War and Economic Expansion 1940-1950
Edmonton's economic recovery from the Depression began with World War Two. Unlike World War One, World War Two had a positive impact on Edmonton's economy because of the construction of the Alaska Highway, the Northwest Staging Route, Air Commonwealth training schools, and war industries such as Aircraft Repair Ltd. Another difference was that the federal and provincial governments had planned an orderly transition to peace, thus avoiding the postwar recession that had occurred in the early 1920s.
World War Two, despite its economic benefits, also imposed significant restrictions on the marketplace. The Edmonton Real Estate Association along with the real estate industry nationally became increasingly concerned about these wartime controls. The federal government's decision to prevent real estate agents charging a commission for selling land to veterans under the Veterans' Land Act was the final straw that prompted the creation of a national organization. The 1940s were also important because of the creation of the Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA).
The boom begun by the war was sustained by oil discoveries at Leduc in 1947. The oil boom began on February 13 at four o'clock when Leduc No.1 blew in.
The drilling of other wells quickly followed. In 1951 more than 300 wells were drilled.
Housing for the oil workers became desperate. Edmonton, Leduc, and Calmar were able to partially fill the need. Construction of the future Town of Devon began during the winter of 1947-1948 and provided more housing.
In Eric Hanson's book Dynamic Decade, the Leduc discovery was important because it stimulated investment in finding other reserves. It made Edmonton a refining and petrochemical centre and the main operations base for oil-industry contractors. As the scale of the industry grew in size so did the economic benefits for Edmonton.
A new generation of Edmonton real estate agents arrived in the mid-1940s and early 1950s. Many were either the sons of established Edmonton real estate agents or were people attracted to the city because of the economic opportunities generated by the development of the oil industry. Some war veterans who helped reconstruct the Edmonton real estate industry were Norm Winterburn, Stan Melton, Max Kaplan, and Don Spencer.
This article is extracted from John Gilpin, Responsible Enterprise: A History of Edmonton Real Estate & the Edmonton Real Estate Board. (Edmonton: Edmonton Real Estate Board, 1997). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation would like to thank John Gilpin and the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton for permission to reproduce this material.