When I undertook to give a talk about the annual Legion sports of 1938 to 41 inclusive I soon found the Murphy’s law of perversity was working overtime as far as I was concerned, especially the first three lines which read as follows. “Noting is as easy as it looks. Everything takes longer than you think and if anything can go wrong it will.”
My first obstacle was when I found that the Legion books and records were all destroyed by fire at the time the post Office burned to the ground in 1944. Alf Sharp, the postmaster, was also secretary of the Dawson Creek Legion and the memories of others that might know something about it. So bit by bit I have packed together a story that I hope will interest you.
So rather than talk about our ups and downs to any extent I agreed to tell about the Legion sports and a little about the Legion picnics for WW II before they are completely forgotten.
First about the Legion picnics. The Pouce Coupe, Dawson Creek, and Sunset Prairie Legions got together to hold the annual picnic. I think the first one was held in 1933 by the Arras bridge in a little field on the west side of the Kiskatinaw River.
The field was on the Mark Devereaux farm that later became the property of Art Young. The next year it was decided to have the picnic at the Forester farm in the South Peace area. The Forester farm is now the property of the Girl Guides. However, due to the problem of keeping gates closed it was decided after two years to have the picnics on the Walter Walsh farm. There was a fine open space there with bush on two sides and it was close enough to the river for swimming. Ed Anderson would take his truck and very generously give a ride to some of the people from Dawson Creek who did not have transportation of their own. He would pick up more along the road, so that when he got to the picnic grounds, the truck box would be full of people. There would be home-made beer on the scene and there must have been some master brewers among those war veterans, because I have heard quite a number of people say that the homemade beer was much better than what the breweries made. There were some very good wine makers among them too. I don’t want any one to get the idea that these people were bootleggers. I have never heard of a single one of those people ever selling beer or wine. They could not afford to buy beer so they made it for their own consumption and to have a drink with any friends that happened to drop in.
There was always a crown and anchor board at the picnic and the money of course went to the Legion coffers. There were races, jumping contests, etc. and there was always a big tug of war. Sunset Prairie against Dawson Creek. It was supposed to be the veterans alone but there were grown-up sons and husky teenagers. They would jump in to help out, so in the end there would be all that could get a hold of a 50-foot rope pulling on each side. No one ever won because they always ended up accusing the other side of cheating, all in fun of course. Pete Hyndman used to play the bagpipes and after a delicious supper there would be a singsong before we all went home. The arrival of the Americans to build the Alaska Highway finished the joint picnics.
In 1938 the three legions decided to sponsor a giant sports day for all the school children in the Peace River block that could get there. It was a huge undertaking at that time due to lack of money, lack of transportation, lack of good roads and of bridges on the rivers.
There were two bridges on the Kiskatinaw River and about two on the Pouce Coupe River and that was all on the rivers. There were very few miles of graveled road and no gravel on the streets of Dawson Creek. There were no school buses at that time so the only way to get the children to town was with trucks and not very many of them. Most of the trucks were three-ton trucks with grain boxes on them. The boxes were usually 6 to 9 feet wide inside about 10 feet long and 4 feet deep. They would put a couple of benches in the box for the kids to sit on, then a truck would pick up a load at each school. Both children and grown ups, if there was room for them. All the schools from north of the Peace River were invited and they came from as far as Murdle and Rose Prairie. Those from north of the river came down the day before and camped in Dawson Creek overnight. Those from south of the river came in the morning of the sports. It must be remembered that it was a huge community effort and the truckers neither asked for nor received any remuneration for their efforts. I cannot begin to name them all but just about everyone who had a big enough truck helped out. There was Ed Anderson with his trucks. Don Linklater, Efner Johnson, Buster Babcock, Archie Trail, Joe Ralph, Herb Needles and a few more. From north of the river there was Ross Smith, Leash Callison, Frank Butch and others. Three schools that could not come due to lack of roads were Moberly Lake, Hudson’s Hope and Attachie. Hudson’s Hope and Attachie made it for the last sports day in 1941. By 1941 trucks had become more numerous which made it easier to get the children to town. The people in town of course helped to make the sports a success by donating prizes and their time. It was an all out effort with everyone that was able and helping out. It was a wonderful example of co-operation to give the children one big day in the year. At 11:00 o’clock there was a parade. The Dawson Creek band under the direction of Milo Grubb led off from the edge of town with the groups from each school following. The parade went from 12th Street on 102nd Avenue to 10th Street then south 2-1/2 blocks to the sports ground. After the parade they had lunch. People brought their own lunches. Then they ran off the athletic events. There was running, jumping, and skipping contests. The prizes were not very valuable but who cared? It was a wonderful day for the kids. The smaller children from 6 to 9 or 10 who competed but did not win got something like candy or balloons. The water for Dawson Creek had to be hauled with horses and wagons, from a spring near the top of Bear Mountain south of town on what is now 17th Street. On sports day the water was donated to the out of town people free of charge. One of the water haulers was our old friend Jack Kennedy. At the 1940 Legion Sports, Bill Patterson (son of the late Jack Patterson) flew a little plane by remote control from about where the swimming pool now stands over to 13th Street where it crashed into a fence on the racetrack. The wing spread on the plane was about 6 feet and the fuselage about three feet long with a little gas engine. It went up about 200 feet in the air. I guess that was the first step to putting a rocket on the moon. I have been told that the Linklater boys also made a little plane and it flew from about where the Co-op parking lot now is, up and landed in Bob Nils’ grain field not far from where the Grandview School now stands. The late Eric Erickson also made planes at that time.
To get back to the parade again. In 1938 only one school had uniforms — that was North Pine. The idea caught on and the next year they all had uniforms of different colours. The uniforms were easy to make and did not cost much as they used cotton material. Shorts with blouses and running shoes. Some had caps to match the uniform. They all looked quite nice, but the children did not keep step with the band in 1938. The late Jack Quait who had been teaching at Moberly Lake and was a spectator at the parade decided something should be done about it. That September he came to teach the Arras school and the next spring he got busy and trained the kids to march. When the 1939 Legion Sports day rolled around, the Arras kids marched smartly in step with the band and the others did not. The executive of the legion were so pleased that as a special prize the Arras kids all got a free ticket to the movies that evening. That idea caught on so the next year all the other schoolteachers had their kids trained to keep step with the band.
In 1939 the Pouce Coupe, Dawson Creek and Sunset Prairie legions got together and gave 10 students a free trip to Edmonton to see the King and Queen — 5 boys and 5 girls were picked. They were chosen from School District #59. The ones that got the most points in the various athletic events in the different age groups. While many children went to Edmonton the ones that the legions sponsored were, as near as I have been able to learn, were as follows:
Marjory McGillvary Doug Halliday
Gwen Wilcox Jack Linklater
Joyce Lineham John Nils
Violet Hopkins Everett Hall
Hazel Thompson Alf Walsh
Marjory McGillvary was in charge but when they got to Edmonton she more than had her hands full. Tom Norman, who had gone to Edmonton, saw her predicament and helped her look after the rest of them and keep them together.
The Legion sports were never rained out but in 1941 there was a heavy rain late in the evening that caught some of the theatregoers before they got home. In 1942 the American Army came in to build the Alaska Highway and that finished the Legion sports. It was a fine community effort and a mighty big day for the children. In closing I would like to thank all the people that helped one out with information to make this talk possible. I have been carrying a notebook so if I thought of something I could write it down, or if I met someone that knew something about it I could write that down. Maybe this little talk will bring back a few fond memories and thank you all for listening.