New Year’s 1926 proceeded happier times for Red Deer

Michael Dawe

Every year, during the holiday season, there are frequent greetings of ‘Happy New Year’ and ‘Best Wishes for Prosperous New Year’.

However, one time, when this greeting was particularly heartfelt, was on the eve of 1926.

The preceding decade had been very tough for Red Deer and Central Alberta. The First World War had been a searing experience. The lives of a great many young men in the community had been lost. Many of those who returned faced long-term health problems from wounds to their bodies and their minds.

After the War, the economy went into one of the deepest depressions in history.

Local unemployment soared to more than 25%. Many businesses went bankrupt. The City had trouble meeting its payroll as did the Western General, the local utility company.

School trustees went door-to-door to try and raise enough money from back taxes to cover the salaries of the schoolteachers.

Finally, by the middle of the decade, the situation began to turn around. Cooperatives, such as the Alberta Wheat Pool and the Central Alberta Dairy Pool, were created to improve the economic plight of the farmers.

The Rotary Club and the Elks Lodge were formed to help organize social services and recreational activities that government could no longer afford to provide. For example, both groups created Christmas Cheer programs to help those facing financial difficulties at Christmastime.

The biggest local improvement was the construction of a new arena on Ross Street in the fall of 1925.

The arena was the first public building to be constructed in Red Deer in more than a decade. The funds for the project came from the Rotary Club, Elks Lodge, the Board of Trade and the general public, who bought shares in the non-profit arena company for $10 apiece.

The arena was an immediate success. More than 800 people attended the opening celebrations on Dec.15, 1925, a very large turnout when one remembers that there were only 2,800 people living in the community at the time.

The Red Deer Hockey Club reorganized and immediately began attracting crowds of 500 to 600 per game. The fans were not disappointed. The Red Deer team won all of the first five home games. Their triumphs on ice continued. By the end of the season, they became the first provincial sports champions in Red Deer’s history.

Meanwhile, a new women’s hockey team, the Amazons, was also organized. Before too many years passed, this women’s team was also winning provincial championships.

On one occasion, they even beat the national champs, the Winnipeg Eaton’s, albeit in an exhibition game.

While the local sports teams entered a golden age of success, the cultural community began to thrive as well. After the old Rex Theatre was badly damaged in a fire, the large brick Empress Theatre on 51 St. reopened in early 1926.

The Red Deer Dramatic Club’s production of Tillie of Bloomsbury was a huge success.

There was such a heavy turnout for the play Lighthouse Nan that there was still a long line-up at the door after all the tickets had been sold. Consequently, an additional performance was quickly organized for another evening.

Large crowds turned out for the Hockey Club, Alberta Government Telephone Operators and C.P.R. dances in the Red Deer Armouries (now the Red Deer Children’s Library).

The local Bone Orchestra was a big draw as was the Ladies Imperial Orchestra from Calgary.

In early 1926, the City began negotiations to buy out the Western General. Some people were shocked that the City would be willing to take on a large amount of new debt for the purchase, so soon after the near-bankruptcy of the early 1920s.

However, when City Council submitted the necessary borrowing by-law to the ratepayers for ratification, it received almost unanimous approval. Within six months, the City utility was turning out a substantial profit.

By the end of 1926, the City’s overdraft at the bank was eliminated and the City then began to pay down its other debt.

Red Deer was now on the path of becoming a nationally renowned “economic miracle”.

Just Posted

Highland Games brings Scotland to Red Deer

71st annual event celebrates Scottish culture and heritage

Red Deer RCMP arrest man with imitation firearm

Man pointed firearm at several staff members before fleeing to a nearby restaurant

WATCH: Red Deer commemorates National Indigenous Peoples Day

Citizens take part in activities throughout the week

Red Deer RCMP investigate armed robbery at pharmacy

Suspect wielded a handgun, demanding staff member to open the safe

WATCH: Loads of summer events await Central Albertans

From CentreFest to Westerner Days, there will much to explore this season

In a matter of hours, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive

Change was announced as a royal decree in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammen bin Salman

COC session vote approves Calgary as potential host for 2026 Olympics

Scott Hutcheson, chair of Calgary’s Olympic bid corporation — called vote a positive step forward

Breaking: SuperNet provider Axia cannot guarantee continued service

Alberta’s health, schools, libraries, municipal governments at risk from delayed bidding

Ponoka County optimistic though cautious about tire recycling situation

New heavy-duty shredder on site, county hopeful this is a final solution

Research paper states low income earners hit hardest by dairy supply management

Canada’s poorest spend more of annual income on food staples than higher income earners

Sylvan Lake Legion honours the memory of past president

A new podium at the Legion was dedicated to Steve Dills at a recent meeting

After World Cup lineup photographed, England urges media to help team

Now the England camp is actually asking media: Are you with us or against us?

MISSING: Police hoping to locate man reported missing

Ponoka RCMP looking to public to help find Joseph Desjarlais

Most Read