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Christmas 1924 by Michael Dawe features excellent historical photos of early Red Deer

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  • byMichael Dawe

    Another Christmas will soon be upon us. Since people often like to recall “old-fashioned” traditional Christmases, it is interesting to look back to the Christmas of 94 years ago in 1924.

    The Trimble house in the Michener Hill district of Red Deer- photo courtesy of Joan and Gary Trimble

    The early 1920’s had been a tough time for Central Alberta. A severe depression set in following the end of the First World War. Unemployment soared to nearly 25%.

    The Red Deer Memorial Hospital went bankrupt. The City struggled to meet its payroll even though expenses had been cut to the bone. The public school trustees went door-to-door to see if they could collect enough in delinquent taxes to pay the salaries of the local teachers.

    Shovelling in the deep snow – photo courtesy of Marguerite Lerouge Watson

    By December 15, temperatures plunged to -46.1° C and the following two days dropped even further to more than -50° C.

    Finally, by the mid-1920’s, the economy began to slowly improve. Local farmers in particular got a boost following the organization of such cooperatives as the Alberta Wheat Pool, Central Alberta Dairy Pool and the Farmers’ Cooperative Egg Marketing Association.

    The opening of the Provincial Training School (now Michener Centre), as the provincial institution for the residential care and education of mentally handicapped children, created a large number of very welcome government jobs in the community.

    Sledding on the North Hill – photo courtesy of Marguerite Lerouge Watson

    The hope that better times were returning created a cautious sense of optimism for the local businesses. As Christmas approached, a number of merchants put attractive displays in their store windows.

    Of particular note was an elaborate display of electrical and mechanical toys at Brazier’s Store, some beautiful French ivory pieces in the window of Porter’s Drug Store, toys and hockey equipment in the window of E.G. Johns Hardware and imported English foods in the front of  Lowes’ Grocery.

    Tobogganing – Red Deer Archives

    Soon, the local papers were full of ads with gift-giving ideas and Christmas specials. Dolls were offered for $1 to $3 at Braziers. Johns Hardware advertised CCM “automobile” ice skates for $6 a pair. The Gaetz and Ewart Department Store sold silk hosiery for $1.95 per pair and silk bloomers for $2.75.

    Ad for W.E. Lord’s Department store – ad from Red Deer News

    Unfortunately, just as the Christmas shopping season was getting under way, Central Alberta was hit with a terrific blizzard on December 13. 58.5 cm of snow fell in three days and high winds created enormous drifts. By December 15, temperatures plunged to -46.1° C and the following two days dropped even further to more than -50° C. It was difficult to tell what the actual temperature was in the City as most thermometers stopped working.

    The passenger trains ran several hours behind. The local schools closed for a few days. Milk, bread and grocery deliveries were often suspended. Wiltshire’s Bakery had to use a sleigh for its deliveries for the first time in four years.

    Mrs. Fleming and friend on a stroll with their children’s sleighs – photo courtesy of Lindsay Fleming

    Towards the end of the week, things had improved slightly. On December 18, the lows for the day were only -45.6°C. Nevertheless, local farmers found it impossible to make it into town. Many City residents remained loath to venture out of their homes.

    Merchants put warm winter clothing on sale. Some put signs on the windows that said “Come In and Get Warm”. Still, the downtown area became very quiet.

    Carscallen House at Christmas – Red Deer Archives

    Fortunately, the weather warmed up a bit in the final days before Christmas. The local churches were able to re-stage their annual Christmas concerts and the children’s parties that had been postponed due to the terrible weather.

    Carscallen children with dolls – Red Deer Archives

    The Red Deer Welfare Board continued to gather Christmas hampers for the needy. Great assistance was provided by the newly-formed Rotary Club and Elks Lodge. The Rotary Club also purchased a 4-tube radio for the Christmas enjoyment of the patients at the Red Deer Municipal Hospital. It was the first electric radio to be installed in a public hospital in Alberta.

    Little boy by Christmas tree – Red Deer Archives

    On Christmas Eve, temperatures “soared” to just below the freezing mark. Hence, the local churches were packed for the usual Christmas Eve Services. Christmas Day was also sunny and relatively warm. Thus, people were able to get out and enjoy the outdoors, between the gift opening in the morning and the enormous family Christmas feasts later in the day.

    Springvale Methodist Church decorated for Christmas – Red Deer Archives

    Despite all the challenges that had beset the community, people were able to wish each other a “Very Merry Christmas” and heartfelt wishes for a better New Year in 1925.

    by Michael Dawe

    Michael was born in Red Deer, Alberta March 7, 1956, a fifth generation resident of Red Deer and Pine Lake. Elected to Red Deer City Council in 2017, he served as the City’s Archivist/Historian for 38 years, retiring from the role in 2017.

     

     


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    Community

    This dentist has a sweet tooth for the dance floor!

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  • Good chance most people don’t think of dentists and fun at the same time.  Well then most people haven’t met Dr Isaac Day yet.  The Innisfail dentist and father of 6 certainly knows how to have a good time.  Day and pro dancer Jinelle Themig nearly brought the roof down at the Cambridge Conference Centre.. especially when they shocked the crowd with one of the riskiest tricks we’ve ever seen at this competition.  Bet you can’t watch this just once.  It’s too much fun!

    My Story…

    A competitive fundraiser for a great cause? I’m all in!
    I am the founder of Day Dental and we have the best dental team and patients ever. With their support, we will keep the Mirror Ball trophy where it belongs…in Innisfail!
    While Innisfail has been home for my family and me for the last 7 years, I was born and raised in Edmonton where I completed my Bachelor of Medical Science and my Doctor of Dental Surgery. After working in Edmonton, my wife and I packed up our kids and moved to Central Alberta.
    I enjoy different experiences, personally and professionally, from working in a cosmetically driven dental practice in Edmonton to being the dentist at the Bowden Prison. When a new experience presents itself, the answer is YES. So when the opportunity to participate in the Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off presented itself, I knew I couldn’t turn it down.
    I am looking forward to helping this great cause, and to trying something new and exciting, and most definitely out of my comfort zone!


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    One grade 7 class raises over $2,500 for Child Advocacy Centre

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  • Miss. G’s 7-5 class from St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School completed their Almsgiving Bake Sale Thursday with a total amount of $2736 raised for the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre!

    They were so excited to share their news of how much they raised since starting back in March!  Every Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday through out lent, the 7-5’s would bring in treats that they made at home.  They sold the goodies to the rest of the student body at lunch to help raise funds to donate to the Centre.

    Thank you to Miss Goranson for putting this all on for the CACAC, and to the 7-5 class for being apart of this and wanting to help other kiddos – you are amazing!


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