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Lethbridge - The 1940s to the 1960s

Lethbridge College.

The Second World War ushered in an era of much needed growth and development for Lethbridge's real estate industry. By the late 1940s, Lethbridge's economy was as strong as it had ever been. Wartime industries were prominent throughout Lethbridge, evident most notably by the presence of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School became operational at a cost of over $200,000. During the Second World War, Lethbridge housed 12,500 prisoners of war. The Lethbridge Prisoner of War Camp (Camp No. 133), located north of the Crowsnest Highway, operated from November 1942 to June 1946. This facility covered 57 hectares (140.85 acres) of land, and, like the one in Medicine Hat, included two large recreation halls, six educational huts, six mess halls, and 36 dormitories. Construction of POW camps at Lethbridge and Medicine Hat was not cheap: the total budget surpassed $2.3 million. After the war the POW Camp was transformed into an industrial park.

With an influx of military personnel stationed in Lethbridge during the course of the war housing shortages became a reoccurring problem. City officials imposed rent control in an effort to solve the housing shortage crisis. They received over 180 housing applications but not a single listing of available space. Adding to this problem was the return of soldiers to Lethbridge in 1945 when the war ended. Between 1940 and 1949, building permits increased by 1,850 percent yet finding affordable housing remained an issue for many young military families. In 1945, Wartime Housing started building residential units for families. By 1950 they had completed 300 homes to alleviate the housing shortage.

Lethbridge College Tech Building.

Post-war growth was evident throughout the city; the city expanded its boundaries and doubled its commercial activity. Veterans Affairs continued to find homes for discharged military personnel when they purchased a number of lots in the Parkdale subdivision. However, affordable housing remained a concern for many Lethbridgians. City officials responded by opening the Lakeview subdivision in the southeast corner of the city. In 1959, the Lethbridge Housing Corporation opened Rideau Court, a low rental housing project consisting of 156 units on the city's north end.

The housing shortage was soon supplanted by the massive shortage of classroom space. In 1950, St. Joseph's High School was built next door to St. Mary's Elementary. The arrival of European immigrants to the city translated into new congregations being established which, in turn, led to new churches. The Beth Israel Synagogue and the Buddhist Temple both opened their doors to the community in the 1950s.

The downtown was reshaped to accommodate large department and grocery stores.A number of important businesses established their headquarters in newly built buildings including the Royal Bank and the Lethbridge Herald. In 1952, the provincial government funded the construction of a court house. Automobiles came to the forefront during the 1950s and 1960s-driving became a leisurely activity enjoyed by the young and old alike. Thus, Lethbridge witnessed the emergence of large, spacious car dealerships. Enerson Motors, for example, established a business at the corner of 4th Avenue and 9th Street South.


Johnston, Alex and den Otter, Andy A. Lethbridge: A Centennial History. Lethbridge: City of Lethbridge, 1991.

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