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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - May 1, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta 16 THE tETHBRiDGE HERALD Tuesday, May 1, 1973 It Is a common sight to see tourists stop and read the ex- planatory sign, marvel at the thousands of feet of boulders bigger than their car, then jump back in their car and drive away one eye on the highway and another on big old Turtle Mountain. Even some people who drive through that stretch of Highway 3 every day admit to speeding up a little in case what is left of the mountain should sudden- ly shake loose. It's called Frank, Alta. At least it used to be when Arthur Graham was a lad. Now 78, living at 913 10th St. S. in bridgc, Mr. Graham recalls the great Frank Slide of 70 years ago. By JIM GRANT Herald Staff Writer The top of old Turtle Moun- tain came thundering down in an avalanche of massive boul- ders shattering everything in its one-mile path. The huge mountain rumbled. the earth shook, but an eight- year-old boy slept oblivious to it all. "It was my father's foot kick- ing me in the side that woke me recalls Arthur Graham, 78, of 913 10th St. S. in Leth- bridge. Even though a youngster at the time of the devastating Frank Slide in 1903, Mr. Graham vividly remembers be- ing jarred awake by his father at a.m. Wednesday. April 29. on Art, get up and look after the his father said. The Graham family had just moved into a house above the bank building and the beds weren't even set up yet so the fanifly slept on mattresses on the floor during that fateful night. Mr. Graham remembers his father telling him to hurry and get dressed because something had happened at the mountain. He thought at first there may have been an explosion in the mine, which is a constant fear people in coal mining towns. The Grahams were not en- dangered by the slide because they lived in the business area of Frank which was on the out- skirts of the path of the 70 million tons of limestone rock that demolished the residential area. The jagged rock hurdled down feet of mountainside in a matter of one and a half minutes, killing an estimated 70 people. April 29, 1903, was a very cold morning and the Graham youngsters were told to put their warmest clothes on while their father went out to inves- tigate the damage done to the town. "Dad was pretty good at cop- ing with recalled Mr. Graham. In fact, he says the whole town used a great deal of sslf control while dealing with the disaster. A railway yard engine was used to hook up several empty box cars to take women and cliildren out of the disaster area and into Blairmore, just west of Frank. Young Arthur was one of the many Frank residents to take that freezing train ride. In Blairmore, the residents of Frank wore taken into the homes of the sympathetic town folk. After devouring a man-sized breakfast. Arthur Graham and his two brothers walked down the railway track to Frank. They were worried some friends may have been killed in the slide. Roof missing Their friends lived in a row of six company houses at the northeastern edge of Frank. People in one of those houses were killed while others in an adjacent one escaped with rela- tively minor injuries. Five of the six houses were destroyed. Mr. Graham's friends' house was the one still Arthur Graham remembers WHEN TURTLE MOUNTAIN FELL standing with a corner of roof missing. "Once I found out my friends were okay, I didn't pay too much attention to what else was going he said. Fate spared some and claim- ed others. A girl lived because for some reason she had not returned home after work. Her father, mother and six brothers and sisters were killed in the slide. A man was killed when for the first time he slept at the mine camp site rather than in his roam at the Frank- Hotel. He and ten olher men were killed when the slide completely wiped out the camp. A baby was thrown from her family's crushed home on to a boulder that crashed against another house and in turn flip- ped her through a window. The baby was found healthy as can be, sitting on some hay. A handful of feathers from a feather bed were driven into a child's chest when the slide crushed his family's home. Doc- tors removed the feathers and the youth survived. An entire family was buried by debris and rocks only to be rescued later in the day from a hole among the rocks. The slide not only wiped out part of a town but it also blocked the coal mine entrance. A graveyard shift of 17 men were sealed in the mine. The men's lives were threat- ened in three different ways. They were racing against time because of the shortage of air caused by both the entrance and the air tunnel to the mine being blocked off by the slide. Portions of the mine were still collapsing around the min- ers, threatening to crush them at any moment. And the slide had pinched off the Crowsnest River causing the water level to rise into the mine theatening a drowning death for the miners. While crews of rescuers from Frank and nearby towns were advancing into the moun- tain, the miners were digging up through 36 feet of soft coal. It was dusk of the day of the slide catastrophe before the first miner appeared after dig- ging his way out. The other 16 trapped miners were lifted out of the mine one by one. "They must have had some pretty wild thoughts as they looked out over the says Mr. Graham. "What had been a beautiful valley now was noth- ing but a rock pile." The official Frank Slide death toll is listed as 66, but some residents of Frank estimate there may have been more than a hundred killed. Others claim it may have been less than the official tally. "There may have been people working at the construction camp who were in town beer- ing up and decided to stay over- Mr. Graham suggested. "If they had a questionable past it was a good time to get rid of it." The Graham family moved to Coleman, west of Frank, im- mediately following the slide. "My father owned a barber Continued on Page 15 ;