schools changing sports names to reflect modern cultural values has become an increasingly common practice.
In November, students at McGill University in Montreal voted to change the name of the varsity sports teams from Redmen. In Major League Baseball, the Cleveland Indians are playing their first season since without the Chief Wahoo logo that was considered a racist caricature.
For the Bombers, Malloff said, the name made more sense in the 20th century than today.
“There was definitely the post-World War II connection where we didn’t look at [war] the same way,” she said.
“It was a different time. But I think the justification, just like any images for athletics for cultural appropriation for example, like the [NFL’s Washington] Redskins, it’s the same thing.”
It’s not entirely clear when or how the Bombers — and for a time the Bomberettes — name came to be adopted by Nelson high school sports teams.
Nelson High School, which held its first class in 1901, offered basketball as its first sport in 1903, followed by baseball and lacrosse.
But those teams were known by the school’s name. A boys hockey team called the Rovers in 1910-11 was the exception, but the name did not stick.
An article dated May 3, 1940 in The Province refers to Nelson High School’s Blue Bombers and Bomberettes. The school appears to have dropped blue from the name by the following year, at least according to another Province article about the basketball teams dated Dec. 12, 1941.
This predated a key part of Nelson’s aerial history in the Second World War: parts for Boeing’s Catalina Bombers were built at the Civic Centre.
Nor was the name in homage to Nelson’s most famous pilot, Lt. Robert Hampton Gray, the last of the city’s soldiers killed during the war — well after the Bombers were already playing at the high school.
A 1947-48 high school bonspiel featured Nelson High School’s Bombers and Bomberettes, and most of the school’s teams used the name by the time the school moved from South Nelson to its Fairview location and became L.V. Rogers in 1956.
Prior to LVR’s opening, a school district maintenance supervisor told a Nelson Daily News reporter that the gymnasium, also known as The Hangar, “would be the safest place in Nelson in a bombing attack.”
More recently, the name has been associated with athletic excellence. LVR’s senior boys rugby won a provincial gold medal last year, the latest in a string of successes primarily in rugby and soccer.
Malloff reiterated it will take time to decide on a new name, and that students will also be consulted. She acknowledged some people may be resistant to leaving the Bombers in the past.
“We’re going to be very thoughtful and careful about that and keep that as part of the history and keep it as a visible presence somewhere in the building, but we need to rethink and say what does it mean to an athletic team as part of our culture in 2019.”
— With files from Greg Nesteroff