Like everyone else, my parents came to Canada for a better life. My dad came first in 1907 to the mines of British Columbia but he did not like living or working in the mountains. He returned to Scotland but emigrated in 1910, about the time of Hailey's comet, which made a deep impression on him. He settled in Midford (near Cochrane) and that is where my mother and sister Grace came in 1911. They sailed on the "Empress of Ireland" in November of that year. The seas were very rough, the boat was overdue so everyone had an anxious time. (My brother Jim did not come to Canada until 1920 with George and Jessie Black, my mother's sister). At Midford, the timber wolves would watch my mother go for water but she never showed fear. They had four children: two sons and two daughters, Jim died in April 1983.
About 1912, my parents moved to Commerce, where it was so desolate that they would bet on which "tumbleweed" would reach the fence first - those were the days before irrigation! My mother would board other miners. Everyone came as strangers but soon became friends and felt right at home at our house. It was so dry in 1918 that the cattle had only thistles to eat. In 1919 the winter was so severe that Mom said the dish towels froze in your hands if you moved far from the stove or heater.
Employment in coal mines was never steady; always lay offs and strikes, which eventually closed many mines. There were several mines in the Lethbridge area. Diamond City and Commerce Collieries closed about 1924. It was then that my dad walked from Commerce to Coalhurst (about 7 miles) to work in the mine. Finally a company house became available and we moved in January 1930. My father was ill at the time of the explosion December 9, 1935. How the wind howled and whistled around the tipple that night when sixteen miners lost their lives! Shortly after that the mine closed and hard times came. Until the outbreak of W.W. II in 1939, most families were on "relief" - about $12. 00 a month per family.
My father was a studious, quiet unassuming man who enjoyed everything in nature. He was particularly fond of butterflies - my mother said he would run a mile to catch one and then let if fly free. The bluebirds always had a nest in our yard and he helped to feed their young. At the Lethbridge Fair he would show our terrier 'Jackie', also the leghorn chickens. He exhibited and won prizes for sweet peas. One of his favourite books to read was the dictionary. I seldom had to open it for a meaning - I could just ask my dad. During the Depression (1929- 1939) my father enjoyed his garden. He always said "Plant a tree and you plant work for yourself." so he grew only fruit trees and shrubs. Mom used to make the best red and black currant jelly from the currants grown by him. I remember we usually had fresh green peas and new potatoes for July Ist. Work was scarce but sometimes he worked on road construction or building ditches for the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District. He never saw the better days return as his heart failed and he died May 9, 1938.
The coal miners were always good to the children. They supported a girls' softball team, and held sports day, also gave Christmas treats at the school concert. They built a hall where the miners would gather for a beer and a chat. A silver collection gave one a lot of entertainment in those days. Coalhurst was a nice place to live.
My mother was a wonderful person; always lots of fun when Mom was there. She was very civic minded and tried very hard to persuade the school board to include Grade 12 in Coalhurst High School. She was an excellent cook, so was often employed on "cook cars" at harvest time. I can remember her making and cooking the haggis (it took three days) for the Burns' Supper held in the Community Hall. The George Browns from Lethbridge supplied the music and Janet Mcllvena sang The Star of Robbie Burns'. Everyone donated his talents in those days. Mother also boarded some of the teachers - Betty Needs, Bokovoy sisters and Phyllis Obourne.
The members of the Pentecostal Church were so kind to my mother after my dad died and I was away from the home at school. In particular I mention Mrs. Harris, Mimi Wesselman and Minnie Smith. The group celebrated each other's birthdays with suppers, all food grown in their gardens.
My first teacher at Coalhurst was in Grade five Nora Tennant, a real gem. Some others I recall are Gladys Allendorf, Lorne Blackbourne, Sid Oliver (taught French), M. G. Merkley and W. J. White, an excellent teacher who made us like to learn. He brought scholastic achievement to Coalhurst.
In 1935-36, a very mild winter, we had to complete senior matriculation at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute. Milton Cunning drove an old McLaughlin Buick and took four of us to L.C.I. Tuition fees were $7.00 a month. I don't remember paying Milton for transportation but I do know he would shut off the engine and the car would coast down the hill - fuel conservation was important. He was a good driver.
The following winter, 1936-1937, was very different. There was snow and wind until every road was blocked. No one travelled but we could walk to the Court Whist games in the Hall. The fee was 25 cents and that included lunch. That winter there was an epidemic of measles and strep throat - no penicillin then! Everyone was saddened when Milton became ill and died in March, 1937. 1 will always remember him and the divinity fudge he made. Someone would donate the eggs and another the sugar. We shared what we had but the best of all were the friendships made.
My mother and I moved to Ottawa in 1943. It was wartime so everyone could find employment. Mom became a cook for a wonderful family who liked her so well that they took her with them when they returned to New York. Mom really enjoyed her latter years but never forgot her friends from Coalhurst.
Beveridge, Andrew born March 13, 1879 Cowdenbeath, Scotland; Died May 9, 1938.
Shaw, Elizabeth born March 11, 1882 Fauldhouse, Scotland; Died May 2, 1961.
Return Individual Histories
Copyright © 2000