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Historic letter paints picture of early Sylvan Lake cottage life

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The picture is of the Elliott family and their guests gathered on the porch of their Sylvan Lake cottage (circa 1930). From left to right: Mrs. (Edna) Elliott; Dr. Jack Elliott (guest); Mr. William Elliott; Jack Elliott (guest); and Bill Elliott. In front is 5-year old Gertrude  (she is the author of this letter written to us in 1996).

Here’s an ‘old-timey’ tale of de-winterizing one of the old cabins in Sylvan Lake. The following was transcribed from a hand-written letter which was one of the very first items donated to the Sylvan Lake and District Archives when it started as a picture museum in 1996.  The Elliott family owned a cottage known as Grey Glen – photo attached. 

June 6, 1996

Suite 301, 6303 – 104 Avenue NW, Edmonton, AB T6A 0X9

The Sylvan Lake Picture Museum Committee, Sylvan Lake, Alberta

Members –

My daughter drove me to Sylvan Lake in March, 1996 to see if the cottage I grew up in was still standing and we were happy to find it in excellent condition, well cared for and very familiar. It used to be called Grey Glen but now is called Sherwood Lodge. It is on what used to be 13th Street, 2nd street from the corner where the Highway from Red Deer turned the corner along the lakeshore drive.

I remember the day-long trip to the lake in an old open Touring Car with celluloid windows that snapped on when it was raining which meant miles of muddy slippery roads which eventually down the years became gravelled. I spent summers at the cottage every summer from when I was a babe in arms from end of June to Labor Day with my family until the War came along and the cottage was sold.

The first thing to be done when we arrived was to pick up fresh straw and butter ($.25), bread ($.10) and eggs (2 dozen for $.25) at one of the farms near the railroad track.

When we got to the cottage, then we had to de-winterize the cottage: take the screen off the chimney, brush the leaves from the eavestrough that ran along the top of the screened porch. The couch cushions and pillows and blankets were taken down from the two wires strung across the Main Room which defeated any mouse damage. Someone had to check and, if necessary, chop some wood and bring it into the back room and stack it. We usually left a supply of wood in the cottage when we left in the fall so it would be dry. This was done every morning we were there. Someone else had pumped and pumped after the pump was put in the place in the well til the water cleared. The 5-shelf narrow cupboard called the Dumb Waiter was attached by pulleys and put in place in the well casing and became our refrigerator. The wooden apple box was placed in the ground box near the well which kept vegetables cool. A path was cleared to the ‘biffy’ and it was inspected and swept clear of cobwebs. Someone else had to clean the lamps and add coal oil and of course, supper was prepared in short order and we gathered around the fireplace.

There were two bedrooms and a double bunk in the pantry (over the wood pile), a double bed and a single bed were arranged at each end of the porch, discreetly divided by awning curtains. The porch also held a large table with benches and Dad’s very special willow armchair which he built for himself out of willow branches and all meals were served there – storm or not.

Sawhorses held springs in each of the bedrooms as well as the beds on the porch and large clean awning sacks were filled with the fresh straw to make a noisy but fragrant mattress and more awnings were hung over the screen on the porch if the weather got blowy. A small kitchen led off the main room and a large open deck at the back served as a laundry, washroom and general handy place. You were considered “old” enough when you could light the storm lantern for the inevitable trips out back at night. The cottage could sleep 14 if need be with room on the floor of the porch if anybody was left over.

It was quite an event when an artesian well was put in the street in front for all the cottages on that street. I don’t have the date.

My mother, who was not particularly anxious to be noted, but every morning as long as I can remember went for a morning dip in the lake from cold water at the end of June to rapidly cooling water late August. It was a ritual strictly adhered to.

My father made sure that children and grandchildren could swim so that they had no worries when we spent the day on the beach, and you can see by the pictures, there was lots of beach.

My brother and I were even made lifeguards one summer during the Regatta. It was a mile to town but it was very necessary we wither swim or walk every day to get the mail and then back again in the evening to make the rounds of the Jitney Dances ($.10 a dance) in the three Dance Halls. There were usually lots of friends to meet or go with. And at least twice during the summer or if somebody had a birthday, our street would have a huge bonfire down on the beach and each family would bring something to eat or pop or coffee.

However, the beach is very different today. We could play softball in the water and the fielders would only be hip deep. It was a very safe beach for all ages.

I recognized at least four other cottages that were there when we were there. People from Red Deer, Olds, Calgary, Bentley and us from Vermilion, but of course I don’t know if they are still going.

One other incident happened one summer. A Tornado tore across the lake, damaged the pier and sunk some of the boats and afterwards when we walked up the hill behind town following the damage, we discovered a teeter totter board had been lifted from its frame and riven right into the school wall.

I am enclosing some pictures I am donating to the Picture Museum. I read about in the paper I picked up the day I was there. There are explanatory notes on the back of the pictures. The big ones are taken from photographs that I have and were used in a Historical Display of costumes. I hope they will be of some use to you and I plan to come later in the summer and see the display.

My father and mother were Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Elliott from Vermilion, Alberta. They are both gone now. Dates of pictures approximately 1921-1938.  My brother’s name was Bill (age 86) and of course mine is Gertrude, age 77.

Click here to read more stories about Sylvan Lake history on Todayville.com. 

 

 

Community

Covid vaccines available at 9 Red Deer pharmacies – Locations and contact information

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From the Province of Alberta

COVID-19 immunization program

To ensure fair access to all Albertans needing to be immunized and to prevent unnecessary wastage of vaccine doses please book ONLY one appointment per person. Do not book multiple appointments at multiple sites.

Who is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through a pharmacy?

Pharmacies are able to offer immunizations to seniors 75 years of age and older (born in 1946 or earlier) living in the community.

Alberta Health Services will offer the vaccine directly to residents in retirement centres, lodges, supportive living and other congregate living facilities.

Where can I get the vaccine?

Below is a list of participating pharmacies. You must book an appointment with the pharmacy closest to you to receive the vaccine. No walk-ins will be permitted.

Due to limited vaccine quantities and storage and handling requirements, only select pharmacies in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary are able to participate in the vaccine rollout at this time. Once there is adequate COVID-19 vaccine supply, distribution will be expanded.

Pharmacies are listed in alphabetical order.

Johnstone IDA Pharmacy

100-2 Jewell Street
403-348-8203

Loblaw Pharmacy #1579

Red Deer Superstore
5016 51 Ave
403-350-3530

London Drugs #24

109-2004 50 Ave
403-342-1242

Notre Dame Pharmasave

1109-2827 30 Ave
403-588-3195

Save-On-Foods Pharmacy #6682

6720 52 Ave
403-343-7744

Shoppers Drug Mart #2306

1 Chambers Ave

403-342-5548

shopersdrugmart.ca/en/health-and-pharmacy/covid-19?ShortURL=covid

Shoppers Drug Mart #326

Bower Mall Location

A6-4900 Molly Bannister Drive

403-343-3355

shopersdrugmart.ca/en/health-and-pharmacy/covid-19?ShortURL=covid

 

The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy #341

130-2950 22 Street

403-343-8831

medicineshoppe.ca/en/alberta/red-deer/the-medicine-shoppe-pharmacy-341-7041122

 

Wal-Mart Pharmacy #3075

Parkland Mall Shopping Centre

6375 50 Ave

403-347-1123

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Alberta

How the Railroads Shaped Red Deer

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A crowd gathered at the Red Deer train station to provide a sendoff for members of “C” Squadron of the 12th Canadian Mounted Rifles Regiment. Heading off to join WWI in May 1915. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. P2603

Rivers, creeks and streams have shaped the land for eons, slowly carving away earth to reveal the terrain we know today. Much of the same can be said for the impact and influence that railways had in shaping the size and shape and even the very location of what is now the City of Red Deer. 

Prior to the construction of the Calgary and Edmonton railway, which started heading north from Calgary in 1890, what we now recognize as the bustling city of Red Deer was unbroken and forested land. The nearest significant settlement was the crossing for the C&E Trail of the Red Deer River, very close to where the historic Fort Normandeau replica stands today. 

Small town of Red Deer from along the Calgary and Edmonton Railway line looking north circa 1900. The Arlington Hotel and the CPR station can be seen. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. P4410

 

Above left: The Canadian Northern Railway excavating grade along the side of North Hill of Red Deer, AB in 1911. Using the steam shovel Bucyrus and trains. Photo P782. Above right: Workers building the Canadian National Railway trestle bridge at Burbank siding near Red Deer, AB, 1924. P7028. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

Reverend Leonard Gaetz whose land formed the townsite for Red Deer. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. P2706

Navigating how to handle crossing the Red Deer River would be a significant challenge for construction of the railway route. Initially, the route was planned to take the tried-and-true path that had served animals, first nations people and fur traders for centuries, past the Red Deer River settlement. Yet just as the mighty river powerfully shaped the contours and dimensions of the land, the future site of Red Deer would be singlehandedly determined by Reverend Leonard Gaetz.

Rev. Gaetz offered James Ross, President of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway company,  land from his personal farmlands for the river crossing and the townsite for Red Deer.  Ross accepted and history was forever shaped by the decision, as what is now home to more than 100,000 people grew steadily outward starting at the C&E Railway train station. 

A steam engine pulling a passenger train, likely near Penhold, AB, sometime between 1938 and 1944. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. Photo P3595.

The rails finally reached the Red Deer area in November of 1890 and trains soon began running south to Calgary. By 1891, the Calgary and Edmonton railway was completed north to Strathcona. Alberta gained one of its most vital transportation corridors and the province would thrive from this ribbon of steel rails.

CPR Station in 1910

Over time, the C&E railyards grew and expanded to accommodate the demand for moving more and more commodities like grain, coal, lumber and business and household items along with passengers. Those passengers were the pioneer settlers who would make Red Deer the commercial hub that it remains to this day.

Alberta-Pacific Elevator Co. Ltd. No. 67 elevator and feed mill, circa 1910. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives Photo P3884.

For nearly 100 years, the downtown was intimately connected with the railway in the form of hotels built to welcome travelers, grain elevators, warehouses, factories and the facilities required to service the locomotives and equipment that operated the trains. Tracks and spurs dominated the downtown area, especially after the advent of the Alberta Central Railway and the arrival of the Canadian Northern Western Railway (later absorbed into Canadian National railways).

Left: Aerial view of downtown and the railyards in1938. Note old CPR bridge over the Red Deer River along with the old CNR bridge that was demolished in 1941. P2228 Centre: CPR Track at south end of Red Deer, circa 1904 or 1905. P8060 Right: CPR depot water tower and round house in 1912. P3907. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

 

Left: CPR downtown railyards in 1983. Photo S490. Right: Southbound morning Chinook train at the CPR station in the summer of 1939. P13391. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

By the 1980s, the ever-present tracks and downtown railyard were seen as an industrial blight in the heart of the city that the railway created so funding was sought and plans were made to relocate the now Canadian Pacific rails from their historical home to a new modern yard northwest of the city. 

This was actually the second relocation of tracks from downtown as the Canadian National railway tracks were removed in 1960 which permitted the development along 47th Avenue south of the Red Deer River.

This massive project opened up the Riverlands district downtown to new developments which included condominiums, grocery stores, restaurants and professional buildings. Taylor Drive was built following the old rail line corridor and removal of the tracks in Lower Fairview meant residents wouldn’t hear the rumble of trains in their community anymore. 

Just as the waters gradually shaped the places we know now, the railways definitely forged Red Deer into the vibrant economic hub of central Alberta that it remains today. 

The 45th Street overpass across the CPR tracks. This was demolished in 1992. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. Photo S8479.

We hope you enjoyed this story about our local history.  Click here to read more history stories on Todayville.

Visit the City of Red Deer Archives to browse through the written, photographic and audio history of Red Deer. Read about the city and surrounding community and learn about the people who make Red Deer special.

My name is Ken Meintzer.  I’m a storyteller with a love of aviation and local history. In the 1990’s I hosted a popular kids series in Alberta called Toon Crew.

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february, 2021

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