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Recollections of Life in the “Sunshine Camp”

By Tegla Clozza

Page 1 | 2

Dad and Mother (Mr. and Mrs. S. Stocco), honeymooning from Italy, came to Canada in 1913, settling in Calgary. Then they moved to Drumheller, finishing off part of a building that was a boarding house and grocery store combined, the "Roma Grocery", which was later sold to De Bernardo. This building in later years was the Frozen Food Locker on Railway Avenue, now demolished. In 1921, they moved to a camp, "Sunshine" two miles north of Wayne. A group, of shareholders taking over a mine, having its own power house, kept this running for twelve years. (The following is a reminiscence of the general life of people in the camp.)

Family groupings, such as this, are significant because they signal a shift from a “men only” society to one centered around the family.  This happened in the period 1910 to the 1920s.  Canada had passed the test and was a country  were roots were put down.  Restrictive immigration after World War I, which allowed only agricultural labourers into the country, meant that family reunification was the principal means of “growing” the community.Home Life — Having no electricity, coal oil lamps were used, pails were hung by ropes into a well serving as refrigeration; in the winter the weather took care of this. We had coal stoves and out-door privies. The homes inside were roughly finished. There were wide boards nailed throughout. Winter time, we Judged the cold by the higher frozen nail, whereas with summer rains, containers were placed here and there to catch the dribbles of water seeping in. Mouse traps were in most corners of the homes. The summers were great for continual swimming in the creek. Apart from this, there were only sponge baths or our yearly trip into Calgary, and the glory of getting into a real bath tub. All laundry was done by hand, in tubs, using wash-boards.Sunshine Camp - 1920s

Food was one thing that was never lacking. There was always a coop full of chickens, eggs daily, cows — therefore plenty of milk, butter and cheese, pigs and geese. I would see Mom cramming sopped bread down their throats to fatten and rush their growth. There were also rabbits and pigeons, and fishing right after the ice-break. They used a man-made net, placed across the width of the river, this was made from tree twigs, with an interlocking one in front; the fish swam in, and there was no way out. This was set down at night, hauled in in the morning. A few days of this and there were plenty of fish for all at the camp, the "Ling" being everyone's favorite. Every family had their own beautiful garden of vegetation. Yes, one thing — there was always a scarcity of "Dandelions" for salads.Sunshine Camp - Sunshine Mine Tipple - 1920s

Early mornings, when the line-up of box cars were brought to the mine, these were also used to haul wheat; therefore, there was always a surplus of wheat left in corners, behind boards, on the floor, to be swept up. It was a mad scramble helping the mothers that were jumping in and out of box-cars with pails and brooms, salvaging a delicacy for their chickens.

We walked along the double tracks two miles to school in Wayne, packing our lunch buckets, and back in the evening. Even after the rough gravel road went through, we still kept to the tracks, as it was shorter. In the winter very often we walked along the river bed. this being quite a shelter from the sharp north winds. There were many mornings that we were thankful, and will never forget the trainmen, Mr. Jack Pitts, Mr. Bill Patterson, Mr. Joe Hughes, (the train on the run) helping us up into the caboose.

One morning clear in my mind, one of the boys said, "here comes a train", another one screamed, "here comes another one". I would call that "fate" that we all joined hands and jumped down the embankment. If caught between two trains, we were told not to panic, but lie flat down on the ground. There were thirteen children in all walking the tracks. In twelve years of school there was one fatality.

The article titled "Recollections of Life in the Sunshine Camp" is reprinted from The Hills of Home: Drumheller Valley (Drumheller, Alberta: Drumheller Valley History Association, 1973). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner Consortium (of which the Atlas Coal Mine is a member) express their thanks to the author's family and the Drumheller Valley History Association for this material.

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