Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - July 31, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
THE tETHBRIDGE HERALD Tuesday, 31. 1973 Coulee coal mines were time savers By DAVID B. BLY Herald Staff Writer When coal was discovered along the banks of the St. Mary's River around the turn c- the century, it created little stir in mining circles. Nicholas Sheran had started mining coal near Lethbridge 30 years before, and the St. Mary's field was of rela- tively insignificant size. But to the new communi- ties of Magrath and Ray- mond, and to the more dis- tant towns of Cardston and Glenwood, it meant a sup- ply of fuel 15 miles closer to home, a tremendous sav- ing of time and effort in those days of teams and sleighs. The flats and coulees near the confluence of Pothole Creek and the St. Mary's River saw considerable a'cti- vity from 1902 into the Thir- ties as the "Pothole mines" supplied the domestic mar- ket. Miners went after their coal through tunnels so small that some called them "go- pher hole mines." The vein of coal they sought was sel- dom more than three feet thick, and tunnels w ere scarcely higher than that. "It was all handwork and we did most of it on our remembers Harry Rollingson who started work- ing in the Pothole mines when he was 12. Mr. Rolling- son, now of Lethbridge, came from Newcastle in northern England with his family in 1913. His father had work- ed in one of ths Pothole mines for Fred Russell in the wirter of 1902-03. VALUABLE PICK The most valuable tool for the coal miner was his pick. The next was gunpowder which was used to blast coal loose from the seam. Mr. Rollingson explains that the gunpowder had to be ignited with a a straw-like fuse about six inches long which would give the miner about a minute "to get the deuce out of there." In the smaller mines, the coal was usually shot down in the evening, allowing the smoke to clear out overnight before the miners had to re- turn to the face. These were mines which were simple tunnels dug straight into the bank. When the miners got so far in that they had diffi- culty breathing, they would start another tunnel alongside the first. The larger operations had to have accompanying air tunnels to provide ventilation. The coal was broken up, loaded onto small cars and pushed out of the mines by hand along tracks. Buyers purchased the coal on a "haul your own" basis. a load of coal sometimes meant a long wait. Ben Oliver of Leth- Long in disuse tipple and cool cart wheels bridge, who also came from the Newcastle mining dis- trict as a youth, remembers when the flat near his mine was "black with teams waiting for coal." "We tried to educate the farmers to get their winter supply of coal in the sum- mer and fall so there wouldn't be a rush in win- says Mr. Rollingson. But good weather meant busy times for the farmer, explains J. Arthur Spencer, a Magrath farmer. Hauling coal from the mines was an all-day proposition, and seed- ing and harvesting took pre- cedence over the coal scut- tle. So it was usually cold weather when the farm- er hitched his team and set out for coal. It was often a race with other teams and sleighs, Mr. Spencer says, because getting into a good waiting position at the mine might mean the differ- ence between making it home the same day or waiting until the next. If it was a cold day the farmer often welcomed the chance to get into the mine and help load the coal, for the temperature inside was never below freezing. HELPED MINERS Jack Rasmussen, a retired Magrath fanner, used to pitch in and help the miners load up in exchange for his load of coal. He was pushing a car back into the mine one day, when a pieec of shale on the track caused the car to bounce into a timber. Sever- al tons of rock fell from the roof of the tunnel onto the car, coming so close to Mr. Rasmussen that it tore the light out of his hacd. He was unhurt, though, and help- ed clear the tunnel. Although narrow escapes in tha coal mines enrich old- timers' reminiscings. Mr. Rolfingson says the safety re- cord at the Pothole mines was good. The only fatal ac- cident that happened there did not take place inside a tunnel, but out on a cutbank. Some of the coal was eas- ily obtainable by breaking it loose from the seam and slid, ing it down cutbanks onto the frozen river. It was on this type of working that George Clifton.- a Magrath man, was killed in the spring of 1922 when rocks loosened by early thaws tumbled down the slope. The money in coal mining along the St..Mary's wasn't plentiful, as the mine owner got only a ton for it in early years. Buyers would often charge the coal, "and there were many charge ac- counts that never got says Mr. Rollingson. "I can remember my father telling more than one man, 'I won't charge you a ton of coal, but I'll give you a ton.' During the depression, when money was more scarce than ever, people would mine their own coal from the cutbanks for two bits a ton. Some even mined the coal right out of the river bed when the water was low. POCKETS Not every tunnel that was dug ted to coal, and some only led to pockets. Mr. Spen- cer tells of a mine owned by men called Mercer, Gay and Isherwood which showed an excellent seam of coal nearly 10 feet thick. At one time the partners were offered for the mine, but they held out for apiece and were turned down. Before they had any other of- fers, the seam pinched out, proving to be a small pocket. Although the Pothole mines surrounded the largest depo- sit of coal in the Magrath area, the black'mineral was found in other places. Mr. Spencer remembers a mine his father dug about four miles east of town. Records in the mines inspector's of- fice in Lethbridge show that two mjpes were dug on Mc- Intyre Ranching property on the Milk River Ridge. Al- though the Mclntyre seam .was abcut 6 feet thick, it was so interlaced, with gra- vel that mining it became impractical. Another short-lived mine was located near the site on which Jensen Dam was built. A Mr. Waddington opened the mine, and it was later oper- ated by Ab Wallace. Mr. Wal- lace had just opened a large room one day and took some time out to eat when .the whole thing caved in. It was not operated aftpr that The use of other fuels spell- ed the end of the Pothole mines, as it did in other areas. The last major mine operated was the Baker mine which finally was abandoned in 1954. The tipple, the struc- ture from which the coal was loaded, still stands above the coulee, but leans definitely eastward. A small mine called Steve's Mine on the inspec- tor's records, was operated by Tom Minor of Magrath into the '60's and finally abandoned in 1962. The mouths of the tunnels which led to the coal are evi- dent in many places along ike riverbank, but the tunnels themselves are closed in compliance with regulations which state that abandoned mines have to be closed so that no one can enter them. There is still plenty of coal in the Pothole mines area. Mr. Rollingson claims, but there is little likelihood that the St. Mary's River will ever.be disturbed by mining operations again, since the seam is too thick and too deep to be economical Council briefs Exhibition development talks planned A September meeting has been set for members of city council and tie Lethbridge and District Exhibition Board. The exhibition board had suggested the mealing to dis- cuss future derelopmnit plans and to go over a num- ber of areas of concern. These include fire protec- tion during Wtoop-Up Days the Henderson Lake campground, draining and paving work at the Exhibi- tion Graards and the Cana- Swimming demonstrations, clinics set for district Synchronized swimminc de- monstrations and instruction- al clinics arc bcinc held in various Southern Alberta lo- cations in August by the Al- berta section of the Canadian Amateur Synchronized Swim- ming Association. Mrs. Dot ?adget. ctac chairman, his arranged' to include the "strjor team 3973 Canadian syn- team as part of the demonstrations. DcMnocstraticns and clin- ics will be held in holm. Aug. 5 at 30 a.m.. Wot- tfrton. Aug. 5 at 6 p.m. and a demonstration only at Stir- ling on Aug. 6 at 2 p m Following the dcmonMra- "Tvr.s. cnachcs. and team members -will also participate in the instructional climes.. dian Western Natural Gas Co. proposal for a park at the grounds. Council unanimously pass- ed a motion Monday that the appropriate federal govern- ment departmept be asked to give consideration to building a permanent native friend- ship centre in Letiibrilge. The motion was made by AM. Tom Ferguson and arose from recent lengthy efforts lo install the centre in suit- able quarters. The city will continue to to spend up to S30 to send owl 42-cml tax rebates. Council was told Monday that all property tax rebates must he considered by coun- cil regardless of tine size, ac- cording to the Municipal Tax Act A 42 cent rebate was re- cently dealt with by council and city systems analyst, Richard Varley. estimated the cost of processing the ad- justment at dose to He suggested that the city finance director be allowed to write off any amount less than but Ibis would ap- parently not be permitted un- der the act. Finance director Allister Findlay said the matter was not that serious, however, as there -were only five tax ad- justments made in 1972 and six this year. A committee made up of two aldermen, the. city man- ager and the community ser- vices director is to be formed to appoint an architect for the North Lellibridge indoor swimming pool. The pool is expact- ed to be built partly with more than under the provincial Winter Work Capi- tal Projects Fund and coun- cil Monday gave approval to the financial details for tbe new pool, including tte cation to tbe municipal af- fairs department for the win- ter works money. Council win also be asked in the near future to approve the site for tbe winch in preliminary plans is desig- nated as part of an extensive community service complex adjacent to Winston Church- ill ffigh School. Con tracts totalling have been let for improye- ments to tine Civic Ice Cen- tre curling rink. The contracts were negoti- ated with two firms after a bid for was received fcr the work earlier esti- mated at Tbe improvements include a new concrete floor and ice making equipment. The Leih- bridge Curling Gob is spend- ing about an equal amount of money for mlciiur renova- tions to tbe ice centre. Aldermen uphold policy on. lot sales By ANDY OGLE Herald Staff Writer City council upheld its pol- icy Monday of not selling, city-owned land on the east side until development of West Lethbridge is assured. There was an indication from City Manager Tom Nutting, however, that it may be to the city's advant- age later on to allow devel- opers to build simultaneously on both sides of the river. The matter came up when Art Atkinson, area manager of Boychuck Construction (Sasfc.) Ltd. appeared before council with a request to purchase eight acres in' southeast Lethbridge to build 30 homes in 1974. Mr. Atkinson told council his company has options on five lots in West Lethbridge and would be prepared to buy an additional IS lots there hi the future but con- sidered the West Lethbridge program "premature." "There is a volume there but we have to mate a liv- ing until said Mr. At- kinson adding that the com- pany could not plan its en- tire 1974 building program for the west side. Mr. Atkinson asked that council reconsider its land sates policy, in seeking to buy the.land in the area of 16th Avenue and 39th Street S. for per acre. This move was opposed vociferously by Aid. Vaughan Hembroff, Aid. Vera Fergu- son and Deputy Mayor Cam Barnes, who argued that council hasn't even given the policy a chance to sse if it works yet. "I'm not anti-development but how fair are we going to be to city taxpayers who have, through us, a mr- lion investment on the west said Aid. Hembroff. He added that he would certainly be tooting at the policy again come April 1, 1974, but not now. AM. Vera Ferguson agreed saying too often council re- searched and established a policy only to back down at the first sign of pressure against it. "We must adhere to this policy for at A she said. The policy not to sell any large tracts of east-side land to developers for the time being was agreed to by coun- cil -in March. Only AW. Bill Kergan ex- pressed opposition to the pol- icy Monday calling it dicta- torial and arguing that peo- ple can't be made to go live where they don't want to. "We're not being fair to the be added. It was pointed out, how- ever, that individuals can still purchase single city tots Delegation to present air study in Ottawa on the east side and there is still a choice of west or east side sites available to would- be new home owners. Mr. Nutting told council he will likely bring a report to council in September con- cerning the position of de- velopers on the housing rifc- uation. Several development com- prnies have said they would take more land in West Leth- bridge if we will deal si- multaneously with the east- side, he said. Aid, Bill Kergan 'We're not being fair to developers' City's hands tied by sand-blaster The city could not legally do anything to bait sand- blasting at a hotel develop- ment on Mayor Magrath Drive, council was told Mon- day. The sand-blasting occurred during four nights from about 5 p.m. to and 10 p.m. at the Heidelburg House under construction. Mayor Andy Anderson said he has never spent so much tune on the phone as he had on this particular nuisance. A nearby motel operator, Mrs. Marion Nelson .wrote a letter which was before coun- cil Monday complaining'that the noise and dust from the sand blasting drove away customers, causing a mini- mum loss.- Mayor Anderson said he received numerous calls from nearby residents com- plaining about the operation but it couldn't be stopped for two days because the project contractor was out of town and couldn't be reached. When he was finally he agreed to stop the op- eration immediately, Mayor Anderson said. The work is now being done apparently at the site where the concrete panels being sand blasted are made. Mayor Anderson said no special permit was needed to carry out work as a build- ing permit had been issued for die hotel development. He said the tity has no by- law that could effectively prevent sand blasting in a residential area but that con- sideration should be given in the future to passing such a bylaw. As for Mrs. Nelson, she apparently will not ba able to recoup her loss from the city, but it was suggested she may have a case against the con- tractor. A five-man delegation will go to Ottawa to present the city's case for improved air- port facilities ts the federal government. Council agreed to that course of action unanimous- ly Monday although Aid. Vaughan Hembroff suggest- ed a two or three-person group could get the job done just as effectively or even belter. "Do we really need that 'many people to pound on doors in be asked. "Success varies inversely with the number of psopte you send on something like be said. The delegation will include Mayor Andy Anderson. Aid. Sieve Ketch, chairman of Ox airport study committee, Leo Singer, president of the chamber of commerce. Eten- nis O'Comell, city economic development officer and E. H. LaBotde of the con- sulting firm which did tbe Slady suggesting the Kenyan Field airport be upgraded. A date has not yet been sat for the trip. In connection with the air- port, council also agreed to send a letter from a local resident suggest i n g aircraft using Kenyon Field should not be permitted to fly over the city to the ministry of transport for comment Hail crop insurance service office formed A field sETvke department has- been formed within the Al- berta Hail and Crop Insurance Corporation. Director for the new depart- ment is Bill Quinn. Bob Shearer has ap- pointed supervisor for Soulb- ern Alberta, located in the Science Building at ins Leth- bridge Community College. Mr. Shearer, a former farmer in the Barons district and grain elevator manager at Champion, was employed as field supervisor for the County of Lethbridge. The new department is de- signed to offer a more com- plete service to all farm pco- pls, according to Mr. Shear- er. East Rotary horse slww scheduled this moii'di The annual horse show sponsored by the East Leth- bridge Rotary club is sched- uled this year for August 23 to 25. Entries close Aug. 11 at Exhibition Pavflion for the 97 classes in the all-breed horse show. Frank Jofoanson of the Ro- tary service club told the Herald the show will consist cf horses and riders from Ibs city district and from Mon- tana, Utah, Saskatchewan and B.C. A highlight of the show this year will be a jousting com- petition put on by fee Van- couver-based branch of British Jousting Society. The group uses lances, broadswords and maces to joust in armour and chain- mail. Tickets fw PavifioB per- formances go on sa3e today. The three-day torse show has aftenwsn and evening ses- sions, at 2 p.m. and p.m.