When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Camillo Bridarolli

Probably the commonest sight in the Lethbridge coal district was the numerous tipples, which marked all of the commercial mines. The name “tipple” was first given to an apparatus used for tipping loaded coal cars, then came to mean the place where such tipping was done. Loaded coal cars were elevated into the tipple and the coal was weighed, cleaned, screened and sized, then conveyed to wagons, trucks, or rail cars for shipment to customers. Tipples ranged in size and complexity from the wooden structure at the Bridarolli mine (shown) to elaborate structures such as that at Galt Mine No. 8. Camillo Bridarolli came to Canada in 1924 because he wanted to get away from the political situation in Italy. He came to Lethbridge because he had an uncle living there. Unemployment was high and the only work he could get was in the coal mines. Despite never having worked at it before, coal-mining became a large part of his life; he worked at Coalhurst and a number of other mines in the area and even owned and operated his own mine. In 1944 he sold out to his partner in order to move to Lethbridge for the sake of his children's education.

The interview was conducted by Charles Grelli for the Dante Alighieri Oral History Project in 1973.

This photograph shows a much more modest inclined railway at the Bridarolli Mine (probably Mine No. 56). Many people fail to realize that there were a few tens of inclined railways in the Lethbridge district instead of only "The [single] Incline" shown above. It was an efficient way to convey coal from riverhottom drift mines to prairie level tipples. "The Incline" was operated by a steam engine with endless cable on two tracks. Smaller, lesser-known inclines used horse power or stationary steam engines on single tracks. Mine inspectors would not permit workmen to ride the coal cars. as it was thought to be dangerous, and expected—indeed insisted—that workmen walk uphill to their homes at the end of a shift. The edict was widely disobeyedThis oral history project was initiated by Sabatino Roncucci, a founder of the Dante Alighieri Society, for the purpose of documenting immigration history so that it could be shared not only with the Italian community but also the community at large.

Camillo Bridarolli: Oral History Excerpts

Mr. Bridarolli gives an idea of the Italian make-up of Lethbridge, and the occupations that employed the majority of them.

Click here to listen!

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