The Drumheller Mail has had the privilege to speak to thousands of residents who have made a difference in the direction of our community. In the centennial year of the valley’s paper of record, we are asking readers to submit stories highlighting what we have dubbed “Drumheller Heroes.” These are people past and present who made a difference in the direction of the valley and its history.
This man of course was Gordon E. Taylor.
From humble beginnings, Gordon became a giant politically, and to the Drumheller community. Born in 1910 in Calgary to John Thomas and Hannah Taylor, the family arrived in the valley in 1916. John Thomas operated the Newcastle Boarding House, the Western Gem Boarding House and then the Sterling Boarding House, and this was home for the family. As the business waned, Gordon’s father built a house not far from the Newcastle Mine. When times became rougher, his father worked in the mines.
Gordon felt pressure to also mine to help the family, but continued his education and attained his teaching certificate and landed his first teaching job at Lake McKee School in Rowley.
As a teacher, he dedicated his life to the welfare of his students. He and Earl Maynard set the wheels in motion and established Camp Gordon at the beginning of the 1930’s. Gordon said in an interview in the Canadian Parliamentary Review in 1985, when he “was a young man, I never had the privilege of having a holiday. Our summer holidays were spent in the hills around the Red Deer River. Sometimes I would feel rather left out when I went back to school in September and heard my chums talking about trips to San Francisco, Vancouver, and Calgary. When I became a school teacher I found that many of my pupils were not having a holiday either.”
He established Camp Gordon for local youths, particularly those who were financially unable to go on holidays. The camp eventually established itself at Pine Lake and celebrated more than 50 years.
It wasn’t long before Gordon became involved in politics, a passion that would land him a seat in the Alberta Legislature and eventually in the House of Commons.
He was first elected to the Alberta Legislature in 1940 representing Drumheller under leader William Aberhart. When World War II broke out he served his country in the Air Force, all the while remaining seated as an MLA.
After the war ended, he continued his political career and served under the new Social Credit leader Ernest Manning as Minister of Telephones from 1950 to 1959 and Minister of Highways from 1951 to 1971. In that time 8,400 kilometres of highway was paved, and the Queen Elizabeth Highway was planned.
He served under Harry Strom, and was one of 25 who survived the 1971 election to become the opposition when Lougheed took power.
Gordon left the Social Credit Party and sat as an independent, supporting Lougheed’s government, and was re-elected in 1975. He planned to cross the floor on the last day of his term and run for the PC's in the 1979 election, but that day never came as he accepted an offer to run federally for the Progressive Conservatives in the Bow River riding. He held the seat until he retired in 1988.
After retirement from politics, Gordon settled in Edmonton and continued to better himself. He received a Bachelors Degree in Religious Education and was the recipient of the first degree ever from the Rosebud School of the Arts “For service to the general public.”
Even in retirement, he held a presence in the valley, and was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. He resided at the Sunshine Lodge and in July of 2003 he passed away at 93.
His legacy lives on in the valley from the main bridge in town bearing his namesake, thousands of miles of blacktop, and the twinkle in the eye of hundreds in the valley, when asked about summer time experiences at Camp Gordon.
As a feature during the Centennial year of The Drumheller Mail, we are looking for stories from our readers on Drumheller's Heroes. These are people from the past or present who have made a significant impact for the betterment of the community. We look forward to your ideas and submissions. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or call 403-823-2580.