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Tag: history

Post Offices from the Past

Featuring: Bezanson

By Wanda Zenner

Bezanson is a hamlet in Northern Alberta within the County of Grande Prairie No. 1. It was named after A.M. Bezanson, a entrepreneur and promoter from Nova Scotia. Bezanson is located approximately 30 kms east of Grande Prairie on Highway 43 and west of the Smoky River.

Cecil Evans – Unofficial Postmaster 1914-1915
The Grande Prairie Herald reported on May 26, 1914 that Cecil Evans was the FIRST Postmaster of the Bezanson Post Office that was opened at the Bezanson Townsite (NW 17-71-2-W6). His step-father, Sidney Webb had the contract as the mail courier. In July 1915, Cecil enlisted with the CEF. Private Cecil Evans was “Killed In Action” in France on September 15, 1916. His name is inscribed on the Vimy Memorial.

W.A. Leonard – Postmaster 1915-1916
W.A. Leonard was appointed Postmaster in December 1915 after Cecil Evans had enlisted. He operated the Post Office out of his store. Mr. Leonard resigned in June 1916. R.S.

McDonald – Postmaster 1917-1918
In January 1917, R.S. McDonald filled the position of Postmaster and operated the Post Office out of his store until June 1918.

Edith Morrison – Postmaster 1919-1921
Ken Morrison arrived in the area with his family in July 1918 and purchased a store at the Townsite from P.V. Croken. The store had been originally owned by Peterson & McDonald. Ken had his sister-inlaw, Minnie Bryenton, manage the store and his wife, Edith, was subsequently appointed as Postmaster in January 1919 – a position she kept until May 1921.

Francis Weighill – Postmaster – 1922-1923
Francis Weighill was appointed as Postmaster from May 1922 to January 1923 and operated the Post Office out of the vacated A.M. Bezanson house as the Morrison Store was in the process of being dismantled by the Weighill Brothers. Francis was the last Postmaster at the Bezanson Townsite.


Samuel Hunter – Postmaster 1924 – 1926
Bezanson was without a Postmaster for over a year until Sam Hunter was appointed to the position in April 1924 and operated the Post Office out of his home on NW 2-72-3-W6 until August 1926.

Note the white Post Office sign in top right corner.

Pat & Lucie Rooney – Postmasters 1926-1946
Once Pat Rooney moved to the main road that provided service from Sturgeon Lake to Grande Prairie in 1926 and expressed an interest in opening a post office in his store, he was appointed Postmaster for the new enlarged area that saw the combination of Smoky River and Bezanson into one Postal District. Pat was appointed in December 1926 – a position he kept until 1931 at which time his wife, Lucie was appointed Postmaster. Lucie remained in that capacity until November 1946 when they sold their business. The Rooney’s moved to Grande Prairie and eventually retired in Kelowna. Lucie passed away in 1951, Pat in 1962. Both were buried at the Kelowna Cemetery.

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1950s Film Projector Uncovered in the Memorial Hall Attic

By Sierra LaValley

On March 22, 1951, entertainment in the Bezanson community was forever changed when the Bezanson Community Hall bought the Filmosound Specialist Bell & Howell 16 mm projector. According to a list of assets, the projector and screen were worth $892.13; however, because they traded in their old projector it only cost the Hall $596.70. Over the years the Hall purchased films, bulbs and other supplies to maintain the projector from Sharp Theater Supplies Limited based in Calgary. According to word of mouth, the first movie ever played on the projector was The Wizard of Oz, but other films played included Father of the Bride, Lady Without Passport, Follow the Sun, and many others. What is now an old attic in the Memorial Hall used to be the balcony for kids viewing the movies on the Filmosound Specialist Bell & Howell projector. Show nights and dances alternated almost every weekend for many years and records of how much money was made from admission fees and canteen sales are in historical ledgers. Recently, tickets from 1967 were found that would have been used for movie admission! There is even still a location on site from where they used to place the projector to play the movies. When fondly reminiscing about attending the picture shows, one man said that he remembers how every so often the show would stop because the film broke and they would have to wait for someone to splice the film to continue the show. This projector brought joy to many Bezansonites by giving people the chance to come together through the novelty of watching a movie as a community. In 2017, the projector was recovered from where it sat in the balcony since the 50s to be a way for those who have many cherished memories that stem from the projector to reminisce about the days of the picture shows at the Bezanson Hall. 

The first movie projector was the zoopraxiscope, made by Eadweard Maybridge, a pioneering British photographer, in 1879. The zoopraxiscope rapidly projected images from rotating glass disks. These rudimentary movies were significantly shorter than the blockbuster films we have today. The first movie ever made was only 2.11 seconds long! The specific projector the Bezanson Hall purchased was manufactured by Bell & Howell, which was an American based company. The original Bell & Howell company was founded in 1907 by two projectionists in Wheeling, Illinois. The Filmosound 16mm Projector was created in 1932 to be economical for amateurs to purchase and became a best seller for many years. The widespread of the projector in the hands of armatures was the beginning of all movies and television shows and the community of Bezanson was on the forefront of that technological revolution.

Post Offices From the Past

Featuring: Smoky River

By Wanda Zenner

Smoky River was the official name of a Postal District north of the current Hamlet of Bezanson within the County of Grande Prairie No. 1.

Patrick Rooney – Postmaster 1923-27
Pat and Lucie Rooney, originally from International Falls, USA, decided to move to the Peace River District after

reading about the opportunities for land ownership in Northern Alberta as advertised by A.M. Bezanson. They arrived at Grande Prairie by train in May 1917 and Pat quickly found employment as a grocery clerk for Crummy Brothers. Although Pat had filed a homestead application on SE 34-72-3-W6 in 1919 in an area of Bezanson known as Lindsay, the family decided to remain in Grande Prairie until a suitable home could be built on the homestead. Once settled on the farm, the Rooney’s decided to open a store in their home. A Post Office was added in the Rooney home/store on June 6, 1923 with Patrick Rooney appointed as Postmaster.

Rooney home that had housed the Smoky River Post Office

By 1926, the Rooney’s realized they had outgrown their home. Instead of building on to the existing house/store, they decided to move three miles south to the main road that provided service from Sturgeon Lake to Grande Prairie. The new store with living quarters on the back was built from the logs of the Presbyterian Church that had been located at the Bezanson Townsite. The Smoky River Post Office District merged with the Bezanson Post Office District and the new enlarged area became known as Bezanson and operated out of Rooney’s Store.

The Smoky River Post Office closed on May 18, 1927. Gary & Janet Sarmaga own the property in 2020 on which the Smoky River Post Office was located. Pat and Lucie semi-retired in Kelowna, BC where they lived until Lucie passed away in 1951 and Pat in 1962. Both were buried in the Kelowna Cemetery.

Edith Field – Postmaster 1926 – 1927
Clarence and Edith Field, originally from Ohio, moved to Ponoko, Alberta in 1910 and then to Northern Alberta. Clarence filed a homestead application on NW 34-72-3- W6 in 1918 in an area of Bezanson known as Lindsay. Although the Field’s lived on the homestead along with Edith’s mother Sarah, Clarence opened a photography studio in Grande Prairie and drove back and forth every day.
Edith was appointed as “Postmaster” on July 12, 1926 with the departure of the Rooney’s from the area. Although there is no “resignation date” on the archived postal document, you would assume Edith operated the post office out of her home until the Smoky River Postal District closed in 1927. Clarence passed away in 1931 and was buried at the Glen Leslie Cemetery.


References
Smoky to Grande Prairie History Book
SPRA Land Settlement Database
Library & Archives Canada Post Office Database

Post Offices From the Past

Featuring: Kleskun Hill

By Wanda Zenner

Kleskun Hill is an unincorporated locality in Northwest Alberta within the County of Grande Prairie No. 1. It is located approximately 20 kms north-east of Grande Prairie on Highway 43 close to Bezanson. Kleskun Hill Park protects some of Alberta’s most northern badlands, wapiti rock formations, wildflowers and the last surviving native grasslands in the Grande Prairie Region. Within the Park, sits the Kleskun Hill Museum.

Truman & Hubert Manning – Acting Postmasters
(no record of formal appointment therefore dates unknown)
Hubert and Truman Manning, originally from Ontario, had been living in Saskatchewan when they decided to move to the Peace River District. They traveled by the Athabasca Trail in 1911 and Hubert filed a homestead application and Truman purchased 640 acres by means of South African Scrip on land in the Kleskun Hill area. It is written that the Mannings operated the Post Office in their residence on behalf of James Brims who had been appointed as the official Postmaster.

Manning house, built in 1914, at original location SE 16-72-4-W6
Manning House located at Kleskun Hill Museum.

It was interesting to note that the Manning’s had ploughed two furrows from Crystal Creek to the Smoky River that eventually became Highway 43.

The Manning house was donated to the Kleskun Hill Museum by Elvin and Tillie Gordon. It has been completely restored and contains a “Mail Slot Box” that may or may not be original.

Kleskun Hill Museum

James Alexander Brims – Postmaster 1913 – 1915
The Kleskun Hill Post Office was established on May 15, 1913 with James Brims being appointed as “Postmaster”. James was originally from Scotland and arrived in the Peace River District in 1910 and subsequently filed a homestead application on SE 17-72-4-W6. He was on the land in March 1912. As he had served in the British army in the South African War and was still a reservist, he went back to England to once again join the British army when WWI commenced. It is assumed that in his absence, he had the Manning Brothers provide Postal Services for Kleskun Hill at the Manning residence.
Mr. Brims resigned on August 29, 1915.
After the war, James moved to Arizona due to his health. He married Alison Dick Cullen in Phoenix on September 14, 1921. They had one son. James passed away in Phoenix in 1951.

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The Bezanson Curling Rink – Bringing Together Our Community Since 1962

By Kiera Donner

In 1962, family, friends, and neighbours gathered in the hamlet of Bezanson to volunteer and build the curling rink that is still standing today.  The hard workers harvested lumber from the surrounding woods and sent it into a local sawmill to begin building the project they envisioned.  The entire community worked together to raise enough money to build the rink.  Through cash donations alone, they were able to raise $649.50!  Someone even donated a record player which was raffled off allowing for $371.00 to go towards the construction of the rink.  

Twenty-one years later the kitchen and benches for supporters and other teams were installed which was an excellent addition to the rink.  Over the years, the rink has undergone many renovations.

It has been a hotspot for this community where members of Bezanson and the surrounding rural communities have been able to come together and play a sport which all ages love.  The Curling Committee even put together an after-school program for the junior high students of Bezanson around 1967 which made the rink social and educational.  The kids were sent home with notes which read that curling would start at 3:45pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  The committee kept all twenty-five notes of the students’ names and parents’ signature providing us with historical records of the educational use of the facility.  Journals dating back to about 1981 of every bonspiel and meeting ever held were preserved making great memories of this written history. The note books include details of what was said in the meetings, people that have won trophies for bonspiels and other achievements, and includes all the costs they have spent that has brought the rink to where it is today.

The curling rink was another foundation to this great community that has been built on teamwork. The rink brought the community together and we are grateful for the hard work of the volunteers for the opportunities that the curling rink brought to our community.