March 24th, 2021 ~ Vol. 91 No. 12
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
Decoux’s Delicious Dandies – Part II
Looking Back
Courtesy V. Decoux
Three sweet Calder girls from Scotland chose Blairmore
Read: Part I - What Was Going On Seventy Years Ago

I am hopelessly immersed in a twenty five year pocket of Pass history and can’t seem to break out. Mr. Decoux’s remarkable collection of clippings has taken me over. I had thought I would broaden the scope of my next review of Vern’s always interesting news items to about a five year span but then I discovered something I had missed. That was Book One – January to July 1951 and that last week I had only dipped into the second half of that year. Once I dug into this first book I knew I wouldn’t get past this six month chapter with just one or two ditties.

So let’s peruse the going’s on in the first six months of the 1951 shall we. You’re gonna love it. The year started off with the new ski tow and night floodlights becoming operational at the ski hill. I read in Book Two that the renowned Swiss guide Bruno Engler showed up later in the year to try out the hill. It seems the hill was such a big hit that by mid-January the Lethbridge Ski Club arranged with CPR to have a ski train travel every Sunday from the city to the ski hill for all day skiing. Wow!

Later in the month that spectacular arched highway bridge next to Lundbreck Falls was opened to traffic. It is 242 feet long and stands 42 feet above the Crowsnest River. It is a beauty that’s for sure and was the way Highway 3 used to go, right past the falls. At the end of January there is a picture of a fire destroying the Frank CPR Station, burning it to the ground. The hydrant near the station was frozen and one on main street 400 yards away had no pressure. That sounds familiar for Frank doesn’t it?
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They tried hooking up to the CPR water tower but the stream it produced was too small to stop the blaze.

I found a news item in mid-February entitled, “Central High School For Pass Suggested” which was a recommendation surfacing because of overcrowding in the primary classes and an ever increasing enrolment. That year they were forced to combine Grades Six and Seven together. Blairmore Mayor Enoch Williams suggested at the annual ratepayers meeting that serious consideration should be given to a centralized high school for the three Pass districts. Well that took a while to happen now didn’t it?

There was always a myriad of minor stories to report every week like Owen Hughson cutting off his thumb chopping wood or Joe Giburi falling down the basement stairs, landing on his coal bucket, and fracturing several ribs. That one made we wince. A March 15 clipping with a delightful picture and a title, “Mountains Thrill Scottish Girls” really caught my eye. The bi-line below read, “Shown here are three attractive Scottish lassies who recently arrived in the Crows Nest Pass to make their home.” They were Florence (18), Jean (19) and Ina Calder (17) and their very first order of business was to head downtown Blairmore to try out a Canadian dish they had heard so much about. That dish was none other than a banana split. What I wouldn’t have given to have be an 18 year old in 1951, if you get my drift.
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It was interesting to note that gas prices jumped to forty one cents a gallon that spring. Think about that. That is nine cents a litre for gas! It was also reported that Blairmore town employees had their wages increased from 92 ½ cents an hour to a whole dollar.

Always interspersed, as I mentioned last week, were the continual stream of tragedies, whether it be those natural as in, “death removing someone” or “called by death” reports of those who had passed. There were also the inevitable unnatural accidents. That treacherous spring there were three tragic drownings in the Pass, one of them being two-and-a-half-year-old Kenton Dunford and later that month four year old Kenneth Sekina. The Crowsnest River could be a very dangerous place in spring. In the case of Kenton extraordinary measures were taken to find him which included diverting a two mile stretch of the river to aid their search for his body.

The early scrap books seem to always be sprinkled with pictures of contestants of young women vying for a crown, whether it be the Winter Carnival Queen or Victoria Day Queen or Coleman Rodeo Queen. High schools, clubs like the legions or Lions and local businesses often sponsored a candidate. Sometimes the winner went on to bigger competitions like the Banff Winter Carnival. This was a pretty big deal back then.
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In May the Coleman Italian Society held its 45th anniversary banquet and you can imagine what a feast that was back then. Familiar names like Angelo Toppano, Joe D’Appolonia, Frank Dececco, Silvio Castellano and Aldo Montalbetti were named as governing officers of this society first formed in Lille in 1906. Dececco’s position was known as “orator”. In Coleman the society was known as the Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of the Flower.

Let’s skip ahead briefly to July 29th so I can connect this next story which has a definite Italian flavour. Literally. The article’s title reads, “Macaroni King” Reels In 1,600 Feet of Native Food At Italian Picnic.” At the Italian society’s annual picnic Bob Salant was crowned Macaroni King after he consumed 5 ¼ pounds or 1,600 feet of macaroni in the record time of 18 minutes. It goes on to say that, “ under the guidance of Chef Angelo Toppano… 170 pounds of macaroni, 54 cans of Catelli Macaroni sauce, all flavoured with cheeses and various types of spices” were served. I would have paid big bucks to have been able to be at that bash.

A week earlier the always popular Coleman Rodeo was held, an event that drew literally thousands into the town. The rodeo first began in 1945 at war’s end and just kept growing and growing. Contestants came from all across Western Canada and the United States. The 1956 scrap books report 15, 000 people came to the rodeo and the parade was the biggest the Pass ever saw with 60 floats.
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The setting, where Horace Allen High School now lies, was considered the most picturesque rodeo grounds ever. The one and only Herman Linder was once again arena director. Linder was known as the King of the Cowboys and won 7 all-round Canadian championships and 5 North American championships in a row in the 1930’s. I can still hear his voice calling out from the booth up above the chutes as we all sat on that perfect amphitheater hillside above the grounds.

There was a rodeo queen contest and of course Vern captured images and write-ups of the contestants. I recognized in one clipping the beautiful 15-year-old Geraldine Clarke, running as the Coleman Legion candidate. The winner was 16-year-old Gloria Ryznar from Coleman but I would have put my money on Geraldine. I interviewed her many years later, then Geraldine Gettman, about her father Gerry who had survived the Balmer North explosion but was never the same man after.

As mentioned in the previous column the new highway through Coleman down fourth street was underway and that is when the overpass was built. There is a weak picture of its construction but it is the headline from July that caught my eye and made me nod my head. It read, “Huge, Round Boulders “Dozed” Out As Work Forges Ahead At Coleman”. They were undoubtedly erratics from the last glacial age and surprise surprise, two years ago when the sewer lines in the area were upgraded you can guess what they ran into. A whopping giant conglomerate boulder and an equally impressive igneous monster shoved or dropped there about 10,000 years ago.
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Some feedback to the first column came from retired geologist and mining historian Doug Macfarlane in Calgary. With regards to the loss of Allan Carey in October of 1951 at the International mine, Doug shared this memory. He had gone that very day to ask for work at the mine and the time keeper had said yes. Doug asked when he could start and was shocked to learn it would be that very afternoon. So he had to scramble, as a young man, to pull together boots, a hard hat and mine clothes. While standing waiting to be told what to do that day Pit Boss John (Jack) Marconi tapped him on the back and said. “Follow that man.” (an air locomotive operator) who was entering the mine.

That was it. No instructions. Nothing. Just get in there and, I guess, pay attention! Green as grass, in he went. And that very day Allan Carey was crushed between an air locomotive and a mine prop. Imagine how that must have felt for Doug? Carey’s father was Captain William Carey of the Salvation Army and was the one who had to identify his body.

Another bit of feedback that surprised me. Bushtown, Fred Bradley informed me, was never ever part of the town of Coleman per se. It was incorporated into the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass in 1979. Gloria Kuppenbender (nee Sikora) recalled that it took almost 20 years for her mother and father John and Helen to pay off the town for water and sewer installations to their house in Bushtown.

As so it went in 1951. Rodeos, tragedies, construction and the mines going full tilt. Fifteen years later, just like Doug, I had to ask that very same Jack Marconi for a job in Vicary Mine. His response was simply, “Come back tomorrow.” I did that for five days in a row before he said yes. Perhaps a test of me, aye Jack? My father was chief engineer at Coleman Collieries at the time but that made absolutely no difference. And so it should.
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March 24th, 2021 ~ Vol. 91 No. 12
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