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Memory Lane: Today, can you imagine Sudbury without Science North?

A perfect piece of architecture overlooking a picture-perfect lake; share your memories of Science North for our latest Memory Lane feature!

Can you imagine Sudbury without Science North?

Over the last 37 years, it has welcomed thousands of people from throughout Canada and the world to its science exhibits. It has become a community centre: a place for special events such as the Canada Day concert and the Festival of Lights, and celebrations such as weddings and Christmas parties. 

For many years, the Snowflake Restaurant was a posh place to go for dinner. The food didn't always get rave reviews, but its view of the lake was second to none.

The science centre has provided job experiences and opportunities for top-notch science specialists and administrators, fundraisers, publicists, filmmakers, exhibition designers, artists and special event co-ordinators. These talented people, many of them born and raised in Sudbury, have enriched our community by making their homes here instead of heading south.

Is there anyone in Sudbury who has not been to Science North? Sudbury.com invites readers to share their memories of visiting or working at the science centre for the Memory Lane feature.

Opened in 1984

Northern Life reporter Nicole Charette wrote the front page story announcing "Science North Now Open" in the June 20, 1984 edition.

George Lund, the first chair of the board of directors for Science North, said, “It’s the beginning of what we think is a new era for Sudbury."

Lund hoped Science North would counter the city's negative image and boost tourism as a secondary industry, wrote Charette, who would go on to work at the science centre in public relations a few years later.

In October of that year, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened Science North, and for the community recovering from a recession and a downturn in the mining industry, it was a good omen. Anything seemed possible.

Sudbury got Science North right. It is a perfect piece of architecture overlooking a picture-perfect lake. 

My own memories include reporting on Premier David Peterson's visit to the centre in 1986. The first Liberal premier in 42 years was still a novelty. Someone convinced him to lie down on the bed of nails for a photo op.

When Toronto hosted the G7 Economic Summit in June 1988, Science North was invited to exhibit at one of the downtown pavilions promoting Canada. A Science North official told me that staff were driving the beaver to Toronto, and in between appearances at the summit pavilion, it would be sleeping in a bathtub in a Harbour Castle Hotel suite. It was a great story, but I was too busy to try to freelance it. 

As it turned out, not much happened at the G7. Reporters from around the world were fascinated with the beaver. He was a big hit. I missed my chance at a scoop.

The then American ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, spoke at the Cavern as the guest of Vale in 2005. I don't remember what big announcement was made, but I do recall the ambassador was accompanied by five RCMP plainclothes officers. It seemed much ado about nothing.

In 2011, I attended the opening gala for "Born to be Wild", the IMAX film produced by the Science North team. The soundtrack used the Steppenwolf 1968 hit "Born to be Wild." Lead singer John Kay was invited to perform. I was representing Northern Life that night and was seated at Kay's table. 

When I was a teenager, "Born to be Wild" was associated with Californian counterculture because it was used in the 1969 motorcycle movie "Easy Rider." I was surprised to learn Kay was Canadian not Californian. He was born in Waterloo and made his debut with The Sparrows at Wilfrid Laurier University in September 1965. After heading to the United States, the band changed its name to Steppenwolf. The hit song has taken on special meaning to me after meeting Kay.

Sudbury’s looks forward to hearing your memories of Science North. Post your stories and photographs in the comments below, on Facebook, or email them to editor@sudbury.com. If you do comment, be aware we may use your name and story in the follow-up piece Feb. 16.

Vicki Gilhula, a freelance writer, is a former editor of Northern Life and Sudbury Living magazine. She has a special interest in history. Memory Lane is made possible by our Community Leaders Program