Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and their invasion of the Aleutian Islands Japan became a very real threat to the North American continent, especially Alaska, which is American and the Yukon Territories, which is Canadian. Therefore, a highway over which the United States could rush supplies and troops, if necessary, to her colony, Alaska, became an imperative need. Arrangements were made with the Canadian Government, giving the United States the privilege of building such a road for American use for the duration of the war. Thus, with all speed, regardless of cost in finance, materials and even lives, this gigantic task was undertaken. Workers, both military and civilian came from all parts of the United States and Canada.
With Dawson Creek, at that time, being the end of the railroad, materials, supplies and workers arrived by rail to leave by truck for use and duty along the great Alaska Highway. Ten thousand trucks roared along the local roads. One thousand a day left Dawson Creek, heavily loaded with the necessary supplies and personnel. The road was pushed forward at the rate of eight miles a day, through thick forests, uninhabited wilderness, mud and more mud and muskeg, so that nine months from the start, traffic was going along the highway from Dawson Creek, “Mile O” to Fairbanks, Alaska, “Mile 1600”.
During the months that followed, the road was enlarged and improved and when the threat from Japan ceased to exist, supplies were still rushed along the highway to Whitehorse, and thence to Fairbanks, and from there, transported to aid in the war against Germany.
In the midst of all this activity, The Salvation Army appeared in the person of Major C.C. Clitheroe, who was appointed to the area and arrived on August 1943 to commence the work of The Salvation Army here. American soldiers told of receiving letters from others of their buddies on other battlefronts, where The Salvation Army was at work. Loved ones here received letters from the boys overseas, written on Salvation Army stationery. Now The Army was opening fire in the thriving metropolis which Dawson Creek had become.
Major Clitheroe arrived in Dawson Creek with tambourine, which had been donated by a comrade in Edmonton, and songbooks, also a donation from Edmonton. He held an open-air meeting on his first Saturday night in town. A cabin was loaned to him for his own sleeping accommodation and with the pledged support of the Town Councilors and businessmen, the work of The Salvation Army began.
A large Mission showhouse building, seating three hundred was used for meetings and the Kansas Bridge and Construction Company sent buses to bring the men to the meetings. An appeal was made to the United States Army officials for a building for The Salvation Army. However, nothing was available. Through arrangements made with the Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters in Edmonton, and Territorial Headquarters in Toronto, the funds from the first red Shield Campaign held in Dawson Creek were turned over to the Building Project. In spite of the scarcity of building materials and lack of efficient help, a building was erected and ready for occupancy by the time Mrs. Clitheroe and the family arrived in November. It was officially opened November 28, 1943. An assistant, Captain Bill Carey, had also arrived by this time. At the opening, the late Mr. Glen Braden spoke, representing the citizens of the Peace river Block. Mrs. Calverley also spoke, representing the ladies.
The bible message was delivered by Lieutenant Colonel Ursaki, the Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army. The meeting closed with the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” and God Save the King.”
Shortly after the hall was completed word came through that the Salvation Army could have sufficient panels to erect a building for their work, from the appeal made earlier to the United States Officials. This offer was accepted and a second building was started at the rear of the first, with volunteer labor and assistance from the contractor who had built the first building. A four-roomed building was erected in which accommodation was made available for truckers, many of whom were still without accommodation. It was felt that The Salvation Army could fill a real need by making provision for these men. On January 1, 1944 — before the interior of the building was completed — two men asked for and were given permission to sleep in the building. From that date, men flocked to The Salvation Army Hostel. Getting supplies of bedding and other necessities for the Hostel was a problem and money paid in by those who used the building was used to pay for supplies of bedding. These were difficult to obtain. However, the supply was built up, and soon thirty-five men a night were finding shelter under the Army roof. They willingly paid seventy-five cents each for a clean comfortable bed.
When the highway was completed and the truckers gradually moved out to other parts, the building was used for “Rummage”, and to accommodate the “Transient” population such as uses the Salvation Army Hostel accommodation in other Canadian centers. A log building at 1624 on Fourth Avenue was bought for living quarters for the officers, being the only building available in those days of great scarcity of living accommodation. The inside walls were covered with rough building paper and left much to be desired, but it was a veritable palace in comparison to some of the tiny shacks and trailers used by others. Three families were living in it at the time of purchase.
For some months, the officers conducted a morning Sunday School in the front room of the Quarters. The numbers attending this Sunday School became so large it became necessary to have a building in this area to provide a place for these children to attend Sunday School. Through the kindness of the late Mr. A. Chamberlain, a building was obtained and moved from another part of town and placed on the back of the Quarters lot. Volunteers including Mr. Windlinger, Mr. Kirkman, and the late Mr. Clarence Fox, as well as others, using equipment loaned by the Spinney Company, set the building up in its present location. Mr. Kirkman was hired to finish the inside of the building and to put a new roof on.
Furnishings for the main hall, up town, were donated. The penitent form was given in memory of Mr. Hugh Byce by his wife and was paid for with his last earnings as a shoemaker. The organ was donated by the First United Church. A second organ for the Young Peoples Hall in the west end was donated by Mrs. A. Chamberlain. The piano was brought out from Ontario by Mrs. Clitheroe and purchased by the Corps. A member who was moving away donated dishes to the Home League.
The Home League began soon after Mrs. Clitheroe arrived, when she invited her neighbors in for afternoon tea. Soon this was a thriving group of busy and hard-working women, sewing sheets, pillowcases, and towels to furnish the Hostel. In this and many other ways they gave help to the local work of the Army. Among the first ladies to become part of the group were Mrs. R. H. Moffatt and Mrs. Lillian Fox, who served as secretaries for the group. The first Red Shield Campaign was held in 1943, and there has been a Campaign every year since that time.
The support and cooperation given during the years is much appreciated. Through this, many have been helped who needed practical assistance in varied ways, and the work of The Army has been carried on, not only in Dawson Creek, but around the world. Within three years from its beginning in Dawson Creek, the Corps was free of its $8,650 liability for its building here.
During these early years, an Outpost Sunday School was held at South Dawson at the invitation of Mrs. A. Breault. Meetings were also held at the small settlement at the Peace River Bridge.
In 1946, Major and Mrs. Clitheroe received farewell orders and left Dawson Creek’s Salvation Army work to Adjutant and Mrs. Newby, who had been appointed to replace them. Captain Carey had moved from Dawson one year earlier in 1945, but was reappointed in 1947, assisted by Lieutenant Robert Chapman. The first visitor from territorial Headquarters in Toronto came to Dawson Creek in December 1947. He was then Territorial Spiritual Special Major William Ross, who, some years later became the Divisional Commander for this area.
In February 1948 the interior of the main hall received its first coat of paint — a real improvement. Two years later linoleum tile was laid, greatly enhancing the appearance of the Hall.
Shortly after the Radio Station [CJDC] opened in Dawson Creek, the Ministerial Association was given the one hour period between eleven and twelve on Sunday mornings to broadcast the morning worship service of the various churches. The Army had their turn every eight weeks to take this broadcast. They also contracted for a half- hour Sunday evenings. This broadcast was known as Salvation Echoes.
In November 1948 the first anniversary of the Corps was celebrated with special weekend meetings conducted by Captain S. Nahirney of Grande Prairie. New officers Quarters were purchased at 1113-103 Avenue in July 1950. Captain Carey had just moved in when he received farewell orders, to move in September. Lieutenant and Mrs. Ernest Burkholder came to take command of the Corps in October. One of their first responsibilities was to furnish the new Quarters with the necessities to make it comfortable.
In May 1951, the Army joined with six other Protestant churches in Dawson Creek, in sponsoring a Spiritual Campaign under the leadership of the Delzell Party from Winnipeg. New families were brought into the Army, as a result of this Campaign.
In October 1951, a Corps Cadet Brigade was formed. This is a group of young people who enroll in a five-year Bible Study Course, for which they receive Certificates of Merit for each course completed and a graduate certificate upon completion of the full course. Three new soldiers were enrolled in the Christmas candle light service in December.
By 1952, the hall uptown was badly in need of repairs and renovations. Some work was done such as installing double doors, new light fixtures, putting plywood on the inside walls and redecorating. The outside walls received a coat of stucco, which greatly improved the appearance of the Army’s place of worship. The young people’s hall in the west end was also improved with brick veneer siding on the outside walls and linoleum for the floors. By this time, the first quarters for the officers had been sold to Mr. G. W. Clease, with the Army retaining the back portion of the lot and the Sunday School hall. Later in 1958, this was also sold to Mr. Clease.
In June 1958, Captain and Mrs. Burkholder received farewell orders and Lieutenant and Mrs. Carl Bowes arrived early in July to take command. In September of that year, the nucleus of a band was formed and learners’ classes began. The young people involved found this very enjoyable and were soon playing for the meetings. A station wagon was purchased which was a real help to the officer in his work.
Christmas cheer kettles appeared on the streets of Dawson Creek for the first time in 1953. In June 1954 the newly formed band held a concert which was enjoyed by a capacity crowd of nearly 200. June 1954 also brought farewell orders for Captain and Mrs. Bowes and their son Carlson.
Senior Captain and Mrs. Earle Jarrett with their son David arrived in July, only to farewell in November when Lieutenant and Mrs. Melvin Robinson arrived to take charge. The work of the Army was carried on by these young officers with the help of the local soldiers. The highlight of their stay was the spiritual campaign conducted by Envoy Charles Dee of Calgary which brought much blessing and spiritual awakening. Lieutenant and Mrs. Robinson had arrived as a newly married couple and in June 1957, they farewelled with their two young sons. Another newly married couple, Lieutenant and Mrs. T. S. Wagner then took command.
In September 1957, Cadet Robert Moffatt farewelled for the training college in Toronto, where he was trained as an Army officer. He is presently serving as an Army missionary.
By May 1959 the main hall uptown had become unsafe for public use and was vacated. Ernie Smith moved it to a spot across the Kiskatinaw River on the Alaska Highway. Services were then held in the old Elks Hall on Tenth street. This proved to be too expensive an undertaking, so the living room of the officers quarters was converted to a place of worship. Meetings were held there until the new hall was ready for occupancy some months later.
Excavation for the new hall commenced in November 1959, around the same time as a new Volkswagen van was purchased. On March 18, 1960 the new Salvation Army Citadel was officially opened and dedicated by Commissioner Wycliffe Booth, grandson of the Founder of The Salvation Army. Mr. Glen Braden, who had spoken at the opening of the first building, also brought greetings at this meeting. The Mayor Mr. John Wilcox and M.L.A. Mr. Gus Henderson also spoke.
Farewell orders came in June for Captain and Mrs. Wagner and their children Debbie and Mark. Their successors, Captain and Mrs. Douglas Moore, arrived early in July. Under their leadership the Corps work went ahead. With the excellent help of the locals the Sunday School work showed marked progress with good use being made of the fine new facilities. A League of Mercy group was formed and became very active with visitation of shut-ins and patients in hospitals. In addition to regular visits there were treats given at Christmas and Easter. Captain and Mrs. Moore led the Corps for three years. When they left in June 1963 they were succeeded by Captain and Mrs. Gordon Kerr.
Many interesting events took place during the Kerrs stay here including the visit of a thirty-five piece Young People’s band from Calgary. The Corps here came of age during this time. These twenty-first anniversary services were under the leadership of Brigadier and Mrs. Gerald Wagner of Calgary. During the Kerrs three Christmases here, over four hundred hampers were distributed to needy families of the area. While Captain and Mrs. Kerr were here, they had the honor of being chosen as delegates to the Salvation Army International Centenary Congress in London, England. In June 1966, the Army wheel turned again and Captain and Mrs. Kerr farewelled. Captain and Mrs. William Bird followed them. Captain Bird had worked with Major William Leslie in the Harborlight work in Vancouver and in October, the Harborlight Combo group came with Major Leslie and conducted weekend meetings. Their visit gave those who attended a good insight into the great work that was being done by the Army for those on “Skid Row”.
Captain and Mrs. Bird were followed a year later by Captain and Mrs. Eric Tennant, who came from Terrace, B.C. Under their leadership the Army’s work continued to thrive. During their stay there were a number of fires, and the Army gave assistance by serving refreshments to the firemen as well as helping the burned out families to re-establish themselves. Some three hundred hampers were distributed during their two Christmases here.
1967, was the world wide, Home League diamond Jubilee, with special services being held. November 1968 marked twenty-five years of operation in Dawson Creek.
Captain William Clarke gave leadership to these Silver Anniversary celebrations, which lasted from Tuesday evening through the Sunday evening. On the Thursday evening, refreshments were enjoyed after the meeting and a special Anniversary cake was cut and served. A guest book was presented to the Corps by Grannie McRann on behalf of the Home League. Letters of congratulation were received from all the former Corps Officers. Also in 1968, Captain Robert Moffatt with his wife and small son returned to his home Corps to conduct weekend services prior to their departure for South America on Missionary Service. June 1969 brought farewell orders for Captain and Mrs. Tennant and their two children, Dawson and Shirlee.
During the summer months of 1969, Cadet and Mrs. Rowsell from the training college in Toronto took charge of the Corps until Auxiliary Captain Harper Simmons was appointed Pro Tem in September. Later he and Mrs. Simmons were welcomed as the Corps Officers.
The work of the Army in all its avenues of service was carried on, with a few new ideas, such as a Banquet at Christmas for the paperboys, and also a dinner Christmas day for those who lived alone. In that year the Cheer Kettles were also out in Fort St. John.
Day camps for the children were undertaken, with tents pitched on the back lawn and a program that held something of interest for all ages. Camp opened each morning around 9:30 a.m., and closed with a singsong around the campfire at 4:00 p.m. These were much enjoyed by all who took part.
The packing and distribution of hampers and Sunshine bags at Christmas as well as all the other activities of the Corps were kept alive and active under Captain and Mrs. Simmons fine leadership. When they farewelled in June of 1972 Lieutenant and Mrs. Roger Marsh were appointed, and they led the Army in Dawson Creek, for one year.
Presently the Salvation Army interest and work is under the leadership of Lieutenant and Mrs. John Hewitt, who arrived in Dawson with their three daughters in July of 1973. Things have been happening in the Salvation Army. February saw five new ladies enrolled as members of the Home League. Easter Sunday was a grand day which started with a Sunrise Service with about seventy people present, then a breakfast with about eighty people enjoying ham and eggs. About seventy people attended the morning worship service.
Easter Sunday evening saw thirteen young people march in under the flag, resplendent in their own flags, and take their place on the platform. By doing this, these young people declared their love for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Weeks of preparation, learning about the Salvation Army and about God had preceded, and now they were to be enrolled as Junior Soldiers — Junior members of the Salvation Army.
In the Army’s open-air work, they usually say follow the band back to the hall, but on June the 9th, it had a different twist. Lieutenant had gone out to do the service at the fair grounds for the Wally Byam Caravan, but rain prevented the service from going on. Lieutenant invited them to come and join us in the Army hall. “Just follow the Van”, he said. So follow the van they did, through the city to the Army hall. The joint service packed the hall with approximately 109 people. We enjoyed the shared fellowship, and are looking forward to the return of the Caravan in August.
Looking forward, there are a few plans we hope to see materialize, including a week long camp for the children, a drive-in church held each Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m. on the Co-op parking lot, from July 7 to August 25 inclusive. The public is invited to drive in and join in fellowship. A musical presentation called “Jesus Folk” is to be put on by a group of sixty young people from Edmonton on October 12.
I n closing I will just say, that although the leadership of the Army has been under the direction of many officers the motto and purpose is still the same, “striving to serve the community, regardless of race, color, or creed, with heart to God and hand to man.”