Northern News Services
Published Friday, November 23, 2007
YELLOWKNIFE - Since late 2005, residents have been reading about the history of the city's streets in Wednesday editions of Yellowknifer.
Tyler Heal stands at the corner of Heal Court, which was named after his grandfather, "Smokey" Heal. Tyler's book, The Times Behind the Signs, will be launched tomorrow at the Yellowknife Book Cellar. - Laura Power/NNSL photo
Now, the author of these articles - 16-year-old Tyler Heal - The Times Behind the Signs is about to release his first book, a compilation of his Street Stories.
"In Grade 8 I did a heritage project on Yellowknife street names," he said, explaining how the work got started. The book was his first project, and the weekly instalments came second.
He originally became interested in the history of street names because of his family's ties to the city.
His grandfather, "Smokey" Heal, moved to Yellowknife in 1939.
"My grandfather actually had a street named after him (Heal Court), and also from a young age I always wondered who the streets were named after," he said.
From city documents and Yellowknifer archives, Heal got much of the information he needed to produce the work on more than 130 of the city's streets. He also relied on interviews with knowledgeable people.
While researching for his book, Heal came across some maps from 1948 which showed the names of some downtown streets before they were numbered. He took it upon himself to research the names of Bell, Jewitt and LaBine among others.
Councillor David Wind said he hasn't yet seen the book, but he always enjoys reading Street Stories in the newspaper.
"I think it's important for Yellowknifers to be able to recognize what the street names mean and that they're associated with people who lived here during Yellowknife's early days and helped build the community," he said. "I believe that it's important for us to recognize that, and that Mr. Heal plays a very positive role in helping to make that happen."
Along with writing the book, Heal also designed it and did the publishing work himself. He said he realizes his accomplishment is very big for a Grade 11 student, especially since many people much older than that dream of publishing their work.
"I never thought of author, writer as a career and it just sort of happened... the right things came together at the right time," he said.
Though he imagines himself as a pilot, a musician or an engineer, his work in recording Yellowknife's history is likely not done yet. He said he has ideas for future books, which will veer from street names but stick to the historical theme.
Much of the profit from the book will be donated to the NWT Mining Heritage Society.
"This town is built on mining and it's good to preserve the history of Yellowknife," Heal said.
The book will be launched Saturday, Nov. 24 at the Yellowknife Book Cellar at 1:30 p.m. A jazz trio will play during the launch.