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Michael Mogus

Our Treasured Heritage
A History of Coalhurst and District
Pages 440-443
by Sue Soenen

My parents came to Canada from Bukovina, Austria around the year 1908. They were married on September 22, 1913 in St. Cyprian's Church in Lethbridge. The Church was destroyed by fire years later and the records were transferred to St. Augustine's Church. After living in Lethbridge and Diamond City for a few years, they moved to Coalhurst and lived there until their passing. Our home was in 'Wigan, just west of the Nestoruk property. Wigan was the 'lower' part of the town where most of the mine laborers lived. My father worked in the mine full time until coal orders slowed down and then worked part time only. After the mine disaster in 1935, he went to Priddis Mine to work, only to be severely injured soon after. In 1945 my parents bought a small farm adjacent to Wesselman's. My father passed away on February 11, 1948 at the age of sixty-one. My mother remained on the farm a few years but later sold it and moved into Coalhurst where she lived until the time of her stroke in December 1962. She was in a nursing home until the time of her death on February 9, 1975. There were eight children in the family with six surviving.

My own recollections of Coalhurst begin when Coalhurst slowly became a ghost town. I remember a lot of vacant lots and their basement holes that I fell into taking short cuts home on dark nights. Still vivid in my mind at the age of five was the whistle blowing incessantly the day the mine exploded, and being at the mine with my family later in the evening. Because I am the second youngest in the family, I probably don't remember the worst of the hard times. My mother often told me we had no idea of hard times and wished we would never experience what she did. I recall the day the power company came to our house to cut the power lines. It seemed natural to have the kerosene lamp light as I was too young to compare it to the power. I remember the relief parcels with material, shoes, jackets, etc., and though there was a stigma to this we were happy to receive them and wear the dresses sewn for us. The styles then were similar to those of today. There was not any fancy food on our table and not the variety, but I find myself trying to equal the good flavor of the food my mother prepared for us in those days, when we felt hard done by or compared it to that of friends whose financial position was much better than ours.

The "Red and White Store" was fascinating to me with its dry goods and groceries, Aunt Doty's for her array of penny candies, and Bill Willis' store for his ice cream. There were far more stores at one time and I have only slight memories of Pavan's store, the drug store, hotel and Sabora's store. The Pavan private property was a very beautiful place and it was sad to see so many lovely homes torn down or moved away. My sister Helen remembers the Chinese Restaurant, Miner's Club, and the Chinese man delivering vegetables in his yellow wagon which resembles the Kraft wagon shown on T.V. commercials. She also remembers a band of Indians camping in Sabora's field and Mrs. Berlando delivering milk with her black cutter. I recall swimming in the irrigation ditch at Aben's with a lot of kids, and hiding in the trees when Mr. Black the ditch-rider would appear, then joyfully resuming our swim when he left. Passing the "slew" at Wigan brings fond memories of winter skating with the accompanying aroma of a rubber tire or old railroad tie being burned on the side of the pond for warmth. There were hockey games between Coalhurst and Wigan boys and we recited a saying that went "Wigan guys get the pies, Coalhurst bums get the crumbs". This was reversed of course by the Coalhurst fans. The rink was so crowded on Sundays it was hard for a beginner to get much skating done.

Going to Lethbridge on Saturdays and catching the 1:30 passenger train for thirty-five cents return was exciting for me, and frightening when we went over the high level bridge. Sliding down the Coalhurst slag pile in winter provided a lot of fun, hard work climbing up, but worth the swift slide down, whether on the end of a broken flat shovel or the fender of an old Model A Ford retrieved from the dump. The Christmas Concerts in those days can never be compared to any so far that I have seen, perhaps have never meant to be recaptured because they were so special at that time.

I can still see Mr. Hugh McLeod going to the train station to pick up the mail and deliver it to the Post office, and still hear the coal furnace at the elementary school being stoked by Mr. Start, and Sports day being quite an event. We'd climb the dump which was quite high then on a spring day and view the town below and I thought it was true that the meadow Lark was really singing "Coalhurst is a pretty little town" as my brother had told me once.

Our children have had similar experiences as mine, skating on that same pond, and jogging in as that were familiar to me as a child, as well as going to school here, and I know I may safely say if sentiments would be as mine, Coalhurst was and still is a nice little town.

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Mary Tollestrup