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A Purpose Filled Life – The Bill White Story
Part Four – New Directions in Bellevue

In last week’s column I led you through Bill White’s fascinating journey into coal mining and gas plant construction. These were the important working times that refined his deep sense of care and concern, his business acumen and his adaptability skills. In 1964 Bill and Doreen chose to return to Bellevue from Calgary where he applied those skills in some rather interesting ways.
Bill went to work in Vicary Mine right off the bat but that only lasted four months and resulted in three cracked ribs. Despite the pit bosses protestations that they wanted to make Bill a fire boss, he left the mine to fulfill another dream of his. Bill had always wanted to own some land so he purchased the dairy farm of Adolf Bogusch, east of where the old MDM School now sits, and began raising purebred Aberdeen Angus cattle.  Bill has never been afraid of trying anything new and in short order he built this business into a successful venture. Shortly after purchasing that quarter section of land he bought another quarter section in the Beaver Mines area.
Through the years 1964 to 1977 Bill raised some fine quality stock, some of which he showed in agricultural shows like the Fort MacLeod Spring Bull Show and Sale. There are several ribbons displayed on his prayer center/museum walls that show his success. He started by buying 24 Aberdeens from a Coaldale breeder named Alex Serra and with that sale came a promise of semen from that breeder’s prize bull. Bill said Serra’s prize bull was worth $300,000 and in short order he got 22 calves from using this prolific animal’s sperm.
On the farm he had horses and chickens and a sheep named Bam Bam that liked to chase the tires of his car. Towards the end of this particular venture Bill told me Otto Lang, the federal minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, brought about changes that tripled and then quadrupled feed costs which proved catastrophic for many breeders including Bill. His feed costs that last winter were going to be $32,000 and so he ended this venture and sold his stock, which should have been worth $100,000, for about a third of their worth and took the loss.
Coincidental with running his farm Bill White had several other irons in the fire. Around 1966 he took over Lamey’s Insurance which he and partner Walter Sherley ran for many years. Bill was also an agent for Metropolitan Life and won several awards for his proficiency as one of their salesmen.  He also sold real estate, was licensed in securities and became the principal appraiser of properties for the banks within the Pass for mortgages. In this regard Bill always applied a level of fairness and was always quick to challenge bank denials for people seeking mortgages.
He recalls being contacted by Kaiser Resources prior to 1968, when they were ramping up to build the Elkview Mine. They asked Bill to do appraisals for the agricultural lands around their planned construction and operations site, which he did. Bill said he applied the fact that families were being uprooted to his assessments, once again showing his care and concern principles. He also did as assessment of the lands owned by Winnipeg Coal and Fuel Company who originally ran the lime kilns on the east side of the Frank Slide. These were lands adjacent to and running into the slide itself. He discovered in his investigations then that the Alberta Government had designated the Frank Slide a protected heritage site and that “not one boulder was to be moved.”
The appraisal business took an interesting turn after four or five years and this involved Central Housing and Mortgage (CHMC) with who Bill used to deal. It significantly affected his appraisal opportunities as they sent a man down to review Bill’s appraisal files and to get a feel for Pass issues and then promptly formed the Alberta Appraisal Institute. This more or less reduced his business and of this Bill used an old saying I had not heard before. He said, “Some days it’s chicken, some days it’s feathers”, which is to say sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail. I don’t know that this man was ever deterred by the feathers he encountered.
Bill also told me about a business he opened in Bellevue back then that ran for five years. It was called the Bellevue Superstore and, according to him, it succumbed eventually to the fact that people, especially the 4 by 4 mine shift workers, chose to travel to Lethbridge for what he was offering. What the store offered was mostly hardware but also had giftware, flower arrangements, jewellery, gift cards and a real cross section of sundry items like wicker baskets and chairs, lanterns and that sort of thing. Bill’s daughter Sharon did amazing flower arrangements and by all reports really put her heart into it.  The store was called Brazzoni’s Sundries before Bill took it over and he even had a special room with large broadloom rolls they called the Rug Room.
Mr. White also ran a business called Pass Cleaning and Equipment Supplies and even had accounts with Kaiser Resources and the hospital. The diversity of his entrepreneurship legacy is truly amazing and he has never been one to be afraid of trying something new. In the process of working on main street Bellevue he renovated three buildings himself. They became a suite of four apartments, the vet clinic and his Internationale Prayer Center.
There is so much to the Bill White story that sometimes I don’t know where to turn next. But my eye did catch a couple of hockey pictures on his museum walls and I knew there would be a huge story there. Bill played hockey for a great part of his life up until he was 56. One picture that caught my eye was of him in full hockey gear with a jersey that had a big CN on the front. He looks formidable.
Bill played in every level of hockey, from bantams to pee wees to midgets to juveniles.  He recalled playing on a juvenile team against an Edmonton team that came to town and was deliberately stacked with their best stars, of which they had about a 100 carded players from which to choose. He smiled when he told me that they beat Edmonton by a score of 4 to 1 and Bill got the final goal that sealed their fate.
He played with the Coleman Grands for a time when they had a lineup that included the likes of Bill Fraser, Duke Kwasnie and Jimmy Joyce. Bill was one of four juveniles on the team that included Teddy Kryczka, Richard Antonenko and Alex Kovasik. A now Canadian Hall of Famer goalie by the name of Tiny Thompson urged Bill, in 1947, to try out for the Black Hawks farm time in Regina which he did. Tiny Thompson played here, many years ago, for the Bellevue Bulldogs.
Probably my favourite hockey story that Bill shared with me went something like this: One day Joe Fortunaso called Bill and told him that he had the Bellevue arena ice in perfect shape but no one was using it. So in typical White fashion, Bill leaned into the problem and put out the word. The word was this, if you want to play minor hockey, show up at the Bellevue arena this Saturday at 9 am.  That day came and over 120 kids showed up at the facility. In short order six teams were formed, at different levels, and it became immediately clear to Bill that uniforms and equipment were going to be needed.
Bill arranged for the kids to sell booster tickets all around town and each kid had an area to canvas in support of minor hockey. That booster drive brought in $500 that next Saturday, so he ran the booster drive again and then set up a bank account and ordered in uniforms and good goalie equipment. Six coaches were lined up and as he explained it to me, it was all going to be fair. His philosophy was everyone played, whether good or bad, and the logic behind that was if you put poorer players with better players, they learn from them. Bill himself coached all six teams for two years, a commitment that ran from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm on Saturdays. Eventually six coaches stepped up to take over and Bill recalls well known NHL players like Doug Houda and Darcy Wakaluk were at the arena as young boys.
He also tried out with the Lethbridge Native Sons but a puck in the eye took him out of the running for that position. He played Junior A out of Bellevue with a team called the Coalers and also with the Blairmore Bearcats. In later years his was deeply involved in Old Timers Hockey, something that was huge in its day. Bill recalls playing with the Old Crows in tournaments in places like Lethbridge, Regina and Victoria that had a 72-team roster.

Author’s Note:  Next week I will wrap up Bill White’s legacy with a story that started in Hawaii and profoundly moved him to become who he is today.

White's prize Aberdeens All photos courtesy Bill White Archives

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One took Grand Reserve Championship, Awards from the Fort MacLeod Spring Bull show and sale

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White's prize Aberdeens All photos courtesy Bill White Archives

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