June 10th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 23
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
Il Bosc- Stories from East Bushtown
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Herald Contributor Photo
Early 1900's map of Bellevue area",
A lot of people seem to be surprised when they hear that there was a Bellevue area Bushtown that was also referred to as “Il Bosc”. The term is Italian and in general can mean “the forest or woodland”. One glance at the area where this Bushtown used to be explains the term.
As you drive east on the highway past the Bellevue Mine and look south you see a large flat area between the CPR tracks and the river. These days it is frequented by anglers who don’t seem to be too concerned about fishing directly below our primary only sewage treatment lagoons. But back at the turn of the century an image I acquired of an old linen drawing from the Glenbow Archives reveals a different picture.
In the map on the right side is the original course of the Crowsnest River which you can see swept very close to the CPR as it turns south. You can also see a smaller secondary course further west. Today the river turns hard south at the bend and appears to have been moved away from the tracks down that old secondary course. Yet another map I found on the Peels Prairie Provinces website dating 1915 also shows the original course sweeping east up against the tracks.
On the Glenbow linen image I have highlighted three areas where some of the first houses in the Bellevue area were built. On the right side of the image are four houses that are labelled Italian Quarters. They were immediately south of the tracks as it bends. No surprise here. It Coleman the area referred to as Italian Town is immediately across the tracks from the old Coleman Collieries site. Not sure if these homes predate the development of Il Bosc.
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At an rate according to Crowsnest and Its People the community of Il Bosc started around 1910 and twenty or so families lived there, some until 1955. There was no access to Bushtown so everyone carried their supplies and feed down from the top of the hill. It is reported that beer was rolled down the hill from above and if the barrels hit the tracks it could get quite interesting.
Bushtownites made do in their confined area by having their own chickens and cows and by picking out free coal from the open coal cars parked on the siding by the old Mohawk tipple.
Il Bosc had its own bocce alley and an outdoor platform for dancing built by the locals. Those locals had names like Gatto, Fidenato, Petrini, Bosetti, Filipuzzi and Scodellaro. Relatives of the Scodellaro family have posted a whole raft of information on the family on a website called scodellaro.com. It is a wonderful site in which they have traced the origins of the family back to Northern Italy and followed the trail, using such documents as Ellis Island records, to Bellevue where two brothers Giovanni (John) and Ermano (Joe) Scodellaro came to work at the Hillcrest Mines. Incidentally there was a walking bridge built to allow Bushtownites to cross the river over to Hillcrest to get to work at the mine.
All family members are profiled on the Scodellaro site and the history of Il Bosc unfolds within this remarkable family story. It is one of good times and bad. In 1923 the Crowsnest River, which appears to have been moved west by then, ran wild and tore up most of Il Bosc. Houses floated down the river and most lost all of their belongings. It probably didn’t take much for a spring runoff to break out of this channelization and head for its old riverbed.
After the flood some moved to higher ground but the Sodellaro’s, whose original house was right on the riverbank, rebuilt further east, closer to the tracks and the Mohawk tipple. Once again in 1942 the river burst from the channel and flooded those who had remained. The Scodellaro’s moved up to Bellevue and stayed with son Edo until the house was repaired. They returned to their woodland home until 1950 when they moved up to Maple Leaf.
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Amongst the website family history the story of Duke Scodellaro provides a fascinating look into some early Canadian hockey history. Duli, as he was called as a child, was dubbed Il Duce Del Bosco ( The Duke of Bushtown) by one of his neighbours and so the nickname Duke stuck. Duke started playing hockey in his late teens and apparently Mr. Petrini made him his first pair of skates in his blacksmith shop. He played on outdoor rinks, like Redfern Lake near the Passburg Cemetery, and eventually played with the Coleman senior team. He was recruited as a goalie by the Trail Smoke Eaters in 1936 with a promise of employment. In 1938 they won the Canadian championship Allan Cup and the next year won the 1939 World Hockey championship in Switzerland. They allowed only one goal in eight games and that one was scored accidentally by a Trail player.
He joined the Air Force in 1941 and played on their team, sometimes at Maple Leaf Gardens. It is reported that he was the first goalie to practice cutting down the angle on forwards rather than staying back in the net. He is also credited with developing and wearing the first goal-glove blocker. A CCM representative saw his blocker at one game and the rest is history as they say.
There is very little evidence left of this remarkable community that lasted for forty years alongside the Crowsnest River and the Mohawk Mine. It is said that one can still see the foundations of the Scodellaro’s house across the tracks from the tipple.
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June 10th ~ Vol. 85 No. 23
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