Below are some short, personal anecdotes from the lives of some residents of Bowness. These are a sampling of the many family histories documented in the Society's book, "Bowness: Our Village in the Valley".
Bowness Store and Taxi. In 1948 we bought out Mike Kasher
and named the spot Harrison's Bowness Store and Taxi. The
store itself was a busy [place] when Bowness Park was open.
Soft drinks, wieners and picnic supplies sold like hot cakes.
Ice cream sales kept our help busy. They would spell each other on the ice cream scoops. Our help mostly consisted of local married ladies. Our coffee counter usually had a selection of home made pie, made by my mother. One customer, a Red Detmer from Silver Springs, would come in and eat a whole flapper pie or a whole brick of ice cream. Our main line of business was local Bowness people in need of groceries and other merchandise.
When Bears Paw Dam was built we had a number of [dam] employees living in trailers in our back yard. One of the truck operators named Reg Cransten had a heart attack; we placed him in a taxi and rushed him to Calgary General Hospital. Unfortunately Reg died prior to our reaching the hospital. The hospital refused to take him, we proceeded to the Leyden Funeral Home and they also refused to take him, as we had no death certificate, so back to the General Hospital where we eventually got a death certificate and returned to Leyden's Funeral Home.
Uma (Green) and Howard Allen
New Years Flood, 1951
In 1951 Uma Allen bought 1172 Bow Crescent, Bowness from Earl and
Kay Hatfield. The Allens had farmed at Hillmond, Sask. During the war, Uma
was the matron for the Edmonton City Police. She became a registered practical
nurse and worked as a nurse companion for some well-known people as well as
matron at the Bonnyville Youth Home and Ogden Men's Hospital. Uma and
Howard had 8 sons, 5 of whom served in the armed forces in WW2. All returned
safely. Uma and youngest son Dave were both home the night the Bow River
flooded their home just before New Years Eve 1951. All her pictures etc. were
covered with water. She worked for years trying to salvage what she could.
Howard worked on the building of the Alaska Highway during the war, then
for the Diamond Match Company in Idaho. He retired in 1961. In early 1964 they sold their property and moved to 5831 Bow Crescent where they lived until 1969 when they built a home at their son's farm near Strathmore. In 1977, at ages 83 and 84 they moved to Peace River, AB to be near son David and family. They resided there until they each passed away at age 93.
Bowness in the 1940s
By Kathleen Emily Dawson Lust
Kay remembers what it was like in the early days. The east end of Bowness was known as Critchley. There were dirt roads and no sidewalks. Wells were dug to provide the family's water and there were outside toilets. People had coal and wood stoves to heat the house and to cook with. There was no electricity and people used coal oil lamps for lights. The families had huge vegetable gardens and Kay canned to store food for the winter. Art travelled to work on the street car to Calgary. The trip took one hour. The last street car left Calgary for Bowness at 11:30 p.m. If you missed it you had to walk. Art and Kay missed it a couple of times!
There were two theatres, the Rex and the Bow. The Bow gave little prizes away. The girls usually went to the Saturday matinee at the Bow. The Rex was also used for dances. Kay went once and said that was enough! Kay said her children enjoyed growing up in Bowness.
Times were different then. You didn't have to worry about your children as you knew all the neighbors and everyone looked out for all the children. Children had a lot more space to play in as there were few houses and fewer fences to keep you out. They were happy days!
If you have found these brief stories interesting, our book contains much more information. Order Form.
The Society would like to thank Mr. Len Watt for the photograph of his grandfather John Hextall, Bill Harrison for the image of the Bowness Store and Taxi, Steve Ryckman and Linda Conlin for the image of Bowness Valley, Dave and Debbie Allen for the image of the New Year's Day Flood and The Calgary Herald for the image of Baker Sanatorium taken by Ian Christie.
Life in Bowness in the '30s Part 1 (A Series of articles)
By Les Hamilton
For me, arriving in the summer of 1937 at the tender age of just under five years old,
may not give me the full perspective of life in the village of Critchley. However, there are some vivid memories still alive in the old noggin. Upon disembarking from the Bowness streetcar at what was then 7th Street I still recall the vision of the bright new wood fence surrounding 720 Main Street where our new home stood. We had traveled from the district of Killarney in Calgary where first called home. An immediate culture shock to my mother was the outdoor bathroom. This became even more evident when summer ended and temperatures plummeted.
There were few houses around this new location and the focal point of the community was Tony Schmaltz’s Midway Store just a block east of our new abode. I suppose one of the first things needing attention was to secure a mail box in the Post Office within Midway store. I recall my mother looked after most of the ‘business like” things that needed attention. Tony Schmaltz was also the postmaster and in charge of the Mutual telephone company which maintained “Party Lines” which had a many as 14 subscribers on one line.
There was no expectation of privacy and in any event, a telephone wasn’t in the Hamilton’s budget.
There was a lot for a five year old to explore in this very new world. Because of my age, I had little recollection of the Killarney house which was my home for about five years.
Life In Early Bowness Part 2
By Les Hamilton
Because of a September birthday, I had a long wait before starting Grade 1 and being introduced to the big hike up to the “Main School". My Dad walked with me on the first day. It was about a mile from 720 Main St and I soon learned that there was a shortcut across the field just West of the CPR crossing where we would pass the only three houses in sight. The Mc Junkin family lived in one of them and the Coles in another. Just before the school was the Mc Lay house on the bend of what was # 8 Highway as well as Bowness Road. A child streetcar fare in 1938 was 5 cents so it was only in the dead of winter I had the luxury of such transportation. To put in perspective, a bottle of Coke or Orange Crush was 7 Cents. When my mother & I took the streetcar to Calgary for shopping, we always got off the car at the Hextall bridge on the way home as a second fare was collected to proceed farther west. In winter that could be a miserable walk home. In those early days, few had cars and everyone knew Oscar Bates and Mr. Solloway two popular streetcar conductors.
Starting grade-1 at the Main School was a big adjustment for me after a lazy prior year. There was a memorable experience right off the bat when a new student by the name of Marion Tveit was introduced to the class. We heard her story where she and her family barely made it out of Norway in time as WW-2 was just starting.
I recall a Miss Krem as our Grade 1 teacher and Mr Staal the Principal who had to many of us, the “voice of doom”. Students soon learned that you didn’t mess with him. As the years went by and he was my math and science teacher I grew very fond of his teaching style and his endless analogies. Sadly George Stall passed away in 1954. Next issue we’ll talk coal & wood heat.
Life In Early Bowness Part 3
By Les Hamilton
Coal and wood were vital commodities in those early years prior to about 1945. Dad would order a ton of nice Anthracite coal from a Mr. Hesleton and he would deliver it to our coal shed, which sat behind our little house. Our house had a coal shute which led to our dug-out basement and that was just too labour intensive and was never used by us. I believe he delivered the firewood as well which was basically for kindling and cooking in summer.
The odd citizen would get free wood by snagging logs that were floated in the river to be processed in Calgary by the Eau Claire Lumber Company.
In the skating rink shack located on a big vacant area a bit East of the present #15 Fire Hall, we had a big cast iron “pot bellied “heater that burned wood or coal. I recall one day cozying up to this stove when an enterprising young boy threw some live 22 bullets into the fire. That made some excitement! Imagine that happening today. Lockdown of the shack and six patrol cars! There’s no fuel like an old fuel! How well we knew that!
Canadian western Natural Gas began trenching in Bowness around 1944 0r 1945.
Toward the Park, there was normal soil and digging went well but in the area of Main Street from the CPR tracks all the way to Shouldice bridge a geological thing called river cobble played hob with the Parsons trench machines. Behind our house at 736, the machines could hardly get through the boulders and lots of breakdowns occurred. From my well digging experience in the area, after a depth of a metre or so the misery was over and smaller gravel and sand prevailed.
Well, on to another subject related to that golden era. A young fellow of the day had limited resources for spending money when your parents were just eking out an existence. Newspaper delivery, beer bottle picking from the ditches, pin setting at the Bowling alley were about all there was. For a time, Tony at the Midway Store called me the “Beer Bottle King” as I would go into what was Montgomery and clean the ditches there as well. Seven bottles would buy me an Orange Crush or a Coke. Wow!
By 1952 I had become a licensed Radio Technician with Radiocrafts Ltd on 8th Ave SW Calgary.
I was delighted when Tony asked me to repair the radio in his fairly new Plymouth sedan. I was no longer the "Beer Bottle King"
I will probe my memory for more "Early Bowness" for the next edition.
Life In Early Bowness Part 4
By Les Hamilton
The very early issues of my series have covered most events that I recall in the 30’s and 40’s in the Village of Critchley and in 1939, Bowness. That era can’t be remembered without paying homage to the streetcar. The 45 minute trip to downtown was a perfect opportunity to socialize with the neighbours who also depended on this means of transportation. One of my favourite trips downtown was to Mewata swimming pool with my mother. The warm water came in at the North end of the pool.
Those early shopping trips usually meant a stop at Safeway in the 200 block of 8th Ave S E and on to Bon Ton Meat market. Before heading home, a hamburger at Kresge’s and a malted milk at the Bay would be our lunch. Also, the White Lunch Cafeteria on 8th Ave near the Palace Theatre was another common stop. They had unusual huge thick coffee mugs.
The old outdoor City Hall market was interesting for me as the Sheftels had tools for sale which I enjoyed looking at. Nearby was Shulman’s Tailors that were in a basement with fluorescent lights in the window over the work area. They weren’t all that common then. Another fascination for a small boy.
WW-II added some sacrifices to one’s life such as sugar and meat rationing. As a lad I recall how excited I was when I could once again enjoy homemade fudge. And that meant the end of those horrible wartime “chocolate” bars called Liberator Bars.
Street lights were a welcome addition to Main street in the forties. They went from Allan’s corner to a block West of our house at 7th St. Porcelain reflectors protected the open incandescent bulbs from the elements.
The cafe in the East side of the Bowness Groceteria building was a favourite hangout for me. The Wurlitzer juke box full of 78 RPM records gave much musical enjoyment to many. Ken Griffen’s “Harbour Lights” played on the Hammond Organ Sounded very rich with lots of bass. The café was run by Hazel and Val Smith whose husbands ran the groceteria next door. Cliff Smith was a great coach in physical fitness and body building. He looked like Charles Atlas. My connection with the Smiths gave me the opportunity to socialize with younger people than my ageing parents. I used to help around the store and deliver groceries to the soldier’s settlement on Alexander and Chinook Avenues and got to know many of those pioneers. Doug and Betty Everett stand out in my memory of those who made a difference in Bowness. Also, I got to learn how to drive a standard shift 1928 Chevrolet hearse that was converted to a flatbed truck.
The dairy bar on the West end of that block was run by Claude Halpin and their ice-cream cones were a treat on a hot summer day. That business was short lived unfortunately.
A baker by the name of Harry Hodges opened a bakery on that corner and offered me a job to fry donuts. That was a short- lived career as I was unable to eat lunch after standing over that boiling grease all morning.
A sudden summer flood in the mid 1940’s caught us all off guard with water right up to our front door sill at out house at 736 Main Street. A Springbank farmer by the name of Nicholl had dammed up a coulee on his farm for a personal lake but had overlooked some important engineering details and this thing let loose on all of Bowness. Fortunately, the flood was short lived as his dam was not that large.
Life In Early Bowness Part 5
By Les Hamilton
Many topics have been covered in the last 4 issues of my “Life in Early Bowness”. My reminiscing back to the forties has to include talking about the number of chicken coops were in our neighbourhood. The Strong’s next door to the East of our house had a coop at the rear of the lot by the good old “outhouse” and one didn’t have to go far to run in to others. The roosters were a dead giveaway in the mornings. The outhouses were a common sight on the lanes all over Bowness. The local gas fitter had a gas heater in his elite privy. Again, due to the economy of the times, those nice soft tissues that came with the Japanese oranges at Christmas time were put to good use in the outhouse. These gave the Eaton’s catalogue a brief respite.
The George Ruttle family lived over by the streetcar line at Sixth Street and had a big coop that I was hired to clean out. The pay was a quarter for an hour’s stinky work. I think I was only about ten at the time. There are better ways to clear one’s sinuses!
Homes in that area were well separated which allowed these chicken coops to survive without offending too many people. Many families in that era were just eking out a living and the chickens were a survival tool of sorts. Mink farms were the other common farming activity in the village with the Johnston farm on the hill near Shouldice bridge and the German Canadian club. Our temporary school at the Fraser House was a mink farm prior to 1940. That was just a few hundred feet East from today’s bus loop. These were very profitable enterprises due to the popularity of fur and fur trimmed ladies coats and operated well into the fifties
Most back yards had a vegetable and potato plot. Then came my job to pick off the Colorado (potato) beetles and dump them in a can of coal oil.
Tedious would be a fair description of that task. The streetcar system required a second fare be paid for anyone travelling West of Shouldice bridge. Walking the rest of the way to seventh street a tough way to save that precious ticket when temperatures were well below 0- F.
In the early forties there were no street lights between the bridge and our house. Flashlights were referred to as a “torch” and carried by a few people.
Life In Early Bowness Vol 6
By Les Hamilton
Some of the sights of summer in the forties were the big semi- trailers carrying huge loads of ice blocks down Main Street from the Calgary Ice Plant on their way to Calgary ice boxes. On a hot July day, it was a novelty to pickup a slab of ice that would often fall from the trailers. The ice plant was located on the hill just North of the Shriner’s Headquarters at Stoney Trail N W. The lake the ice was taken from is now just a water feature with a fountain in front of the Shriner’s building.
Halloween in early Bowness was somewhat different than today’s version the city children experience. As this event was one of very few events where the kids could get free treats, it was taken seriously by many families. It was not unusual for the kids to return home with a pillowcase full of apples (the most common donation) then change disguises and go out all over again. For homeowner to not answer the door would lead to a good soaping of the windows of their house and in many cases, the outhouse in the back yard would be tipped over. I recall one year when there was a row of four or five outhouses that sat blocking Main Street in front of our house at what is now 65th St. Main St was also # 8 provincial highway in those days. As we had no police department in that era, the RCMP were a frequent sight at the schools and around town. It was a barometer of the social problems that persisted in a limited but noticeable bunch of families.
On July the 14 2019, Bowness Historical Society dedicated a park at 6704 Bow Crescent as Tony & Ruby Schmaltz Park. In the forties, this was a vacant lot with a deep wide ditch the purpose of which was to carry storm water that flowed through the streetcar subway and get it under Main St. and into the river. It was one of the few spots that one could access the Bow to do some fishing. In later years it was a skating rink .
There is another memory from the early forties. Our milk man was none other than the famous Chuck wagon driver from High River, Ron Glass. I rode with him in his little red pickup truck and carried bottles of milk to his customer’s doors. I was on top of the world!
Somewhere in this era, we had a measles quarantine sign on our front door, and I was confined to a dark room in order to protect my eyes from harm. That was hard to understand at that age.
The perpetual orange glow in the Southern sky from “Hell’s Kitchen” in Turner Valley was a sight for many of those early years. As we were without a car, we never got to see the huge flare.
Life In Early Bowness Volume 7
by Les Hamilton
The month of February 1954 brought bone chilling weather with the mercury dropping to -39 F. To be sure I have verified that that temperature was authentic. The day after was a slight bit warmer. My 1946 Chevrolet was parked between our old coal shed and our tiny bungalow. The old car barely started and for the first few blocks driving felt like wooden wheels going clunk, clunk, clunk. The early tires were not too forgiving.
I have made reference to the streetcars in another edition but not about their "winter comfort”. All the wooden Ottawa Car Company units had a forced air heater that burned coke briquettes. There was not a lot of heat toward the rear of the car. The front doors did not fit all that well and thereby supplied loads of fresh air. This was a career that was hard on the motorman as he was subjected to a lot of drafts up front. Also there was little demand for coat hooks.
A warmer weather streetcar story revolves around a school day trip on the streetcar that had just left the m
Main School (Now the Bow-Mont Daycare) on it’s way to the Frazer House School and was gaining a fair bit of speed approaching the ninety degree left turn at Harrison’s corner. A pretty young teacher had gotten Jimmy the motorman’s attention to the point he forgot to slow the car for the turn. Luckily I saw this coming and hung on to the seat handle as the car lurched around the corner and flung lunch boxes and the coal in the stove all over the place. Lots of thermos bottles were broken. I’m still amazed that it stayed on the rails. I met the same retired Motorman in the seventies and teased him about it. He pleaded no memory of the event.
Again, recalling fond memories of those “forties” a favourite fixture in Tony’s Midway Store was the big red COKE cooler that was filled with chilled water. You had to lift a big cover to access a refreshing beverage. If Les the “Bottle King” worked hard and found seven beer bottles, there was money for a free bottle of pop.
I have a short story also about trust and pop. A man was digging his own small basement about a block East of Midway Store and I happened by to say hello and see what was going on. To my surprise he pulled a ten dollar bill out of his pocket and asked me if I would go over and bring back a pop for each of us. He had never seen me before and yet trusted me with what was a sizable bill in 1945. His name was Aljoe McCrae.
I’ll close this epistle with the observation that an old man’s memory stores some odd things from the past.
Closing On A Humourous Note.
Not having a car during my early working career in Calgary, I car pooled with a gentleman with a late twenties four door sedan. The way he signaled a left turn was to throw the left door open while negotiating the corner downtown. Totally hilarious today!
Jan 19th. 1949-Nov 16th. 2018
Bernd was born in Germany on January 19, 1949 and immigrated to Canada in 1954. After graduating from the University of Calgary with a degree in biology he worked in environmental affairs for the coal industry for his entire career. He was an active member of the Canadian Coal Association and the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum.
Bernd began his professional career in 1975 working as a Senior Biologist with Techman Engineering Ltd. in Calgary. He also held positions with Prairie Coal Ltd., Manalta Coal Ltd., and most recently, as the Director of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs for Grande Cache Coal Corporation. He was a valued member of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists proving to be a respected mentor and reference to many who followed in his footsteps in the environmental field. His contributions to environmental planning and policy, reclamation, and aboriginal relations left a positive mark on the coal industry as a whole.
In retirement, Bernd continued to participate in various coal proposals with former colleagues but mostly devoted his efforts towards the Bowness Historical Society as the editor of their Bowness Beacon newsletter, tending to his garden, and pursuing his love of the outdoors by making regular outings to the countryside (above attributed to BIOS - ASPB Newsletter, Winter 2019).
“Bernd loved the prairies and the West and read widely on these topics. He also collected a larger number of rare books on these subjects. He liked nothing better that “stirring up the sage” on the open prairies and exploring the coulees for their unusual vegetation and animal life. He also knew a great deal about the history of coal mining in Alberta, especially in the Drumheller region. During the past few years, Bernd turned his attention to the history of the community where his family settled when they arrived from Germany. Bernd joined the Bowness Historical Society in 2003 and did much of the editing and research for two books written about the history of the community and he was the editor of the quarterly newsletter, the Bowness Beacon” (as described by Daniel Andrews, a close friend).
Beyond his ‘work’, which he actually enjoyed, Bernd participated in sports from hardball baseball as a child to slo-pitch softball as an adult. His winter pastime was hockey. From the 1970s to the 1990s, he played for a team called the Maroons, later re-named the Rockies. One of the many highlights of his hockey days included participating in overseas tournaments in Germany/Austria (1987) and in Finland/Sweden (1991). Golf, soccer and cycling rounded out Bernd’s passion for outdoor sports.
Gardening was Bernd’s favorite summer activity. Beyond his outdoor vegetables and flowers, his addition of a cherished small greenhouse allowed him to grow from seed, fantastic tomatoes and green peppers, which he shared with family and friends. Bernd collected rare Western history books and Western watercolour paintings by US artist Leonard Reedy (1899-1956), who focused on southwestern landscapes, its people and animals. Southwestern style was very evident and reflected in Bernd’s home.
We hope this gives you an insight into this extraordinary person who never got bored, enjoyed many hobbies, and always loved to explore the outdoors of Alberta, from the prairies to the mountains.
As Bernd’s family, we will all miss his smile, his wonderful sense of humour, and those many special shared moments with him.
We will love him forever.