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      Lethbridge Region:  World War I and Interwar Period

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Early Years

World War I and
Interwar Period

World War II
and After

 Cultural Life


by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.

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Loggia Societa Operoia Group Photo. Courtesy of the Romulus & Remus Italian Society of Lethbridge.Mr. Mazzuca provide two important pieces of information pertaining to the local fraternal societies.  One was a photocopy of the charter of the Ordine Indipendente Fior d'Italia [OIFDI, Independent Order of the Flower of Italy], Lethbridge, dated May 1st, 1922, issued in Fernie. The other was a photograph, likely, of a 1926 meeting in Lethbridge that may have included members from the other BC/Alberta Lodges.  The formation of the Loggia probably was directly related to a strike that broke out in 1922.

Charter of the Ordine Indipendente Fior D'Italia, 1922 Lethbridge.  Our Treasured Heritage: A History of Coalhurst and District provides a description of the town in the 1930s. It's a dusty, sprawling prairie town where most of the men make their living from the mines. For a time, its population exceeded that of Lethbridge, according to Our Treasured Heritage. From this description, it is clear that while many Italian men continued to work in the mines, others had established themselves in retail and other occupations. Reference is made to the following:

  • Saboro's store, which sold dry goods, groceries and meat on the south side of main street
  • The slaughterhouse and a garage owned by Dominic Tedesco who became a building contractor after leaving Coalhurst; he is said to have had a row of houses (not mine company owned) next to the schoolsTony and Isabella Pavan, 1919. Photo courtesy of the Coalhurst History Society as reproduced in our Treasured Heritage: A History of CoalHurst and District, 1984.
  • The Pavan general store, a dry goods store and meat market, also on main street with its lady butcher Inez Cattoi; Mr. Pavan also had a slaughterhouse
  • The flour mill run by Louis Locatelli which burned down and was rebuilt
  • There was the Berlando dairy, operated by Albina Berlando with the help of her four children from a farm outside Coalhurst

Everything changed utterly as a result of the mine explosion that happened on December 9, 1935. The explosion destroyed the business district and, as a result of the mine closure, much of the population left to seek work elsewhere. But this is the economic point of view; a much more personal view is that expressed by Anne (Ermacora) Van Vreumingen. She notes that 16 men died, among them her Father Angelo, and writes:

It was hard on all those families, most of them our friends. It was not like today, where the Companies make provisions for the widows. However, the Mining Company offered to buy clothing for the families that lost their breadwinners. They sent us to the Hudson Bay Company in Lethbridge, where we were fitted with black funeral clothing. The write-up in the "Lethbridge Herald" tells only part of the story! We all suffered deeply, there were only 2 girls left on the farm and poor mother was not able to keep it. It was all too much for her and she sold the farm, for little money, to the Wesselman family. Mother and the 2 girls moved to Kimberley, where Hector and Bertha lived. She received a widow's pension of 35 dollars per month, hardly enough to live on. Mother was 57 years old by then and was plagued by arthritis. 5

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Copyright © 2002 Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D. and The Heritage Community Foundation

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