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Langford family builds valley one brick at a time

    If there was one family that left a concrete impression on the valley, especially downtown, it was the Langford family.
     A tour through downtown, looking at the historic plaques on the building, a common element jumps out. The family and its construction business helped to build the valley.
     Two brothers, Fred and Herb, married two sisters Ethel and Janet.  By 1914, they were late arrivals to the valley after getting off the train from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. With homesteading out of the question, they began to work in the Bishop Mine at the base of the Munson Hill and try their hand at farming. They rented a home at what is now the Drumheller airport.
    Fred had experience and skill in the construction industry and went back to brick laying. It became a family business when he trained his sons in the trade.
    As one son Rollie relayed to The Drumheller Mail in 1988, “I remember we went to the old Central School, which was a wood building back then. As kids do, we used to wish the school would burn down and one night it did.”
    The joy wasn’t long lived as school was only out for three days before classes resumed in the basement of the Knox United Church.
    To add insult to injury, Rollie worked on the addition to Central School in 1949-1950.
 His memories of Drumheller were like the birth of a town. He remembers his family working on the former Drumheller Mail building, the Vickers building, the Western Garage, the Elks, the Dalum Lutheran Church and even a wing of the former Drumheller Hospital, not to mention number of homes in the valley. He remembers his dad working on the former post office, now Schumacher Gough and Company.
    Other buildings that were built by the family include the Cummings Hardware, now S&S News, the Leach Block, now Pizza 249, the Alexandra Hotel, the Anderson Block, now Bits and Pieces, Wade’s Jewellery and Sunrise Auto.
    The company also worked for the mining companies erecting the transformer buildings or the boiler houses.
    Rollie married Telma Folden in 1941 and his father Fred died in 1942. During the war years Rollie was exempt from the service because of the construction business; he recalled it was tough to continue to work because of wartime rations. To get around that, he rebranded himself as a mining construction company because mining was deemed an essential service. Because of this, he was able to get gas and supplies to carry on.
    Rollie and Telma raised four children, Fred, Ross and Gaye as well as Larry Folden, whose mother, Telma’s sister, died during childbirth.
  Rollie remembers that during the boom, there was even a brickyard in the valley owned by P.S. Brown on Dinosaur Trail. It was short lived, however, because the clay in the valley was not suited for making bricks.
    His sons Fred and Ross continued in the construction industry, making it a third generation in the family.
    While the valley has seen an ebb and flow of business throughout the core, these buildings are entrenched and have become part of the history and fabric of the valley.  The Town of Drumheller is actively working on an inventory of the Historic Sites of Drumheller in hopes of keeping this heritage alive.

Memories of wartime Drumheller pass with longest surviving RCMP member

    Last Wednesday, a man who had a first hand view of the seedier side of Drumheller life in the roaring heyday of mining, passed away.
    Ernie Henderson was an RCMP officer in Drumheller in the late 1930s and was stationed in the valley when World War II broke out. He was also the oldest member to serve in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He was 106 years old.
    The Drumheller Mail had the pleasure of speaking with Henderson in February of 2010, not long after his 105th birthday.  He remembered details of his time in Drumheller some 70 years ago with surprising clarity.
    Drumheller was his second assignment after serving in the interior of B.C. The community was on the tail end of the Depression, and he remembers that the community was feeling the pinch as mines were closed.
     “There were 700 families on welfare at the time in the valley, right on both sides of Drumheller,” he said. “At that time there was no paved roads there either, and that heavy mud was really bad.”
    Its reputation as a rough mining town was well intact, including Henderson’s dealings with the houses of ill repute. The legendary madams Mary Roper and Fanny Ramsley were still doing a roaring business, and had their share of run-ins with Henderson.
    They were both on the outside of the city limits,” said Henderson. “We never could get anything on Mary, but we were tough on Fanny.”
    Even from the madams, Henderson was a man of honour.
    “When I was transferred from there, the day before I left, there was a taxi that drove into the yard. Our office was in the old courthouse building at that time,” he recalls. “It was Fanny Ramsley, and she said, ‘Is Mr. Henderson here?’ They gave a call and when I came out she said, ‘I hear you are leaving.’
    “I said ‘You’d be happy about that,’ and she said, ‘No, I am really not. You were tough, but you were always fair.’ You can’t get a better recommendation for a policeman than that.”
    From Drumheller, Henderson was stationed in Hanna and a number of points in Alberta until he retired in Cardston in 1948.
    He went back into ranching, and worked for the Canadian Shorthorn Association until the late 1950s. He then bought a McLeod’s Hardware store franchise in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan. He retired to High River in 1971.
     He gave up his driver’s licence when he was 102. While his sight was still strong, his hearing was fading. In his later years he still kept a captive audience at his regular coffee klatch at the High River Dairy Queen with other retired police officers.
    Funeral services for Henderson will be held on Friday, November 18 at the Snodgrass Funeral Home in High River. Interment will be at Depot at a later date.

War time love brings English lass to valley

    While war can be a cruel unrelenting force where battles and lives are lost, it is also a time where bonds are forged and even love can spring forth.
    For one Drumheller woman, a relationship started during the raids over the skies of England brought her from her home to the Drumheller valley.
    Kathleen Lowen, as a 22-year-old living not far from London, did her part in the war effort. She worked in a factory building the frames of Tiger Moth trainer planes.
    While she worked, her brothers served in North Africa. Her twin brother was killed in 1943. The war was a part of everyday life, and the reminders were dramatic.
    “People don’t know what you did during the war,” said Kathleen. “Those Doodlebugs  (V1 flying bombs) used to come over… if you heard them, you were okay, but if they stopped, you didn’t know where they were going to land.
    “One went over where my mother lived, and landed on a farm. Everything just disappeared.”
    She could see the fire of London from where she lived while she served.
    There were some lighter times. She remembers going up in a Tiger Moth on three occasions to fly acrobatics, which was a thrill.
    Another thrill was meeting her future husband Ken Lowen, whose family farmed near Horseshoe Canyon.
    He was an inspector of tanks at the time and was going with a neighbour’s daughter back home. She remembers him bike riding past in the camp to work. They met at social events.
    He left after they met, but returned in 1945 before the end of the war.
    He returned home, but the relationship lasted three years through letters. He had also proposed.
     In 1949, Kathleen finally made the trip over to “see Canada before I was married.
    “My mother didn’t want me to come because it was a mining town and mining towns were terrible places,” said Kathleen.
    It was an arduous trip for the 29 year old to make all alone, even though her future father in law sent for her in first class.
    “That train trip from Halifax to Edmonton was horrible,”  she chuckles.
     The trip took about five days, and when she arrived in Edmonton, she waited for Ken to arrive. They stayed in Edmonton, and then boarded another train to Calgary, and then took the bus to Drumheller.
    It was in the evening, and she never got a good look at Drumheller until the next morning. It was March and the ground was covered in snow.
     One of her in-laws’ neighbours picked them up from Drumheller to take them to the family farm near Horseshoe Canyon.
“I was never homesick,” she said.
    They were in Canada for 13 months before they tied the knot. They raised two children in the community. 
    In Canada, both continued to be active in support of veterans. She joined the Ladies Auxiliary in 1955, and is currently president. Doris Poland’s mother brought her into the fold. She is also a regular member of the Legion. She remembers putting on all kinds of fundraisers including bake sales and selling poppies.
 Today Kathleen is 92. Her husband passed away about eight years ago. There are still about five members of the Ladies Auxiliary, and today Kathleen still proudly wears her uniform, emblazoned with a “lifetime membership” patch, with pride – pride in her service to community and country.

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