By Harvey Sawler (guest opinion)
All last summer I fantasized that the Harbour Hippo might squash it. All winter we’ve been waiting for a snow plough to inadvertently take it out. Or that the Charlottetown Fire Department in training would conduct a controlled burn.
Or that the UPEI engineering class, in a throwback prank to another time, would steal it away in the middle of the night and fix it to the top of a telephone pole somewhere on campus.
It was a great idea that tourism pioneers Conn and Shirley Murphy had when they started Abegweit Tours decades ago, reconditioning a fleet of London double decker buses, which became commonplace around Charlottetown and in Island promotional literature and then convincing the city, one assumes, to permit the placement of a ticket outlet at the corner of Queen and Grafton streets.
But that was then, this is now. This is 2014.
One can get the Big Orange Lunchbox but not the little orange ticket box. The former is in vogue while the latter is no longer.
Oh, and it’s not about the colour. In other words, a coat or two of paint is not going to persuade this thing into modernity or into some arguable acceptability alongside Canada’s National Memorial to the Fathers of Confederation, now celebrating 50 years.
Someone may try to argue the hut has been there so long it’s now a heritage building in its own right and that it should have its own cairn to match the one just a few feet away marking the centre’s designation as a national historic site.
And neither is it about the function. No. It’s simply time for the little orange ticket box to go in favour of something The National won’t on some dry news day make into a feature item, thereby perpetuating the CBC’s horse and buggy syndrome in characterizing the Maritimes.
Like Woodleigh Replicas and other remnants of our tourism past, all good things must come to an end.
Stand at Queen and Grafton and it doesn’t take a designer or an architect to image a more appropriate motif for the landmark ticket outlet: something akin to the Confederation Centre box office marquee or the steel of Mavor’s.
Now would be the time to do it — to engage a professional designer and to properly fund a semi-permanent structure that is aesthetically in keeping with the surroundings and which is functional for both consumers and those poor employees who must dread squeezing inside on hot summer days.
Surely 2014 has some petty cash left over to enact this one last deed before Anne arrives back in town. Then we can say that Canada truly rocks.
- Harvey Sawler is a Stratford, P.E.I.-based tourism consultant and author.