August 20

Heritage Makers Award


Our book is an award winner!  Mrs. Lenz recently attended the ceremony hosted by Heritage Makers in Phoenix.  Heritage Makers is the online tool we used to create both the book and the magazines.   “Moving Forward with the Past:  100 Years of Coalhurst History” was recognized. Our book about history is making history and was featured in the youtube video you can watch below.  Beam with pride students of CES!

April 7

Firedamp Website Launched

Excitement is building as spring arrives.  The Coalhurst High School production of firedamp will be staged at the end of May.  You can can find out more at the following links on the Coalhurst High School website:

Firedamp Main

Firedamp Tickets

The author of the play, CHS teacher Arlene Purcell, has also launched a website which you can explore at the link below. The site is still under construction and new content will be added so be sure to check back often.  You can read the testimony of surviviors, view video  clips from the 1998 production and look at images that have been provided by long time residents.  Arlene hopes to build an archive that showcases all the research she did as she worked to gather the stories and the facts related to the event that changed the community of Coalhurst forever.

Firedamp:  The Story of the Coalhurst Mine Disaster 

February 26

Firedamp 2013

The three-act stage play Firedamp, the story of the Coalhurst mine disaster of 1935, is being re-staged by the Nord-bridge Seniors of Lethbridge, in partnership with, the Coalhurst Centennial Committee and Coalhurst High School. Written by teacher, Arlene Purcell, and with an all-student cast, the drama was first staged in 1998, and the story of the play’s production and of its significance to the history and culture of the Lethbridge region was published in an article in Alberta Views in the spring of 1999. In response to repeated requests over the years the play is being brought back to audiences to coincide with the Coalhurst Centennial celebrations.

Firedamp depicts the events of the mid-1930’s in the town of Coalhurst, Alberta, where Lethbridge Collieries operated the Imperial Mine at which an underground methane gas (firedamp) explosion occurred killing sixteen men on December 9, 1935. The sixteen men left behind eleven widows and forty-two offspring. The funeral was, to this day, the largest ever held in Lethbridge, and the city’s Mayor Elton requested that all Lethbridge businesses close their doors on that day out of respect for the deceased miners. The Coalhurst Mine Disaster was a major tragedy in the Lethbridge area during the tumultuous and challenging times of the Great Depression.

The characters in Firedamp are representations of the inhabitants of the town and their lives are dramatized amidst the social, political, and economic context of The Thirties. The play is a culmination of extensive research which included original source documents and interviews of people who grew up in Coalhurst. The story is really the story of the Alberta experience in which people came from every corner of the globe to find peace and prosperity in our province’s industries. The story continues to this day.

The production of Firedamp and the opportunity for audiences to share in this story of strife, adversity, and renewal through community spirit and persistence is as an invaluable opportunity for our youth to engage with community members of all ages and to share in a celebration of our heritage as Albertans. The Nord-bridge seniors have a particular mission to foster the recognition of the coal-mining history of the Lethbridge region, and so it only makes sense to work together in a shared mission to bring this story to a broader audience.

Produced and directed by Coalhurst High School teachers, Arlene Purcell and Diane Pommen, the cast is made up of twenty-two enthusiastic and committed students from Coalhurst and Lethbridge schools, and crew members include students, teachers, parents, and community members from Coalhurst and Lethbridge. By the time it is performed in the last week of May, well over a hundred people, organizations, and businesses from the area will have been involved in bringing this project to audiences.

By early April, a website devoted to the play and to the history of the Coalhurst Mine Disaster will be up and running and will be called Firedamp; advertising will be in full swing. In the meantime, you can connect to Firedamp by liking us and by commenting on the Facebook page Firedamp 2013. Also, click on “Firedamp” on the Coalhurst High School website for basic information. The Alberta Views article is posted in both sources and it gives a good overview of the ’98 production.

Evening performances will be held Saturday, May 25, and on Wednesday, May 29, through to Saturday, June 1. A general audience matinee will be held on Sunday, May 26, with student matinees on Monday and Tuesday, May 27 and 28. Performances will be at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre in Lethbridge. Tickets are $15.00 each and will be available in mid-April through the Yates ticket office.


January 26

Book Launch Events

Well, it’s done!  It has been a true labour of love.  Our students are now authors and have published a book and two magazines celebrating the stories they collected about our community. Here are some pictures from the launch events.  Remember that even though our book is complete, the community will be celebrating our centennial all year long with special events.  You can check for upcoming activities on the Town of Coalhurst website.

January 22

Gabe’s Challenge

Gabe’s Challenge

 There was once a young man named Gabe,

Who looked at a problem and a decision made,

Although he was only six,

This issue he was prepared to report and fix,

Not only did this situation concern him,

A solution he proposed and this was no whim.


He said, “In the playground there is a hole,

And to fill it is my goal.

I suggest we get some gravel and fill it you see,

As this condition really is troubling me,

We like to play on the swing there,

So if we work together and I do share,

A solution I have found,

That is sure to please everyone around.”


So off we went to see principal Fender,

Who a very positive decision to render,

Next step back to his class to report Gabe’s quest,

Where Mrs. Rutledge and her students joined in with zest.

Soon shovels, pails and a bucket brigade did appear.

With enthusiasm and all our gear,

We cooperated and that hole we did fill.

A problem solved what a thrill!

  A valuable lesson was learned by all,

You don’t have to be five or six feet tall.

A problem, a solution and someone to care,

“Thanks Gabe” such talents are rare.

Mrs. Barclay (custodian)


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January 4

Book Launch Planned

Watch here details on our official book launch which is scheduled for January 22nd.  There will be festivities during the assembly at CES in the morning and again in atrium in the evening when our book is presented to the town in honour of the 100th birthday of Coalhurst.  Mrs. Lenz is hard at work developing the final draft and putting the finishing touches not only on the book but on two editions of a Coalhurst History magazine – one detailing our research from Jan – June and the other focused on stories our guest speakers shared from September – December.

December 18

Treasured Memories

On December 17th, we had our final guest speaker for the book project – Mr. Ken Fabbi. Mr. Fabbi was on the team that put together the $80,000 history book that was published in 1984. You can read exerpts of the book at the link below the picture.

Mary’s Geneaology Treasures

 His grandparents, Arduino and Dominica Locatelli imigrated from Italy to Canada in 1913 and 1914 respectively and moved to Coalhurst in 1923. Arduino lived by the high school. He had a dream to make a flour mill. The mill lit on fire in 1932. They had plans to rebuild the structure. The fire was noticed at 9:00 pm. “The wheat was scorched,” reports grade three student, Raegan Nicol.  Our connection to the Locatelli family comes from stories Mr. Andy Veres told us about the ditch rider. The ditch rider used to stop in for coffee and pie with Mrs. Locatelli, who lived next to the irrigation canal. Apparently she was one of the best pie makers in the area.



December 17

Happy 99th Birthday

Vera Schwartkopf, Lawrence Watmough, Al Duncan, Charles Wesselman and Fiona Denhoed joined Mrs. Lenz and her 2-3 class and Mr. Bryant’s grade 6 class to celebrate Coalhurst’s 99th birthday with a song and cupcakes on December 17th.  Each of the guests had a chance to share one more story with the students. Mr. Wesselman told us about being in grade 3 and having pneumonia so bad that he had to go into the Coalhurst hospital, where they drained his lungs. Two other youngsters were in the hospital at the same time he was. He noted that this treatment for pneumonia is no longer practiced. Mrs. Denhoed told the students a story about how their teacher, Mrs. Lenz (her daughter) got stuck in the mud in front of her house in Coalhurst.  There were no sidewalks on the west side of Coalhurst until the 1980’s.


December 4

Once Upon a Coal Mine

On December 4, Mrs. Sheila McHugh came to Coalhurst Elementary School to share about the research she did for the St. Joseph’s Parish and the Town of Coalhurst.







Using “modern technology” we have converted her cassette tape recording and slide presentation into a video link for you to enjoy.



November 22

Mrs. Leister Shares Special History


By: Carissa and Jordan

Mrs. Mary Leister came to our class on November 22, 2012. That is her in the picture above with her dog Trixie.  She told us about the old church that is close to the high school. We learned about how her sister, Helen, was born on the day of the mine disaster so her dad did not go to work. Lillian Rohovie, Mary’s mom, although thankful that her husband (Nick) had his life spared, always felt awful for the man who took her husband’s shift that day and died, along with 15 others, that fateful day December 9, 1935.

At the age of 13, Mary Rohovie worked in one of the stores and only got paid 75 cents. That was a lot back then. When Mrs. Leister and her sister needed a bath, they had to go in a metal tub and wait their turn, as there were 4 children in the family.  The small  house that they lived in had been moved from Diamond City after being purchased for $150.00. The house only had four rooms – 2 of which were bedrooms. Mrs. Leister shared with us that her mom and the two girls slept in one room and her dad and her two brothers slept in the other room.  The other picture above is of Mary and her brothers and her sister. 

They had a stove that was heated with coal in the house. Her mom and brothers used to pick coal off the slag heap.  Her mom would make them pajamas out of flour sacks. There were some cars in those days but when she was very young, people road in buggies drawn by horses.



November 20

“Build it… and they will come”

In the summer of 1996 grade nine students Danny Bjerke, Gerry Bjerke, Matthew McHugh, CJ Jaworsky and Cory McNabb, built a baseball field in Miner’s Park. It took them a year to complete. They called the park Parker’s Field (park-or-field). Danny Bjerke came in to talk to grade 2-6 students at Coalhurst Elementary on November, 20, 2012. All of the students were excited because it was Sydney Bjerke’s dad and she is part of our history project.  The mayor at the time told the boys that they could fix up the field which is in Miners’ Park.   They made money from bottle drives, sold food and drinks. It cost about $3000. Danny and his friends got some supplies from the hardware store and got to work. First they put some grass on the old hard ground to make it soft. Then they did more things to make it even softer like taking most of all the rocks off the grass and mowing it. They put shale to mark the path where they would run the bases. Danny’s dad Gerry made a shed. Then the field was done and the boys were happy for all their hard work.

October 28

Kindergarten in Coalhurst

This year, our grade 2-3 and grade 6 classes were visited by Mrs. Fiona Denhoed and Mrs. Connie Watmough, two women who were instrumental in getting kindergarten started in the “hamlet” of Coalhurst.

The best available space for a kindergarten was the old wooden Legion. The first kindergarten in Coalhurst only had about 11 students. The kindergarten opened in the fall of 1973. The students attending the kindergarten received funding from the government in order to attend school. There was only enough money to send 20 kindergarten students to school in the Lethbridge and Coalhurst area.  One of those students is one of our current teachers, Mrs. Lenz. She went to the kindergarten in 1973 and is one of the students in the original record player photo below. As a group, we posed for a similar photo in 2012. In December, for the first Christmas party in the kindergarten they all sat around a record player singing Christmas carols.  At the end of 1975 the school had a big fire and there was so much damage that they had to go to school in the basement of the Pentecostal church. They only finished the year in the church though. The following year they had their classes in a small trailer right next to the high school.  Former CES principal Ms. Laurie Wilson taught the kindergarten students for many years. The Pentecostal church is still standing in Coalhurst; it is now the Good News Center.

By: Kaytlyn and Wyatt

If you happen to have a photo of the first kindergarten class, please contact Mrs. Lenz ( We would love to include it in our centennial book.

2012 Students with Mrs. Watmough and Mrs. Denhoed “re-enacting” the 1973 gathering around the record player

First Christmas Party for Coalhurst Kindergarten

August 20

Arizono’s Store

Do you remember getting candy at Mrs. Arizono’s store in the 60’s or 70’s? If so, you would still recognize the voice of this remarkable little lady. I was brought back to my elementary school years when I spoke with her. I still recall her patience with my younger siblings and I as we would stand on our tiptoes and check out the candy treats on the top shelf of her glass candy display. Twenty five cents went a long way in the candy store in the 70’s.

During our phone interview over the summer, I was able to learn a few things about her and the store. Her family lived on a farm in the Coalhurst area from 1950 to 1957. In the fall of 1957, her uncle bought the store from Mr. and Mrs. Willis. “You couldn’t make much money from a penny candy store,” recalls Mrs. Arizono. She recalls when bread was six cents a loaf and butter was 35 cents a pound. The store also sold kerosene, which she disliked. “I hated selling it because of the smell!” In mid November, sales would drop as people would go to Lethbridge for Christmas shopping and buy their groceries there instead of in Coalhurst. She remembers when Coalhurst was a hamlet of a little over 200 people in the 60’s and 70’s. During this time, her husband built onto the back of the store to have more storage. She loved working in the store. “It was handy for me. I could tend to the garden, mind the store and raise my family.”

In 1977, they moved the store from the corner of main street to what is now the bakery. Mitsy had the store for 32 years from 1959 to 1991. Feel free to add your own special memories of the Coalhurst General Store (more commonly referred to as “Mitsy’s” or “The Candy Store”). Watch for more details about Mrs. Arizono, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. The video below features Mitsy sharing her impression of the changes that have taken place in Coalhurst over the years. If you have any photos of the inside of the store from this era, we would love to have them.

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June 9

Centennial Committee Logo Contest

The Centennial Committee sponsored a logo contest, asking students to come up with an idea related to the theme “Honouring Our Past, Celebrating Our Future”.  Not surprisingly, most of the entries were from the classes involved with our project. The winning concept was created by Shaye Pierson, a grade six student. Her idea will now go to a graphic designer who will sharpen and refine it so that it can be reproduced on signs and other promotional material that will be displayed at each of the events planned in celebration of our community’s 100th birthday. Nicholas Feyter, a grade five student came in second and third place went to grade six student Brody Watmough. The winning entries as well others from the top ten finishers will be displayed at Coalhurst Elementary for now but will make their way around to various locations in 2013.


June 6

Bellevue Mine and Leitch Collieries

Our classes spent Tuesday, June 5th learning about what life was like for coal miners in the early days.  At Leitch Collieries, we earned our “license” to mine, completing an obstacle course that required us to crawl in small spaces, feel our way to a location in the dark, sort coal into lump, nut and slack by size, haul buckets of water, hammer nails, hand drill and dig. Students even had to complete a written test.  We learned that miners had to be very strong!  They had to be very careful, too.  At the Bellevue Mine we suited up with ponchos and hard hats with lights and actually went underground.  We walked about 300 m into the shaft, experiencing the cold and the darkness.  It was fun for us but we can imagine what it must have been like to work underground in very difficult conditions every single day.  Check out some pictures from our experience below.

May 30

History Walk

Do these look like mischievious boys?  Way back in the day, they were!  Our teachers spent three hours with these fine gentlemen reminiscing about the good old days in Coalhurst.  Andy Veres, Lawrence Watmough and Tom Nicol took them on a history walk (but they drove!) and shared so many stories about what it was like here in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  They seemed to remember who lived where when and who moved in after they left but before the person living there now!

It sounds like being a kid in Coalhurst was a lot of fun for these long time residents.  Which one do you think…


  • was involved in an incident where an outhouse was placed on the roof of the high school?


  • “borrowed” a large horse drawn sleigh, dragged it to the very top of the slag heap and after sending an unsupecting test pilot down the in it, hopped in and rode it down himself before returning it?

  • rode 6 or 7 boys to a horse which was also “borrowed” to a large garden to “borrow” some carrots to feed the “borrowed” horse?


  • has knowledge of a certain individual who broke his arm not once but TWICE riding a horse this way and participated in the conspiracy of covering up how the injury occurred?


  • caught the train into Lethbridge for 25 cents, spent the afternoon at the movies and jumped a freighter home?


  • climbed the water tower to collect bird eggs and then initiated an egg fight with friends?


  • poured water down gopher holes and then snared the poor critters when they tried to escape?


  • chased hunks of coal cascading down the slag heap after being dumped from the train car, yelling “That big one is mine!”?


  • squished himself in a car tire or hopped on a scrap car fender and catapulted down the slag heap at high rates of speed in the winter, many times?


We are going to go on our own version of the history walk later this month.  We plan to visit the spot where the CP Rail line had a turn off that went to mine, the remnants of the train bridge that passed over the canal just behind our school, the rock in Imperial Meadows Park that marks the location of the Coalhurst Mine, the field where the slap heap once towered 200 feet above ground, the site of the old low and high schools and mainstreet where Aunt Doty’s store, a bank and even a hotel were once located.  Give us a call if you want to come along and share some of your own stories!


May 25

The Coalhurst Mine Disaster

by Carlee, Jordan and Cammie

Coalhurst, a small town in Southern Alberta, was named after all the coal that was found there and one of its first settlers Jimmy Hurst. Coal was mined in Coalhurst from 1911-1935. Before the mine disaster Coalhurst was a very busy village with a grocery store, a blacksmith, a post office, a pool hall and many other businesses. There was also a hospital, a RCMP office, three churches and two schools. Coalhurst even had one of the best football teams in Southern Alberta.

That all changed on December 9th, 1935. A suspected methane gas explosion killed 16 men in the mine sometime between 4:00-4:30 p.m. Rescue teams made 8 trips into the mine and found 16 badly burned bodies. Shortly after 4:30, 3 injured men staggered out of the mine. Rescuers were  notified and arrived at the scene to try to find the missing miners. Family members gathered at the mine waiting for news. Miners at that time carried a brass identification key in their pockets and this is how the dead miners were identified. Teddy, Star and Prince who were pit ponies working in the mine that day were also killed in the blast.

Funerals took place on December 13th, 1935 in Lethbridge. Thousands of people joined the funeral procession. Over five thousand people went to the cemetery to pay their respects to the dead miners and their families. There were three services at different churches (Catholic, Protestant and Greek Orthodox). One funeral was at 9:00 a.m., another funeral took place at 10:00 a.m. and the last funeral was at 3:00 p.m.

There was an investigation into the blast led by the Royal Commission. There was some evidence that a miner dropped his safety lamp creating a spark. However no precise cause for the explosion was ever determined. Six months later the mine closed and people started leaving Coalhurst. Within a few years Coalhurst almost became a ghost town.

Survivor Andrew Kucji was interviewed and said, “God, but we are lucky to be here. It was quitting time. We start to walk out… suddenly, fire, like might wind, come quick explosion! I think this is the finish. Coal dust swirl through the air, gas gag us, we get no air, fire burn our clothes… fifteen minutes, maybe twenty, we crawl along…Pretty soon we stagger out. We were pretty lucky. Those other men. They never came out alive.”


May 23

Fire Damp

We watched some scenes from “Fire Damp”, a play written by Mrs. Arlene Purcell and performed by students of Coalhurst High School in 1998.  Sheila Wandler who played Edie shared her copy of the video and Mrs. Purcell shared some artifacts with us including a cap, the coal powder make up, a lamp and the lunch pails carried by the actors who played miners.  Read this article about the play which we have it on good authority will be restaged next spring to commemorate our centennial.

Fire Damp 

We are beginning to understand how mining and then in 1935, the mine disaster, shaped our community.  Check out the next post which includes a report some of our students wrote about what happened.

May 21

Dust Up on the Slag Pile

This story is in a book shared with us by Alvin Duncan.  The picture on the left shows how Al looked at 14.  The book is from the series “Alberta in the 20th Century”.  The story is on page 14 and 15 of volume 6 “Fury and Futility:  The Onset of the Great Depression 1930-1935”.   Apparently given the hard times many families experienced during the depression, there was some competition for the slag coal dumped on the heap.  Nine women were arrested in 1931 after a dust up on the pile.  Robert Adams insisted Coal Producers  Ltd. had given him exclusive rights to the coal. 

The account in the book, which was written by Fred Cleverely, goes like this.  The ladies objected to Adam’s claim to the coal and decided to protest.  They set the dump on fire by pouring oil on the coal.  The police were called but the women were gone.  The fire was extinguished and the officers returned to Lethbridge.   The women came back and set it on fire again. Adams arrived and confronted them and apparently they dog piled him!  According to his testimony his hair was pulled, his cravat was jerked and he was kicked in the posterior.  He claimed one of the women had the nerve to pat his cheeks and call him an opprobrious name .  (We had to look that up.  Opprobrious means shameful or abusive.)

 The police were called again and when they arrived they arrested the women and they were taken to jail.  The women – Rosie Boychuk, Sophie Hlushko, Minnie Tymchuk, Effie Boychuk, Nancy Slemko, Jessie Yakiwcyuk, Grace Horchuk, Mary Wasinski and Anna Farmos –  were convicted on  March 16, 1932  of unlawful assembly.  Obviously this was before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms!  They were given six month suspended sentences and fined $100.

Are you related to any of these feisty ladies?  Share a picture or a story with us if you are.  We think they were very courageous to stand up for their right to scavenge coal. 

Some other pictures Mr. Duncan gave us are on this page:  Remember When #7

May 6

The Infamous Slag Pile

We have heard so much about “slag pile” from all our guests.  It was a popular place to get coal and to play even though this was forbidden.  We are finally beginning to understand two things.  First, it was really, really tall. No wonder it was fun to toboggan down in winter!  Second, it was always on fire!  Seriously, the coal would smoulder and smoke.  The picture below says it all!  One history book we found reports on a story of some  women duking it out and ending up in the slammer over slag from pile.  More on this story later. We are eager to find out even more so if you have any information or stories about it, let us know.

May 6

Galt Museum Field Trip

On April 30th our classes visited the Galt Museum and Archives.  Belinda Crowson, author of “So! You Think You Know Lethbridge?” a history book for kids shared tips and tricks with us.  She reminded us to consider  our audience when deciding how to share the stories we collect.  She told us to be sure to include who, what, where and when so that those reading our stories have all the important details.  We got some ideas of where we could find stories about our area.  Apparently there isn’t a cemetary in Coalhurst so most people who lived and then died here are buried in Diamond City!

We got to visit the archives and we learned how to search them online to find pictures and other information we might want to include in our book or on our blog. Then we spent a little time in the Discovery Room, exploring the exhibits.

After a chilly lunch, we hiked down to Indian Battle Park where we played and then went across country under the High Level Bridge to the Coal Mine display next to Helen Schuler Coulee Centre.  We got to see the old doors to the shaft and climb into an old style coal cart. 

Back at school a few days later, we began our research on coal mining in Coalhurst.  We are finding out a lot about what life was like for the miners.  We are very curious about the mine disaster which we now know happened on December 9th, 1935.  Our mine experience field trip to Bellevue on June 5th will help us discover even more.  Watch for details of what we learn in future posts.

May 6

Secret Hide Out

There used to be a lot of abandoned or boarded up houses and businesses in Coalhurst.  Kids often used these a secret clubhoues.    Mel Roth who came to our classes to talk about two of these secret hideouts. Here’s the story as Mr. Roth told it to us!

Secret Coalhurst Clubhouses

My story begins when I was about 7 years old. That’s when my friends and I would climb through a hole on the outside wall of the old boarded-up fire station. Then for hours and hours we’d play on the old rusted fire truck left inside the building. We would pretend that we were firemen going to fight fires or play army games imagining that we were soldiers hiding-out from the enemy.

Then when we were about 13 years old… that’s when we started our own secret club house in the old hotel. Nobody ever knew that we were there. We kept it a secret for many, many years.  To get into our secret hide-out, we would go in the backside of the hotel where there were two big cellar doors hidden by weeds that lead into the dingy dirt basement. Then in the dark with flashlights we’d sneak through the cob-webbed basement until Mr. Mel Rothwe came to a set of steep stairs that would lead to the upstairs rooms. There, in the back up-stairs rooms, that’s where we made our secret clubhouse. We made our hide-out comfortable with drapes on the windows so no one could see us.  We found items in the basement, like a kitchen table and chairs to sit on and a kerosene lantern to use for a light. After supper is when we’d meet at our clubhouse to talk and play games. We had lots of fun-times in this clubhouse for almost a year.

Then one day…. when we were there we could hear someone talking in the building and we didn’t know who it could be.  That’s when we got scared and locked ourselves inside a closet and waited until they left. Then when we thought it was safe to come out, we did and ran straight home.  It was the following day when we found out that it was possibly Mr. Deak the owner of the hotel that we heard talking in the building. It was on this day that we decided to never go back to our secret club house just in case we were ever caught by the owner and got into trouble for being in his old boarded-up hotel. 


April 22

The Writing of “Watmough Painting Pandemonium”

Mr. Lawrence Watmough provided us with a huge binder full of stories, documents and photographs.  Our new scanner got a workout!  We’ve only published ‘Painting Pandemonium” so far but watch for more to come. When he and his wife Kala visited our class they brought a… CAR!  Yup, that’s right a 1929 Dodge Brothers’ four door sedan!  It was super cool to say the least.  No seatbelts, airbags or even heat. 


Mr. Watmough also brought a strange looking leather helmet. We finally figured out, with a few hints, that it was a helmet for a coal mine pit pony.  We are very curious to learn more about mining in Coalhurst and will visit the Galt Museum on April 30th and then the Bellevue Mine on June 5th.  Meanwhile, we are busy researching both the history of mining in Coalhurst and of course the mine disaster that changed the town forever.

April 6

The Writing of “Blast Off” and “On the Move”

We enjoyed a visit from Mr. Ted Likuski.  He told us lots of stories about his years teaching in Coalhurst.  He told he often dressed up to perform with other staff at assemblies.  Apparently they dressed up as old people and….vegetables.  Take a look at how we think Mr. Likuski looked as a tomato, carrot and other vegetables.  We have also included some of the class pictures he brought for us to scan and some snapshots of the time he spent with us, sharing his stories.


April 5

Blast Off

For many years the elementary school had a rocketry club.  Each year they would learn to make rockets and then the whole school would go to Miner’s Park for the big blast off.  The smallest rocket was called “The Mosquito”.  The biggest one was “Big Bertha”.  We still have the kit that was used at our school.  This club was run by Mr. Ted Likuski and is something many students remember from their years at Coalhurst Elementary.









Just for fun, we tried some balloon rockets on the last day of school before Easter Break. They weren’t quite as spectacular as the real thing but some went high up in to the sunny blue sky and they made lots of silly noises!

April 5

On the Move

by Braiden and Johnathan

Mr. Ted Likuski came to talk to us and shared that teaching at Coalhurst involved a lot of moving.  Check out this timeline for details. 

April 5

The Writing of “New School” and “Underground Explorers”

Our source for these two stories was Mrs. Beth Barclay.  Beth was the custodian at CES for many years.  She also grew up and went to school here.  We plan to have her visit more than once!  During this visit, she shared details about the construction of the building we are currently in at Coalhurst Elementary.  We learned a lot of interesting things about how long it took, how changes had to made because of cost overruns and how things worked (or didn’t) when classes first started here in January of 1991.

Beth shared two other stories, as well.  One was about students who used to volunteer to assist her with various duties.  As a reward for  their service, students were treated to an was an underground tour of CES.  Beth routinely took students into the crawl space under the school which to our students now seems like a very magical and interesting place.  The students would write their names in chalk on the cement slabs.  She had to discontinue when new Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines were introduced.  We’ve written a letter to Palliser asking if someone with a confined space certificate is willing to go under and photograph this forbidden wonderland!

 The second story Beth shared will remain top secret until our book is published next year, at her request.  The reasons will become clear…next year!  A poem Beth has written about this event will be in our book and once the book is published, we’ll post details here.

April 4

New School Built in Coalhurst

 By Brendan and Kayla 

 Sheri Clifton who was a grade 6 student and Barry York who was in grade 1 did the honors of breaking ground at a ceremony when they started to build the school. The shovel and pick that were used were donated by John Walker. His father was a miner in Coalhurst. They are still at our school!  








 This new school cost about 3.5 million dollars and took a year to build. The students would watch the progress of the new school from the old school but they could not go on the construction site. Only Arnold Kornelsen the principal was allowed on the job site. He even had his own hard hat.The frame of the atrium was not built here it was brought in by a crane. The kids had fun watching it being brought in.







In December of 1990 the janitor Mrs. Barclay learned how to control the computers in the new school. All together there were 12 classrooms, a large office space, a kindergarten room, two student services rooms, a large gym and a library. On January 15, 1991 the students moved to the new school. Most of them had to move their own desks. 

 The whole school was moved in by noon. The grade 5/6’s and ECS were at the high school had to get help by trucks. There were no boot racks and there were only 2 water fountains. Everyone was very excited about being all together in the new school.  Then…on January 31st one set of the doors of the school blew off on a windy day!

 In 1990 the kids buried a time capsule under the school but it is under the cement slab.  The people we asked thing it is under the preschool.  We are going to make a time capsule and put it in the crawl space under our school for our town’s birthday next year. Comment to give us ideas about what we should put into it!


March 26

Underground Explorers

By Maddison

There is a crawl space door in the gym chair room. In the 1990’s Mrs. Barclay was the janitor and she had to go down in the crawl space to check things monthly. Every year they did a spirit day where kids ran the school for a day. On that day Mrs. Barclay got grade 4-6 volunteers to help her do her job. She took them into the crawl space and they would write their names on the walls with chalk. People can’t go down there anymore because you have to have a special certificate to go down. The last two people to go down there were grade 6 Eric Walker and grade 4 Taylor Thys in May 2000.

We wrote a letter to Palliser asking for someone with a “Confined Space” certificate to go down and take some pictures for us.  We will post them on our blog when we get them!  We are very curious about what it is like under there!

March 24

My Camp Experience

 by Shaye

Have you ever been camping? I have. It was close to the end of school during school camp in 2009. I looked at my schedule and saw that it was my turn for swimming. This was extra exciting because my older sister Camryn was also in swimming. When I got to the beach I saw my sister and her friends swimming out to the dock 15-20 meters away from shore. I couldn’t miss my chance to hang out with my sister so naturally I jumped in the water and started to hurriedly swim after her. About 3/4 way out my face got really close to the water and one tiny drop of water landed in my mouth. Instantly my breath was taken away from me, I couldn’t breathe!! My sister saw me struggling in the water and called out to me, “Shaye I’m coming!” She thought I just couldn’t touch and got scared, but still she swam out to me in less than a minute and grabbed me a began pulling me to the dock.“What is it!” she shouted worriedly at me! I tapped my throat and Camryn and her friends desperately guessed. Not a second passed before Camryn’s friend Daniel shouted to the lifeguard, “Shaye can’t breathe, someone can’t breathe!” The lifeguard gave me tips and soon I could just barely get enough air in and out. Mrs. Laura came in a canoe, brought me back to shore, the nurse gave me somebody else’s puffer and Mr. Bryant drove me and Camryn out to the ambulance. We went to the Vulcan Hospital where my parents met me. We were later told that the water at the camp was a place the horses drank from and I am EXTREMELY allergic to horses. When I finally returned to camp, my cabin had saved me cookies and treats from lunch and in the corner was a whiteboard saying, “Welcome back Shaye!” They turned on lights and threw confetti when I walked in the door. My eyes were filled with tears, I had WONDERFUL cabin buddies, and unfortunately the doctor told me I had to go home. “The next year,” I told myself, “will be better.” And it was.

March 23

The Writing of “Long Time Coalhurst Resident”

The Lethbridge Herald recently ran an article about our project.  You can check it out at this link:

Coalhurst Students Put a Modern Spin on History

One of the people who read it was Charles Wesselman, who lived in Coalhurst for more than 70 years beginning at the age of one.  He called and asked if he could come in to talk to us and we said yes!  He provided pictures for us to scan which you can see below.

One of the pictures was the infamous “slide” picture.  Mr. Wesselman is in it!  He told us the picture was taken at the “Low School” sometime in the late 20’s or early 30’s.  He’s near the top of the slide on the ladder and it’s hard to see him.  He remembers that several of the students in his class were recent immigrants to Canada.  He graciously consented to try to help us make a second attempt to recreate the picture.  It was still hard.  We have come to the conclusion that slides must have been less slippery back then!  They had more than 20 kids on the slide.  We could manage about 12 before the person at the bottom was pushed off.  Although the looks on their faces suggest otherwise, be reassured that no grade 1/2 students were injured in the taking of this picture!  The original slide picture with Mr. Wesselman in it is already on our blog on this page:   Remember When #3

March 23

Long Time Coalhurst Resident Shares Story

By Noah

On March 15th, Mr. Charles Wesselman told his story to the students at Coalhurst Elementary. This 87 year old man, told 5/6H and 1/2L about the mine explosion and many other things.

Mr. Wesselman’s father worked at the Coalhurst mine in the 1920’s and 30’s.  He worked above ground.  Mr. Wesselman went to the mine the day of the disaster.  He was only 11 and he didn’t really understand what happened.  People were gathered around waiting for news about those who were working underground. Later he worked as a miner himself in Shaugnessy and other places.  He was 19 and he got $4.20 a day.  Later he made $12.80 which was a lot of money back then.

Mr. Wesselman was not a fan of school  He got the strap a few times.  He attended school until grade eight and then quit.  Back then there was a Low School and a High School in Coalhurst.

Did you know there was a slag pile?  It was a pile of waste coal and shale from the mine.  Mr. Wesselman and his friends played on it in winter.  They used cardboard or even a car door they found in the dump to slide down.  They also liked to climb the water tower and find bird eggs.  They enjoyed hayrides and picnics, too.

Mr. Wesselman’s dad bought a farm after the mine closed down.  They grew gladiolas.  He lived on the farm for 52 years.  Lots of people remember being hired to pick the gladiolas when they were ready.  In the 1990’s Mr. Wesselman and his wife moved into Lethbridge for health reasons.

Grade 5/6 teacher Miss Hubber said, “Our classes were really honored to hear Mr. Wesselman talk about his life here as a child during the 30’s.”

March 10

The Writing of “When Life Gives You Lemons”

This story came from the grandmother of a student in one of our classes.  Vera Swartzkopf came to tell us the story of her eventful journey to the store in the summer of 1949.  She brought us ice cream to enjoy while she told her tale.  We learned a lot about life in the late 40’s and early 50’s in Coalhurst.  We learned about the stores in Coalhurst at that time.  One was called “Aunt Dodie’s” and it was in the owners living room!  Aunt Dodie loved children and sold mostly candy out a display cabinet next to her chesterfield.  Jaw breakers penny were a favorite.  Kids also bought other hard candies, suckers and even licorice.  Aunt Dodie liked the younger children and would often give them extra candy.  The older kids caught on to this and would get the little folk to go into the store for them so they could get more for their hard earned money.  She had a bell on her door so that if she was napping on her chesterfield, she would wake up when a customer came in to make a purchase.  Mrs. Willis also ran a store.  She had a grocery store.  You could buy things like a brick of ice cream for 25 cents, pop for 7 cents a bottle or hamburger for 50 cents a pound.  There was also Mrs. Deak who lived in the same building as her store which sold groceries and hardware.  You could buy everything from bread to rope.  There was a little competition between Mrs. Willis and Mrs. Deak and people would comparison shop, choosing the store with the cheaper price.  Groceries were put in brown paper bags and both stores were too small for people to need a shopping cart.

by Arnie

When Vera moved here in 1949 her home did not have electricity or running water.  Her family had a coal stove for cooking and heat and they used coal oil lamps for light.  Like almost everyone else in town, they had a large garden and even some livestock.  Apparently the Pelech chickens and turkeys were intimidating enough to force pedestrians to cross the road rather than risk attack!  They hauled water to fill a cistern and had an outhouse in the backyard.  So did the “Low School” when she started there in grade one in the fall of 1949. 

Since Vera told a story about lemonade, we made some.  Check out the “squeeze action” below. We used 20 lemons and got about 40 small cups of lemonade after we added water and…lots of sugar!

March 10

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Written by Shaye and Preston

By Jamey

Vera Pelech was just nine years old when she moved to Coalhurst in April of 1949. She spoke no English only German and Ukranian. In July that year, it was very hot.  Vera told her mom she really wanted ice cream and pop.  Her mom told her to go get it herself at Mrs. Willis’ store.  She explained that if she said “ice” and “lemonada” Mrs. Willis would probably know what she wanted.  Ice cream was “ice” in German and drink or pop was “lemonada”.  Vera went to the store, a bit nervous but excited.  She went to the counter and asked Mrs. Willis who owned the store for ice and lemonada.  Mrs. Willis gave her the ice cream but she didn’t understand what else Vera wanted.  Finally she gave her two lemons in a bag.  Vera was too shy to tell Mrs. Willis this wasn’t what she wanted so she took the bag and went home, crying all the way.  She didn’t know how she was going to explain to her mother that she had two lemons instead of the pop she had wanted.  It all turned out in the end.  Her mom told her it was fine and together they made lemonade out of the two lemons.  Vera is now 73 years young and still lives in Coalhurst.  She has never forgotten about the time life gave her lemons and she made lemonade!

March 3

The Frozen Coyote

by Hunter and Chapel

Mr. Bruno Chiste shared a story about his dad who was a miner in the 1930’s. His dad Mr. Adam Chiste was walking home from his shift at the mine. He was checking his trap line when he saw a coyote that appeared to be dead in a trap. He carried the coyote back over to his Italian friend’s house. The miners were mostly bachelors and they often played poker together after their shifts.  His friends were all playing poker when he got there. He threw the frozen coyote in the corner and started playing cards. Several hours later the coyote came back to life.  All the miners screamed like little girls and ran out of the house.  Adam Chiste never forgot about the coyote who came back from the dead. He often told this story to others including his son Bruno who passed it on to us.

by Carissa


March 2

Reflections on 1913

We don’t know much about what it was like here 100 years ago, yet.  Before we start digging, we decided to make predictions.  This is what we THINK it might have been like to live here 100 years ago.


In 1913 things must have been different. I think that people still used cars; just they weren’t as good as we have now. I think Coalhurst was bigger than it is now, and even bigger than Lethbridge. Maybe homes were small; maybe the school had only one room. I think that many men were miners and women barely ever had jobs. Boys and girls must have dressed differently. There was no T.V but I think kids might have listened to the radio for fun. I think they mostly spent their time playing outside.  I think families were a lot less strict but school was the opposite. I think they used telephones but the really old kind. Maybe very little people had electricity. Maybe very few had running water. I’m not sure what is was like 100 years ago but it must     have been different, that is all that I know.


 In 1913 things must have been different. I think there were 89 people living here. The people probably got around on horses to a grocery store in Coalhurst. I think that girls stayed at home and boys did all the work outside. I think that gas was $0.50 and if people bought a basket full  of groceries it would be $10.00. I think kids would listen to the radio and play outside for the whole day. I think their bathroom was like an outhouse but cleaner. Their school was probably a little building with three classes one for preschool and kindergarten and 1-2-3 4-6. That is what I think it was like here in 1913.


 Things in Coalhurst must have been different way back when 1913. That’s when Coalhurst was first incorporated. I think people possibly traveled by horse or buggy. Most people would work in the mine or on a farm.  I think the schools were small or there were no schools. Teachers would be very, very strict. Homes would be so small. There would be not many businesses. Things would cost $.25 or one dollar depending on what it was. The population was possibly 2000 people. That’s what I think it was like way back when in 1913.



In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different.  I think people mainly rode horses around.  School must have not been as safe and  I also think school would be much smaller.  I also believe that there were not many jobs so most people were miners.  Homes were much smaller.  Kids probably got entertainment from radios and things were probably much cheaper.  I also think that only a couple families would have had electricity.  There was not too much running water.  Most clothes would be plaid shirts.  I think the population was 102.  The roads would be dirt.  I wonder what my town was like 100 years ago?


In 1913 things  in Coalhurst must of have been different. I think the population was 85 people. I think lots of people worked in the mine. People might have used a radio for TV. I think the grain elevator was used for processing grain. People used to walk around and used horses. People used telegraph for communication. Kids probably played outside all day and came home for lunch. There was probably a grocery store and motel. This is what I think it was like here in 1913.     



 In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different. I think people traveled by Model T’s and buggies. School was probably small and strict. I think for jobs the most common were store owners, car washers and doctors. Most food would cost only a  few cents.  Passing a ball around or riding your bike was probably fun. The houses were probably small and you didn’t get your own room. I think the population was around 80 people.  This town has gone through many changes but I like the way it is now!       



 In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different.  I think all but the richest rode horses and the rich drove Model T’s.   I think girls wore long dresses and boy wore suspenders and shirts.  A candy store, a restaurant and a convenience store were here.  The kids played on the playground with friends most of the day.  At school if people talked they would get the strap and it would be one room.  The homes would be small and made out of bricks or wood.  In 1913 stuff was probably a lot different.



In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different. I think that most people traveled by horseback. I think that school wasn’t as good as it is today. I think that kids played with sticks, stones and dirt. I I think that instead of running water people just got a bucket and ran to a fresh water river. I think the population was somewhere around 509 people. I think that electricity was only for very rich people. I might not have been around way back then but I know that I would rather live right now than 100 years ago.       



In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different. I think they would drive horse and buggy.  Schooling would probably be in one room and I think the school would probably be somewhere else. I think gas would be way cheaper and the groceries would probably be too.  If you had a full cart of groceries I think it might have been around $60.  The population might have been 60 people.  I think kids would play in mud and would probably be at home most of the time. I think the parents where stricter for the kids to stay home more.  I think the houses might have been made out of bricks. They would have communicated with cans and string.  I think I would not like to live back then!


In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different. I think that children must have worked more because there were few machines. School must have been more strict to keep kids in line. I think kids walked to school from close farms. I think there were no cell phones if you wanted to call while in town you would have to call from a store. I think kids would have few toys to play with. After it rained they would play in the mud. I think kids would have had less time to play because they would be busy with chores.



In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different. I think the school was a small schoolhouse with no playground. I think they rode on horse and buggy, and some people had cars like Model T’s. I think they had a hospital, a bakery, a gas station, and a small store. I think the houses were small and made of sticks or mud and some people had houses made brick. Maybe bread cost $0.01 a loaf. We might have had a few hundred people. Some people might have lived here because of the mine. I think they used a hole in the ground for a bathroom. They might do their homework, go with friends, explore nature, or even listen to the radio for fun. Maybe they had LONG family talks. Things sure have changed a lot since 1913.


In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different. I think people traveled on trains and the school was by the train tracks. The population was around 1000. I think there were businesses like motels and grocery stores.  The homes were small and the jobs paid not that much money. I think kids could run around everywhere and their parents did not care as much as today. I think the women worked as maids and the men mined. They had no electricity and the bathrooms were outhouses.   Gas I think would be like a dollar to fill your tank. This is what I think Coalhurst has like in 1913.



 In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different. I think people got around on horse but rich people had cars. I think a car was like 20 dollars and a full tank of gas was 2 dollars maybe. Kids probably got in trouble more and they walked everywhere or rode on a bike. I think the school was at a different location. There were three rooms one for preschool to kindergarten, one for grade 1-3 and then  another one for grades 4 to 6. I think the homes were two bedroom and one bathroom. Man, I really hope things don’t go back to what they were like back then!



 In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different. I think that most of the people here were coal miners. Also the coal miners might have rode horses to work. Some of the businesses might have been a bank, a gas station, a restaurant, a post office, a pub, a mining and an old fashioned corner store. Maybe the people that weren’t miners had a hard time finding jobs. Thinking of that I wonder how schools were back then. Also I wonder how strict and mean the teachers were. I think the population was about 100 people. Also I think the homes were made out of wood, brick and were stinky and also to shower they used buckets of water and the toilets were holes in the ground. That’s what I think Coalhurst was like in 1913. 


 In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different. I think people traveled mostly by foot and some by horseback. Most houses were probably made out of wood or out of brick. I think there might have been a pub or a hotel in the town. I think the elevator on highway three might have been a grain elevator. It might not even have been there.  Back then I bet things were really cheap. Yup, things were very different back then.



In 1913 things in Coalhurst must have been different. I think people got around on horse and bikes. I think the old, old, old school was small, but had 3 floors. I also think that stores sold stuff that isn’t expensive to us but was to them. I think kids played with rocks, sticks and mud. The population was probably around 62. The most popular job was most likely coal mining. I think houses were made of wood and occasionally cement. I also think teachers were stricter. Boys and girls must have dressed differently. A LOT of things have changed since 1913!!


Many things were very different back in 2013 compared to now.  I do not think they had televisions or radios.  They probably had to play games like tag and kick the can for fun.  They might not have had playgrounds to play in but they could have had horses to ride and might have played baseball.  Most me would have been minders.  They probably worked hard for their familis.  I think many other languages were spoken because people came here from other countries.  I don’t think many people had cars so they had to walk everywhere.  There was probably no running water or electricity either.  I don’t think I would have like to live back then.  I would miss my T.V.


As a child living in Coalhurst in 2012 I can’t imagine what it was like in 1913. I think the kids then played in tents made with the blankets and sticks. There was a police station in town. I think kids walked a lot in 1913. Adults probably traveled by horse and buggy. Swimming was probably a fun summer activity and I think the people would swim in the river not in swimming pools. I think things would have been a lot harder back then and I am very happy to live in 2012!




February 18

The Writing of “When I’m 100..”

Last week, the grade 1/2 students at our school celebrated their 100th day of school.  Very exciting! There were all sorts of students decked out in “100”.  Even Mrs. Ronne and Mr. Prebushewski joined in the fun, coming around to classrooms adorned with 100 treats to share.  In honor the day and of Coalhurst’s approaching centennial, students wrote about what they think their lives will be like when they are one hundred years old.

The grade 5/6 students served as assistants, helping their grade 1/2 buddies stretch out words or locate them on word walls.  They brainstormed with them for details they might want to include and helped them to revise and edit their writing.  The grade 5/6 students will also be doing some writing on the “100” theme, authoring articles about what they they think Coalhurst was like when it first became incorportated in 1913.  Watch for those to be posted on this blog soon!

According to what the grade 1/2 students came up with, they are going to be very active right through till their hundredth birthdays!  It was so much fun to watch the older students, coaching the younger ones as they worked to celebrate their ideas in writing.  Can’t wait to see the faces of these young authors when they see what they have written online for the whole world to enjoy!  The stories are shared in voicethread format.  You are welcome to comment using the button at the bottom of the thread.  You can type, record voice or even webcam your encouraging words.  Just remember that all comments are moderated so no one else will see what you have posted until we approve it!