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Michael Luco Sr. and
Bertha Mehalko Luco

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Pages 371
by Mike J. Luco

Mike Luco Sr., his wife and son, Mike, came to Sundial, Alberta from Minot, North Dakota in March of 1908. He shipped a box car to Lethbridge containing three work horses, three head of cattle, furniture, wagon, ten foot drill, and a sulky plow with a sixteen inch breaking bottom, and what other machinery could be crammed into the car. From Lethbridge this was all hauled to his homestead on which he had filed in 1907 and built a small house. It was located ten miles north of Turin. At that time some homesteaders were still breaking land with wallking plows. When they saw Dad's sulky plow on which you rode when plowing, they said it wasn't any good as it only had three wheels and would tip over if you made too sharp of a turn. That didn't prove to be the case as Dad didn't upset the plow once and could break three times as much sod in a day as those who were using walking plows. Later Dad bought a steam threshing outfit from A.P. Hughes, Barons, AB, much like the one he had in North Dakota and used the steam engine to break up hundreds of acres of sod for homesteaders in the district.

At that time most years were very dry with very little crop to harvest. There was also a lot of crop damage from cutworms and grasshoppers; also from hail and no such thing as hail insurance. Farmers barely made a living because of the poor crops. Dad was getting disgusted with all the crop failures he had, especially after seeing all those heavy crops of grain and alfalfa growing on irrigated farms around Coaldale and Lethbridge. In 1919 he bought an irrigated farm two miles south, two miles west and one mile south of Coaldale. Plescos live there now. This half section was very hilly and hard to irrigate and as we didn't know anything about irrigating we gave it up and traded it in 1920 to A.N. Kessler for 3/4 of dryland (Section 10, Twp. 8, Rge. 19) in the Readymade area. By this time our family had grown to five children, four of school age. The nearest school was the Readymade School five miles away with one room and Mrs. Reid was our teacher. We started to go to the Readymade school as did the Stanko and Yackulic children who had moved into the area about the same time we did. Soon the Readymade school was getting over-crowded but we continued to go there for over a year. Some of the children going there were the Wahls, Obers, McCanns, Worthingtons, Rassmussens, and others. A Frank Poole who just came from England started school at Readymade. His English accent made us all laugh when he talked, as we had never heard anything like it before. I often wonder if he is still in Canada! On Friday evenings the Readymade school held Box Socials and dances. Readymade dances were very popular for many years. Sam Stivers and Bish Davis were floor managers and called the square dances. One night a raffle was held and my Dad won a case containing a set of silver tea-spoons which made him very happy. I still have the case which reminds me of the good times we always had at the Readymade School.

For a time we went to the Owaking School, named after Ober, Wahl and King. Mr. Budd and Mr. Cannell were our teachers. This school was vacant for several years and in such poor condition that it could not be used during the winter.

Arrangements were then made with the Wilson Hutterite Colony for us to go to school there with Mrs. Judd as teacher. In the meantime my Dad and Mr. A. J. Watson, the school inspector, organized and formed a new school district, had a new school built and named it "Amiens". It was built in 1922 just two miles west of the Tudor home. The cement foundation still remains where it stood. When it opened our first teacher was a Mr. Wilson from Calgary. Our next teacher was Mr. Williams from Calgary also, who later became a dentist. Attending this new school were the Stivers, Stanko, Luco, Yackuhc, Tudor, Younger, and Ulekach children.

On May 28, 1922, while we were living on the Kessler farm our youngest sister was born. Dad went to town to get a Doctor as we didn't have phones, and left Aunt Mary Lelekach and myself to look after Mother. The baby was born before Dad got back with the Doctor. The Doctor said that everything was alright and that the baby weighed 12 pounds 8 ounces.

While we lived in the Readymade area our nearest neighbours were the Mike Stanko family just half mile north of us. Times were hard in those days. There was a lot of land vacant and our cattle used to pasture on it. One Saturday night when I was driving our cattle home on saddle horse, W. Stanko caught up to me on his bicycle. He was coming home after working all week at the No. 6 Mine in Lethbridge. He would go back to work on his bicycle Sunday nights as he had no car. He did this for several winters. I asked him why he didn't buy himself a car to travel with as a forty mile trip on bike was surely too much every weekend. He told me that he was saving up so that he could buy a brand new car and said that some day he would own all the land around here. It all came true for not long after that he bought a new Durant car also over 1000 acres of hay land from the C.P.R., broke it up with two new three cylinder Caterpillar diesel tractors, farmed it and as a result became quite wealthy. That shows what planning and determination can do.

Names of our other neighbors were O.T. Lathrop, George Rowley, George Rider, Vaselenaks, Kenneys, Fred Ewing, Tom and John Mandeville, and Sam Stivers, Ambert Kessler and Bish Davis.

We were paying W. Kessler $45. an acre for the farm we bought from him. Since crops were poor we couldn't pay the interest, so after two years we had to drop it. On the 9th March, 1923, we moved to the White School district where we bought a half section farm from the C.P.R. payable over a twenty five year period. We lived there for forty years. Our father Mike Sr. passed away on October 24, 1931 at the age of 56 years and mother passed away October 12, 1966 at 81 years of age. On May 17, 1977 our brother John passed away.

The Luco Family

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Pages 372 - 373
by Bernice Luco

Michael Luco, - born August 18, 1875, died October 24, 193 1, and Bertha Mehalko, - born January 24, 1885, died Oct. 12, 1966 were both born in Lehoczi, Austria.

Mike Luco and his sister Elizabeth were brought to New York by a priest of the Greek Orthodox church. Their parents had been killed for refusing to become Roman Catholics. As the priest's wife was jealous of Elizabeth she was married soon and raised a large family in Pennsylvania. Mike Luco was an engineer for the Northern Railway so saw much of America.

Bertha Mehalko also emigrated to New York, and worked for Jewish families. She met and married Mike Luco in 1906. Their first homestead was near Minot, North Dakota. They had seven children - Peter 1917 (who died of whooping cough at seven months).

Mike Luco wanted education for his children. One son attended University of Alberta 1930-3 1, taking an electrical engineer course, but due to his father's sudden death Oct. 24, 1931 returned to the farm. Three other children graduated as teachers. Two sons attended agriculture college and became successful farmers. All of the family looked after their widowed mother and treated her with great respect.

The Luco boys continued to farm in the White and River Junction areas. They raised grain, alfalfa and sugar beets. In 1937 they quit sugar beets, returned to the Sundial area to farm the original homestead, also rented more land. Mike also purchased N.E. 1/4 3.8.21 from the C.P.R. in 1938. He used a steam engine to break the prairie sod.

Insects and weather conditions continued to make farming difficult. World War II from 1939-1945 improved the economic outlook for farmers. Land was paid off and new machinery was purchased.

Joe Luco taught school in Coalhurst until 1942 when he took over the Imperial Oil Agency from R.D. Alexander. Joe married on July 19, 1947 had three children, all attended university. Joe died Feb. 22, 1989.

Mike Luco married September 1, 1948 and had two sons. He died September 23, 1980.

John (Submitted by Betty (Borgen) Luco) was born in Sundial, Alberta, June 6, 1915, the sixth child of Bertha and Michael "Mike" Luco. Schools he attended were White School, Lethbridge Collegiate, and Olds Agriculture College. He was on the farm with his brother Mike in the McNally District and then farmed west of Fort Macleod and Barons.

He loved the land, animals and sports. At one track meet a controversy arose when John's high jump was allowed, after diving over the bar instead of jumping in the traditional way. Some say John was ahead of his time.

His sudden death on May 17, 1966 was ahead of his time too. He left behind his wife and four children.

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Mary Tollestrup