When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Community Spirit Photo Gallery

In May, 1923, a mild spring brought heavy rains and flooding occurred throughout the Pass. When Italians gathered, there were some essential recreational activities—playing bocce (a combination of lawn bowling and curling), impromptu soccer matches, climbing a greased pole and playing “tug-of-war.”  At this Italian picnic, we see the men demonstrating their strength to an appreciate audience of women.The Italian community of Coleman was almost a town within a town as this banquet photo makes clear. Among the participants are Ferucio DeCecco, Margaret and Bruno Gentile, Rosa and Orazio Celli, Katherine and Joe Alampi, Giorgio Aristone, Giovanna Alampi, Annie Marconi, Vera Feregotto, Julie and Ernest Lant, Mrs. Rinaldi, Mary Atkinson.Italian shareholders set up the Sunshine Mine near Wayne in 1921 and the Camp became a "Little Italy."  The Loggia Enrico Caruso, No. 16, in Drumheller, provided a focus for community activities, which included dinners, dances and musical performances.  This photograph of the women of the community preparing for a "spaghetti feed" is perhaps one of the last, happy community activities.  With mine closures, many families scattered to seek work elsewhere leaving the old people and those who had left the mines and found other careers in the Drumheller Valley.

Il Bosc [the wood] or Maple Leaf Bush Town, was a part of Bellevue from 1910 until the 1950s. Mining towns were largely company towns with many if not most buildings being erected by the mining company.  This early picture of Michel shows an orderly community with relatively new, well-built houses.  While this certainly was one reality, as miners’ testimony at the 1919 Alberta Coal Mining Commission, housing was frequently substandard and costly. For individuals who came to the coal mining communities as manual labourers, it was important to become a part of the mainstream.


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