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      Home > Background > Regions > Lethbridge Region > World War I and Interwar
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      Lethbridge Region:  World War I and Interwar Period

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Introduction

Early Years

World War I and
Interwar Period

World War II
and After

 Cultural Life

Pioneers

Year of the Coal Miner September 2003 - 2004

by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.

 1  |  3  |  4  |  Page 5

The 1935 Coalhurst Mine disaster scattered the Italian families. Some went to work in other mines in the area but others turned to other employment including working for the CPR and also other industries. Pete Lazzarotto moved to Lethbridge where he worked in the Royal View Mine where he lost a leg. Afterwards, he worked at Catelli, the pasta-making firm, where he was a foreman until his retirement. Arthur Giovenazzo began to work for Catelli in1943. Alfred Joevenazzo worked for CPR as did Ted Berlando, for a time. John Lizzi worked for one winter in the Drumheller mines before finally moving to Lethbridge in 1937 and working for the Royal View Mine. When that closed, he worked at the Southern Alberta Co-op as a warehouse man. Arduino Locatelli bought a farm but continued to work in the mines. In 1930, he built the Coalhurst Floor Mill (he had trained as a miller in Italy as a boy). The Mill prospered but then was destroyed by fire of unknown origin and the family fell on hard times. Daughter Antoinette worked at Kresge's in Lethbridge and son Pio worked as a carpenter for the Becker Lumber Company in Picture Butte and Diamond City. Son Carl finished school and, then, worked for the Purity Dairy in Lethbridge. Daughter Antoinette subsequently married Stanley Fabbi, owner and manager of the Purity Dairy.

Antonio (Tony) Pavan was born in Breda di Piave, Treviso, Italy and came toTony and Isabella Pavan, 1919. Photo courtesy of the Coalhurst History Society as reproduced in our Treasured Heritage: A History of CoalHurst and District, 1984. Canada in 1914. He settled in Lethbridge and worked as a boiler washer at the No. 3 mine and part-time waiter at the Silver Grill. He married Isabella (nee Tokar) and the couple moved to Wigan A. Pavan. Courtesy of the Romulus & Remus Italian Society of Lethbridge.and operated a small store in 1919, then, moving to Coalhurst where they built their General Store on Main Street (groceries, dry goods and meat market). Tony did all his own slaughtering and butchering. During the summer when the mines were idle, heIsabella and Tony Pavan in front of their store. Photo courtesy of the Coalhurst History Society as reproduced in our Treasured Heritage: A History of CoalHurst and District, 1984. gave credit to the miners and also farmers. The Pavans operated the store until 1938 when he was forced to retire by a heart condition and sell the store. The couple became pillars of the community and he was a councilor of the Village of Coahurst, served on the board of Trustees of the Lethbridge School Division and as Chairman of the West Lethbridge Committee in the Community and War Services Drive. He was also a founding member of the Italian-Canadian Club.

Other miners also turned to farming. Paul Pontarolo came to Coalhurst with an Uncle from Foza, Italy, at the age of 14 in 1910. His uncle left him to work in South America after a few years and he continued to work in the mines at Coalhurst and Taber at the White Ash Mine. In the fall, he worked on a threshing outfit run by William Hipp and married Myrtle Hipp. For two years, he worked in the mines living in Commerce but, eventually, he went to Taber to homestead. In 1926 the Pontarolos bought a CPR farm though Paul continued to work in the mines until the 1935 explosion. Myrtle made and sold butter and, in the late 1930s, they began to grow sugar beets. In 1940, they started a dairy and shipped milk to the Purity Dairy in Lethbridge. In 1945 they bought a farm south of Coalhurst near the mine tipple. The brick building, which was the last remnant of the Coalhurst Mine, was converted to a dairy barn. The symbolism of this is poignant as former miners reinvented themselves to deal with changing economic realities.

Travalia Children, standing at back: Beth and William. Front: Evelyn and Walter. Photo courtesy of the Coalhurst History Society as reproduced in our Treasured Heritage: A History of CoalHurst and District, 1984.Other farming families include the Travalias and Tedescos. Pete Travalia came to Taber, Alberta, as a young man from Italy. He married Florence Hipp on November 6, 1920 (her family had homesteaded in Taber and came from Missouri). Pete worked in the coal mines and farmed when they lived in Taber. In 1931, they moved to Coalhurst and farmed and had adjacent farms to other family members, her parents William and Annie Hipp, and her sisters, Myrtle Pontarolo and Rebecca Berry. 

The Berlando family also farmed.  According to Ted Berlando, his mother, AlbinaTed Berlando with a walking plow on the family farm. Photo courtesy of the Coalhurst History Society as reproduced in our Treasured Heritage: A History of CoalHurst and District, 1984. Berlando, was a legend in the community. She began by operating a boarding house and then farmed.  She hauled milk in a two-wheeled cart (formerly a mail wagon).  Customers frequently paid for milk by helping with farm work. She also made cheese. The family had some bad luck, brother Nillo lost a leg in an accident and, after his death in 1936, the farm had to be sold.

Dominic and Isabella (Sarbora) Tedesco. Photo courtesy of the Coalhurst History Society as reproduced in our Treasured Heritage: A History of CoalHurst and District, 1984. Dominic Tedesco had come west from Ontario in 1905. After his marriage to Isabella Ross in Guelph on February 7th, 1910, they came west together in 1911. They built a brick store in Lethbridge (9th Avenue, North) and then moved to Wigan and, finally Coalhurst where they opened the general store known as the CoalhurstIsabella Pavan, and Matt Swedish in front of the Pavan store. Photo courtesy of the Coalhurst History Society as reproduced in our Treasured Heritage: A History of CoalHurst and District, 1984. Meat Market and Grocery Store. Dominic had a farm near the mine property and, after the closure of the mine, he bought some of the land and farmed it until the mid-forties when he sold it. Dominic also operated the Coalhurst Garage and served as the mayor of Coalhurst for several terms and as a schoolboard trustee. From 1942, they resided in Lethbridge and he became a contractor, building many homes.

From the record of activities of these families and their accomplishments, it can be seen that they were hard working and resourceful. While the men may have begun to work in the mines, many moved on to other employment. The diversification of employment, in some instances, was spurred by mine disaster and mine closures. While they may have not known English on their arrival, they quickly acquired knowledge of the language to be able to function. Others also learned business practices that enabled them to set up their enterprises. It can be seen that some quickly made the transition from working to middle class.

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