The Early Days Walking Tour is a great way to learn how the Town of Rimbey became the town it is today. The Tour takes you through 35 different historic locations and covers a distance of 4 kms. On foot it will take a leisurely 2 hours.
The route will reveal many of Rimbey's earliest buildings. The original appearance of some of them has been obscured by the passage of time. It will also introduce you to the ghosts of a few that are long gone.
The Tour begins at the historical Pas-Ka-Poo Park (located in the north-west part of town).
1. Need a Hair Cut?
Go to Spink's Barber Shop! Imagine settling back in this old chair and watching the traffic go by on 50th Avenue.
Thomas Spinks, a retired farmer, opened his barber shop in Rimbey in 1947 at the age of 60. He and his wife Ina lived in the small area behind.
Thomas Spinks was a great fiddle player and you might have got a tune along with a shave. His shop was a centre for town news until he closed his doors in 1969. He and his wife continued to live in the building until 1974, when they moved to the Manor.
The beautiful simplicity and proportions of this tiny frame building has made it a favourite with photographers at Pas-Ka-Poo Park.
2. Mowbray's Butcher Shop
George Mowbray was a butcher and a bachelor, and a quiet obliging man by all accounts. During the 1920's he always had a wiener ready for children who came in with their mothers.
The store had sawdust on the floor and a scale sat on the counter where he wrapped meat in brown paper for his customers.
Mowbray went out to farms to butcher animals himself, bringing the meat back to store in his cool room.
When Jack Parry became the owner in 1946, he expanded the building to include both a meat market and grocery, with two walk-in coolers. Parry's Meat and Groceries served Rimbey until 1953, when Parry went into the newspaper business, becoming a partner with Charles Worton at the Rimbey Record.
The original appearance of the store has been changed by the addition of a veranda. Step inside to see a range of groceries and other goods that would have been sold in Rimbey's stores into the 1950's.
3. Kansas Ridge School
You might not think it possible, but apparently the picking of a site for the first school in the area led to one of the trustees of an opposing faction brandishing a gun at a meeting. The matter was settled in a Lacombe courtroom!
Kansas Ridge School was built in late 1902, just in time for the Christmas concert. Under the history tab is a photograph taken in 1906. The photo represents many of Rimbey's pioneer families: Bunch, Rimbey, Anderson, Platt, Allison, Coverdale, Donnelly, Wiese, Lloyd.
By 1920 the school was no longer big enough to hold all Rimbey's children and while grades 4 to 7 remained in the old school, others were taught in the Windsor Hotel, and a house in the village.
The old 1902 school was moved from its site in 1924 to make room for a spacious new school, which held all grades, including high school.
By the 1960's, before its final move to Pas-Ka-Poo Park, the 1902 school served as a storage shed!
Today it resembles its earlier self with rows of desks and a blackboard flanked with Union Jacks.
4. From High School to Town Office
In 1915, when it was decided to organize a high school in Rimbey, the building (now at Pas-Ka-Poo Park) was available.
Mabel Fleming, the first teacher, was quite experienced. A graduate of Calgary Normal School, she started her career in 1912 in Rocky Mountain House, travelling out on the newly constructed railway on a hand-powered speeder.
After a stint in Lacombe, her home town, she came to Rimbey, where several of her students were older than herself! She must have been good at her job, as seven of her students went to University and two became doctors. Mabel settled in Rimbey, marrying local farmer Sinclair Mellis in 1919, and became a leading member of the community.
After 1924 when the new school was built, the old school building was used as the Town Office. Rimbey was incorporated as a village in 1919 and became a town in 1949.
During the 1930's, it housed the office of both the village and the municipal district. Irene Wright began work in the office in 1938 under Bert Saunders, and in 1944 she became Town Secretary - a position she held for the next 31 years. She did it all, from collecting taxes to corresponding with the Provincial Fire Inspector, and everything in between!
5. Anglican Church of the Epiphany
At the turn of the 20th century all the main church denominations were eager to help fledgling congregations in the Canadian West. In the case of the Anglican churches, money was often donated from Britain, and dispensed through the bishops.
The benefactor of the Rimbey church stipulated that it was to be built of native timber and with upright logs, rather than horizontal one (no one knows why).
Delighted to have a building grant, Anglicans in Rimbey set to work in 1908 under the guidance of their new young minister Rev. Arthur J. Patstone.
Carpenter Ben Rimbey donated land on his farm and soon logs were being hauled to the site just off Jasper Avenue.
The church, roughly 32 by 21 feet, with a small vestry on one side, was beautifully finished inside with native wood.
An organ was purchased and a bell for the tower arrived from Rev. Patstone's old school in England!
When the congregation outgrew the church, it was moved to Pas-Ka-Poo Park in 1966, and has been lovingly restored. Take a moment to go inside and reflect on what this church meant to its congregation ninety years ago.
The photographs on the walls inside came from Rev. Patstone's album. His communion set, used when traveling from church to church, is also here. Look for the imitation stained glass windows, purchased from Ontario in 1928.
As you leave Pas-Ka-Poo Park, walk east to 51st St.
6. Watts House
The garden of the Watts family once grew on this spot, with yields of strawberries and potatoes. The Watts house, in view behind the garden, has changed little to this day.
In 1920 Robert and Florence Watts bought the house, which was on land homesteaded by Robert's father David Henry Watts. It was right next door to the house where Robert grew up before going away to war.
Muriel (Watts) Stevens recalls growing up in the house, and how the porch was shaded by cascading hops. Her father planted the spruce trees and the mountain ash. A barn was located just west of the house.
The Watts house has been home to a succession of caretakers of Pas-Ka-Poo Park.
Cross 51st St. to the east side where there is a sidewalk and head south. At the crosswalk at 54th Avenue, cross over to the iron railing on the west side of 51st St.
7. Rimbey's Old Red Brick School
Look west through the gap in the carragana hedge behind the railing. This was the site of the Kansas Ridge School.
In 1924 the new school had just opened its doors. Where you are standing was the pillared gateway flanked by peony beds. The school had four big, bright classrooms, each holding a few grades. The school also offered high school grades 9 to 11, though those entering grade 12 had to go to Lacombe.
By 1942 more rooms were needed and the building was expanded and stuccoed - it then became known as the "White School". Rimbey's modern school now lies to the west of the old school site.
Marge (Iddings) Goings attended grade 11 in 1930/31. She came into town from the farm to live with her grandparents during school term. She recalls how many students arrived on horseback, and tied up their trusty steeds in the barn behind the school.
Students had to line up outside each morning, marching in two by two when the bell rang. Woe betide any student who walked on the grass!
Percy Page was the high school teacher and not only did he teach all subjects, but all three grades!
School skating parties with big bonfires down at the river were part of school fun in those days.
Return to east side of 51st St. From the crosswalk on 52nd Avenue head east on the north side of the Avenue.
8. Nazarene Church and Parsonage
On the corner of 52nd Avenue sits a small white frame church. In 1915 Jim Rimbey donated land to build a Nazarene Church and Parsonage (still standing) directly east of it. His son, Phinneas, was one of the carpenters building the church.
Tragedy followed when the original church burned in May 1916. Melvette Rimbey, son of Phinneas, who was not even three years old, was playing in the church alone when the fire started. His body was found crouched behind the organ that had been donated by his grandfather Jim Rimbey.
The grieving congregation met in a tent pitched near the charred ruins of the church for service the very next Sunday. They decided to rebuild, and the church standing today was finished during 1916. It was later placed on a basement and given a new porch and windows.
The small white Church of the Nazarene was spiritual home to many Rimbeyites. The Young Peoples Society or YP, as it was generally known, was popular with Rimbey youth during the 1930's.
The Nazarene congregation grew steadily, and Sunday school numbers were soon competitive with those of their sister church in Red Deer. Even on a June Sunday in 1935, when muddy roads prevented many people from getting into town, 127 children answered the roll call.
The church was bursting at the seams by the 1950's, and in 1955 a new church was constructed, just northwest off 51st Street. The Seventh Day Adventist Church uses the 1916 building.
Right next to the church is the Parsonage at 5046 - 52nd Avenue. Look carefully and you will see where the front door used to be. The west side of the house is a later addition. In the 1930's young people visiting the parsonage were enthralled with the dumb-waiter in the kitchen.
9. Percy Wilton House (5048 - 52nd Ave.)
The second house east from the corner, clearly visible in the historical photo, has changed little since it was built. It was owned by Percy Wilton, from England, who came to a farm in the Rimbey area with his parents in 1909.
Wilton fought in World War I, and returned to make Rimbey his home. He died in 1967.
Continue east on 52nd Avenue, formerly called Wilson Avenue.
10. Hellerud Cottage (5034 - 52nd Ave.)
This cottage was home to the Hellerud family in the 1920's and may have been built earlier than 1920. It is typical of the design of thousands of small gable-roofed houses built across the prairies. Like this one, many had additions built on later.
Notice the decorative diamond butt dimension shingles on the front gable end. Pre-cut dimension lumber and shingles that could be relied on to be the stated size were a huge improvement on having to cut everything yourself.
The turned veranda posts on this house were also likely purchased at a local lumber yard.
At the corner of 50th St., turn south on the west side of the street.
A Boulevard to Beautify Rimbey
This fine wide boulevard was formerly known as Main Street, and no wonder, it was sixty-six feet wide! As things turned out, it did not develop to be the Main Street. Jasper Avenue, now known as 50th Avenue, became the commercial stretch.
In May 1939 work began on beautifying the Boulevard-that-might-have-been.
Well-known Red Deer surveyor Charlie Snell was soon out resurveying the grade. The middle strip was raised with curbed edges, leaving two traffic lanes on either side. The boulevard was then seeded with grass and planted with sixty-three trees purchased at 70 cents apiece from the Bowden Nursery.
Continue south to 50th Avenue.
11. C. J. Hewitt's House (5102 - 50th St.)
Clifford James Hewitt built a house at 5102 - 50th Street between 1917 and 1919, now owned by Terry and Janice Shaw. C.J. Hewitt was one of Rimbey's skilled carpenters, and his house has remained one of the most impressive in town. It has a cross-gambrel roof, a type that became popular in Western Canada after 1904.
This design was advertised as a practical one as it offered almost as much space on the second floor as a two story house, but cost considerably less to build. He certainly put his carpentry skills to use on finishing this house; a modern sophistication in the Rimbey of its day.
In the summer of 1932 Hewitt was working on his veranda, probably closing it in as it is now. At the same time, the Rimbey Record noted, he put on an addition and built a garage.
Hewitt was a man of many talents. He had a contract construction and carpentry business, and for many years ran Rimbey's Atlas Lumber Yard, that sold "everything for the builder" as well as coal. He was also an undertaker, and had his premises in the half block south of his house, where Rimbey Builders Supply is now located.
Cliff Hewitt was involved in everything in Rimbey, from movie projection to local politics! He served as a reeve in 1927 and by 1933 he was mayor of the village.
On the outbreak of war, Hewitt signed up. He served overseas from 1941-1945, leaving his wife Mabel to hold the family interests in Rimbey. When the war was over, the Hewitts moved to British Columbia.
In 1948 Bill Mitchell arrived in Rimbey to run the John Deere Dealership and purchased the Foster Simpson house as the location for the dealership, which is now the north part of Rimbey Builders Supply Centre. Mitchell also purchased the Hewitt house, which remained his family home for many years.
Cross 50th St. at the intersection with 51st Ave. (formerly Jackson Avenue).
Imagine how glad Rimbey residents were in the 1930's when a cement crossing was put in across 51st Ave. to keep them dry above the spring and summer mud that plagued Rimbey streets. It was four feet wide - the first cement crossing in the village. Earlier crossings were planked.
Walk along the south side of 51st Ave., past the United Church and the Cemetery. At the corner of 48th St. turn south to 50th Ave.
12. Last Resting Ground
Rimbey's Mount Auburn cemetery is unusual in that it is right in the middle of town. It was once close to both Presbyterian and Anglican Churches. Surveyed in 1904, it was organized by a local stock company and by 1931 it had nearly 250 graves.
In the summer of 1932 a work bee was organized to beautify the grounds. The workers flattened the natural mounds in the landscape and established donated plants and spruce trees, along with shrubs purchased from Lacombe Nurseries.
The cemetery is now full and a new cemetery west of town has been opened. Only those who have already purchased plots here can be buried among Rimbey's early residents.
In the southeast corner, off 50th Avenue, lies the Field of Honour - where some of Rimbey's war veterans are buried. The gate is always open. If you wander through the main cemetery you will find some of the Rimbey names mentioned on the tour. Notice how many graves are of children, whose plots were often marked with a lamb on the gravestone.
From the corner of 48th St. and 50th Ave. walk west, alongside the cemetery.
The Anglican Church once sat where the Home Hardware and NAPA stores are now. Its front doors opened onto 49th St.
As you pass 49th St. look south to the Rimbey Agricultural Grounds.
Rimbey was always a great centre for horse races and fairs were a summer tradition even before the agricultural grounds were developed.
In 1921 the Rimbey Agricultural Society was founded and built permanent fair grounds with a grandstand. The fair grew each year with the tenth annual fair in 1931 deemed a major success despite cool weather.
Livestock exhibits attracted some people while others preferred the exhibits of canned fruits and vegetables, cheeses, and domestic crafts.
The Society built a new grandstand in 1934, with a roof and sides to provide protection against the elements for 500 spectators.
Rodeo came into its own after 1965 when the Rimbey Exhibition Association was formed and today the chuck wagon races draw crowds for Rodeo Weekend in June.
Continue west on 50th Ave.
13. Fire! Fire! (Old Fire Station next to Town Office)
Alberta's early villages often suffered disastrous fires. Rimbey was no exception.
When fire broke out in frame buildings, built close together, the flames often raced for half a block before they could be stopped.
Many towns rebuilt using brick and placed fire walls between the buildings, encouraged by the favourable insurance rates for doing so. Not so in Rimbey!
Despite the danger, Rimbey continued to build with wood. Fire destroyed buildings on the north side of Jasper Avenue in 1922, then on the southwest corner in 1923. Another major fire occurred in 1935, destroying seven businesses, while individual buildings, including four service stations, were periodically razed to the ground!
The town eventually became more diligent about preventing the devastation.
A bylaw in 1936 divided the village into business and residential zones, and dictated that buildings on Jasper Avenue have metal exterior cladding.
A formal volunteer fire brigade was formed and Rimbey purchased a carbon dioxide chemical trailer from the Dominion Fire Engine Co. of Moose Jaw by 1939, which was housed in Chapman's garage (now housed at Pas-Ka-Poo Park).
Finally in 1952, Rimbey, mirroring many other Albertan towns, became the proud owner of a Barton-American Marsh Ford triple combination pumper, booster, and hose truck. It had a single-stage front mount centrifugal pump, 500 gallon booster tank, electric siren and two spotlights.
The Fire Hall was built in 1966 to house the shiny new red fire truck. Rimbey's Fire Department outgrew the Fire Hall in the late 1980's, moving to a new hall on 49th Avenue.
14. The Rimbey Record Office
The two-storey frame building behind the more recently added real estate office, housed the Rimbey Record, from 1936 to the late 1990's. It is best seen from the east side, where a loading dock for newspapers is visible.
Look for the Record's old printing press at the museum in Pas-Ka-Poo Park. In the days before computers each letter had to be typeset before the page could be run through the ink rollers.
During its printed life, the Record operated from a succession of premises, beginning in 1930 under the hand of W. J. Good.
In 1935 the Record building burned (not this location) and the paper moved into the Windsor Hotel, which sat on this lot from 1915 to 1936.
On February 18th, 1936, the hotel burned to the ground, taking the printing and newspaper business with it! Undaunted the Record remodeled the old Legion building, installed new equipment, and was back in print at the beginning of April.
Work began on the new building that would become its final home in May 1936. The south end was used as living quarters.
Rimbey's first newspaper was the Rimbey Pioneer, published for a year in 1919. In 1921 it was followed by the Rimbey Advance, until it was wiped out by fire in 1922.
Beginning in 1930, the Rimbey Record captured small town life in Rimbey for more than 6 decades, even winning an international award.
That role has now been ably followed by the Rimbey Review and the Blindman Valley Horizon as Rimbey embarks on its second century.
15. The Empress Theatre (5001 - 50th Ave.)
It certainly was "show time" in this building for many decades! The Empress Theatre began life as a community hall and was used for many different functions such as dances and film shows.
The rear lower portion of the building is the community hall built in 1915, and the two story section at the front is the result of several later additions.
The roomy barn-shaped hall hosted "some of the best dances this side of the larger cities," the Rimbey advance noted in April 1921. During the 1930's the dance of the year was the Curlers Ball in March. Floor length dresses swirled to the music of the local Rudy Platt's Orchestra.
A lunch was served at midnight then the dancing resumed until about 3 a.m. Some of the dancers still had a long way to go home, after picking up their team and cutter at the livery barn.
The first silent movies in Rimbey were shown in the hall in 1918 by Rasmus Block.
After Rasmus, Jake Heinz became Rimbey's main projectionist. The Delco machine running on Heinz's truck outside to power the projector lent an added sound effect! A 1930's projector is now on display at the museum at Pas-Ka-Poo Park.
The screen was at the south end of the hall, while entry was from Jasper Avenue through a small porch. The Return of Tarzan, billed as the most astounding book and screen success of the decade, drew crowds in July 1921.
C. J. Hewitt also showed films in the hall, silent movies as well as talkies. He purchased a Victor 16 mm sound-on-film projector in the summer of 1935. After the show there was usually a free dance for patrons until midnight.
By this time the building operated primarily as a theatre, since a new community hall served the needs of other functions.
W. B. Sharp, of Calgary, operated "circuit shows" all over the province, moving from one hall or theatre to another for one night showings.
Gone With the Wind in Technicolor played in Rimbey on Saturday, July 8th, 1940. Local teenager Fred Schutz was very eager to see it, and recalls cycling to town from the farm at Bluffton.
In 1941, W. B. Sharp, who then owned the building, made improvements to the theatre including a new front and a new roll-type screen.
In May 1945 the theatre was purchased by Albert and Lillian Wiancko. They built a further addition with living quarters and offices at the front. In the early 1950's it housed a jeweller, and the Alberta Forestry Rangers, as well as a doctor and dentist office.
The Empress Theatre was a popular place with up to three shows playing on the weekend. Long lineups were a familiar sight on a Saturday night.
However, by the mid 1970's television and ease of travel meant local theatres no longer had the same appeal. In 1975 the Empress closed its doors.
The front portion of the building has been stripped of its former allure, and houses offices.
If possible, have a look inside. The ticket wicket and balcony are still there.
Continue west on 50th Ave. past the old theatre.
16. Cork's Bakery
A succession of bakeries has served Rimbey from this building. Bill Cork arrived in Rimbey in 1911 and setup his bakery sometime in the late 1920's.
At 5 a.m. each morning he put a batch of freshly kneaded dough in the big oven at the back of the store. The smell of rising bread greeted his early customers. Brown or white - the choice was yours and Cork also made donuts, sweet buns and long johns with maple walnut icing.
He supplied bread to the outlying districts as far as Bluffton and Leedale. The building has been renovated and has had additions but the centre part is the original building.
17. The A. B. Cafe
Now unrecognizable to its former restaurant patrons, the A. B. Cafe building presently houses the Rimbey Sports store. Don Wing built the A. B. Cafe in 1919 on the site of the first feed and livery stable in Rimbey owned by Woods and Peabody. It was a two-story frame building with a flat roof.
Wing, the proprietor, immigrated from China in 1915 with his brother who had a cafe in Wetaskiwin. He soon had a thriving business including a laundry at the rear of the building, and expanded the premises in 1931.
Wing lived upstairs from the Cafe, and also had rooms to rent for 50 cents and up.
He worked long hours, supporting relatives in China and was a popular and generous man. As more than one Rimbeyite recalls, he was particularly good to teenagers. His cafe was the hangout of the 1930's, when sitting at the counter with a chocolate bar and orange pop was cool. It was the place to go for ice cream after a show. The graffiti in the outhouse out back was known to be well worth the trip!
In September 1934 Wing returned to his homeland for a visit to his family and his daughter's wedding. He returned almost a year later sailing from Hong Kong on the famous CPR ship The Empress of Japan, arriving in Vancouver 20 days later.
Soon he was back behind his counter in the Cafe. Not to be outdone by local farmers, he reported on the excellent rice crop in China that year.
In March 1945 Wing sold his business to Laurence Calkins and moved to Innisfail. During the 1950's, the building underwent extensive renovations. The flat roof was replaced with a gabled roof.
18. The Jamaica Hotel
On the site of the present Alberta Treasury Branch, Rimbey's first hotel made its appearance nearly a hundred years ago. The hotel had the unlikely name of the Jamaica Hotel. Ken Wates came to Rimbey after a series of hurricanes had driven the family from the island in the sun.
In 1907 the Wates opened their hotel, described as "thoroughly up-to-date" in the town's brochure.
Frank Peabody, a blacksmith, later took over the Jamaica, made some additions, and renamed it the Cottage Hotel after a Peabody family-run establishment in Pennsylvania.
In 1921 the Cottage Hotel advertised comfortable warm rooms with electric light. You could spend the night for 50 cents. The best rooms in the house were a dollar. Another 50 cents got you a meal in the dining room.
In 1922 Peabody sold out to James Letroy.
The Cottage Hotel was the scene of many happenings in Rimbey over the years. The Rimbey Football Club was founded one Saturday night in May, 1930 - no doubt in the bar that was Rimbey's main watering hole. It had sawdust on the floor, spitoons and was a popular spot with lumberjacks.
An annual visitor for over two decades was H. J. Snell, a "sight specialist," who held a clinic in the hotel each spring.
From 1925 the proprietor of the Cottage Hotel was Harry N. Taylor, whose own wedding was held in the dining room on May 6th, 1933. The Cottage Hotel was finally torn down in 1962.
Continue west down 50th Ave.
19. Thorp House
Look west and imagine that the Warehouse building is not there. You will notice a small frame bungalow with a pyramidal roof behind the store. This is one of the oldest houses in Rimbey.
Shortly after the turn of the century it was home to Bert Thorp who ran the Thorp and Putland general store located just west along the street.
William Brooks bought out Thorp's business interest and home in 1912. He arrived in Rimbey to find the house a little small for a family of eight so he had a two story addition built on the west side.
By the 1930's the house was home to Thorp Braithwaite who built a grist mill south of the house in 1928, where he did custom grinding. In 1931 he charged 8 1/2 cents for oats, and 8 cents for barley per 100 lb. lots - if you delivered in ton lots.
Braithwaite remodeled the west wing of the house and installed gasoline pumps in front of the building. He also operated a battery and welding shop on the premises.
In 1949 he and his wife Jean also opened a hardware and gift shop, which they ran until 1977.
When you reach the alley walk west and then turn back to 50th Avenue through the parking area for Rimbey Foods. Stop to read the next section just before you reach the sidewalk on 50th Avenue.
20. Rolston's General Store (now Rimbey Foods)
Charles Rolston started business in Rimbey in 1919. He purchased the old general store built by Jim Cox in 1905. It had previously been run by Thorp and Putland, followed by William Brooks.
Rolston advertised his business as the store of quality, service, and low prices, emphasizing that it "paid to pay in cash."
The store was one of those old fashioned packed-to-the-ceiling kind of places. Groceries, dry goods, footwear, block salt for cattle, and wallpaper could all be found, measured out or cut for you by the store clerks.
In the early 1930's Rolston offered weekly bargains such as five chocolate bars for 10 cents and 2 tins of Carnation milk for 25 cents or a 4 pound. tin of pure strawberry jam for 49 cents.
When the train brought in fruit from B. C., farmers rushed to town from all around to purchase peaches and plums and, later in the season, rosy apples in big wooden boxes.
Baby Stilton cheeses, advertised as the "famous Markerville Brand", were sold at 23 cents a pound.
Once a year flour arrived in 100 pound bags and was stockpiled at the rear of the store.
In 1947, after serving as manager for many years, Tom Wilton purchased the store. The store became Wilton's General Merchants and the line of goods expanded somewhat with more ready-made clothing, china and luxury items such as men's fancy sweaters.
A sign of impending modernity was the purchase of a National Cash Register in 1950 when the building was renovated.
The 1923 store still stands as the east side of the present Rimbey Foods store, but the street facade of the building has been completely rebuilt.
Continue west on 50th Ave.
21. A Hardware Special
Beatty's hardware building, with its somewhat modified recessed doorway, forms the west half of the present Rimbey Foods.
Jack Beatty came to Rimbey from Saskatchewan in 1919 and setup a hardware store, with living quarters upstairs, on this site. Beatty got off to a good start, but the fire of 1923 left him without business or home.
Undeterred he quickly rebuilt his hardware business on the same site, and was soon pursuing his customers more vigorously than ever.
By the early 1930's he ran big advertisements each week in the Rimbey Record. Beatty gave detailed information on the brand names he offered, such as Simmons beds and bedding and Wm. Penn oils and greases.
Window displays were important in those days. They served to highlight what was available and to lure customers into stores that were usually more crowded with goods than now.
Beatty prided himself on his window displays. In June 1930 one window featured gifts for June brides and was entered in a national window display competition.
Beatty sold whatever was required for the season. He advertised "all the tools and hardware for mowers and binders" in August 1931, and Buck Eye Incubators for the chicks of Spring 1932.
"War has been declared on Flies, Mosquitoes, Weeds and Pests" he declared to the town in July 1932, noting that he could supply "the necessary fighting equipment and ammunition."
In late 1942 the Rimbey Record noted he was in Edmonton selecting toys for Christmas. Due to the war, toys from Germany and Japan were no longer available, but readers were assured that the all British made selections were "more attractive and diversified than ever."
In 1945 Wilfred Cotton joined Jack Beatty as an employee. He then acquired the business when Jack Beatty died and operated it for many years under the name W. A. Cotton Hardware.
22. The White Drug Store
Today the drug store built in 1923 houses Shirley's Real Estate.
The White Drug Store first opened its doors in 1919, to be destroyed by fire four years later. A new drug store building rose from the ashes with the familiar boom town front, designed to make it look bigger than it really was.
The drug store was run by two red-headed immigrants from the north of Ireland, William and Alec White. The bachelor pair boarded at the Cottage Hotel.
Daily, for 27 years, they made up pills using a pestle and mortar in the dispensary at the rear of the building. Along with prescriptions and patent medicines, the White Brothers sold toiletries, stationery and school supplies.
Music lovers were offered a bargain for Christmas in 1921, when Columbia and Victor records were reduced from a dollar to 85 cents apiece. Kodak cameras and film could be purchased from the early 1920's and liquorice root and old fashioned humbugs, rarely found these days, were a favourite with kids.
Dr. Byers had his office at the rear of the building for many years, where he did minor surgeries and tooth extractions until he moved into more roomy quarters across the street.
In 1946 the White Brothers sold their business to a young pharmacist recently qualified from the University of Alberta. It certainly was a change when Miss Selma Elvira (Mickey) Jepson arrived. She soon had her hammer and nails out to work on the old building, which was in need of repair. A coat of paint soon gave the drug store a new look and the old prescriptions she found written on the walls were carefully filed.
In 1947 Jepson received an award from the Rexall Drug Company for outstanding performance and exceptional service to her community. Proudly she hung it on a wall in the store, which now included a thriving veterinary business. In 1955 she sold out to George Wyllie who continued the pharmacy business.
Turn south down 51st St.
23. Michael's Photo Studio
Going to the photo studio for family or wedding portraits was the thing to do in the 1950's. Rimbey was lucky when Michael Jarmoluk arrived in Rimbey in 1949. Together with his brother Leon, he opened Bros. Studio just south of the theatre on 50th St., where the Senior's Drop-In Centre is now.
The business took off, and Michael was well established when Leon left Rimbey to work as an X-ray technician.
Michael's photos appeared in the pages of the Rimbey Record every week. His eagle eye captured the faces of Rimbey and its major events for nearly four decades.
In 1956 Michael built a new photo studio on 51st St., adding a second story in 1965. It was a camera and music shop where you went to buy a Beatles record! Although Michael sold his business in 1991, the studio still bears his name.
Continue south, crossing 49th and 48th Ave.
24. Rimbey's Creamery
The Creamery began life as a cooperative, the Blindman Valley Creamery Association, in 1907. The first creamery building served the area well until 1923. Yes, you guessed! It burned down and was immediately replaced by a new building.
This second frame building formed the core of the building in the photograph. The roof line, with square cupola, is just visible behind the post-war remodeled expansion.
In 1945 the Creamery was purchased by the Central Alberta Dairy Pool. Andy Gillespie started work with the Dairy Pool in 1959, and was the last manager, from 1961 to 1975. He was in charge of processing milk, grading eggs and churning butter. Andy recalls how the farmers drove up and placed their stubby cream cans on the roller track on the loading area at the front. A push sent the cans on their way to the scale. There the cream was weighed, tasted, graded and tested for butterfat content for which the farmer was paid by the pound. Then the cream was churned into butter.
In the early 1950's the old wooden churn was replaced by a stainless one that could churn 1,100 pounds of butter in one batch. The butter was then packed into boxes, and sent off.
Quick-freeze lockers were built on the north side of the building in the mid 40's. In the days before rural electrification you could bring a carcass to the butcher shop, have custom cuts done, and then leave them in the lockers. When you needed a roast you came into town, got your key, and took out what you needed!
Rimbeyites bought their milk in bottles beginning in the 1930's. The creamery first introduced modern cartons while bottles were still being delivered door to door. By the mid 70's, delivered bottled milk was a thing of the past.
As creameries closed in Buck Lake, Adler Flats, Bluffton, Bentley, and Eckville, Rimbey became the last dairy centre in the west country.
The Creamery finally closed its doors in 1975, but is still a favourite spot for ice cream on a hot day!
Cross to the west side of 51st St.
Rimbey has excellent baseball diamonds located southwest of the town. If you wish to catch a game, you can extend your walk. Join the Lions Walking Trail south from the Ford dealership that takes you down to the ball diamonds and the Nesting Place campground.
Baseball, a Rimbey Tradition
Rimbey has attracted baseball players from the early days. From the United States came semi-pro and professional baseball players such as Joe Kutina of the St. Louis Browns and Floyd Little and Clyde Eley of the Nebraska State League.
Soon ball became the passion of Rimbey. In 1914 Rimbey won the Central Alberta League and the team had its formal photo taken in Lacombe after a victory there in 1917.
A fierce rivalry grew between the "old town" and the "new town" at the tracks, not to mention between Rimbey and Bentley.
By 1932 the Blindman Valley Softball League had 9 teams with the Rimbey Record reporting on every game.
Rimbey was victorious against Morningside in 1932 and the Rimbey Record exclaimed, "The spectacular catch of the game was made by Earl Rimbey, who misjudged a drive to the outfield and had to jump high in the air to retrieve the ball. It was a hummer of a catch."
Return north to the 4-way stop (corner of 50th Ave. and 51st St.)
25. The Grand Hotel
Did Benjamin Franklin sleep here? No, but the Grand did begin life as the Ben Franklin in 1947! It was owned by Art McDonald and Ben Franklin, Joe Morrisroe along with partners Joe Burke and Charlie Bowen were the second owners.
The hotel had been open barely six months when it was nearly lost to fire. Burning tar on the roof sent dark smoke into the sky. Fortunately it was 3 p.m. on a July weekday and a bucket brigade soon swept into action. Others filled every can, barrel and tank in the town and hauled them in trucks and cars to the hotel corner. The burning tar, however, proved obstinate. When the water ran out, apparently someone opened the cesspool, and so the story goes, the hotel was saved. The contractor who built the hotel was back two days later re-plastering and re-flooring so that the coffee shop has been the best place to catch up on happenings in Rimbey for over fifty years.
In those days, Alberta's liquor laws meant no rum and coke or any other hard liquor was sold.
If you went to the bar on a Saturday night in the early 1950's, and indeed for many years later, beer was the drink of choice.
It was the hay-day of the beer parlour in Alberta. The days of 10 cents for an 8 ounce glass of draft or 28 cents for bottled beer are long gone. Waiters with ties no longer serve your table. Gone too is the separate entrance for Ladies and Escorts, but the bar remains a hive of activity in Rimbey on Saturday nights.
Cross to the north side of 50th Ave.
26. The Beatty House
So great was his faith in Rimbey's future that Jack Beatty did not hesitate to build a new home as well as a new store after fire destroyed his premises in 1923. He chose the fashionable California bungalow style that swept Edmonton and other Canadian cities after World War I.
This modern design was generally promoted as fostering domesticity, family stability and togetherness.
In Beatty's house the open plan dining room and living room are separated by a wide arch and boasts a hardwood floor and a fireplace featuring local petrified wood.
The kitchen has a dining nook and built-in china cupboard. The semi-bungalow has two small bedrooms upstairs, as well as two on the main floor. Local carpenter Joe Jones added decorative elements, such as eave brackets and cross hatching on the upper sash of the windows, that was inspired by the arts and crafts movement of the day.
Jack Beatty died in 1956, but his wife Violet lived in the house until 1984. The house is now a Designated Historic Site. Designation by the Provincial Government of Alberta provides important historical buildings and other resources with some degree of recognition and protection.
Owners of the designated sites are eligible for assistance in restoring or maintaining their property. The Beatty House Committee has worked hard for over a decade to bring the Beatty property back to its earlier appearance, including the rebuilding of the field stone wall.
You are welcome to use the picnic tables and sit in the shade of the trees.
Cross to the east side of 51st St. and head east on 50th Ave.
27. The Cotton House (5050 - 50th Ave.)
The Cotton house stood on this corner until 2002. Community Savings has recently erected a bank on this site.
This was the last building at the west end of Rimbey's Jasper Avenue for many years. It is unclear who built the bungalow style home, but it was certainly well constructed in about the year 1914.
A major feature of the house was its fireplace mantle made from petrified wood.
During the 1920's the house was home to a member of the Alberta Provincial Police stationed in Rimbey. He kept his horse in a stable at the rear of the yard.
Ted George, local service station owner, later owned the house, as did A. McLees who ran a clothing store.
From 1946 to 1973 it was home to Wilfred and Emma Cotton, owners of a local hardware store.
Continue east on 50th Ave.
28. Roper's Dealership
Harry Roper took over the International Harvester Dealership from Leroy Rimbey when he arrived in the village from Bittern Lake, Alberta in 1930. When the Nu-Way grocery located directly east closed, he took it over and expanded his business.
By the 1930's, Roper was selling gas, which he also delivered to farmers by the drum.
Active in the Masonic Lodge and the Lions, Roper was mayor of Rimbey from 1943 to 1948, and spent his spare time curling.
In 1950, Roper's son Neville took over the IHC dealership from his father Harry Roper. In 1962, Neville modernized the buildings appearance with a large glass fronted show room, leaving the rear of the building as it had been. In 1971, Neville took over the Ford dealership.
As of 2002, the Roper building was replaced by the Community Savings bank.
29. L. S. Cutler's Law Office
Rimbey had a lawyer who was a Rhodes Scholar! From 1923 to 1943, Lawrence S. Cutler, an Ontario graduate of Oxford University, practiced law in this small building.
In 1945, Mary Mitchell who had been in the RCAF during the war, came to Rimbey to visit her sister. She liked it so much that she stayed and acquired the ladies wear store, operating in the old Cutler Law Office.
The store was divided in two after 1945 and two doors were placed in the recessed entrance. Mr. Turnbull, a jeweler, took over the west side.
Every month Mary Mitchell traveled to the city to buy fashion clothing from an Edmonton wholesaler. Mitchell's Ladies Wear was a Rimbey landmark until 1983.
30. Jim Rimbey's House
Jim Rimbey's house was set back from the street behind large spruce trees. This was the house of one of Rimbey's founding fathers.
Jim Rimbey, brother of Sam and Ben, took out a homestead in 1900 on the section north of what would become Jasper Avenue.
Jim and his wife Eva got the first house built by the family. It was a log cabin with a sod roof. Everyone stayed there until more houses were built. It was the centre of everything in the new settlement including religious services.
By 1910, Jim and Eva were living in the house. It was a fine spacious two-story house built with logs and clad with siding.
Jim and Eva Rimbey decided to return to the USA in 1920.
Village photographer, W. H. Wills rented the house in April 1922.
Later that year Frank and Eliza Peabody took it over and operated a boarding house for many years. The veranda was a favourite place from which to survey the passing street scene.
While attending high school in 1931, Sally Preston worked for her board there. She helped Mrs. Peabody serve meals from the big kitchen.
In 1935 local doctor S. J. Byers moved into the house with his family and opened an office.
Later it was purchased by "Mac" McGillivary, a retired farmer turned real estate agent. He lived in the house and rented out an office to a succession of doctors.
Continue east on 50th Ave., then turn north on 50th St.
31. "A Fine Club Room for the Boys"
That is what the Rimbey Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion wanted for those who returned from overseas during World War II, according to the Rimbey Record. The old Veterans Hall had, however, seen better days, and despite efforts to improve it in 1941, it was decided to construct a new building ten years later (still in use today).
Community activities have always been the focus of the Legion, and the year 2001 was the 75th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Legion, and of Rimbey's Branch #36, which was incorporated in 1926.
Continue north on 50th St. Cross 51st Ave.
32. The Rolston House (5105 - 50th St.)
This older home with a fireplace was built by Tom Rolston who had the general store on Jasper Avenue.
When the Rolstons left Rimbey in 1933, the Wiltons not only took over their store but also their house! Like several other older homes in Rimbey it sat on a large double lot, and boasted an automobile garage by 1931.
Cross to the west side of 50th St. at 52nd Ave.
33. Odenbach Garden (5218 - 50th St.)
This corner house was one of Rimbey's finer residences, built by Ralph Bunch sometime in the 1920's.
John and Katerina Odenbach, the fourth occupants of the house, moved into town from the farm in 1949. Odenbach put lightning rods on the house. He had been hit with lightning on the farm and was taking no chances!
John Odenbach was a keen gardener. He and his wife grew potatoes, raspberries, corn and tomatoes, along with a myriad of other vegetables in this huge lot.
Each year the Odenbachs donated much of their produce to the hospital and auxiliary as well as to Rimbey residents who had no garden. Today their daughter, Ella Kemmis, tends this magnificent garden that brings pleasure to so many who walk by.
Cross to the north side of 53rd Ave.
34. Andrews Garden (5302 - 50th St.)
The house on the corner belonged to William and Alice Andrews. The couple came to the Gilby area as homesteaders in 1905, and they retired in Rimbey.
William Andrews, like his neighbour and friend John Odenbach, was devoted to his garden. The Rimbey Record held the garden up as an example to the village in May 1940. "Mr. Andrews' home...shows his 'green fingers' and his lawns and gardens already promise great beauty for the summer season. His hot house boasts tomato plants in blossom, cucumbers and squash, flower seedlings and a mushroom bed. Not everyone has the time or energy or the knack of landscaping but if we did this town could be beautiful."
The spirit of William Andrews' garden lives on. Each year volunteer raspberries appear through the gravel in the yard.
Head west on 53rd Ave., formerly Sifton Ave. Several house on this street were built in the 1920's and 1930's.
35. The John Eaton House (5038 - 53rd Ave.)
John Eaton, his wife Hannah and four children, lived in this house during the 1920's. From 1919, Jack, as he was known, hauled mail from Bentley to Rimbey. He set out with a horse and wagon rain or shine. Jack Eaton collapsed on the job in 1935 and is buried in Rimbey's Mount Auburn cemetery.
The house has a pyramidal roof typical of many Alberta cottage homes. Look for the detailing on the window frames. The gable roofed porch extends from the southeast corner of the house giving good shelter to the entrance.
This walking tour was researched and written by Judy Larmour, historical researcher and museum consultant.
The Rimbey Chamber of Commerce applied for funding for this project under the leadership of Audreyann Bresnahan.
The project was partially funded by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, with assistance from the Rimbey Historical Society and the Beatty House Committee.
Thanks to Fred Schutz, Charlie Plank, Marge Goings, Ella Kemmis, Neville Roper, Michael Jarmoluk, Tom Mellis, Muriel Stevens, Minnie and Lester Gladwin, Rosie Smithson, Wendy Huff, Jackie Anderson, Jack Chaney, Andy Gillespie and staff at the Town Office.