This past Sunday I was invited to be on hand for the dedication of Frank Victor Burton Field in Bulyea Heights (Edmonton, Alberta). It was a touching tribute to a local pilot and fun afternoon of model airplane contests, bouncy castle, and food – all organized by the dedicated volunteers of the Brookview Community Association. I was only too happy to say a few words and donate some prizes for the contests – and eat some delicious mini donuts from Jackie O’s Street Treats!
Here are some photos and my remarks from the day (photos by John Chalmers and Josephine Hoegaerts).
It really is through the efforts of individuals and communities that people are remembered and history is kept alive. One important way is by naming the places that surround us, a constant reminder of our links with the past
In this case, Frank Victor Burton had largely been forgotten in the history books. Here was a true pioneer of aviation in Edmonton and Alberta – one of the first to join the Northern Alberta Aero Club when Blatchford Field just opened in 1927. It sounds like he lived and breathed airplanes from then through the bush flying era and the Second World War and even during the construction of the DEW Line in the 1950s.
Yet when I was doing research into aviation in Alberta and the North I never came across his name. It was thanks to Lillian Beltaos and this community that I learned about his life and accomplishments – and that Edmonton will continue to remember him.
I am very honoured to be here to recognize an individual who was in the centre during the real heyday of aviation here in town and throughout the province. I often say that aviation was to the 20th century what the railways were to the 19th – central to economic development and the movement of people and goods. Frank Victor Burton was in the middle of it all as aviation changed the way people did business in everything from the fur trade, to mineral exploration, to fish hauling. It shifted policing and military operations, medical evacuations, fire suppression, and so on.
But it also changed the way people thought about the world and what was possible. I hope Frank Victor Burton’s name on this field will connect local residents to this fascinating history – and to what is possible in the future. I hope every time they visit and enjoy this space they are reminded not only of Frank Victor Burton and the other pioneers of flight, but to try and make their own positive mark in the history of this city and province.