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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - November 16, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta November 16, 1974 THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD 5 People of the south By Chris Stewart Fifty years is a long, long time THE VOICE OF ONE Dr. Frank S. Morley Coaldale residents cheered and 86-year-old Paula Peck waved back enthusiastically when she rode by on the Settler's Day float. Attired in her Sunday best and seated in a rocking chair, this shy oc- togenarian loved every minute of the colorful proces- sion even though she wasn't used to such fan-fare and the fuss accorded her as one of the town's earliest residents. The recognition and applause was a far cry from the colorless, frugal and somewhat lonely introduction she had had to Coaldale back in 1924 when she and her barber-husband decided to make it their home. Fifty long years had ticked by since hus- band Gabriel, the only barber between Lethbridge and Taber had set up his one-chair shop in conjunction with pool- room operator Herman Smith and charged what now appears to be the ridiculously small sum of 25 cents per cut. And now the town was honor- ing this tiny settler with the sweet smile, and it was ob- vious to everyone she was terribly pleased. There was no running water when the Pecks came to town. It had to be drawn from a pump at the rear of the shop and heated on a coal-fired stove before customers could be lathered. But 50 years ago a visit to the barber was almost a social affair giving men a chance to catch up on current events, district news, crop conditions, seek advice on animal and human ailments and get acquainted with new immigrants coming to town. Waiting for water to heat was no inconvenience. It simply gave customers a chance to chat longer. And what better place than Gabriel's barber shop? With Coaldale compris- ed of 22 nationalities and Gabriel fluent in four languages he could generally make himself understood. While the water heated the conversation became more animated. The daughter of the Gustaf Bruhers, raised in Budapest, Hungary and Rakosligit, Austria, Paula recalls using her free railway pass (available through her father's Vienna government position) to entrain frequently between.the two centres. Sun- day afternoons found her boating on the Danube (a pastime she credits with con- ditioning her for her long Atlantic crossing in She was exposed early to music since both her father and brother sang in the Lutheran church choir. Gabriel appren- ticed four years as a barber before leaving for Berlin and subsequently London to learn both German and English before returning to Rakosligit to marry Paula in 1911. He left for Vancouver that same year with his young wife following with their infant daughter Pauline a year later. Paula remembers her tearful depar- ture from her parents and the tiring, long ride in the straight-backed wooden train seats, clear across Canada but she doesn't nurse memories of hardships. All her memories are pleasant. She even describes her long trip to Van- couver as "wonderful." Gabriel was barbering in a shop adjacent to Vancouver's Nabob warehouse when Paula arrived. Business was good. Immigrants pouring into the seaport seeking work, stop- ping in for a trim prior to a job interview, often spent their last pennies to ensure good grooming. But Gabriel was restless every time a letter from his pal Jack Higdone of Taber arrived telling of the wide, blue prairie sky and the freedom it offered By 1917 he had decided to ioiii his bucidv in a pool-room-barbershop partnership, a popular com- bination in those days when going to the barber and snooting pool while waiting your (urn in the single barber chair provided a happy respite from the rigors of prairie life But crops were sparse in the Taber area prior to irrigation and Gabriel found few had the price of a haircut, let alone a game of pool. Paula returned to her fami- y in Hungary in 1S21. to the expected birth "f their lourtb child. Ten months ;he relumed 1o Canada v.. ;r, tbc four children. By this time Gabriel had opened a barber >hop in Grassy Lake where a copulation boom in 1910 had! .suddenly given the sleepy town a temporary transfusion. That year tbc new brick four- -oom Chamberlain school had replaced the seven-pupil classrooms opened in 1907 in both the local churches. Customers were coming for miles in lumber wagons and democrats to shop at William Salvage's store opened in 1903. The town boasted Mr. and Mrs. Ed. King's restaurant and rooms; a butcher shop; Massey Harris agency; various stores; a section house, with Mr. O'Connell as the first section foreman; and a tiny station which subbed as a post office, run by post- master Mr. Gallagher. The first town council had been named as early as 1911 and a train from Medicine Hat stopped at the town three times weekly. Everywhere there was talk of prosperity but Paula Peck was apprehen- sive. She didn't see customers flocking to her husband's small barber shop nor did she believe any rush of business was imminent. All she could see was the tall, lush grass, stretching far out onto the prairie but she knew it was people, not grass that were needed to support her husband's business. Convinced there weren't enough people in Grassy Lake to warrant a barber shop the Pecks in 1924 decided to move to the "Gem of the West" as Coaldale was then known, preceding by one year the 1925 initial arrival of the Men- nonites. Their subsequent an- nual arrivals from Russia from 1928 to 1948 was to bring more growth and social changes to the town than any other factor. The Mennonite's first move was to purchase the Lathrop Farm and use the hayloft for religious services. After the Ennes family arriv- ed in 1928 a church was built and a cemetery established with the town's first physician, Dr. D. L. Epp setting up a practice in 1933. Two years later an old hotel was purchased for mov- ed to Coaldale at a cost of and when renovated and of- ficially opened on February 3, 1935. served as the town's hospital for 19 years until sub- sequently replaced with a 14- bed institution opened on May 23. 1954. The Coaldale of the Peck's arrival had come a long way since Harry Chinook of Wisconsin (believed to be the town's first settler) made his first serious attempt to farm the area (he eventually traded off his farmstead for Henry Daines' Minneapolis apart- ment block) or Harry A. Suggitt of Illinois, popularly known as "The Father of Coaldale" and believed to be the first man to build a home there, arrived in 1904. They were followed by such settlers as John McD. Davidson of North Dakota who won awards with his excellent herd of white-faced Hereford cattle and P. S. Pawson with his Shorthorns. Coaldale. which by its name implies it is an area of coal deposits (although there is no coai in the area> was named by the CPR after the riverbot- tom residence of Elliot T. Gait, son of Alexander T. Gait, who had chosen this name for his home located south of the present CPR high level bridge to distinguish it from the growing settlement of nearby Coai Banks (now The town was no longer a railway siding with one lone elevator or Mrs. Cokely's combined rooming house, restaurant and post office It had had it's first building boom in 1917. before the Perk's arrival The old box rar serving as the town's initial railway station had been replaced. Tom Oxland had built a fine hotel on Main Street, the .Standard Bank had been taken over by the Batik of Commerce and Coaldale had been incorporated as a village on January 3, 1920. with David King as reeve The town had even had jts first fair, as early as 1919. in a huge enclosure nf stacked, bak-d hay Mho idea of John Hans" Shimck i. While return? from barber- ing were low in those early Coaldale days, living was also cheap, according 1o Paula -'If hushf-in-' rariyl our and lots flora ted across from the present R. 1. Baker Scbonli ivae jip, which left us the same amount ID live on. To eke out her budget Paula per dozen. This native of Vien- na, and a stranger to farm life, recalls bolting over a nearby fence the first time her cow looked her way. She couldn't determine whether its look was cross or kind. Gabriel brought with him to Coaldale the same motivation which had driven him to London and Berlin and finally to Canada to try his hand in the new world. As his business mounted he built a new barber shop (complete with running water) gradually sold off his 16 lots and built and sold several houses while still finding time to design intricate zitherolas, the stringed instrument with musical tones similar to a harp, lute or guitar, par- ticularly popular in central European countries and fashioned after the 100-year old model he had brought with him from Europe. Paula has four of them in her living room today one for each of their children daughters Pauline Woof of Okaton and Rose Lofgren of Camrose, both teachers; son Albert, an orderly at Red Deer and Jack, a Vancouver gynecologist. There are 12 grandchildren and three great grand- children. Gabriel's death, at age 81, following a heart attack suf- fered when bailing water from his basement after a flash flood in the winter of 1967 marked the end of an impor- tant chapter in the early life of the town. Paula Peck hasn't changed much during her 50 Coaldale years. This shy woman, with the slight Hungarian accent is still thrifty. She grows a prolific garden, seeds only during the rising moon, grows enough produce on her one lot to keep her year-round and claims her large yield sup- ports her seeding theory. She believes firmly in the health benefits of poppy seed, honey and paprika (she insists on a tablespoon of honey per day) uses very little meat and lives chiefly on eggs, vegetables, rice and noodles. Her porch doubles as a root cellar with strings of dried peas and beans hanging from the ceil- ing with root vegetables stored on the floor. She's seldom sick and keeps a daily health chart to check on her progress. She refuses to live with her family preferring her own cozy cottage and her familiar routine of feeding the birds which daily visit her porch, patronizing the newly-opened Drop-In Centre and attending the women's meetings at the Coaldale United Church. She loves Coaldale, her home for half a century, where husband Gabriel kept everyone in trim. If alter Herlier Mrs. Paula Peek Book review Rollicking readable entertainment "Cavelt" by Dick Cavett and Christopher Porterfield Canada Limited, SI "Would you buy a copy of this book if you didn't know one or both of the Christopher Porterfield asks Dick Cavett on the 373rd page of this book. "I think I'd wait for the movie." replies the impish Cavett My advice is. don't wait for the movie. Aside from the fact that this book a blend of narrative and conversation would not lend itself (o a movie format. "Cavett" is rollicking, readable enter- tainment Another TV personally cashing in on his image to write a nothing book." might be your first reaction to Cavett Hut Mr. Cavrtt's w-'ty mind deserves and mmcs vr with better thar about Cavttt is tjuicfcjv by the book's wjtu. far raripr.g. mildly oiit-ai'eous passages. Interplay between Cavell and his Yale roommate turned writer Porterfieid from ;.p, f and some fascinating sidelights to Groucho Marx. Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn. The book is at times corny, other times sophisticated. It runs the gamut from clever puns the tough "varicose grain inherent in ribald of the gonads" after a frustrated evening as a suave seducer but is never offensive. The book's greatest virtue probably lies in the perceptive and honest insight it provides into the hard work and nerve wracking tension involved in a daily television show. Cavett is at his best when describing the toll TV takes on those working in the heart of its hot lights and endless cables. LYNNE VAN LUVEN Interpreting Jesus J appro, 1" and i r.-.'T, brief iaiic-d comtdian. irite talk- kept a cow. pigs, chickens and show hosting a number oi turkeys: sold butter, milk and penetrating, sometimes eggs for as httle as 10 cents ---n his "-lesus Now" by Maiaehi Martin (E. P. Ootton Co.. pages, distributed by Clarke, Irwin Co. A publisher Wurb ca'ls this landmark book and predicts that il will cause a greater furor than the "God is dead" debate. That strikes me as a considerably inflated omrwnl. 1 suspect that a Jot of readers rnd the book withouJ ,-j clear impression of 4lie thesis and won't 11 o r a u e h t p in any controversy axonsequcnce. In the first division of the book there is an exhaustive review of the ways in which :'t v s !i.-j. Keen understood or or three j.; The jjjlhor ,r, !w done a good deal "i 7-esearch but his style he shows a propensity for clipped sentences and for stringing together hunchs of descriptive words or phrases is Also, there is a -mart alecky tone that is For all his erudition. Malachi Martin appears to be guilty at times of error and distwjjon. For instance, in the >n Uiithoi. in iact sai'i io all. 'Sin strongly1 Be'wvc more slrongh'" Roland Bainton. in his biography cif Lulher. points tion of the word 1 stopped the car in iron' ihe church one Sunday morning 1 asked OUT ,Sov> jf ihev wanled to go with their mother while she gr.) in ?nrnc pre service visiting or ride to the parking lot and walk back in rnv com- pany Thai's a real diiernnia mumbie'j Y'aifi ;