In the summer of 1875, Harry Ridgeway arrived in Springhill, Nova Scotia from Staffordshire, England. His wife, Harriet, came to Canada later with two daughters, their family at that time. They lived in a log house built not too successfully by Harry Ridgeway, as snow drifted in during the winter months. The bitter cold was also very evident as the green forest wood refused to burn in the coal stoves. As time went on more children were born and Leonard James Ridgeway was the youngest of ten children. He attended the Springhill school, but as most of the other boys, he left school at an early age to work in the coal mine. Then in 1909, at age nineteen, he left home and travelled to Western Canada on the "Harvest Special". This was a train running from Eastern Canada, bringing workers to harvest the grain. He arrived in Coalhurst where he lived with his sister and her husband. He only remained in Coalhurst for a short time and then travelled and worked in the Coeur d'Alene and Spokane area. In 1911. he then returned to Coalhurst to work in the mine, again staying at his sisters who ran a boarding house for single men who worked in the mine.
Ethel Rose Taylor was born in Abbotskerswell, Devon, England. She had two brothers and three sisters, and one of the sisters with her husband and family, immigrated to Canada and lived in Coalhurst. So Ethel and a sister Violet also left England, had a tedious boat and train journey, but arrived in Kipp and lived with Mrs. Locke, the sister who had come to Canada at an earlier date. So Ethel went to work for Mrs. Barringham, this was Leonard Ridgeway's married sister who had the boarding house afore mentioned.
So, Ethel and Leonard met, fell in love and were married on the Twenty First day of January, 1913, by Anthony V. Grant, a Church of England Minister who had to come from Diamond City either by horse back or horse and buggy to perform the ceremony. Of interest right now in my home still remains some over seventy year old wedding gifts they received at that time.
Their first home was a rented company house and a daughter was born in this house. Dr. Rose and Mrs. McPherson, as midwife, were in attendance. We know the birth was after midnight, as Dr. Rose told Dad to make sure the coal oil lamps were ready for lighting as the electricity was cut off to the homes at midnight. The family then moved to Wigan. A son was born here with Dr. Rose again doing the delivering, this time assisted by Mrs. Fred Garrick. Then as time went on, we again moved back to Coalhurst into a company house, situated just east of "The Batch" and next to the "Teacherage". We lived here for quite a few years and the two children started their schooling in the one storey, four room school about halfway between Coalhurst and Wigan.
So we have memories of our childhood days. My sister can vaguely remember playing with a cousin, and on this occasion wearing a mask because of the flu epidemic of 1918. We were very young when we learned to skate at the old rink near the dump. When this burned down our skating was done on the frozen ponds and sloughs in the area.
We attended Sunday School at the Presbyterian Church where our mother was a member of the Ladies Aid. We can recall the annual Christmas concert and Santa Claus arriving with gifts and candy. The ladies had teas and home made pork and bean suppers to raise money for Church financing. The school Christmas concert was also a big night, and each class took part with songs, dances and skits taught by the teachers and practiced for many weeks prior to the big night in the Oddfellows Hall.
Also during these years, the big blizzard hit one day just early in the afternoon. I had already gone to school, but school let out early as our parents arrived to take us home. Dad and a car load of mine workers were between Lethbridge and Coalhurst when the storm hit. They were on their way to a deceased miners funeral at the time. Visibility was terrible, but dad turned the car around and started back to Coalhurst. Soon after the car had to be abandoned and the men walked along the highway until they came to the Patton residence. They remained there for a while before they faced the weather again. Later in the day, dad was able to get two horses from the mine, get back to his car and get it towed home. The blizzard is also remembered, as a school child was lost and perished in the cold.
Summer holidays from school were also happy times. We went swimming in the irrigation ditches and canals. I think it would be remiss to say that on many occasions we came home covered with more mud than we had before we started out for these cooling dips on the hot summer days. We also had a few occasions for river swimming if our parents were around to supervise. The coulees around were great places for hiking, and many a syrup pail was filled with Saskatoons, Chokecherries and Gooseberries which grew there and were picked on these occasions. Halloween was a big night for th e kids as we went from door to door collecting, in those days, mostly apples. In the later hours the older teenagers were out for a little fun and mischief and morning found all the out houses in every back alley in town dumped over.
The Monday night movie was a weekly highlight, with all the good westerns and a thrilling serial to bring us back week after week. I also remember Peter Pan and Wings, the war movie with sound effects to keep us thrilled and excited. The player piano was also operated to entertain us on these movie occasions. To this day I can still hear in my mind the bell ringing as the boys went up and down the streets shouting "High class moving picture show tonight at eight o'clock".
So our lives were filled with good things in our growing up days. We had moved to a larger house just east of the Police Barracks. Here we had a fenced yard, so dad had a vegetable garden along with a lawn and flower beds up front. Our skating, swimming and other activities kept us occupied and it was at this time my sister and a friend skated into a water pocket during a skating party at Park Lake. They were rescued by Gerwyn Lewis. Needless to say, that incident terminated the skating for that particular spring season.
Dad continued to work at the mine, and mom kept busy with the household duties. I can recall the smell of the Christmas cake baking in the oven, also the making of Christmas puddings, boiling nearly all day in a large boiler on the kitchen range. There was also the smell of vinegar, spices, etc., used for making pickles from the garden vegetables in the fall months. Dad and all of us enjoyed his car and our weekend trips to visit relatives or to picnic in the mountain areas was a great delight.
So these few memories come from our childhood and growing up days. We finished our schooling and our adult days were ahead.
My mother passed away in 1971, and dad in 1981, but they had celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1963. A lifetime of family experience cannot be included in this story, however, at the time of writing (March 1984) 1 know that my life has been made richer through a loving family and friends both in Coalhurst and Lethbridge.
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