Mr. Ravelli was the only member of the chartered group who had previous Co-op experience. [Editor’s note: E.L. Hauger was also familiar with Co-ops in both Norway and the Dakotas] He was a miner in Coleman, Alberta in 1912 when he was drawn into a movement to form a similar business. “None of us miners had any experience, and we started to sell our goods at cost.” There was such a furor from other merchants, that soon the wholesale house would not even sell to the miners for cash, so they began using the dividend system.
Mr. Ravelli left his directorship and the mine in 1917 and bought a farm and shortly afterward heard about the Peace River area from friends. After a visit here, he made up his mind to sell out and move north. He intended to ranch, till he found how much winter feed was needed to raise cattle. “I was so discouraged when we first arrived that I was ready to go back immediately.” The only thing that stopped him was his wife, who refused to travel back over the road. It had rained all the way from Grande Prairie, and the mud was up to the wagon axles.
When the Co-op first started out, very few of those participating had much money. The majority were only able to invest $5 or $10. “We almost went broke, but a lot of credit is due Ed Hauger, the one who really helped the business get going. Everyone supported the move one hundred percent. If it had not been for the early support we would have gone broke”, said Ravelli.
Mr. Ravelli recalls an incident when he went to Pouce Coupe to pick up the mail. The store owner there said that he would bet the Co-op would be broke in three months. “I just happened to have a $20 bill, but he said my word was good enough. So when we were still in business after three months, he backed out on the deal!”
The business was very shaky when Ed Hauger was given the job as manager. He was a good businessman, as he had run a store in the old country.
During the depression, the manager knew enough to buy just the necessities. Mr. Ravelli said that he remembers when Mr. Hauger would announce a new shipment arrived and people who could afford it would buy sugar, coffee, and tea–then leave the goods in their open sleights or wagons! “This stuff would sit right out on the road in the open and nobody would touch it”, he said. “Displays of wire or block salt outdoors, never would be taken into the store at night.” The people of this area are honest, wonderful people, says Mrs. Ravelli, and I love them and the country.