At this meeting the name of the association was established as the “Dawson Co-operative Union” and the postal address as Pouce Coupe, B.C. (nearest post office).
The minutes carefully record:
a) The object of the association shall be as stated in Schedule A of the Co- operative Association Act of B.C.
b) The liabilities of stockholders shall be according to Section 5, article 2 of the act.
c) The capital of the association shall consist of an unlimited number of shares at $25 each.
d) The rules of the association shall be the rules of Schedule B of the act.
Unfortunately the minutes do not record at what time this meeting ended, but it must have been a long, long night.
The first general meeting of the shareholders was held in the Dawson Creek School (a one-room log cabin) on April 17, 1921. The minutes note that the Board of Directors had never been legally elected, but this was quickly rectified.
The meeting then adopted the memorandum for incorporation and the rules for the association, and moved to apply to the Registrar of Companies for incorporation.
No time was lost in proceeding with the decision. Communication by mail must have been a slow process, yet the official certificate of incorporation, issued by the Registrar of Companies, is dated May 28, 1921.
A share selling campaign was quickly organized. The share application forms were hand-written and men, with teams and on foot, toured the countryside asking homesteaders to invest a part of their few dollars in a co-operative store. Dollars were scarce — sugar cost $20 per 100 lbs. and flour was $10 per 100 lbs. When a homesteader ran out of money, Edmonton was the closest place where a job might be had.
The results of this share selling campaign is reported in the minutes of a meeting dated May 28, 1921. “Meeting was called for the purpose of receiving money from canvassers from shares sold by them, and to turn all available money over to Mr. Cusack, who is to go to Grande Prairie to purchase the first load of merchandise for the store.” The sum of $875 was turned over to Mr. Cusack at this meeting.
This early group was certainly aggressive! Obviously the shares were sold before the co-operative was incorporated and the money used to buy merchandise before they had a store building. The problem of a store building was solved on June 9, 1921. A motion moved by Wertenbaker, seconded by McDiarmid, that the Co-op rent the first store from Mr. Novak — building consisting of two rooms — for $200 per year, rent to be paid in advance in eight installments: first through fourth installment, one share each month in Co-op Union; fifth and sixth installment, $50 in merchandise; seventh and eighth, to be paid in cash if demanded by Mr. Novak. (Mr. Novak never demanded, he settled for two more shares).
On June 9, 1921 Mrs. Cusack was employed as store manager, on a commission of 4% of the sale. A year later she resigned and Mr. A. Shaw became manager.
The association’s first building program was promoted by the shareholders at a general meeting held August 27, 1921. The president was instructed to have a shed built (size 8 x 12 feet) for the purpose of storing oils. This meeting moved to retain the profits in a reserve fund for the welfare of the Co-op and to close the store on Sundays.
In June of 1922 the association presented its first financial statement and showed a profit of $350.86. This same meeting considered joining the Co-operative Union of Canada, but cash was much too short.
In January 1923 the association declared it’s first dividend of 8% on share capital and 2% refund on shareholders purchases, and the reserve fund was increased (no mention is made of the income tax dept.)
The annual meeting of 1923 made it easier for new members to join. “We admit new members who are willing to pay $5 down on a share, the balance to be made up by dividends, and that no dividends be withdrawn by those members till the share is paid up in full”.
Mr. Shaw resigned in March 1923 and was replaced by the late E.L. Hauger, who managed the store till his retirement on December 31, 1944. Mr. Hauger came to the association with several years’ experience in privately owned stores in Norway and Co-operative stores in North and South Dakota. Mr. Hauger was too good a storekeeper to be satisfied with the inadequate store building and stock that he had to work with. He sold some shares and arranged to borrow money from shareholders, sometimes on his own personal guarantee and this promoted a building program. The minutes best describe the building process: ” a store building 30 x 36 feet. Mr. Bill Neve’s’ offer to give a building site was accepted… and the building committee be limited to not more than $300 cash expenditures on the building.” The new store was completed and was in use until the fire in February of 1943 which nearly destroyed the building along with a block of the downtown business area.