Leisure and recreation

Despite the pioneer's struggles to survive, many happy activities took place at the community level. Sleigh rides at night filled the frosty air with the music of the sleigh bells as families gathered together at local halls or schools for concerts, whist drives, dances and special parties.

In fact, the use of sleigh bells was made compulsory in 1906 by Alberta's first Attorney General, J.J. Boyle. He originally began as a Partridge Hill teacher in 1895.

Well before the turn-of-the-century several lakes in modern day Strathcona County had become popular summer resorts. One of these was Sandy Lake in south Edmonton. The Edmonton Bulletin of July 1899 reported how crowds would gather and spend the day picnicking, sailing, rowing, bathing, horse racing and competing in various sporting events. Fred Ellet ran the lake as a resort until 1910.

Both the Crosswhite Lake and Ott's Lake in the Colchester area were used for swimming, boating and fishing in the summer, and for skating and hockey in the winter. The Lakes in the area provided services and entertainment the year round.

Hockey teams often built up around the lakes.

  • Bennett Lake, Dunn Lake and Hastings Lake provided hockey rinks for the Deville Dynamo's and the Hastings Fliers during the 1920s and 1930s.
  • Farther north, in the 1930s, the Scotford Rink Rats hockey team was formed, later becoming the Slough Rats (as they matured).
  • Their chief competition came from teams such as the Josephburg Jays and district teams like that from Mansfield.
  • Often members of the same family made up teams, such as the Kelly brothers, MacCrimmon brothers, and the three Cholowski brothers.

Baseball was also an early popular sport. Frank, Wally and Willie Ball, sons of John, played on Edmonton's first baseball team - the ball diamond is where the Hudson's Bay Store on Jasper Avenue was later built.

  • In 1915, at the Bremner Farmer's Picnic, a local team beat the Alberta Provincial Baseball Champions.
  • The same year, Mr. Edward Ashton from Josephburg was presented a trophy as the outstanding baseball pitcher in a league tournament.
  • In the 1930s a league was started with competition between Josephburg, Fort Saskatchewan, Gibbons, Ypres Valley and Bruderheim.
  • In the 1920s a league was formed made up of Pleasant View, Partridge Hill, Yorkville and Bremner. Ernie Hanlan and several of the Marler family were active players in this league.
  • Further south, the Wye Lakesiders, West Salisbury, Garden and North Cooking Lake also had active teams.

The most popular resort in the Edmonton area was Cooking Lake. A brief one hour trip from Edmonton via the Grand Trunk Pacific, with stops in Clover Bar, Bremner, Ardrossan and Uncas brought travellers to the North Cooking Lake station.

Visitors could stay at Mrs. McMenomy's Hotel, or spend the summer in any of a number of cottages along the north shore of Cooking Lake, including Mitchell's Cabins.

Mrs. McMenomy originally moved with her family from a store on Whyte Avenue to build a store on North Cooking Lake. This store was made of tenting with wooden walls and was used until 1914 when she built a new Store, Post Office, and Hotel. Mrs. McMenomy stayed in the area until 1957 while her latest building is currently used as a private residence.

As the town developed, businesses such as Saks lunch counter, pool hall and ice cream parlor were formed. A second store was built just beyond Saks, called Lorimer's Tea House, while a barber set up shop in town for the summer months only. There was also a butcher shop and a small lumber yard.

Cooking Lake became such a thriving area that at one point the Grand Trunk Pacific considered building a large resort hotel there, but decided to build the Jasper Park Lodge Hotel instead. The project was completely abandoned when the GTP went into bankruptcy.

Roy Gerolamy established a boat house, and from 1914 - 1926 he built row boats, sail boats and one motor launch - the Twin City III for John McNeill. Many passenger boats travelled between North and South Cooking Lake. The boats had exotic names such as Miss Edmonton, Neptune, Daisy Girl, Maxine Merry Maker, and Lady of the Lake.

The south side of Cooking Lake developed earlier than North Cooking Lake because the Old Carlton Trail passed by it, drawing in the fur trader's supply trains and the first settlers.

  • Sheriff Robertson, from Edmonton, arrived at South Cooking Lake with his wife and family in 1892.
  • Daniel Grummett settled on the south shore in 1893 and opened the first Post Office. A carpenter, Mr. Grummett built the district Anglican Church, as well as the fieldstone fireplace. Sheriff Robertson had the fireplace installed in a lodge he had built beside the lake in 1898.
  • Around 1900, Mr. Keen (Grandfather of the well-known radio personality Eddie Keen), built a greenhouse on South Cooking Lake. Mr. Keen was later to build a stopping house nicknamed The Honeymoon Hotel on a spot close to the Lake.
  • By 1908, families like Chadwick, Chambers, Upright, Kephart, Brown, Portas, Bell, Moneypenny, Haley, Baird, Westlake, and Fefieux had become well established on the South Shore and vicinity.
  • In 1910 and 1911, the Ministik Lake Summer Resort opened up on White Sands Beach. It consisted of cottages, a store and a passenger boat called the Daisy-Girl. The Summer Resort was jointly owned, by Mr. Frith and Mr. Hull - the latter was the editor of the Edmonton Bulletin.

Last updated: Friday, December 01, 2017
Page ID: 41149