Eldon Shail fonds. — 2008. — 1 cm of textual records. — 1 photographs. — 2 sound recordings.
Eldon Shail was born January 14, 1924, the son of Ernie and Jessie Shail who had come to Hythe from Ontario in 1919. Ernie had a job doing road work and Jessie cooked for the crew until they had their house built on the homestead. Eldon’s sister Iris was born in 1926, and brother Jarvis seven years after that. Their homestead was on the trail to Goodfare, so they had many people stopping for a cup of tea or even to spend the night. Jessie was also known for her ability to witch water wells with a willow.
Eldon went to West Hythe School where he had the job of lighting fires and sweeping the floor for ten cents a day. He remembers the railway getting to Hythe in 1928, dances that were held to raise money for the Monkman Pass Highway Project in the late 1930s, and the survey crews and sawmills operating during the building of the Alaska Highway.
In 1950, Eldon married Donna Bain and their wedding dance was in Circle Bank Hall. Hythe was bigger than Beaverlodge at that time, with a big mill. In 1960, Donna and Eldon adopted Randy and in 1961, Terry. They also cared for other children: Brian Hogan stayed with them from age 10-16, a Severson boy stayed with them to be closer to school, and Eric Solty finished his high school while living with the Shails.
The Shail family was very involved in sports. Eldon recalls the Hythe Athletic Association which sponsored ball, hockey and movies in the 30s, and when the covered outdoor rink was finished in 1950. Eldon played baseball, hockey, went skiing (behind horses) and dancing. The Patterson Ranch held yearly rodeos and many people would come and camp out for the rodeo action and the dance. Between 1950 and 1960 Eldon played on local ball teams, starting with Hythe and then for the Beaverlodge Royals. He played hockey for the Mustangs in winter and later coached the team. He also loved roping in the rodeos at Hythe, Teepee Creek, Dawson and Rio Grande.
Eldon worked as a grain buyer for the Alberta Pacific Grain Company, but also ran a slaughter house which supplied three meat markets in town. In their retirement, Eldon and Donna spent many winters in Mesa, Arizona, where Eldon contined to play baseball.
Scope and Content
The fonds consists of 2 audio cassette tapes (with transcript notes) which record Eldon Shail’s memories of growing up and living out his adult life in the Hythe area. There is also one photograph of a dog sled race on the main street in Grande Prairie, taken around the time the Shails arrived in the area in 1919, and a hand-written book showing settlers and land locations in the Grande Prairie area, including Hythe. This was a project done by various old-timers to create a record of the homesteaders who filed on land in this area.
Title based on the contents of the fonds.
Historical note: Biographical sketch information taken from oral history interview in the fonds.
Acquisition note: Accession 2008.050
Related records: Donna Shail fonds 573, SPRA