It’s been said that one sign of old age is when you begin to live in the past. When the past is more real than the present. When the richness and complexity of the life that has been lived is more intimate and true than the life yet to be. Like the mermaids that lured the sailors with their songs, the past tempts me to its shores.
John Kinnear, a long-time resident of the ‘Pass and a fellow columnist in this paper, recently came across a website dedicated to archival records of Alberta’s weekly newspapers. The website, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, is a resource for scholars, students, and every day researchers and includes books, newspapers, maps and images.
My interest was the records for the Blairmore Enterprise, a weekly community newspaper published from 1910-1946. The great thing is all back issues are fully searchable online. That means you can put in a family name, an event, or even a business and find out what was happening in our community more than 100 years ago.
In the first issue of The Enterprise, dated September 29, 1910, local entrepreneur D.C. Drain has just invested $7,000 (worth more than $170,000 in today’s dollars) in expanding his hotel in Blairmore. Although the hotel is no longer there, Mountainside Medical is. Also in the paper, West Canadian Collieries is advertising its mines at Blairmore, Lille and Bellevue, particularly proud of its Belgian coke ovens. J. Montalbetti’s furniture store advertises iron beds and washstands with “Prices Away Down.” And A. Macleod asks, “What is a Home Without a Doherty Piano?” The answer: “All the Same as a Home Without a Mother.”
Although World War I began on July 24, 1914, that week’s front page of the Blairmore Enterprise led with the verdict of the coroner inquest into the June 19th explosion in the Hillcrest coalmine. One hundred and eighty-nine men died in Canada’s worst mine disaster.
The jury found that regulations had not been strictly adhered to, recommending that government inspections be increased to once per month. Also in the paper - the Blairmore Opera House was under new management, promising “High-Class Moving Pictures,” and R.W. Thompson of the Frank Wine & Spirit Co. had “ceased to walk, having purchased a car in Calgary.”
The last issue of the Blairmore Enterprise appeared on July 26, 1946. The Government of Canada sponsored a full-page ad promoting the valuable skills returning soldiers had learned during the war. “For every soldier in the air, there were ten on the ground - mechanics, draughtsmen, engineers and clerks.” In local happenings, a son was born to T.J. Costigan and wife (Mrs. Costigan was left unnamed, she undoubtedly had very little to do with the birth!). Mr. and Mrs. B. Hobson had spent their holiday in Nelson, B.C., and Coleman residents were busy planning their first annual rodeo, held on August 3, 1946.
I’m not sure why some of us are so attracted to the past. Perhaps it’s comforting to know that whatever adversity our forbearers faced, life still goes on. Maybe knowing that we are a part of some great story – not great in terms of world events, but great in the story of humanity, is life affirming. And as we get older, it is important to know that we matter now, because they mattered then. Peel’s Prairie Provinces