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Churchill River - “Hpvlgsbylb”

Life in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

More on the Churchill River:
Churchill River:
The price of power

Cold comfort:
How the tiny ptarmigan survives winter

Low-level fright:
Fighter planes buzz the caribou herds

Life in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Home Page:
The battered Innu culture strives to recover

The Lonely Season:
Traditional bush life in Labrador

Mega Water:
Churchill Falls generating station

On long-distance phone bills, the name Happy Valley-Goose Bay looks like a typographic error: Hpvlgsbylb.

And, for a small town of 9,000 people surrounded by the wilderness of Labrador, Happy Valley-Goose Bay does get a lot of long-distance phone calls.

The community houses a steady flow of overseas visitors. Located at the western end of Lake Melville, a saltwater lake that extends more than 200 km inland from the Labrador Sea, it is an important training base for military fliers of Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Great Britain, and Canada .

The military air base at Goose Bay was built during World War II as a fuel stop for aircraft flying from the United States to Europe. Hundreds of jobs suddenly became available, and people converged on the town from all over Labrador — by canoe, motor boat, dog team, and snowshoe.

They first pitched their tents next to the new base but were soon ordered to move to a spot on the Churchill River. Once called Skunk Hollow, the town site was renamed Hamilton River Village, and then, Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

For a time, the town’s airport was the busiest in the world. At the end of World War II, it became a key location during the ‘Cold War’ with the former Soviet Union.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay was considered vital to the defence of North America against the threat of Soviet bombers attacking over the North Pole. The air base needed support services, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay grew to house, feed, entertain, and meet the daily needs of both military and civilian personnel and their families.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay has become the main service centre for Labrador. But the town’s distance from major cities including St. John’s, Newfoundland, its lack of highway access, and the limited shipping season deny it the potential to develop manufacturing businesses. Still, Mayor Harry Baikie describes the town as being poised for growth. Development, industry and new people are welcomed.

The town is a culturally and socially diverse community of Innu, Inuit, Métis, and transplanted, non-aboriginal Canadians including Newfoundlanders, and transient Europeans, all living in a close-knit society.

Adventure travel and tourism, hunting, and fishing are important sources of outside revenue, but Labrador’s short summer season and the intensity of its biting flies prevent it from becoming an extremely popular or casual tourist destination for those without significant wilderness experience. As one Tourism Labrador employee put it, ‘Labrador is not for the faint of heart.’

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