Tidbits from 1914 Camrose
A booklet “CAMROSE AFTER SEVEN YEARS” was released by the Camrose Board of Trade. This 32 page pamphlet was sold locally for 20 cents each and distributed throughout the province. Many ‘bouquets’ came in form of newspaper articles which “the Town that was Born Lucky” was praised. “Too rosy a picture could not be painted” wrote the Edmonton Journal, going onto say, “It has nothing in common with the general run of western towns, all of which look alike to the visitor. The citizens have, from the first, taken a genuine pride in the community with results which this little publication makes plain.”
Camrose was served by the 3 Great Canadian Transcontinental Railway Lines – making it easy to get from anywhere in Alberta to Camrose and from Camrose to anywhere in Alberta. This extraordinary railway situation gave Camrose a real advantage in attracting businesses and warehouses.
In 1914 some of the warehouses and distribution companies included Camrose Grocery Co., Alexander Grocery Co., the International Harvester Co., the Calgary Brewing Co., Francoeur Bros. (wholesale manufacturing agents), Globe Lumber Co., Tesse T. Persse, Nicholson & Bain, Vernon Fruit Co., and the Imperial Oil Plant.
Area coal companies were mining 1000 tons of coal per day during the winter months, employing 300 men, with a payroll of $6,000 / week. Coal was considered a valuable commodity – even taken as trade for a phonograph by R. Drysdale, a Camrose retailer.
In 1914 Camrose was under a single tax system. Land was taxed. There was no tax on buildings or improvements and the taxation income was not supplemented in any way by business tax, floor tax, licenses, or any other charges. The assessment for 1914 showed an increase of $180,000 taxation income over 1913.
Camrose owned the water and sewer system, light and power plant, public market, exhibition grounds and buildings, municipal hospital, gravel pit and property set aside for industrial development. All these investments were largely revenue producing. Camrose boasted cement walks, cluster street lights, graded streets, streets with boulevards, playgrounds and fire fighting facilities along with the usual municipal buildings. Camrose was considered by many as the best town in Alberta and a model municipality.
Power and water were available to residents at low costs because coal was so readily available. Camrose was able to maintain their power plant at “a high state of efficiency” and was able to pass the savings onto residents. After an audit, it was determined that the electric light department showed its “revenue to be satisfactory and that a reduction in rates would be made”.
A proposed Government of Alberta telephone exchange that would handle ¼ of the province’s provincial system promised permanent jobs and further attracted families to Camrose. In total 904 telephone subscribers were in the Camrose district. The area had 734 miles of telephone pole lines with 1109 miles of wire circuit; a record for Canada at that time.
In 1914 the Camrose Board of Trade sold lots at a figure of $12 - $15 per foot frontage while farmland was worth $15 per acre. 80,000 acres were under cultivation in the Camrose district; cattle numbered 14,000; hogs 30,000; horses 8,000; poultry 100,000. The value of this livestock - $2,415,000. In one day 16 carloads of hogs were shipped over the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway line to packing houses in Edmonton, earning area farmers $16,000.
Educational facilities in Camrose were among the best in Alberta, attracting teachers and students from across Alberta and beyond. In 1914 Camrose local education facilities included: a public school, a high school, a normal school and a college.
The Normal School offered household arts, manual training, nature study and physical culture in their curriculum. These departments were open to the public and high school students to attend. Students attending the Normal School were called ‘Normalites”; as was as the basketball team.
The Normal School opened in 1912, classes being held in the High School and within cottage schools at the rear of the high school. At that same time land was selected for construction. It was completed in 1914 at a cost of over $250,000 and remains today as a piece of our early spectacular architecture.
Four locally educated students; Halley Henry, Miss Annie Ross, Miss Jessie Ross and Percy Fowler were members of the Camrose debating team who won the Championship of the Alberta High School Debating League. The final debate was against Lethbridge with Miss Jessie Ross and Halley Henry representing the team. Their win prompted an Edmonton Journal article to include ‘Camrose has won the championship of the provincial high school debating league and has done so with a young lady as a member of its team, a sign of the times worth paying heed to.’
An outbreak of scarlet fever in Camrose schools brought new medical inspections to schools and a debate over increased quarantine regulations. The Camrose public school was closed for over 2 weeks in February of 1914 because of the scarlet fever outbreak.
Camrose Lutheran College continued to be the only Norwegian educational institution in western Canada. In its 3rd year, the College had an enrollment of 100 students, 60 of whom were housed in the College building. Plans at that time were to build separate buildings to house the classrooms, making the original building entirely dormitory. The College was considered a magnet in attracting Scandinavian setters to the Camrose area and making Camrose the ‘Norwegian centre of western Canada’. In 1914 the College grounds covered 30 acres.
In early February Camrose was visited by a “most disastrous fire in its history”. Three buildings were destroyed and 4 businesses lost; damage was estimated at $20,000. Fire chief, Henry Hendrickson, thanked private citizens for their timely assistance. “Once it was seen that the buildings were doomed scores of men worked like beavers saving the contents of the 2 stores.” Proprietor of the Commercial Café, Mr. Vichy, ‘had “a narrow escape, which he will not soon forget. While the upper storey of the building was in flames he was making repeatedly dashed into the interior of the building, carrying out merchandise. On his last exit a portion of the cornice fell from above and Mr. Vichy was struck to the pavement and narrowly escaped being caught by the main portion of the falling debris.” Camrose Canadian, February 12, 1914.
It was further reported that Town Council issued cheques to the fire fighters involved in the amount of $4 each; and that special clothing supplied to them during the fire, due to extreme temperatures that February night, be paid for to the amount of $92.05.
It was further reported in the Canadian that John McMillan contributed $50 towards a fund to ‘provide some tangible evidence for the boys, that their good services were appreciated’.
Farmers met regularly at Town Hall for U.F.A. meetings, topics included noxious weeds and the ‘elevator question’.
It was reported weekly in the Camrose Canadian those who were registered at the local hotels.
Thorleif Iversen, manager for the Home to Norway Association, and Enoc Scotvold began organizing an excursion billed as ‘the largest and jolliest party of friends and neighbors’. A $10 refundable deposit was all that was needed to reserve. The World’s Fair was being held in Christiania, Norway to celebrate the Norwegian Centennial. A large Canadian contingent was expected and arrangements had been made with the Norwegian government to have a battleship meet the Canadian transcontinental ships and escort them into port. In total, 50 Camrose area residents left on a midnight C.P.R. train, bound for the May 17th celebrations.
Before leaving Camrose the group were guests at a farewell gathering, put on by the Board of Trade at the Canadian Club. There were speeches from past Mayor Layton, George Smith, M.P.P., Camrose Lutheran College president J.R. Lavik and Prof. Odegaard.
Nroval Baptie, the world’s fastest ice skater was in Camrose to demonstrate speed skating. With his partner, Miss Raymond, Baptie also captivated the crowd with ‘fancy skating’ to the waltzing music furnished by the Camrose orchestra.
A huge loss was felt by the community with the collapse of the Camrose Curling Rink due to heavy snow on the roof. Damage was estimated at $5,000. Had it happened one hour later, there would have been scores of students on the ice, so it was thought that a disaster was narrowly averted.
It took only a few short weeks before a new building was planned, housing a six sheet rink. A committee was formed and it was decided to form a joint stock company to be known as Camrose Curlers Limited. They set out to raise the estimated $4,000 they would need.
A February ski tournament drew a record crowd of nearly 2000 people. L. Maland of Camrose won the tournament; 4 competitors from Camrose were in the top 5.
Evening cooking classes were postponed so all Normal School students could attend the Ski Tournament dance.
The Bailey Theatre was backdrop to a large, provincial Masonic banquet that the Ladies Hospital Aid Committee catered, not a small undertaking. They were pleased to have the donations of food, including the chickens, from many local businesses. They earned gross revenue of $152.75. After taking $31.40 expenses off, they were left the sum of $121.35 with which to carry on their aid work.
In 1914 the municipal hospital was under pressure and unable to cope with the demands of the very large area it supported. Building a new hospital was “under serious review”.
The exhibition grounds provided a large park-like area for residents. Besides the fall fair the grounds were used for trap shooting, baseball and football and horse racing.
Horse racing was a big summertime attraction. In 1914 a young Duhamel lad was killed in a horse race that took place on main-street during the annual Sport Days.
The July 30, 1914 Camrose Canadian ran the headline: AUSTRIA-HUNGARY HAS DECLARED WAR ON SERVIA’ OTHER EROPEAN NATIONS MAY BE DRAWN INTO BIG CONFLICT.
August 6: The war in Europe dominates page 1 of the Camrose Canadian including: GREAT BRITAIN DECLARED WAR ON GERMANY LAST TUESDAY EVENING.
More updates to come…
William (Bill) Frank Fowler
Camrose to set up businesses for themselves. Thomas, a blacksmith, formed a partnership with Almer Ofrim, another family that has been in Camrose since pioneer days.
The love the family has for this community was likely was passed on from these early settlers.
The 2014 Camrose Founders Days Festival committee will observe the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW I and the 75th of WW II as part of our annual historical celebration. Many of our community members readily took up arms to fight alongside what would become the Allied Nations.
William Frank Fowler was one local WW II soldier who returned to Camrose to become a well known community leader and businessman. We also recognize the positive influence other Fowler family members have made on our early history, and would like to bring attention also to William and Thomas Fowler, brothers who arrived in Camrose during those very early settler years.
Bill’s story… After enlisting and going through “Initial Training” (that’s where the men learned protocol… how to salute, march, eat, drink, walk and talk like a soldier), Bill Fowler moved on to “Elementary Flight School” where he learned how to fly. Next he enrolled in “Service Flying Training School” where he learned how to fly specifically geared towards combat. It was at this point in time that his aptitude towards flight instruction was discovered. Noting also that Bill had a wife and children, he was deemed to be more suitable to train other pilots than fly combat missions. As a result, Bill next attended “Instructor School”. In September of 1944, he was shipped to an “Operational Training Unit” in England, which was a division of the Allied Bomber Command. During the next six months at the OTU, he completed a conversion course on Wellington twin engine bombers and assigned a crew to fly operationally in the European Theatre. In the spring of 1945 as the war in Europe ended, Bill attended a “Four Engine Heavy Bomber Conversion Course”, on Lancasters which would have enabled him to continue to serve as a bomber pilot on aircraft designed to strike Japan. His next move would have been to somewhere in the Pacific, however, the war ended quite suddenly in August after two Atomic Bombs were dropped on Japan. He returned to Camrose in October of ’45.
Bill became committed to many Camrose organizations over the next several decades. He helped establish the Camrose Flying Society and was involved in the development of the Camrose Airport. There were others who had returned from the war with a passion for flying; and having no local facilities to practice or house flying, set out to arrange it. While he was the Chamber of Commerce president in 1961, Bill encouraged City Council to purchase a ¼ section of land from the province, which is still the location of the Camrose Airport. Bill was president of the Camrose Flying Club in 1971.
Bill also brought his flying expertise to the local 644 Cougars Camrose Rotary Air Cadets. He worked with the organization as an instructor for many years, sharing his passion for flying with the next generation of young pilots. He continued to be part of Air Cadet events and annual inspections for the duration of his life.
Bill was active in the Camrose Rotary Club from the time he joined until his death. He sold tickets, helped with events and followed the philosophy of service beyond self.
Bill was a long-time member, Director and President of the Battle River Tourist Association (which no longer exists) and championed our community throughout the province.
Bill had a passion for learning, which was part of what made him a good instructor. In 1967, as a centennial project, he began attending Camrose Lutheran College, taking one course each year, and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Alberta in 1982. He was 50 when he started and 65 when he finished. During that time he was also a member, and often the Chair, of the Camrose Lutheran College Scholarship Committee.
Born in 1917, Bill rose from humble beginnings, conquering hardship to serve his country and to become an inspirational community leader. At the age of twelve, during the depression, he contributed to the income of his single parent home. His mother made silk flowers, Bill and his 10 year old brother sold them door to door in Camrose. Live flowers were not readily available locally in this era, and people wanted them to create center pieces for dining room tables, and home décor. Funeral homes needed them for services. Bill also delivered the Edmonton Journal and sold Journal subscriptions to Camrosians door to door. At this age of twelve he did not work to buy candy or anything for himself, but did so to put food on the table. Bill learned valuable lessons about himself at this very young age - he was actually pretty good at sales and had great entrepreneurial spirit, he had a love for newspapers, and an even greater love for family and community.
Bill was an “idea” generator, was incredibly good at coming up with new ideas and putting them into motion. He was president of the Camrose Chamber of Commerce in 1961 and part of the committee that brought to life our treasured Jaywalkers Jamboree. He loved being a part anything to do with tourism or the Chamber, earning him the nickname “Mr. Camrose”. In recognition of his dedication to community, a Mirror Lake Park building housing the Chamber of Commerce and visitor centre was named “The Bill Fowler Centre”.
Bill married B.H. (Berdie) Anderson in 1940, a woman who would prove to have similar community dedication and business aptitude. Together they founded the Camrose Booster in 1952. Berdie was the first female Chamber president in Alberta, and only the second in all of Canada. She played a huge role in setting up the first Camrose daycare facility, so that young moms could work. It was the only facility available in Alberta at the time outside of Edmonton and Calgary. She was a member of the group of individuals who initiated the development of the Burgess School for the Mentally Retarded, the predecessor to Camrose Association for Community Living. Before marrying Bill, Berdie was offered a job in the office at the Camrose Lutheran College. She absolutely adored, and greatly admired her boss, Mr. Chester Ronning. Berdie was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2006 for her achievements and received an Honourary Doctorate of Laws from Augustana in 2008.
Both Bill and Berdie served on the Camrose City council.
Frank Fowler, Bill’s father, volunteered to serve in World War I. He served as a stretcher-bearer on the Western Front. He met Lucy Owston, in England while serving in WW1, married, and brought her home to the Camrose area to start a family. Lucy later became Camrose’s first Librarian.
A long connection to community history: Starting with Bill’s grandfather and stretching all the way to the present, seven generations of Fowler family members have lived in the Camrose area. Currently there are four generations locally, who range from 70 to 2 years of age.
Two Fowler brothers left Ontario in the mid-1880’s to head west in order to join in the second Riel rebellion, the North-West Rebellion. They were too late to fight, the rebellion ended in 1885 just as they arrived. Details are a little sketchy, but at that time, William settled in the Duhamel area, which is just on the other side of the valley to the south of Camrose, while Thomas did some work at Fort Edmonton. One was a blacksmith and the other a harness-maker. These would be Bill’s grandfather, and great-uncle (Thomas was the great uncle).
Thomas returned to Ontario briefly to be married, and then moved west again. In 1905 the brothers moved into Camrose to set up businesses for themselves. Thomas, a blacksmith, formed a partnership with Almer Ofrim, another family that has been in Camrose since pioneer days.
The love the family has for this community was likely was passed on from these early settlers.