One of the movers and shakers of the city celebrated his 100th birthday year this week.
A four-term Prince Rupert alderman, Art Murray’s history with the North Coast began in 1929 when he arrived from Northern Ireland with his mother and four siblings to meet up with their father who had found work on the coast.
Not long after they arrived the Great Depression swept across the country. His father lost his job and the city went broke.
“I remember instead of paying our taxes we’d work on the city trucks to pay off our taxes. The streets were nearly all gravel,” Murray said adding that the sidewalks were wooden then.
He still went through school and studied at the St. Joseph Academy, a business college. “That’s all the business training I had,” said the former businessman who was very active in the regional Chamber of Commerce.
At 18, he worked on the Canadian National Railway boats and then picked up a job working at the Big Missouri Mine near Stewart for a year. When he returned he started in the taxi business and ran seven taxis and a bus service between Prince Rupert and Port Edward.
“I could go on forever,” he said to detail his past.
He also served in the military from 1942 until 1946 in Army Signals and then went back to working in the taxi business.
He became a sales manager for Rupert Motors later on. Near the end of his career he was the general manager of the Irly Bird store, a building supply chain, where he was eventually elected president of the B.C. board.
“There wasn’t much that I didn’t do. I was active in the community,” he said.
He was prominent in politics as well. In the 1960s, he was a provincial candidate for the Social Credit party.
“I spent quite a bit of money on the campaign and myself and couple of others talked Bill Murray into running for the Social Credit because he had some funds,” he said. Bill agreed but when he went to Vancouver he had to go to the hospital to get a kidney removed and Murray ended up running in the campaign anyway.
“We finally beat the NDP but the big argument was they didn’t know what Murray they were voting for,” he said with a laugh.
His time in municipal politics as an alderman was just as amusing to Murray in his reflections. He recalls one of the strikes in the city when city workers would dump garbage on the steps of City Hall before council meetings.
Murray was familiar with the union and had a private meeting with them to come to an arrangement. He made a private deal and settled their dispute with the city without an arbitrator having to step in. The garbage was removed.
“The North Coast was quite a country then. We had lots of fun. We used to feel sorry for the rest of the province.”
Murray served as an alderman for 10 years and at one point tried to run as mayor.
The list of what Murray did in the community is long. He was instrumental in starting the All Native Basketball Tournament when he organized the earlier tournaments prior to 1960 as part of the Prince Rupert Basketball Association, of which he was president.
He was president of the hospital board in the region and he was the chairman of the parks board when the golf course was founded.
What he’s most proud of was establishing the Senior’s Centre on Fraser Street.
“The community needed it. It was a long time putting it off. Nobody seemed to want to do it. I guess after I retired I joined the seniors group and then we finished the building over there,” he said.
The Elks Lodge put $250,000 into the Seniors Centre that is still running today.
People in Prince Rupert who still remember Art Murray have called him a “genuine character.”
He left the North Coast and moved to the Lower Mainland 30 years ago.
That said, his grandchildren, who live in Prince Rupert, when they visit him they bring him the Northern View to read to help him stay fresh on the political and business activity in the community he helped build.