Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fort McNickname

One of the things you notice pretty quickly here is that this is a city that attracts nicknames. The names are often not flattering ones, but they are reflective of what people think of the city. Some of the nicknames arose here, and some, I suspect, were devised by those from other places. Regardless, the  nicknames provide a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of Fort McMurray.

The first nickname I heard was "Fort McMoney". That's a pretty simple one to grasp. Fort McMurray is a city that attracts those who wish to make money. It's one reason it's so popular with those from the east coast of Canada, particularly Newfoundland. This city represents the potential to earn the kind of money beyond what most can dream, particularly since many jobs don't even require the kind of education lucrative jobs often do. Truck drivers on the oilsands site can earn an astonishing amount of money, and in the case of those from the east coast it can be more than enough to buy a house "back home" and eventually retire there in comfort. There is a catch, though - money is addictive. I've met dozens of people who have "made their fortune" here, gone back east to retire - and are back again within a year or two, drawn back in by the lure of the dollar. As a nickname "Fort McMoney" is right on target, I think.

The second and far less flattering nickname is "Fort McCrack". This one definitely alludes to a darker side of this city, meaning the drug culture. Yes, there are drugs here. This is true of any city or town in Canada but I suspect the drug traffic here is higher due to some simple realities - money, time, and boredom. Too much money, too much free time, and too little to do can easily result in people developing bad habits. As a species we are prone to addictions (whether it be drugs, or alcohol, or gambling, or shopping) and when people have the means, the time, and the opportunity some will fall prey to them. This isn't to imply that drugs are everywhere here - if you lead the kind of life I do you rarely encounter them. But I imagine most people here have either witnessed a drug buy or seen someone who was obviously high - I know I have. For me "Fort McCrack" is a nickname that refers to a pretty specific aspect of our city, but I would guess for some it's the defining one.

The last nickname is "Fort McMommy". This one takes a little explaining. Fort McMurray is a young city, and there are many young families here. Young couples come here for the "McMoney" and end up staying because the female partner becomes a "McMommy". Really all this means is a woman with children who happens to live here. Often young, maybe in their twenties, with several children in tow, the "Fort McMommy" is a standard fixture about town. Unlike McCrack the McMommy is, in fact, everywhere.

There are other nicknames, I'm sure. Those are just the ones that have always really stood out to me because they all speak to some characteristic of this city. The first one, McMoney, encompasses both the potential and the peril of our city. The second, McCrack, cautions about that peril, the underbelly that every city has but seems just a bit more pronounced here. And finally, McMommy represents some hope in this city, at least in my eyes. A city with children becomes by it's very nature more of a community and less of a working town, and thus I see every McMommy as contributing to changing the face of this city. McMoney and McCrack just don't seem to stand a chance against McMommy.


  1. As a footnote to your musings, in March 2011 the local health centre in Fort McMurray broke it's record for number of baby deliveries in one month. They delivered 118 babies, the previous record had been 113.
    As well, in 2010 there were 1,400 babies - give or take one or two - delivered at the health centre.

  2. J.M.

    Thanks for the information! Further proof of the potential power of the McMommy! That's an astonishing number of new residents, and I'm glad you brought the actual numbers to the conversation.