Serendipity at the Archives

At SPRA we often come across donations that intersect, a photograph or document in one collection can help tell the story about a completely different collection or seemingly unrelated person. An occurrence of this happened last week, I happened to glance over to see what Karen was working on when a photograph caught my eye. It was the same photograph of two men playing chess that I had posted to our Facebook page, with the hopes of learning the player’s names.


Karen was working on a donation of records from the Grande Prairie Golden Age Centre and voila, here were my chess players pictured in their scrapbook fully identified, my questions answered.

Karen Burgess processing the Grande Prairie Golden Age Centre scrapbook


To put this in perspective, donations can sit on our shelves for 2-3 years before we get to them and add in the coincidence of looking to identify a picture from a separate collection, then there is the fact that processing started on a collection containing the same photograph, and lastly noticing the photograph while Karen was examining the scrapbook. Definitely one for the books!

So now I am happy to report that the names of the people in the photograph are Frank Rennie, Soren Frederickson with Dorothy Tarrant watching. In the back ground is L-R Reg Eyres, Harry Rogers, Fred Towns and Bary Eyres.

By Researcher Patricia Greber

Country Roads: Appleton

This blog is an attempt to continue Kathryn’s “Country Roads” series, and I will start with “A” for “Appleton”. This farming community grew up around Appleton School which was built about two miles south of Beaverlodge in 1913. Marion Hill attended Appleton School in 1934 when this photograph was taken, and it is archived in her collection.

After a new school was built in 1941, Euphemia McNaught had the old log school moved to the McNaught homestead which is now a provincial historical site on Secondary Highway 722 two miles south of Beaverlodge. You can visit the homestead and walk the trails and the new boardwalk down to the lake, or even take a workshop in the old Appleton School. Learn more at the McNaught Homestead Heritage website.

by Executive Director Mary Nutting

Northern Tribune ~ July 23, 1936


Work in Progress: Bill Turnbull fonds

Above photograph: Bill Turnbull out for a run, 1976

Bill Turnbull was an educator and photographer in Grande Prairie through the seventies and up to the early 2000s. He was also very active in the running community in Grande Prairie, being one of the members of the old Grande Prairie Legion Track and Field club who helped found the Wapiti Striders Road Running Club.

Between 2013 and 2016, Bill donated over 10,000 photographs to the SPRA. Processing of these records has now begun. On the donation form, the receiving archivist noted that the photographs relate to local running clubs. As I work through the arrangement and description project for this collection, it turns out that the contents are about more than just running.

The photographs in this collection were taken to record the activities of local people many of you probably know. Almost by accident, they have also recorded a history of the urban and rural spaces these people lived in. The site featured in some of the photographs is Muskoseepi Park. The area seems more like a rolling meadow. The trees are so sparse and small. The Heritage Village has very little tree cover and is easily viewed from a distance. It feels like I am looking at the childhood photos of someone I just met.

That is one of the interesting things about records: even the creator is not always aware of the story he is recording. When Bill Turnbull donated his photographs, he said they were about running. The collection is more than that. It is also about people working together for a common cause, people enjoying their life and their youthful vitality. It is also about Grande Prairie and the communities around it. It is going to take a while to process these “running club” records but I think the story they will ultimately tell will be a large one.

by Archivist Josephine Sallis

The Heritage Village, 1988

Soldier Spotlight: Private William Goldie

William Goldie was born in Greenock, Scotland on February 24, 1892. At the time of his enlistment in July of 1915, William was living Grande Prairie; his homestead was located at 4-74-4-W6. While on his way to North Bay with his regiment in spring of 1916, William left the train and the army assumed he had deserted.

However, in June the true story was discovered.  William had been attempting to pass from one coach to another when he slipped from the step and fell into a lake.  He managed to swim ashore, but there was no shelter available and because of his exposure to the elements, he developed frostbite.  Both his feet had to be amputated at Haileybury Hospital in Ontario.  William was in a hospital in Toronto because of the ulceration of the stump of his right foot when the army located him in June.  By that time he had been “supplied with artificial apparatus which is satisfactory.”  In September of 1917, William was discharged from the army.  He never made it to the front lines and for a time was considered a deserter, yet he bore the scars of the war for the rest of his life.

Attestation Paper

Military Service File

Notice of Enlistment

William Goldie’s Medical History

Snow Rollers

I was interested in the mention of snow rollers in this account of a weird winter storm. In the late 1970s there was a storm like this here. The storm itself was a bit frightening, with the very high winds and drastic change in temperature and the power was out for several hours. I remember going out the next day and seeing all the snowballs rolled up in the yard around town. (The picture is of the Anderson house in Wembley, which was an airport house, and now belongs to the Wembley Arts, Culture and History Society).

Written and researched by Kathryn Auger

A Visit to the Pattersons & Stickneys of Hythe

The wandering newspaper editor J.B. Yule visited the Hythe area in 1943.  He noted some impressive buildings on the Patterson Bros. Stock Farm, and a modern home on the Stickney farm.  A visit to Balderston’s down the road followed, where he was shown the strange sight of a goose which roosted on a pig at night.

Researched & written by Kathryn Auger

*Note – clicking on the news clipping will open the clipping in a format that can be zoomed in for easier reading

The Herald-Tribune ~ April 8, 1943

The First Chinese Woman in Grande Prairie

Richmond Avenue, ca. 1945

When I first saw this article, I read it because I remember Mrs. Wong well.  I was very surprised that she was the first Chinese woman to come to Grande Prairie.  We shopped at the Grande Prairie Department Store, owned by Arthur Wong, and I remember her always so neatly dressed, usually wearing a sweater set, and with tightly curled hair, which I assume was a perm.  She worked on the dry goods side of the store, and as I recall, she never learned very much English.

Researched & written by Kathryn Auger

The Herald-Tribune ~ January 27, 1949


A Magnificently Modern Store

The opening of Bird’s new store in 1941 seemed to be a pretty big occasion.  There had been a special edition of the Herald Tribune the week before, and the Mayor officially opened the store, with several speakers, including the local MLA.  The opening was broadcast on radio CFGP.  After reading some of the articles in the previous newspaper, I am wondering if this was the first “self-serve” grocery store in town.  The articles mentioned the special shelving, the fluorescent lighting, and describe it as having a “most citified layout.”

Researched & written by Kathryn Auger

Grande Prairie Herald-Tribune ~ January 23, 1941

Dear John…

Wayne Fell and Marlene Frantzen, skating champions of the Peace River Figure Skating Champions, 1953, pose for the camera.

I have read this several times and I’m still not sure if it’s on the up and up, but it’s a bit of fun nevertheless!

Researched & written by Kathryn Auger

Grande Prairie Herald ~ January 30, 1923

Trading Squirrel Skins for News

This very well written letter was sent to the newspaper, along with a bundle of squirrel skins for the Editor to sell to pay for a subscription.  That’s pretty unusual, but this woman seems to live in a very remote area and may be short of ready cash.  She may not have a lot of people to talk with either, and her very chatty letter comments on recent news stories and the new Social Credit government in Alberta.  The “no relation to Richard” at the end is significant because of her last name.  That name was in the news, as Richard Hauptman, convicted in the Lindbergh kidnapping and murder, was slated to be executed in April.

Researched & written by Kathryn Auger

Grande Prairie Herald ~ January 17, 1936

Grande Prairie Herald ~ January 17, 1936