I arrived in Fort McMurray in October of 1977. My cousin was working as a welder, he was a contractor when the Syncrude site was being built. He convinced us to move here. My husband and I were newlyweds and my cousin thought it would be a great idea for us to start our life’s here. Which incidentally, Fort McMurray was not even on the map at that time!
It was October when I landed here from Toronto, and the temperature was about -40. I thought we had just stopped to do a fuel top-up and we were going to continue on, but then I saw my cousin and husband in the airport terminal (which was a trailer at the time!) The two of them were waving happily as I was coming down the tarmac. It was cold! I thought “oh-my-gosh” this is really happening! I’d came from Toronto, I was wearing a light-brown leather, full-length coat with styling leather boots! That was my first impression of this place, it was a cold & desolate-what had I gotten in to?
Early the next morning, when my cousin and husband left for work, it was just me in the townhouse. I didn't see a peep, nothing was crawling (well nothing should be crawling at -40)! I thought to myself, I should go and look for a job. So on my second day here I was brave enough to venture out. When I turned the key to the ignition, the car sputtered, it just wouldn't turn over. I was in tears because I was so cold and my fingers were so cold on the wheel! So I thought to myself "no this isn't working". I went back inside and warmed myself up, then I got back out and tried again, the engine finally turned over and the car started to move, but it sounded like I was driving a “Flintstone” car, the tires were just so hard! I was in reverse, so I put the car into drive and it didn't move! The wheels just started spinning because the road was solid ice! I left the car right where it was and went back home.
My neighbor probably saw what was going on because he came over and ask if I needed help. He told me to just let it run for a while and it'll be ok. So I did and drove out into the road very slowly, (thank goodness we didn't have the population we do now!). The first job that I applied for wasn’t offering a good wage so I told the recruiter that I couldn’t possibly live off what he was offering and that I had just left a great job in Toronto and to call me when he had a better offer. He called me the next week and let me know he found a job for me.
I worked in the Mind Maintenance Department at Syncrude, for the superintendent. We had people from all over the world in my group at work; one was from Manitoba, Saint Paul’s, Newfoundland, Ontario, Jamaica, Australia, Germany and myself from Guyana. Being from Guyana, my English language skills haven’t always been that great, (my children would attest to this!)
One time while at work, I was hungry for a snack, they had great food in the cafeteria, but what I really loved was those little cracker packages and little jam jars. I was working hard and didn’t want to interrupt my work but I was starving, so I yelled out "does anybody have those nut butter and biscuits to share with me?" No one answered, so I yelled it again, finally an Australian fellow I worked with, stood up and yelled " Its peanut butter and crackers you idiots!"
We had a tight group, just the 8 of us - from all over the world. The relationships that we had developed were just amazing! We all wanted to be here, we all wanted to work- so we made the best of the situation. We developed great friendships and looked out for each other- Everybody took care of each other. Even though we’ve grown much bigger, we’re still a great community and that’s why I call Fort McMurray my home.
I am like so many other people here in Fort McMurray. My parents moved here in 2001 from Newfoundland for jobs. I was in high school at the time and a little reluctant to move. It took about a year before I fell in love with the community and didn't want to leave.
I spend most of my time being involved with the community in various formats, whether it's working, my work on the council, through volunteer efforts or the boards I sit on. I really enjoy getting to know the community and working within it. I'd say ninety percent of my time goes to working and volunteering the other ten is spending time with my family who often ends up getting roped into my projects.
After high school, I moved briefly to Ottawa and studied at the University of Ottawa in political science and public relations at Algonquin College then I moved back to Fort McMurray in 2009.
Fort McMurray just calls you back, there's a little bit of opportunity and possibility that's always here. You can come here and be a really big fish in a small pond.
I think Fort McMurray is not what people think it is. I don't think people should ever judge a book by its cover, although I think our cover is getting pretty darn great. Fort Mcmurray is a really great family community and I don't think people really realize that until they get here.
My Boyfriend had been working in Fort McMurray for his whole career. He later became my fiance, then we got married and moving to Fort McMurray became our honeymoon. We moved here on June 1st, 2005. The move was mostly exciting because I was young and I was a newlywed and I had never lived with my husband prior to getting married, we were very traditional.
We had our wedding on May 28th, then we bought our first house in Fort McMurray together. We packed up my apartment and his house and we left in the middle of the night and drove all night to take possession of the house, we were just so excited.
I think the reason we love it here is that when we moved here we didn't have a huge friend network. Everyone was so friendly, just like everyone always says about the people of Fort McMurray. We made lots of really fast and good friends that are still to this day our friends, the have become our family.
I never really thought back when I was like 23 moving up here that this would be our hometown per say. Now, this is my children's hometown, they were all born here. So when the fire happened and we thought about all the options. The kids were devastated to think about not coming back, they were born here, they were raised here, this is their hometown.
My friends are here, the arts community is amazing, and the people that live here are great. Aside from all that, the thing that really keeps me here is that this is my children's hometown. There's always something going on whether that is dance classes, art classes or sports games. I feel like if anyone is ever here saying there's nothing to do - then you are really not trying.
Do you know what a demonym is?
The Oxford dictionary describes a demonym as, "A noun used to denote the natives or inhabitants of a particular country, state, city, etc."
So how does a particular country, state, city etc choose their demonym? "Demonyms happen organically, but are largely determined by the sounds in words," said Darin Flynn, an associate professor of linguistics.
"In the end, when you keep track of all the different sound constraints, you still end up with a variety of choices," said Flynn. "So then it becomes interesting to find out what people see as their default, their go-to one. And that varies from place to place."
If you take a look at the official list compiled by the Public Works and Government Services of Canada you’ll notice Albertan's seem to really like the the suffix - (I)TE. Even though phonetically there could be better options. You’ll also notice Fort McMurray does not have an official demonym listed. Wikipedia also fails to mention Fort McMurray's demonym, as it does other major cities and towns like Edmonton (Edmontonians). Cities ending in E, ER, IE, O & OR tend to use the suffix (I)TE. Whereas cities ending in A, AI & AY tend to use (I)AN.
A quick history on Fort McMurray's name:
Fort McMurray was founded in 1870, Fort McMurray and Waterways amalgamated as the village of McMurray in 1947 then in 1962 the Fort was added back to reflect the city's heritage
Here’s a quick list of English suffixes:
What do you call the people of Fort McMurray? Leave a comment below and let us know!
I moved here from Sweden. I came up to visit here for about a month then I moved to Vancouver as part of my internship for 8 months - hated it. It was cold and I was freezing, lonely, and broke. I found it was really hard to make friends in Vancouver. It’s a beautiful city but clicky and I knew no one going there so I was pretty lonely. After that I went back to Sweden for a year and finished my degree then I moved to Fort McMurray permanently.
I’ve been here for about 5 years now and I got my residency after 2 years. My heart is in the arts and if you're to practice arts especially as a beginner like myself this is an amazing place to do it. The arts community is very welcoming, warm, and creative - it's vibrant.
I spend most of my time at the theater, Keyano, Suncor energy center for the performing arts (SECPA), I volunteered between 150 and 160 hours per month last year it was all for the arts especially at the theatre, which is pretty insane but it's fun.
I like to go for walks on the trails like everybody else, I tend to spend a lot of time in the woods it's beautiful there. I also like it down by the Snye and the Shipyard it's beautiful. There's a lot of little spots around town that are amazing.