City of Cranbrook

After World War 1

As the world extricated itself from the tentacles of war, Cranbrook put itself back in growth mode. In 1919, it was made a Chief Customs Port. Edward, Prince of Wales paid a visit. A resourceful farmer near Elizabeth Lake set up an irrigation system that served anyone between the west and MacKenzie's pond on the east side of the city. Drivers started passing on the left, and the first paved roads appeared. A second drug store opened, and an Overwaitea store here became one of 39 such stores in the province. Two girls' hockey teams represented the city along with the men's and boys' team In 1921, the young people of the city, with the help of some merchants, raised the money for the first motorized ambulance. The city already had a motorized fire truck, the purchase forced by the sudden death of a fire horse in 1918. The fire brigade had not been able to find another horse to team with his mate. Well-trained fire horses were not easily replaced. The Cadets were reorganized, and the Rod and Gun Club set up a cutthroat trout hatchery on King St. At Bull River, Hollywood was shooting a movie about a heroine saving her lover from death on a log drive, and East Kootenay log drivers provided the footage and acted as stunt men. Before the Roaring Twenties gave place to the Dirty Thirties, Cranbrook was getting its power from the Bull River power plant, talkies were showing at the movie theatres, the 14th Avenue curling rink was built, Lilly Ban Quan started her market gardens, the brewery had burned down and been replaced, the current fire hall and the nurses residence had been built, and a lending library had begun. In Baker Park, right beside the Baker residence, the Gyro Club built the largest swimming pool in North America. Spring-fed beside Joseph Creek, it must also have been the coldest, as thousands of Cranbrook kids and cousins and friends will attest. A hockey coach later in the century, frustrated with slushy ice in the arena, opined that he might be better off using the Gyro pool. The Herald had moved to Kimberley, and the high school graduated its first class, of 11, from grade 12. The last log drive had plunged down the Bull River.

The Great Elephant Hunt", an event for which Cranbrook is famous, happened in 1926. When the Sells-Floto circus came to town by train, something spooked the elephants as they were being unloaded. In the stampede, eleven elephants escaped into the forest around the city. Seven were rounded up quickly, but four elephants eluded their pursuers. The story was carried around the world as headline news. Long years later, grandparents told their grandchildren of chasing elephants to claim the $1000 reward. One elephant had to be destroyed after days at large, but the other three were returned to the circus. The young male trick elephant known as Charlie Ed was renamed Cranbrook Ed at a christening event overseen by the mayor.

From the beginning of mechanized flight, Cranbrook had an active flying group of businessmen and hobby pilots. The 1930s saw the opening of the airport in Slaterville, with its hangar constructed from the wood and bricks knocked down when the first power plant was replaced. One wonders if the 1929 crash and the depression that was underway led to such conservation tactics. When the first Canadian Pacific Airlines DC4 arrived for scheduled flight, people swarmed across the railway tracks to the airstrip. One woman remembers that, as a child, and part of that crowd, she didn't know what was happening, but everybody she knew seemed to be there. In that decade, the BC Provincial Police took over from city police. Lilly Reid and her husband ran a fruit and vegetable supply business, trucking from Creston and Spokane. On one trip from Spokane, Lilly had seven flat tires. She repaired the tires and tubes herself; nobody stopped to see if she needed help. Trucks like hers replaced horse-drawn vehicles in most businesses during the decade. The Christmas tree industry started up, giving work to many women from the '30s to the '50s, sorting, grading and baling the trees for the December 1st shipping deadline. In 1954, the value of trees shipped from here was $295,587, more than twice as much as it had been 8 years before. Finnings opened a warehouse as prelude to becoming an integral part of the resource extraction industry, as both supplier and fabricator, to this day. Safeway had opened a store and closed it. A business college had opened and closed. Some cars had heaters, although they were not common until the '40s. A city father boasted that no St. Eugene-trained nurse had failed her R.N. exams. Steamers on Kootenay Lake, which had been an integral part of the rail route west, were abandoned for, at last, an all-rail route to Vancouver.

The Cranbrook lending library had to advise a borrower, very firmly, that he was not the city censor. He had destroyed their copy of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. His action was in the same vein as that of George Moir, an admired youth sports coach who had bought every issue of The Ledge newspaper and burned it in a wood stove for its flippant and irreverent views. The Ledge was edited by the famous and well-read Col. Robert Lowery, who published newspapers throughout the Kootenays.

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