How did Franklin Avenue and Sir John Franklin High School get their names? I really don’t know, but for a period in our history, naming things after British royalty and notables was a thing. Our first commissioner who resided in the NWT, Stuart Milton Hodgson, was a bit of a monarchist. He certainly liked things Royal, and this probably explains why we have the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Center. If anyone can name the nine commissioners before Stu, they should certainly get some sort of prize.
When Franklin, his boats and crew went missing, his wife back in England who was related to royalty raised a royal fuss and a lot of time, money and effort was spent trying to find Sir John, to no avail. But a lot of things in Canada ended up being named after him.
Names are interesting things because they do go in and out of fashion, but once they are in place, they are darned expensive to change and changing them can make history rather confusing. So, in my opinion a lot more care should be taken in picking them in the first place and there should be some good reasons for changing them.
Personally, I am not a big fan of Mister John Franklin. I read a lot of books about Arctic Explorers way back when and decided I didn’t care for his leadership style. If he had been my boss or leader, I would have certainly considered the three D’s. Defecting, deserting, or disappearing. It was a lot easier to change your identity back then.
When I think of Franklin Avenue, in my mind, I just pretend it was named after Benjamin Franklin, a much more interesting man who wrote, invented things, and had a real sense of humor. After all, he penned a rather famous paper called Fart Proudly. He should have a street named after him for that alone. When it comes to Sir John High School, I just identify it with Sir John Lennon and his famous song “Give peace a chance”. That would be my solution to the naming of them. Pretend they were named after someone else.
It is always very tricky naming things after people because many famous people have somewhat checkered lives, and one person’s hero is another person’s villain. If I were tasked with coming up with a brand-new name for our main street, I would suggest we change the name to Siren Alley. Why? Well obviously, because day and night regardless of the weather vehicles roar up and down that stretch of road with sirens blaring. Often multiple vehicles with multiple sirens. It has to be, one of the most siren-ed streets in North America, especially when you consider the small size of Yellowknife.
If one were to do a count, on many days the number of sirens would be in the double digits. So much for the peace and quiet of the North. Somewhere I read an article recently that a significant number of the ambulance calls are such that when the ambulance arrives no one is waiting or lying there for them to treat or pick up. So, it is a complete waste of resources that creates a lot of noise. Maybe a paramedic team on bicycles should be stationed downtown to check out the calls before the ambulance starts rushing to the scene. At least they could ask the person to wait until the ambulance arrives.
We could even put up a few signs designating it as Siren Alley, a quaint nickname for Franklin Avenue. Renaming things officially, is a bit of a fad that can take up a lot of time, money and energy that could be better spent on solving many of the much more serious problems we have. People like to get distracted like that. So why not just use Siren Alley as a nickname or unofficial name for Franklin.
If people ask who the street was named after, just say Freddy Franklin was a famous raven that lived in downtown Yellowknife and talked to everyone who passed by.