The end of World War I brought relief to most of the western world. Fathers, sons and husbands were out of harm’s way and on their way home. Countries were liberated and spontaneous celebrations of joy and peace poured into the street.The feeling in Drumheller was joyous and patriotic, but it soon became dark, as celebration turned to tragedy.
The Mail reported on the many happenings of the day, and they started out with spontaneous and profound joy.
“The Peace news was received with general delight. Whistles were blown and the citizens proceeded to celebrate. The Mayor declared a half holiday and everything closed at one o’clock,” was the lead in the front page story of the November 18 edition of The Drumheller Mail. “Rubbish and boxes were collected and placed a the end of Main Street and late in the afternoon the Kaiser in effigy was hung to a telephone wire, directly over the piled up boxes and shortly after seven in the evening a match was applied to the kindling and the Kaiser went up in smoke. The band boys, wearing miners caps to light their music, played a number of patriotic airs while the citizens marched up and down with torches lit at the bonfire.”
The passage paints a picture of abandon joy as the story plays out chronologically, and as the night wore on, and the event unfolded, the scene became darker, grim, and eventually ended with the death of a prominent Drumheller resident.
The fire whistle blew at about 10 p.m. when G.N Coyle’s car was lit aflame while he was fuelling at the Central Garage. It was quickly extinguished.
But the flames of extreme patriotism were fanned as the crowd turned its attention to two people of German descent, who the crowd claimed refused to contribute to the Victory Loans or Red Cross during the last four years.
These two were taken to the Club Café where the revellers required them to purchase Victory Bonds. The crowd made them stand on a table draped in a Union Jack, say they were sorry for being German and that they loved the flag of their adoption.
The harassment of the German people of the community didn’t end there, as the group in a mob-like fashion became intent on a plan to visit all the German homes in the community to “sell Victory Bonds.” The home of Mr. Hornie was visited, and bonds were disposed of.
They next set their sights on the home of Verdant Valley farmer Albert Arnold.
According to the front page story, the visitors were met with opposition at Arnold’s home, and in the melee that followed; Edward “Tip” Blain received a bullet in the chest. He succumbed to the wound within minutes.
Tip Blain was a popular fellow in Drumheller. Originally from Stettler, Blain left a widow, two daughters and a son in mourning. He was well known in Pythian circles throughout the province and at the time of his death held the office of Deputy Grand Chancellor for Coal City Lodge.
In the following paper it read that “‘Tip’ was a general favourite, for all his rough western manner, he was always ready with the open hand when a friend needed help.”
The revellers who attended to the Arnold farm withdrew to Drumheller and notified the police.
In the meantime, it was reported that Arnold went to Delia where he appeared before Magistrate McBeath to give himself up. McBeath refused to take up the matter and the Drumheller Police arrested Arnold about four hours later at a Chinese restaurant.
“The celebration thus ended in tragedy which has cast a gloom over the town that will remain for a long time,” was the final line in the story.
In 1918, justice was swift, and in the pages of the same issue, The Mail published the Inquest and preliminary trial of Albert Arnold.
See next week’s Drumheller Mail for Arnold’s hearings and the result of his trial.