LIVING HISTORY: EDITH EARL
Edith Earl came to Calgary from her family farm near the small town of Sibbald, Alberta, just east of Hanna. She was working as a maid for the Judge Scott family in Mount Royal, when she met her husband George on a blind date in 1942. A close friend, Fred, insisted she come to a New Years Eve Dance. When she tried to decline the invitation, Fred insisted saying, “I’ve got the tickets and I have the man.”
After marrying in 1944, George and Edith spent their first two years in a suite at 816-13th Ave. SW. It was at that time that George, a carpenter, started looking for vacant lots in the area. He found a lot in Sunalta at 1639-12th Ave. SW and bought it for $1000. At that time the city was also offering a year of free taxes if you were living on your lot within a year of purchase. George completed the house within that time, and the Earl family hoped to celebrate Christmas of 1945 in their new home. However, with temperatures at 30 below the city was unable to hook up their water. They moved in on January 8 and still got their year of free taxes.
Mrs. Earl vividly remembers the Valentine’s Tea she attended just after they moved in. She wheeled her son - George and Edith had three children, two boys and a girl - over to the community hall (on 10th Ave.) in his carriage and had the grandest welcome. Girls from the community had made aprons and caps out of crepe paper for the tea. The Sunalta Hall was the centre of the community. It saw many teas, bingos, and card games, which were especially popular in the winter months. Also in the winter there were two ice rinks behind the hall - one for skating and one for hockey. Skaters sat around the pot-bellied stove in the hall while lacing up their skates. The Earl’s also flooded their garden every winter and had a skating rink in their backyard.
The Earl’s were very involved in the community. Mrs. Earl remembers helping out in the kitchen for many events and George served as Treasurer for the community association. She also remembers the Jalbing family spending many hours serving the community; Ralph and his son Irving were the rink caretakers for many years, flooding the rinks late at night. Ralph, a trucker, moved the new community hall to its current site after the first one burned down.
When the Earls moved to Sunalta in 1948, the streetcar was still running on 12th Ave. and the roads were gravel. The Earls used the streetcar regularly, which ran from 20th St. to downtown, but always had a car. There was a drugstore on the corner of 12 Ave. facing south, then Jenkins Store run by Mr. White, then Mr. Tinney’s meat market. There was also a Safeway on 17th Ave. where a McDonald’s now stands, and Model Dairies was nearby, where you could get milkshakes for 25 cents. There was a local milkman, Frank Keeler, and a produce man, a Chinese immigrant, who travelled by horse and cart selling vegetables and bananas.
Mrs. Earl has lived in Sunalta for 60 years and her husband George has been gone for 18 years, although she says it doesn’t seem like it. The names of her neighbours have changed but the views from her front and back windows haven’t much. Twelfth Ave. was always a major street, though traffic has increased. Apart from an apartment across the street where Mr. and Mrs. Paddy raised both their family and their chickens – and the absence of the Cottage School, where her three children attended grades 1 through 3 – many of the houses around her still stand.
She expects she’ll have to move into a senior’s lodge in the next few years, but will leave with many wonderful Sunalta memories. “I’ve counted ten couples around me that are gone. Just gone.” She can name many of the long gone families like it were just yesterday. These days a lot of people are always on the move – looking for bigger houses, different jobs, newer houses. But in the days when Mrs. Earl was raising a young family, it was more common for people to stay put. She can name many of the long-term residents just looking out her window: Mrs. Johnson and her daughter in the peach house on the corner of 16th St. and 15th Ave., the Rooney’s just behind her who owned a local garage, and Mrs. Morton at 1708 13th Ave.
One change that Mrs. Earl welcomes is the new young families moving into Sunalta. We have a strong community association committed to preserving the safe and family friendly history of Sunalta. She wants the young people of the community to continue to work hard. She suspects once she moves out of her house, her house will be gone too, a casualty of the changing face of our city. Such a beautiful, well cared for home, full of memories may end up just a memory too – though it will always be part of Sunalta’s rich history.