We’re sorry to announce that we are closed for Easter Monday. Here’s a little Easter joy to alleviate the inconvenience.
Cards and postcards are wonderful bits of personal correspondence that can shed bits of light on personal history. These two Easter postcards from the Grimm-Vader Family fonds are an example. The first has no correspondence, suggesting good intentions but perhaps a bit of forgetfulness or procrastination on the part of a young man (Ora Grimm). The second was sent to Mr. Ora Grim while he was visiting family in Venus, Nebraska.
“Raven, Nebraska, April 21, 1916
As we got a letter from Ralph telling us you was here from Canada, would be glad to have you Boys both come up or I make up a visit. We are all well. It has been cold and windy now for some time. Drop us a line. With Best Wishes from Aunt Celia & family, Raven, Nebraska, Brown, Co.”
This short piece of correspondence helps us build a picture of an extended family with a foothold in two countries. Luckily, we have more than this to go on for the Grimm-Vader family. Processing for this fonds is nearing completion and will soon be ready for researchers. It includes almost a thousand photographs, postcards, and two extensive family histories.
We are very grateful to Nora and Ray Grimm for sharing their family history with the Archives. It will be a wonderful treasure for years to come.
On Saturday, March 30, the South Peace Regional Archives board of directors, staff, volunteers, and members of the public gathered for SPRA’s 2019 Annual General Meeting. Reports from president Jan Shields, executive director Alyssa Currie, and treasurer Gail Prette highlighted the successes, achievements, and challenges of the past year.
Three volunteers received awards to mark milestones they had reached in their work at the archives. (not pictured: Mary Nutting, 250 hours)
Meg Archer has dedicated over 250 to researching and writing biographies for the soldiers on our WWII Soldiers Memorial
Leita Askew has volunteered more than 1500 hours, working on clipping files, newspaper indices, and many other projects.
The Beth Sheehan Award recognizes individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the goals of gathering, preserving, and sharing the history of the South Peace region. Recipients of the award become Honorary Members of the South Peace Regional Archives Society. This year, the award was presented to Mathew Wozniak and the Beaverlodge Area Cultural Society.
Alyssa Currie presenting the Beth Sheehan Award to Catherine Gabriel of the Beaverlodge Area Cultural Society
In 2018, the Beaverlodge Area Cultural Society donated over 20 boxes of archival materials, amounting to one of the most significant material donations of the year. This donation documents the community and culture of the Beaverlodge area and includes textual records, maps, pamphlets and over 1000 photographs. Shortly after the records were donated, the community of Beaverlodge was inundated by floodwaters, including the location where the records were previously stored.
Mathew Wozniak has been an avid supporter of the Archives since 2007: as a donor, advocate, volunteer, and magazine contributor. From 2007-2015, Mathew donated several accruals to the Wozniak family fonds. These records document the family’s immigration from Poland during the interwar period and settlement in the Wanham area. His volunteer involvement at the Archives began in 2012, with the transcription and translation of his family’s records from Polish. Since then, he has contributed over 600 hours to the Archives doing transcription and translation work.
To close the meeting, attendees heard presentations from a panel of community members who put archival records to work.
Maxine Maxwell of the Grande Prairie & District Branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society discussed the importance of archival records in genealogical research.
Charles Taws of the Grande Prairie Museum shared how he uses the Archives when preparing exhibits and programs.
Breanna Gouschuk of the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association discussed how she has used Archives photographs in social media.
Anna Ladwig shared how the Archives had contributed to the Glen Leslie Church restoration project.
Image: some of the technology we use to help preserve and make media records accessible at the South Peace Regional Archives.
The South Peace Regional Archives collects a wide variety of documentary materials as part of our mandate to acquire, preserve, and make accessible historical records related to families and organizations in the South Peace Region. A collection of relevant older media technology is an important component of the “make accessible” part of our mandate.
Older (working) media technology makes it possible for us to digitize reel-to-reel film, cassettes, beta tapes, and VHS. For those items not yet digitized, the old VCRs, cassette, players, and beta machines allow researchers to view and listen to stories they would not have the opportunity enjoy.
We have a good collection of film projectors and even a couple of beta machines that help us make film, video, and audio recordings accessible to researchers. Oddly enough, we have no working VCRs or cassette players. If you have one of these precious media gems gathering dust in your abode, we would love to hear from you. The SPRA has a growing collection of VCR materials that document several families and organizations in the South Peace Region. You and your old machine can help make those records accessible.
While Beth Sheehan collected history and photographs from the Peace River Country, she also collected physical objects, including samples of wood. In her collection here at the archives, we have a story and photographs of wood samples collected by Beth in the local area and in her travels. In 1954, her husband Everett gave her a wooden Valentine he made while camping on the desert in Arizona. She thought it so lovely that together they made more. Everett made boards approximately 1/4 inch thick with a band saw. Beth traced heart shapes on the boards, then cut them out with a coping saw. She filed and sanded them meticulously, making them into three-dimensional hearts. Oiling brought out the natural beauty and grain of the wood. On the back of each heart was noted the name of the wood, where it was from, the year, and in some cases, who gave it to her. She didn’t make duplicates. She also took pictures of polished wood and some wooden jewelry. Arthritis in 1985 made it too difficult to hold and work on the small pieces, and no more were made, though many pieces had been prepared.
The aftermath of the Great War was not nearly as well-documented as the war itself. Men gave up the practice of writing letters and keeping diaries, which have now become such a significant part of keeping their stories alive. But records were still kept, detailing medical issues, applications for pensions and land grants, and the like. And when returned soldiers were ready to open up about their war experiences, stories were told once again.
Some men had gone to serve in Siberia after the war, or stayed in France and Belgium to give their deceased comrades proper burials. Others waited to be repatriated from prison camps, or remained in England for an extended period of time before being well enough to travel home.
Sadly, as the soldiers came home, disease came with them. Up to 50,000 Canadians died of the Spanish Flu in the year following the war. The men who lived through this second wave of tragedy struggled to find their place in the regular world, which they did not find quite so normal after all. Physical and mental injuries plagued and debilitated them, and finding work and maintaining a steady income was an ongoing trial.
In his memoirs, Edward Heller (a South Peace soldier), stated that the memories remained “as though burned in so deeply as with a hot iron”, and that many wounds “though diminished in severity by the passing of years, never heal over, and most of the pain remains.”
We in the coming generations can take it upon ourselves to learn from these memories – which were indestructible to those who lived through them – and guard against such horrors taking hold of the world once again.
New: visit this map, showing where South Peace soldiers died and were buried during World War I
Canadian troops reached the outskirts of Mons, Belgium on November 10. It was common knowledge that an armistice was imminent, but there was no backing down until official word had come.
And so, the Canadian Corps fought their way into the city of Mons on November 11, where they were treated to a hero’s welcome by the civilians who had lived under German occupation since 1914. Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 at 11:00am.
Valenciennes was one of the last remaining cities the Germans had to hold on to. In the first two days of November, the Canadian Corps were able to capture approximately 1,800 enemy soldiers in the area. By nightfall on the 2nd, Canadian troops had left Valenciennes and were headed for Mons. The following day (November 3), Germany’s ally, Austria, signed an armistice to end their involvement in the war.
The victories at the Canal du Nord and Bourlon Wood cleared the way to Cambrai. Between October 8th and 10th, Canadian, British, and New Zealand troops fought in and around the city. Compared to the resistance they had experienced at the Canal du Nord and on the outskirts of Cambrai in the previous days, taking the city itself proved to be an easy task for the liberators, the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions.
Leading up to the Battle of the Canal du Nord, Canadian Engineers worked tirelessly to construct bridges across the Canal, ready for the assault that would take place on September 27th. On that day, the Corps advanced approximately four kilometres before being held up for a time near Bourlon Wood.
In the following days, Canadian troops cleared enemy trenches and liberated multiple French villages, before encountering extraordinarily harsh fighting on the outskirts of Cambrai. Between September 27th and October 2nd, Canada suffered more than 13,600 casualties – one of the most costly actions of the war.