You’ve come a long way, bébé

I was sitting at my coffee table leafing through some old coffee table books (a la Kramer) this evening and I came across one called “New – Nouveau Brunswick”. This book is a picture book of New Brunswick filled with 60+ photos of New Brunswick. The photographer is Sherman Hines and the preface was written by Art Doyle. It was published in 1989.

My wife received this book as a gift after working as an exchange student for the provincial government in the early 1990s. The government at the time was giving this book out to dignitaries and other special guests to give them a pictoral view of the province.

In the summary of the book, it states that Sherman Hines’s purpose is to leave “an impression – crisp, clean and direct; a faultless image that says, This is New Brunswick….”

So I began to leaf through this book, this bold statement of what New Brunswick is. As I turned the pages, I saw numerous photos of Fredericton, Saint John, Edmundston, Caraquet, Grand Falls, Havelock, on and on. But as I reached the end of this great epic photographic descriptor of the ‘picture province’, I realized there was not one photo of Moncton. Nor Dieppe. Nor Riverview. I went through it again. It was as if Sherman had literally carved out Moncton. There was Havelock. There was Sackville. No Moncton.

Now this is just mildly humorous in a way. That a book sanctioned and partially funded by the New Brunswick government just 16 short years ago could exclude a region such as Moncton is bizarre.

But, in a way, 1989 wasn’t Moncton’s finest hour. Downtown was boarded up. The CN Shops had just closed. The ghost of Len Jones roamed through the legions and the pubs. So Sherman, in his wisdom, decided to craft a vision of New Brunswick without the hub and its problems.

That was then. This is now.

It’s kind of amazing in an understated sort of way. Take a bunch of old Grecian Formula Anglos and mix in a bunch of stubborn Acadians, stir the pot, sprinkle with a little McKenna, and presto you have Moncton nouveau – confident, successful, but still rather understated.

Sure, having lived here now eight years, I can say that there is the ocassional mal de tête as we work through our own mini-version of Jerusalem but I think on the whole things have worked out just fine, thank you very much.

I wonder if the government commissioned Sherman and the great Art Doyle to do another “This is New Brunswick” piece, if the community with the most dominant economy and the largest population in New Brunswick would be carved out yet again.

Maybe for Sherman and Art, sleepy little Fredericton is the embodiment of New Brunswick, but there are 125,000 Greater Monctonians that would beg to differ.