Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - August 15, 1970, Lethbridge, Alberta
Saturday, August 15, 1970 THE LE7HBRIDGE HCRAID Builders Of The South-9 Margaret Luckhurst Sixty Years Of Helping The South Grow- "TT'S a pity li o w people have flocked to live in cities in the past James McDermolt, pioneer resident of Coalhurst said re- cently, "it has resulted in many promising little places becom- ing nothing more than ghost towns." Having seen Hie rise and de- cline of many towns in south- ern Alberta over the last 60 years, Mr. McDermott should know what he's talking about. "When I first cami. west in Mr. McDermott recall- ed, "there were lots of grow- ing towns through all the Prai- rie provinces. They were the centre of an agricultural dis- trict or were railway division points, or had some special in- dustry. Today however, many are bypassed by the highways leading into cities, and railway points all across Canada have been greatly reduced. In times of recession and depression, in- stead of just hanging on and riding with the waves, people have given up their small town or rural way of life and have tried to make a go of it in the city. I don't know for certain of course, but I rather think that about 50 per cent of the time, these moves don't work out." "I'm not an Mr. McDermott pointed out, "al- though I was born in a little place near Toronto and got all my education there. However, when I was in my late teens I went to work for Molson's Bank, did you ever hear of it? Well, it was owned by the same people who have the brewery, but the Bank of Montreal took over the Molson's banking busi- ness years ago. However, while it was still under Molson's I was sent out to Diamond City t6 open a branch there. In the following years I moved around from one branch to another in Calgary and in oth- er points, before returning east." In 1913 Mr. McDermott mar- ried and brought Ins bride west. "There was something about the west I couldn't get out of my he recalled, "but it's hard to define just what it was. Perhaps, because it was really opening up, with more and more settlers com- ing in all the time. Perhaps it was the friendliness of the peo- ple. Whatever it was, I knew that's where I wanted to be. I left the bank and set myself up with a little store in Coalhurst." "Why Coalhurst? Well, it was booming at the time. Leth- bridge Collieries Ltd., was min- ing some of the best semi- bituminous coal in the coun- try, employing about 600 miners. They were expert miners from Nova S'cotia other eastern mining areas so they really knew their stuff." It was the time of the First World War however, and peo- ple were finding business a lit- tle tight. "I had gone into a hardware business with a doc- tor Mr. McDermott re- called, "but we 'didn't sell enough in a month to keep either of us for a day, so I de- cided to switch to groceries." Following the war, economic condi tions deteriorated even further due to a severe drought in 1918-19. "A number of us who were interested in agriculture had formed a kind of commit- tee in about 1915 to do some- thing towards getting irrigation into the district before the countryside dried up complete- ly." But governments, being care- ful with their money and slow to move, were not impressed with the group from southern Alberta. "There were good men work- ing for that irrigation scheme; people like Senator Buchanan, Dr. Fairfield, Harold Long, and Thomas Croft. The Ratepayers Association would meet with the various commissions, and make their pitch to them, but for many years the govern- ment couldn't see the need for irrigation in our area. Perhaps we are too far removed from the seat of government, at any rale, the northern members o: the legislature didn't care a hoot if we all blew away down here." The attitude of the govern- ment higlily Incensed the group who kept pressing for irriga- tion. "It's funny how some things bother Mr. Mc- Dermott mused, "I wasn't a farmer, but so many farmers around and about had to leave that the country was being abandoned. It just didn't make sense to me not to have water to get them to stay. The whole country was losing out. So no matter what the government said, we just hung on, and I guess I hung on just a liltle harder than some. I remember going lo Edmonton one time and staying for a whole month, at my own expense. But I was determined lo make such a nuisance of myself that some- body would listen to our cause." After more than five years of wrangling, the government conceded that the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation D i s t r ic t made sense and backed the cost of its develop ment. However, while the farmers got their irrigation, they were taxed so heavily for it that they were scarcely any better off. "I can't remember just what the taxes were, but I think something like an acre, but in those days when you didn't have a crop to be- gin with, how did you get the money to pay Die. taxes? So the farmers continued to leave." Another struggle ensued to get the government to reduce the rates. "Irrigation in south- ern Alberta is a story other parts of Canada don't know or Mr. McDermott stated, "I'm glad to have had a small part to play in its devel- opment, but if I could only write, my experiences in those days with the fine men who were really the promoters of it, would fill a couple of books." While the mine was active during the late twenties and early thirties the town of Coal- fa urst grew. "I don't know whether you could properly term us a Mr. Mc- Dermott said, "as we were in- corporated as a village. We had our schools and a council; churches and organizations usually active in all small cen- tres. For a number of years we thrived, during the low years of the dspression.trou- ble hit. The miners were or- ganized under the One Big Union and went on strike." One doesn't expect to find much violence in a small town, but Mr. McDermott recalls the concerns of the time. "There was talk of Communist infil- tration in the union, and unrest and protest were common. The miners' demands for higher wages was met with deaf ears by the corporation in the east which owned the mine. Con- sequently, unrest developed into downright violence and it was frightening; one man- ager's house was blown up and a man was killed. This was sup- posed to have been an acci- dent but to people in Coalhurst it was out-and-out murder. We didn't like things like that go- ing on, and the whole town was in a turmoil." While the miners were on strike, storekeepers and mer- chants in town found they were giving a lot of credit without being sure they'd ever get paid. "Credit was easy to get in those days of Mr. Mc- Dermott recalled. "There was no such tiling as asking for a credit rating with a central bu- reau or anything like that. Peo- ple didn't move around much, so you were always sure of catching up with a debtor be- cause like as not he lived close by. Oh, there was lots on the books hi those days, for every- thing from shoe-laces to farm machinery." Unfortunately for Coalhurst, the mine owners would not bow to the demands for higher wages for the miners in spite of the tteeats and reprisals. They simply closed the mine and opened another slightly farther away. "They wouldn't the miners wouldn't go back to work unless the incumbent manager was fired and a man of their choice put in his place. The company would not agree to this and the mine was closed, and never reopened. They opened one on the top of the hill across the river, and this eventually was taken over by the CPU and ran for a number of years." "The mining problems were a severe blow to further devel- opment of Coalhurst. "The promise of the continuance of a mining community is very un- reliable at the best of Mr. McDermott noted, "and as we'd had ours for about 25 years we were regarded as re- latively fortunate." Before the mine closed how- ever, Mr. McDermott suffered his own private tribulation when his store burned to the ground. "In spite of the threats from miners to do this, there was no hanky panky involved when it he declared. It just burned, and there was no way of stopping it once it got under way. I de- cided not to rebuild because it was pretty obvious even at that time that the future growth of the town was uncertain." With the development of the irrigation system in southern Alberta, Mr. McDermott's in- terest in farming grew. "It may seem strange that I had j. i. MCDERMOTT rented oir, part of it dry land. I feel as if I have a real tie with the :armers because of all the troubles we went through After tie mine closed down, Coalhurst began to show a de- cline aid the shadowy features of a ghoit town loomed here and then. Company houses, once abouiding with family life, stooc empty and silent. "We wire pretty well flatten- ed here br a long Mr. McDermot remembered wist- fully, "aid there is something creepy ;bout a number of houses anund standing empty. Gradually however, farmers bought than for or so and hauled thm away." During the Second World War, Mr. McDermott did a number; side jobs, while maintaiiiig IK'S initial interest in his lane. "I did a little notar- ial he recalled, "and as the town council was back in office agan I was no longer administrator but just kept my hand in. so to speak. Also, I was empliyed by the federal governmeit as a farm inspec- tor. At :tiat time the govern- ment was stuck for men who knew sooEthing about farming and thejlind, for the farmers were benf paid to summerfal- low in brier to cut down on wheat I went around checking en this and seeing to than some others because of our proximity to Lethbridge. There is a growing number of people who are unenthusiastic over urban life and are moving to smaller plaees where they can have a little acreage, more privacy, and yet commute to work. Eventually I think when the university is completed, we will see this side of the river open up, with chain stores and supermarkets in the area. University personnel are al- ready moving in here, and we hope they will continue to do so. We've got all the modern facilities, but we also offer one very good feature a auiet way of life. We think that's one quality which is missing in Lethbridge." Today when they aren't visit- ing the scattered members of their large family, Mi-, arid Mrs. McDermott are content just puttering around their lit- tle home in Coalhurst. "I don't have much to say about local affairs any Mr. McDer- mott smiled, "younger men with new ideas are what we need, but I must admit I'm quite flattered if one of them asks my advice. It's kind of nice to be old and not have to be involved. "What do I see as the most important change over the years? Well, irrigation of course. When I think what a desert this was when I first dwcijf. iiiey wuuuui t, c ueserc uiis was wnen i nrsc hire union Mr. Me- this peculiar interest in farm- it that ftrjners also cleaned up came Ilere over 60 yKlrs ago Tlai-mnff ihip inff. when as a matter nf fnpt their laid. 'a i_j... __in- Dermott said, "and this crea- ted extra trouble. Families who had to go on welfare during the long strike, began to move out in order to look for work elsewhere. The town council quit, and that was about the last straw, for there was no one doing the town's business. The council was made up of businessmen, and they were probably justified in feeling that if they continued, with the situation over the mine so criti- cal, they'd lose business. But somebody had to supervise the day-to-day problems in law, en- forcement, utilities efficiency and that sort of thing, so the government appointed me town administrator. This wasn't too popular with the miners who used to give me hell, threaten that they'd burn down my store or boycott it and all kinds of nasty things, bul I didn't pay any atlenlion lo them. I just went about my work and let them talk." "Whan the conflict between labor and management became resolved, things got back lo normal in Coalhurst for a lime. Then tragedy lu't. On Dec. 9, 1935 a gas explosion occurred in the mine just as the night shift began work. It was a dark, cold night and the explosion really rocked the town. Every- one was shocked and frighten- ed of course, for this type of explosion was unheard of in our mines. However 15 men were killed, 11 of whom were entombed for quite a few days. The government asked for a public inquiry of course, but the damage had been done lo our town. After the mass fu- neral, the mine company offi- cials sealed off Ihc usual en- tries and .opened new ones away, from the gas areas. But ing, when as a matter of fact, I've never farmed, but I liked land. I bought up quite a few acres and began renting it out. Today I toe about acres Book Revietv their lajd." Todayi much to Mr. McDer- mott's relight, Coalhurst is en- joying a small rebirth. "We are in a beter position in this town and see what it is today with still great potential ahead of it, I have only one regret; that the people who left didn't stick around to see it happen." Focus on the University By J. W. FISHBOURNE Not Very Interesting Ideas Victor Victim by Michael There lis a mention or two milled (in his mind, at least) a Charters, Toronto: House of made of Canadian winters and child murder but this incident Anansi Press Ltd., 1970, 1SG the the threatening Ca- is handled in a way that con- Pi1- nadian firsst (one of tha all- tributes little to the impression TyilCHAEL Charters, we are time grejt themes in our liter- of real insanity. told, was born in England ature' dies make one appear- what emerges is a character in 1940 and came to Canada in Otle- lhan that, most of patterned on the textbook cx- tlie action lakes place in Glas- 1965. He has earned a living in a number of ways, including making chains in a factory. This last piece of information is included presumably because of some hidden relationship be- tween it.and the theme of Mr. Cnarters' book. Readers are warned to watch for it. Another thing readers might be on guard against is the long- standing practice of making al- lowances for Canadian writers. According to the publicity material that accompanies the book, the timo has now passed when authors in this country have a difficult time breaking into print. We have apparently reachod a stage of cultural de- velopment in which it is no long- er necessary to have two sets of standards, one being reserved for home-grown artistic endea- vors. Avoiding the pitfall of mak- ing special allowances for this novel simply because it is Ca- nadian is made fairly easy by the fact that it is not obviously Canadian, The hero docs not lead a beaver around on a string and nobody makes any trips in a birch bark canoe. gow or Loidon. The actim, very briefly, con- cerns a nental patient's at- tempt tp riview and rationalize all the thiijs he has done that led to Ills bing committed. One is led though the unhappy childhood, the unhappy yo'uth and the unhappy adult- hood. One of tfe first problems en- countered 3 that of trying lo decide wheher the hero is real- ly insane dough. To be really interesting a character should not only b insane, he should be somcwht evil as in Ed- gar Allen be. A large pit cf the lime this hero comes across as a run-of- the-mill neroiic. He has com- hey Say What this country needs is a good 10 n.p.h. bumper. The cars wu nw drive arc so cos- metic, so I'QlicitlG and ill-pro- tected that a 5 m.p.h. nudge can cause evcral hundred dol- lars' Edward B. Rust, presiiCiit of State Farm Mutual Insiranco Co. planation of a rigidly authori- tarian personality, with the us- ual paranoid overtones. Another problem is that the character doesn't always slay put. He tends to be inconsis- tent as a character. And the author sometimes lets the mask slip a little loo far and simply steps right out to lecture the reader. Authors have always used their characters to get across their own ideas, but Mr. Char- ters' ideas come out in a steady stream and they're not very in- teresting. His views on mar- riage, fcr example, are on roughly the same level as Ann Landers.' Mr. Charters may have suc- cumbed to the desire to cram everything into this first book. It's a fault thai disappears, in good writers, as they grow old- er. Hopefully Air. Charters' next book will move a little faster. Cutting down on the observa- tions about life would give him more time lo let his cluiraclers do something, which in turn would help bring them alive. HERB JOHNSON. Mature Students T AST WEEK, in talking about the evening credit program, I made some reference to part-time students. I would like to go on a bit about one particular group, the ones known as "mature" students. (I don't like the term, by the way; biologists and con- noisseurs of whisky may know what "ma- ture" means, but I am not sure I do.) We have quite a number of these stu- dents. They enter the university under a special admissions policy, which recognizes that there are people competent to handle university-level work notwithstanding their lack of credit or acceptable marks in cer- tain approved high school courses. That there are many such people, who can do very well indeed at university, is amply demonstrated by the success obtained by those who have been admitted, to this and other universities, without the usual matri- culation qualifications. The record here and at Edmonton (and doubtless other places) indicates that the performance of liiese people is not inferior to that of the average student, but usually is as good and frequent- ly better. This record, by the way, has to be re- garded with a certain amount of caution. In this province, mature admission is a com- paratively new thing; the data on student performance is still a little sketchy, and almost entirely at the undergraduate level. The scheme has not been operating long enough for there to be very many candi- dates in graduate school, a much more stringent test of academic ability. It should not be thought, either, that the normal high school route is all wrong, sim- ply because a few people are able to man- age without it. Even the bitterest critics of our matriculation system (and I am among them) don't suggest that it should be dumped entirely. The normal matriculation route still works as a means of selecting those people who can succeed at university, and for the average high school student probably it is as good a means ss any. The mature admission arrangement is sim- ply an alternative, and one that I happen to believe is very necessary. The more orthodox route, which consists of 12 consecutive years of schooling culmin- ating in a battery of examinations set by a central department of education, may meet the needs of a majority of our stu- dents, but there are still a lot of young men and women whose needs it does not and cannot meet. What the average student may be able to do in 12 years, someone else may accomplish in 10, where others need 15. The regular high school system cannot make effective provision for Ihe fast or the slow; those who are quicker than average frequently end up as behavior problems and drop-outs, while those who develop more slowly either intellectually or emotionally are usually shunted out of the matriculation stream, or may be dis- carded as failures. Even among those who more or less fit the system, there are many who cannot complete the normal high school program because of adverse domestic or economic circumstances. For people in any of these categories, an important "second chance" Becomes possible under the mature admissions policy. The essential criterion upon which this policy is based is actually the same as that for the regular matriculation program, and amounts to seeking evidence that the ap- plicant has a reasonable chance of being successful at university-level work. The reg- ular student provides this by presenting ac- ceptable grades hi an academic program considered (not by all authorities, by tha way) to be analogous to a university de- gree program. This method is by far tha most widely used, and its many advocates claim that it is the best and clearest indi- cator of success at university. But even if it is the best which is at least debatable there can still be other methods. The uni- versities that have ventured to seek alterna- tive means have usually found them. Cer- tainly this institution has. We have admitted scores of people without the usual high school standing, and while performance figures are preliminary, it seems clear that their academic performance has been as good as, or perhaps a shade better than the university average. Anyone wishing further information about admission under this arrangement should get in touch with the Registrar. Those inter- ested in this fall's semester, which Is only two or three weeks away, should act at once. The Voice Of One -By DR. FRAMK S. MORLEY Learning From The Sects success of the sects has been suf- ficient to teach the mainline churches that, however profoundly they may dis- agree with them, the sects have something to teach them. The imperative thing for the orthodox churches to learn is that faith must involve a total way of life. Thus the early Christians were called "people of the way." In their way of life they became a distinct people, a new race, a nation, a fellowship, and a brotherhood to use some of the descriptive terms of the New Testament. This was an essential part of Calvin's secret of success in Geneva. In- deed many historians claim him as a thor- ough going socialist, so unified and in- clusive did he make life in Geneva. Under the rule of the eldership John Knox set up a similar system in Scotland. The Roman Catholic church has always insisted on her people following a distinctive way of life. This is the genius of great religion whether it be Islam, Buddhism, or Christianity and losing it makes a mockery of faith. Faith must provide a framework wherein all thought is organized and work guided. It is right here that one sees a weakness in the mainline churches and the success of the sects. This also accounts for much of the appeal of communism. Take the Seventh Day Adventists. It had been assumed that when his prophetic powers regarding the end of the world 1843 failed Mm, that William Miller's Seventh Day Adventists were finished. Not' so. Mrs. Ellen White led them into new life and today in parts of the United States they are enjoying an astonishing growth. They still believe in the imminent milen- munt, but they are best known for their refusal to accept the first day of the week, the day commemorating the resurrection of Jesus, as their Sunday, clinging to the commandment of the Old Testament re- garding tha Seventh Day. They also refuse, to fight in a war, to drink alcohol or smoke tobacco, they lilhe their incomes, they dis- claim ownership of property and teach stewardship instead, they insist on a funda- mentalist approach to the Bible, and thus refuse to eat "unclean practising simplicity in eating and drinking. The em- phasis on the family elentent in religion is very strong. Or look at the inclusivencss and exclu- sivcncss of the Mormons, Ihc Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To be- long lo that church is !o belong to a dis- tinct religious family, nvirkccl out from the rest of the world, with a strongly dogmatic faith and a corporate sense that provides a culture and care for ils believers from the cradle to the grave. It too is milennial in its teaching, requires a way of life, be- lieves in faith healing and anointing tha sick, bans tobacco, liquor and hot drinks, urges a simple diet, demands missionary activity, and enjoys a remarkable fellow- ship. The group or groups making most in- crease in Christendom are the Pentecost- alists. Their success in South America is amazing. Abstemious in their habits, strict in the observance of religious rites, fervent in evangelism, strongly believing in faith healing, warm in their fellowship, enthusi- astic in worship, and simple and dogma, tic. in then? fundamentalism, they have a wide appeal to the masses. Like the Mor- mons and Seventh Day Adventists, they also find a key to success in "involvement" or the laity. Similarly the Christian Scientists become strongly involved, but they are best known for their teachings on healing. The Chris- tian Science Monitor is one of the finest sources of information on world affairs, but the integration of faith and life is always seen in the article on religious and ethical matters on their pages. They are also dogmatic, all Christian Scientists being required to sign the six articles of faith. One of Ihe most charming sects is the Swedenborgian. It is not large but it fol- lows the teachings of the scientist and seer, the remarkable Emmanuel Swedenborg of tile seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, surely one of the most unusually gifted men. Gifted with strong psychic powers he was able to events happening in other countries, have vision of life on other planets, and sought to found a faith com- bining reason, faith, and loving kindness. He was a Lutheran, but the organizer of the modern church was Robert Hindmarsh and four other Methodist Mowers of John Wesley. The poet, William Blake, and Ilia heroic Helen Keller, were Swedenborg- ians. His theology was an astonishing mix- ture. Now because I find interest and profit in the study of sects (and I wish space per- mitted study of more of them in greater this does not mean that I agree with them. But I do believe they havo things to teach us which are stupid not to learn. The church that is not dogmatic, that does not make definite demands On ils adherents, which docs not create a strong fellowship, which has no call to heroic living, and no answers lo Ihe ulti- mate questions of life, has no future and is a dying cause. Cliristian faitli as Josus taught it was totalitarian. "A Christ limit- ed is a Christ betrayed.''