Peggy Curtis says goodbye
"I'm really going to miss Inuvik"

by Glenn Taylor
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Sep 19/97) - "I'm just one of many," says Peggy Curtis. But when she leaves Inuvik at the end of this month, she will leave behind a large gap, filled by her years of community service.

Curtis came to Inuvik in 1962 to work as a phys-ed teacher at the newly built SAM school, completed in 1959. The place was as shiny-new as the 1,200-population town itself, and Curtis said she felt like a character in the play, East Three: the Story of Inuvik.

The character, a newly arrived teacher, is flabbergasted to discover that, not only is there no radio or television, there aren't even telephones linking Inuvik to the outside world.

But that was part of the initial charm which grabbed Curtis and held on for 35 years. "Entertainment was self-generating then," she said. "There was a lot more visiting, dropping in on each other and playing board games, that sort of thing," she said.

Curtis came North from Victoria, after working 13 years there as a teacher. Working at SAMS was "different," considering that the school was divided in half, with Catholic students on one side and Protestants on the other.

"We used to joke about this imaginary red line running down the middle," said Curtis. "When the Catholic side closed down for religious holidays, we used to wonder if we had joined the wrong club."

Curtis later worked as a student councillor at the school, and helped many homesick students as young as Grade 1 deal with living apart from their families. Most communities had no schools then, and students spent every day from September to June away from their families, even during holidays like Christmas.

She worked at SAMS school until 1974, before working as full-time co-ordinator of the Territorial Experimental Ski Training, or TEST. The program produced world-class competitors like Inuvik's Shirley and Sharon Firth, who later went on to Olympic-level competition.

"I was basically fundraiser, tutor and chief cook and bottle washer" until 1979, when TEST was moved away from its Inuvik beginnings and took on a more national focus.

Curtis then became a town employee, and served as the community's recreation co-ordinator until her retirement in 1995.

In between, Curtis has been involved with dozens of volunteer organizations, including the Inuvik Recreation Committee (recently named a lifetime member), the Inuvik Centennial Library Board, the NWT Recreation and Parks Association (lifetime membership), Sport North, the Inuvik Badminton Club and the NWT Badminton Association, and as coach and judge at the Arctic Winter Games and Canada Games.

She has also been a member of the Inuvik Ski Club for many years, and offered afternoon ski lessons to SAMS students from 1979 to this spring.

A gap will be left when Curtis leaves next month. "I'm really going to miss Inuvik," said Curtis, who is moving to Victoria next month to be closer to her grandkids. "I'm not leaving because I'm unhappy here at all. One has to evaluate where one is in life, and what the future might hold. It's time to step into another stage of life."

Curtis wants to be closer to her grandkids "while they're still young, and while I'm still able to do things with them."

Curtis will especially miss the "openness and friendliness of the community. I think about it every day while I'm walking to the post office, and say 'hello' or 'nice day' or whatever. It's nice feeling part of the community."

Curtis said she couldn't help but get a little teary-eyed on Sunday, when she was recognized during the grand opening of the new arena, for her lifetime of contributions. "I couldn't help but do that ... I certainly appreciated the gesture."

Curtis will especially miss meeting former students or hers, and their children and grandchildren. "To laugh about the old times, and to see the continuity of families. It's so rewarding."