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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - January 28, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta LETHBRIDGE January By RIC SWIHART Herald Staff Writer In March, 1944, when movie projectionist Harry Boysc decided to lend his, labor expertise to {he Alberta Sugar Beet Growers Association on a part -.time basis, he didn't .realize he would' be spending 31 years as an integral part of the sugar industry. On Feb. 5, the start of the 50th anniversary for the producer group, Mr. Boyse will step down in favor of Steve Tokariuk as secretary treasurer for the association. His job as secretary treasurer for the beet growers is the last organiz- ed job for the 78-year-old native of Southern Alberta. He retired from a projec- profession two years ago, after gaining his gold card from the union for 50 years of service. He spent 38 years working for A. W. Shackleford, mostly in the old Capital Theatre. He got involved in the sugar industry when a fellow starter, came into Southern Alberta in an attempt to organize the field workers who are still an integral part of the sugar beet industry. The association asked Mr. Boyse to come in to settle the dispute. "When I came in, I found out the sugar beet workers were the best paid agricultural workers in North America he said. "They were independent workers at that'time and they were interested in buying the farms they were working on. They had no interest in organized labor." What was happening in the sugar beet industry in 1944? Mr. Boyse said the industry was gradually building up and in so doing, it was helping a country just on the verge of the end of the Second World War. Sugar beets, then and today, provided growers with a cash crop. They could harvest their crops and get cash in hand im- mediately, and that was a great plus for the farmers. beets built the South, he says. Officials of Canadian Sugar Factories were also making plans to build the sugar factory at Taber, which really gave impetus to the industry, said Mr. Boyse. There were growers in Southern Alberta in 1944 compared with about today. But most of the acreage was grown on small parcels of five or 10 acres since trac- tors were just starting to gain popularity and farmers were able to earn enough money to buy them. Horses were still in wide use when he started but mechanization was the keynote of all discussion regarding the industry, he said. The sugar beet growing area was notably different also. In 1944 farmers in the Glenwood, Hillspring, Nobleford and Monarch areas grew substantial amounts of beets but as transportation costs increased, the dwindling profit margin drove the farmers out of the in- dustry. Mr. Boyse said many men in the industry provid- ed inventions which helped the industry. Andy Briqsi of Picture Butte drew par- ticular mention from him. And mechanization didn't come too soon, ac- cording to Mr. Boyse. "In the early years, everybody had to work too he said. "The beet fork used to-dig the beets out of the ground and load them on the truck by hand was called the 'Idiot Stick' and not without justification." Farmers weren't so interested in the price of sugar in those days either, even with all the hard work. A dollar went a lot further and the growers didn't have to always be harping for more money for their product, he said: With the advent of mechanization and the increased experience, producers were able to im- prove yields throughout most of the sugar beet growing region, he said. To recognize this attempt to improve their lot, the growers associa- tion started the 15 Ton Club to give special note to the producers who could grow 15 tons of sugar beets per acre. That figure is an average yield by today's standard, said Mr. Boyse. It is not un- usual for many growers to achieve 20 tons per acre and the top growers in a good year can grow 26 to 28 tons per acre. While the technology of the sugar beet industry has changed over the years, the sugar beet producer has remained much the same. "They are generally good conscientious farmers who learned to im- prove themselves over the he said. "Through hard work, they have earn- ed a position of high standing in their com- munities. "And the men who have worked within the framework of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers Association have done their best. They have made it recognized across Canada as the best agricultural organization in existance." Two men to draw par- ticular raves from Mr. Boyse are Phil Baker and Lalavee Jensen. Both these men were native Southern Albertans and for the past 40 plus years have been at the president's position. "They were the real driving forces behind the association and they kept it self sustaining in the he said. "The growers called Mr. Baker Flying Phil." Besides his managerial talents, Mr. Boyse turned his photographic hobby into good use for the association. He took the of- ficials pictures of any tours held by the association and he produced an eight millimeter film of the sugar beet industry that was shown throughout In- dian reservations and towns' in Alberta and Saskatchewan to attract latorers for the beet fields. In. his retirement, Mr. Boyse will continue with his stamp collection and if he can find a used motor home, he and his wife will travel around Alberta. In retirement, he won't have to get up at eight o'clock any more, he said, and that may be catchy. "The longer I'm away from work, the lazier I get." SUGAR SECRETARY-TREASURER HARRY BOYSE Sugar secretary finds growers are good bunch on Southern crop fields ;