The origins of Red Deer’s beautiful Cenotaph date back to the end of WWI. The statue of the Unknown Soldier is a provincial historic site. In this article, historian and author Michael Dawe helps us understand the rich history of this monument and reminds us all of the sacrifice of our forebearers. Enjoy the photo gallery showing the changes to the Cenotaph and its surroundings over the years.
The Cenotaph by Michael Dawe
There are many memorials around the City of Red Deer to honour those who served and those who lost their lives during a time of war. The main community memorial is the Cenotaph, the statue of the Unknown Soldier that stands in the centre of Ross Street in the heart of downtown Red Deer.
The origins of the Cenotaph go back to the end of the First World War. That conflict had been a searing experience for Red Deer. 850 young men and women from the City and surrounding districts had enlisted. Of these, 118 lost their lives. Of those who returned, many had suffered terrible wounds and faced a lifetime of ill health and suffering. Hence, it was extremely important to the community that a fitting and very special memorial be created.
On December 18, 1918, five weeks after the end of the War, the Central Alberta local of the Great War Veterans Association (forerunner of the Royal Canadian Legion) organized a large public meeting to discuss the creation of such a memorial. Three proposals were initially made. The first was to construct a pyramidal monument of river cobblestones in the centre of the City. The second was to construct a community hall and recreation facility next to City Hall. The third was to purchase the old Alexandra (Park) Hotel and turn it into a community centre.
After considerable discussion, a fourth proposal was adopted. It was decided to build a monument rather than a community centre. However, at the suggestion of Lochlan MacLean, it was also decided that this monument be in the form of a statue of a soldier, mounted on a pedestal, rather than a cobblestone pyramid or obelisk.
Major Frank Norbury, an architectural sculptor at the University of Alberta and a veteran of the War, was commissioned to carve the statue. He came up with the concept of carving the Unknown Soldier as he was coming off active duty on the front line. He was to face west, toward home and peace. He was also to be positioned towards the C.P.R. station from which most of the soldiers had left Red Deer for the War.
This latter point was one of the greatest controversies about the Cenotaph. City Council and a few others wanted it in the centre of the City Square (now City Hall Park). However, the majority wanted it facing directly towards the station and in the middle of Ross Street, Red Deer’s busiest thoroughfare, so that it would be a constant reminder of the sacrifices of the War.
Meanwhile, fundraising for the project commenced, but proved quite a challenge. Post-war Red Deer faced one of the worst economic depressions in its history. However, despite the general shortage of money, by the following summer more than half of the $6200 needed had been raised. Unfortunately, Red Deer City Council decided that given its financial situation, it could not contribute any money to the project. This decision reinforced the opinion of the Memorial Committee that Council’s wish to have the Cenotaph in the middle of the City Square should be ignored.
There were still a lot of hard feelings about that lack of official City participation. Eventually, City Council agreed to build a boulevard in the middle of Ross Street, west of 49 Avenue, as a site for the Cenotaph. A decision was also made to place street lights at either end of that boulevard to provide nighttime illumination of the spot.
There was another debate regarding the proper means of recording the names of those killed in the War. Some wanted tablets placed on the pedestal. However, the Memorial Committee was worried about having a complete and accurate list. Finally, it was agreed to have two scrolls prepared, one with the names of those who had served and one with the names of those who had lost their lives. Both scrolls were put into a copper tube and placed in a cavity in the pedestal.
On September 15, 1922, the Cenotaph was officially unveiled. To the delight of the community, Governor General Lord Byng of Vimy agreed to come and do the honours. Lord Byng was a hero of one of Canada’s most significant military victories, the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Vimy was also a victory that had also come with very heavy loss of life, both locally and nationally.
At the time of the official unveiling, it was reported that the Cenotaph was the first sculpture war memorial in Alberta. Once the official dedication was completed, the monument was placed into trust with the City on behalf of those who had contributed to its creation.
The Cenotaph was rededicated in 1949 to include remembrance of those who served and lost their lives in the Second World War. A plaque signifying that designation was added to the pedestal. After the completion of the new City Hall Park and the Memorial Centre in the early 1950’s. there was a push to relocate the Cenotaph from its location on Ross Street to either the centre of City Hall Park or a new site in front of the Memorial Centre. However, a plebiscite was held in 1953 in which the citizens of Red Deer voted to keep the Cenotaph were it was.
Another plaque was added in 1988 in memory of those who served and died in the Korean Conflict. At the same time, through the efforts of some dedicated members of the public, special lighting was added to ensure that the Cenotaph was highly visible at night.
There were new proposals in the 1990’s to relocate the Cenotaph to City Hall Park. However, Charlie Mac Lean, son of Lochlan MacLean and one of the last surviving people to have actually built the Cenotaph, offered the opinion that he did not think that the monument could be safely relocated.
In 2006, the Cenotaph was extensively cleaned and repaired. City Council then successfully applied to have the Cenotaph designated as a Provincial Historic Site. In 2010-2011, a beautiful Veterans’ Park was created around the Cenotaph, to enhance it and to make it more accessible to the public. Moreover, eight interpretive panels were created to let people know the full significance of Red Deer’s official war memorial. They give the stories of those who served in the Boer War, First World War, Second World War, Korean Conflict, the Afghanistan War and all the peace-keeping and peace-making missions in which Canadians have been involved.
Lest We Forget.
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City closing playgrounds, introducing safety measures to transit system to prevent spread of COVID-19
From The City of Red Deer
City takes additional measures to protect Red Deerians
As part of the ongoing effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, effective tomorrow, all playground in the city of Red Deer, will be closed.
“This was a difficult decision for us to make, as we know families are at home with children, looking for ways to keep active and enjoy warmer temperatures,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “We must make these hard decisions in order to stop the spread in our community. We know we are doing the right thing.”
Playground closures affect all play structures within Red Deer, including fitness parks. The City has not applied closures to any public trails, open park spaces or pathways at this time.
“We endeavor to keep trails and pathways open and our ability to do that will be directly linked to our citizen’s cohesion and respect to social distancing practices,” said Mayor Tara Veer.
Residents are reminded while out using city pathways and trails, to be sure to keep the recommended two metre distance between people you pass on the trails. Avoid touching handrails, garbage cans or any other object or surface while you are out, and wash your hands when you return home.
Yesterday, adjustments to Transit services were announced, moving from 30 minute service to one hour service, with the first buses departing from Sorenson Station at 7:45 a.m. Today, residents reached out to The City saying this change wasn’t ideal for riders using Transit to get to work in the morning. Starting Wednesday morning, the 6:45 a.m. departure time will resume in order to allow riders access to morning Transit service.
“We heard from residents that the changes implemented today made it difficult to get to work for early morning shifts,” said Karen Mann, Emergency Operations Centre Director. “We thank residents for reaching out to us and providing us with invaluable feedback. We are happy to be able to make this adjustment for the first departure to be at 6:45 a.m. beginning on Wednesday morning, to provide this service to the residents who need it.”
The City of Red Deer continues to explore all options and measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
We encourage all citizens to follow the recommendations of Alberta Health Services. For the latest information on COVID-19 visit alberta.ca/covid19 and the latest on how City services are impacted visit reddeer.ca/covid19. Please call the Call Centre, open 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. with questions at 403-342-8111.
City reduces transit hours and frequency effective tomorrow
As part of the ongoing effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, reduced transit hours and frequency will be implemented on all conventional routes beginning Monday, March 23, 2020.
Red Deer Transit will move to an hourly schedule from a 30 minute schedule. From Monday to Saturday, the first departure from Sorensen Station will leave at 7:45 a.m., and the last departure (from Sorensen Station) at 7:45 p.m. Sundays and holidays will continue to operate on the one hour service, with the first departure from Sorensen Station at 8:45 a.m., and the last departure (from Sorensen Station) at 6:45 p.m.
In addition, new safety measures are in place to encourage social distancing. All passengers are to enter and exit through the rear door, with the exception of wheel chairs and disabled customers. Every other seat will be blocked off to ensure social distancing between passengers.
Action Bus trips for accessible transportation will continue for our registered clients. Effective Monday March 23, 2020, this service will be limited to bookings for essential travel for medical appointment, work and grocery shopping only. A two-passenger maximum limit will be implemented across all Action Bus vehicles as an added measure of protection for the safety of customers and operators.
“The changes to transit beginning tomorrow will ensure we are providing the service many in our community rely upon for getting to work or medical appointments in the safest way possible as we all work to minimize exposure,” said Bart Rowland, Emergency Operations Centre Director.
The City’s decision to reduce transit hours and frequency is being done in an effort to be vigilant in The City’s response and planning related to COVID-19.
The City of Red Deer continues to explore all options and measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
We encourage all citizens to follow the recommendations of Alberta Health Services. For the latest information on COVID-19 visit alberta.ca/covid19 and the latest on how City services are impacted visit reddeer.ca/covid19. Please call the Call Centre, open 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. with questions at 403-342-8111
City to delay water, sewer and waste utility payments
From the City of Red Deer
March 19 – The City of Red Deer COVID-19 update
Posted by The City of Red Deer on Thursday, 19 March 2020
The City of Red Deer’s focus over the past number of weeks has been and will continue to be virus mitigation. News today from Alberta certainly highlights the need for continued efforts to reduce the spread.
“I was saddened today to learn of Alberta’s first death as a result of COVID-19,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “On behalf of City Council, Administration and all Red Deerians, I want to express my deepest sympathies to this individual’s family and loved ones.”
As part of the ongoing response to COVID-19, The City announced today customers can defer water, sewer and waste utility payments for 90 days with no penalties, if they are struggling to pay their bills.
Recognizing that many citizens in Red Deer may be experiencing significant economic impacts stemming from the COVID-19 situation, residential, farm and small commercial customers can defer their utility payment for water, sewer and waste for the next 90 days. If a customer defers payment, no penalties will be applied.
Customers who need to defer their water, sewer and waste collection payment for up to the next 90 days are asked to call The City’s Call Centre at 403-342-8111 to make the necessary arrangements. These will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
With limited services available at City Hall, customers are encouraged to pay bills online or by phone (www.reddeer.ca/mycity or 403-342-8203). For our residential, farm and small commercial customers who can still make their regular water, sewer and waste collection payment, but for whatever reason, the payment is late, no new penalties will apply after March 19, 2020.
The City has also made progress on its response related to housing and social supports for vulnerable populations in our community. At this time, a temporary space is secured at Cannery Row (4946 53 Avenue), with costs that will be covered by the Government of Alberta. Emergency zoning will remain in place for a period of six months, in alignment with our state of local emergency (SOLE). Cannery Row will be used as an overnight and daytime warming centre.
The current warming centre will continue to serve as the queuing space for the Overdose Prevention Site (OPS). Detox will remain in the current Safe Harbour space.
“As we continue to navigate through this situation, we are committed to maintaining essential services for Red Deerians, and ensuring all members of our community are being taken care of,” said Allan Seabrooke, City Manager. “We are monitoring the situation daily and will continue to make decisions that best suit the needs of the community, while protecting citizens.”
Other changes announced today include:
- Suspensions of parking fees in the downtown until further notice. This includes metered parking and daily lots. We are currently exploring options related to monthly lots and will be communicating directly with monthly pass holders.
- We are redeploying traffic enforcement in ways that respond to current needs. Residents must still abide by speed limits and traffic safety measures. Automated traffic enforcement measures will be increasingly used in high risk and playground areas in an effort to protect those who are using our park spaces and playgrounds.
- We are reviewing current Transit operations and anticipate making an announcement regarding potential service changes within the next few days.
We strongly encourage all citizens to follow the recommendations of Alberta Health Services. For the latest information on COVID-19 visit alberta.ca/covid19 and the latest on how City services are impacted visit reddeer.ca/covid19. Please call the Call Centre, open 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. with questions at 403-342-8111.
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