Thompson gets a bad rap. There’s no doubt about it. Headlines about crime rates, high taxes, shrinking population, probably (unintentionally) send more people straight to the real estate office to get a For Sale sign put on their front lawn. And if they choose to go, well, they go. Like any relationship, if it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be.
Someone asked me at work the other day (again), “Why do you love Thompson?” And I get very defensive about Thompson. I don’t like hearing people badmouth our town, especially people who make their living here. It’s like that saying, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” or, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” A lot of people have gained a lot of better-than-average lifestyles from living in Thompson. The job opportunities are endless and far superior to job opportunities in the south. Everything I have, I got from living in Thompson. Families, friends, jobs, lifestyle.
The only people I let off the hook for naysaying Thompson are the people who grew up here. Because possibly I might feel different about Thompson had I grown up here, too. I only say that because I don’t have warm, fuzzy feelings about the town which I was raised near either. So I can see getting sick of Thompson if you were born and raised here. Change is good.
But I am a transplant to Thompson. I moved here at the age of 22. And I fell in love immediately. I remember going outside late at night with a coworker at the hospital for a smoke break (fresh air break for me), and seeing the tops of the big, huge, gorgeous spruce trees (or whatever they are) against the bright night sky and thinking I was in a northern paradise. Maybe I slightly romanticized the situation but I loved everything about Thompson. Coming from a farm with just a small town close by, I loved that we had a Walmart, two malls (!), shoe stores, three furniture stores and that was before The Brick was built, and even a wedding/event planner and I was able to purchase my wedding invitations right here in town!
This was before online shopping took hold but you could purchase pretty much anything you needed here in Thompson. I bragged about it, I truly did. There seemed to be oodles of restaurants back then and you could take your pick of where you wanted to go out to eat. The bar scene was hoppin’, there were two bowling alleys, lounges … not to mention all the outdoor activities Thompson had to offer. Some of the best fishing in the province, just 20 minutes away! There were groups and clubs and organizations and churches and Thompson was a busy place, always something going on.
Even more so today than 20-some years ago, Thompson is a melting pot of multiculturalism. And I think it’s fantastic! People come from all over the world to Thompson, to live their lives and raise their families. They may not stay forever, but the point is they come. I’m very grateful my kids have grown up here and were exposed to so many different cultures and people from various walks of life. When I was growing up and going to school in a small town, I don’t think I met anyone who wasn’t from the same 45-kilometre radius, much less a different country on the other side of the world.
I probably don’t romanticize Thompson anymore. It’s changed. But so has every other town in the province. I’d still rather live here. Thompson for me is home. It’s where my kids were raised, where I met my spouse and where I’ve had really amazing job opportunities. It was built around a mine, so it was never meant to stay the same forever. I think that’s how these things go, they ebb and flow. We have lost some of the best things about Thompson (like the Norplex Pool) but hopefully there’s a new one on the horizon. And some of the other businesses we’ve lost are possibly due to the surge in online shopping (which can be said for anywhere) and COVID. And yes, now we do have to pay for our own water consumption, which, when I moved here, was one less bill each month. But I do remember people wasting water back then, leaving lawn sprinklers on all night, and in the rain. Having a water bill now is not the end of the world.
Crime? Well it’s everywhere. The small “farm town” near where I grew up is experiencing crime and issues with drugs that people 30 years ago would never have imagined in their wildest dreams! So it’s not just Thompson.
And if big city life is what you’re after, then definitely Thompson is not for you! If you want to drive 20 or 30 minutes to get to the grocery store in crazy traffic, then Thompson is not for you. If you have no interest in learning from other cultures, including Indigenous culture, then Thompson is not for you. My hope for Thompson going forward is to get a handle on why crimes are being committed and change the narrative. Give a hand up to people who are down and out, struggling with homelessness and addictions, and those in low-income situations with families to raise. Those are the people we need to stand up for. They are part of the foundation on which our city sits and if the entire foundation isn’t strong, the city will continue to wobble.
The population may continue to dwindle, the taxes may continue rising … but I’m here to stay (at least until I’m an old woman). I firmly believe you need to bloom where you’re planted.
Carla Antichow, who lives in Thompson, is a nurse, a mother to three teenagers and most recently a devoted “grandma” to a six-month-old golden retriever.