Movie Monday: Alaska Highway

Image: A film still showing Janus carrying some logs (SPRA 449.01.01, Fonds 449: Foster Family fonds)

Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie

Today on Movie Monday we are sharing the earliest of the Foster family films. In this movie from June 1949, Raymond and Iva take their eldest two children, Janus and Ben, on a trip along the Alaska Highway. The family would travel the highway again in the ‘50s and in 1962 – trips fondly remembered by the children.

The Alaska Highway (originally known as the Alcan Military Highway) was constructed in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941; both Canada and the United States suddenly saw an urgent need for a defence and supply route reaching the north. By March 9, 1942, the first train load of American troops had arrived in Dawson Creek, British Columbia to begin work on the highway. Though the US Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for much of the highway’s construction, 16,000 Canadian and American civilians were also involved, including a number of individuals from the Grande Prairie area. With such a massive crew working double shifts seven days a week, up to 13 kilometers of road could be completed in a day, and 643 kilometers were laid in the month of July alone. On November 20, 1942, after nine months of incessant labour, the Alcan Highway was officially opened, reaching from Dawson Creek (Mile 0) to Delta Junction, Alaska (Mile 1422).

In 1948, the road officially opened to the public for unrestricted pleasure travel. Permits were no longer required and campgrounds had been established at various locations by the Canadian Government, to be used free of charge. The Fosters, like many others, jumped at the chance to travel the famed highway and were among the first to do so as tourists. Today, more than 100,000 tourists travel the Alaska Highway annually.