News | DrumhellerMail - Page #2903
06192024Wed
Last updateTue, 18 Jun 2024 12pm

Christmas in a booming mining valley

    As told in the memories of residents, history books, and Atlas Coal Mine records, Christmas in the Drumheller valley during the coal mining boom was a busy time. The mines were in full swing, extracting coal to sell across Canada and heat the homes of valley residents.
    The influx of cash enabled some families to have a Merry Christmas, complete with dinner and presents.
    Trains would shuttle people from East Coulee, Rosedale, and Nacmine to and from Drumheller, the main shopping centre in the valley, to take advantage of the stores being open late for Christmas shopping.
    Entertainment during the holiday season was similar to what is practiced today. There were pony rides through the snow, makeshift bobsledding, and many of the winter pastimes we enjoy today.
    The mines would hold Christmas parties for their employees and families. The evening would begin with caroling, maybe someone would recite poems, and Santa would make an appearance. Afterwards, there may be a boxing match where no punches were barred.
    One of the biggest parties was the annual Christmas party held in Drumheller. Santa would visit the party, handing out presents to the children in attendance. The presents were given out based on age and gender and no one was excluded. The union provided the gifts.
    The presents came as a relief at a time when, despite the productivity of the mines, many children would not have a stocking or presents waiting for them on Christmas morning. Today, socks may be the bane of any stocking, but during the Great Depression they would be greeted with joy.
    One of the saddest chapters in the history of the valley occurred at the Rosedeer Mine in Wayne in 1933.
    The Rosedeer Mine, anticipating a great mining season, began hiring miners in August, earlier than the other mines in the valley.
    The miners were busy, and as Christmas approached, many were ordering presents from catalogues. The presents were mailed and held at the local post office, because all presents were cash on delivery. The presents began accumulating, but no one was picking them up.
    The first signs that something was amiss was when the managers of the mine held a meeting with the miners in the wash house.
    The mine was receiving many orders for coal, but no one had paid yet. Therefore, the miners couldn’t get paid until the mine did. The miners were given the choice to continue to work, albeit for no pay.
    Most of the miners continued to work, because they trusted the managers. For the following few weeks, the miners tightened their belts.
    On December 23, 1933, their hopes were proven to have been in vain. The mine went broke and could no longer operate. The result was that roughly two hundred miners were laid off, without any pay for weeks. Any cheques that had been hoarded were worthless.
    The miners cried, because they could not collect the presents they had ordered for their families. Many families were broke and went without Christmas dinner, or even bread in some cases.
    Christmas in the valley during the Great Depression was a difficult time for many families. For some families, it was a magical time, filled with the joys inherent in the season. For those less fortunate, it was another day of just getting by.


Ossie Sheddy - a pillar of the community

    As The Mail celebrates its centennial it would be remiss if it didn’t feature the man who guided the direction of The Drumheller Mail for many years.
     In many ways, Ossie Sheddy also helped to guide the town through some of its lean years and helped to put many of the pieces in place that the community has built upon and achieved success.
    While the family homestead was in Wardlow, just 80 kilometres east of Drumheller, it wasn’t until 1940 that Ossie came to make a home in the valley. At just 22, he moved from Edmonton and worked as a salesman for Canadian Packers, and roomed with Dr. Brummie Aiello for some time.
     While he was only in the valley for a couple years, he did manage to woo Florence Durrant of Rockyford, and the young couple moved to Edmonton where he went to work on a wartime US military oil project. Around this time he was also called up to serve in the military and was stationed in Calgary for a short time.
    After he was discharged the couple made their way back to the valley, and began raising their family.
    Rather than go back to his job with Canadian Packers, he had a calling to be an entrepreneur and with no restaurant experience he bought the Crystal Café, which he operated for nine years.
    Toward the end of the 1940s, he and a small collection of businessmen in the valley were able to purchase mineral rights on some land in the Munson area. In 1952, Mazel 1 struck oil. He didn’t stay in the oil industry very long, however, and he and friends Sammy Robb and John Anderson bought The Drumheller Mail from the Clark Brothers. He eventually bought out his partners’ shares and became the full owner and third publisher in The Mail’s history.
    Known to be outspoken, he never shied away from getting into the thick of issues and his columns “With Malice Toward None” and then the famous “Roundabout” became legendary.
 While busy with the newspaper he remained active with a number of service clubs and served as a City Councillor for 19 years.
    In the early sixties Drumheller was struggling as coal mining revenue dried up. He was a part of a clutch of civic leaders that spearheaded bringing the Drumheller Institution to the community. This secured the financial viability of the valley for years to come.
    His experience lobbying government paid off again two decades later when he and another group of civic leaders bent the ear of then Premier Peter Lougheed and set the groundwork for the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
     Ossie owned the newspaper from 1954 to 1993 and worked there up until his passing in 2000. Even while he was in the hospital for the illness that eventually took his life, when he did get a day pass he used it to sell advertising to the chairman of Health Authority 5.
    Through the years, whether it was on his regular sales calls, on the golf course, on the curling rink, or in heated debate around the council table, he left an impression on those with whom he worked and loved, and the valley has been better for it.

Trial date set for Institution supervisor charged with theft

    A trial date has been set for a Drumheller Institution corrections supervisor who has been charged with theft.
    Nathan Shandera appeared in the Drumheller provincial court through an agent for himself and his counsel on Friday, December 16. He has been charged with theft under $5,000, possession of stolen property, and possession of the proceeds of crime.
    May 25, 2012 was set for a trial date for Shandera.
    Drumheller RCMP laid charges following an investigation regarding missing money and video cameras from the Drumheller Institution. Video cameras matching those missing ended up for sale on eBay.


Subcategories

The Drumheller Mail encourages commenting on our stories but due to our harassment policy we must remove any comments that are offensive, or don’t meet the guidelines of our commenting policy.