• Travel

    Strange Place Names: Swastika, Ontario

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    Scattered across the world are cities and towns with odd place names. Canada has more than its share if you go looking. In Northern Ontario, just a couple of minutes southwest of Kirkland Lake, you can find the village of Swastika.

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    Yes, really.

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    According to Wikipedia, it was named after the Swastika Gold Mine, staked in 1907, which was named for the Sanskrit good luck symbol.

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    And I’m absolutely serious here, it’s on Trans Canada Highway 66, though I couldn’t get a picture with both signs in it.

    I was in Kirkland Lake this past weekend and took a little time to explore the area when I could. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to go to Swastika until we were on our way home, and there wasn’t time to look around much, but it seemed like a normal enough small town, with a bunch of houses, a few stores, a church, a school, a post office, and a fire station. Also a small park next to the river. And in that park, a train for children to climb on.

    (Not my picture. All of the photos on my phone are a little bit fuzzy.)

    One wonders why the town didn’t change its name during the Nazi years. I’m sure there was probably discussion over it, but I think the final decision was probably to raise a middle finger in Hitler’s direction. Lending a small amount of support to my theory is this easily-found photo of a period sign from the Swastika Drug Company.

    So I take the name of the town not changing as, “Screw the Nazis. We were here first.” I like the persistence. And the defiance.

    Still, for people from Swastika, I imagine it might make for the occasional awkward pause before answering the question, “Where are you from?”

    Be well, everyone.

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