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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

Notre Dame Grad Service Project donates $50,000 to Child Advocacy Centre

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From Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools

As of June, this year’s grad service project “Be the Voice” at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School has raised a total of $50,000 for the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre. 

Over the past seven months, students in conjunction with St. Francis of Assisi Middle School have been fundraising through different activities and events, such as bake sales, school challenges, food trucks, etc. From April 1-6, École Secondaire Notre Dame High School hosted their Grad Service Project week, where teams of six students and their team teacher worked together to raise money, compete in ridiculous challenges and earn points. On the final day of that week, student teams, along with a parent completed a 22-hour extreme scavenger hunt throughout Red Deer without a vehicle.

“The service project is a Notre Dame tradition. It is fantastic to watch students connect with the charity they chose. They work so hard to raise funds and make a difference. The student’s passion for success of this project extends to their families. It’s great to see everyone getting involved, have fun and truly make a difference in our community. They realize they can contribute and make our community even better. It’s a life lesson,” said Grad Service Project Coordinator, Shannon Nivens at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School.

The Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre was the charity of choice this year because students liked the idea of supporting children in their local community. Each year the graduating class from École Secondaire Notre Dame High School chooses a charity to raise funds for through their Grad Service Project. For the past 11 years, students have raised more than $600,000 for student chosen charities.
For more information about the École Secondaire Notre Dame High School grad service project, please visit notredamehigh.ca

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City of Red Deer

Kick it to the Curb every month this summer!

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From the City of Red Deer: More dates to Kick it to the Curb this summer

Kick it to the Curb has returned with more dates to provide Red Deerians the opportunity to find a new home for unwanted and unused items.

This year, on the third weekend of the month from May to October, residents are encouraged to kick their unwanted items to the curb. Previously, the Kick it to the Curb program ran only twice a year – once in June and again in October.

“Residents love the Kick it to the Curb program, and the feedback we get most is that the event should happen more often,” said Lauren Maris, Environmental Program Specialist. “Since weather is always a factor, and summers are so busy, offering more dates allows for higher participation.”

Residents are encouraged to clearly set out and identify their unwanted items with a “free” label so others can find a new life for them.

Items that are always a hit include books, DVDs, furniture and tools. To see a list of what is prohibited, like child car seats, visit www.reddeer.ca/kickit.

Similar to past years, the Kerry Wood Nature Centre will be offering their Trash to Treasure Swap Meet for anyone who would rather not put small, unwanted items on their curb or whose home doesn’t have a curb. The Trash to Treasure Swap Meet will be held the same six weekends throughout the spring, summer and fall as Kick It to the Curb.

Mark your calendars for Kick It to the Curb weekends: June 15-16, July 20-21, August 17-18, September 21-22, and October 19-20.

For more details, please visit www.reddeer.ca/kickit

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