One of Red Deer’s most respected early businessmen and a man who founded a business, which has operated on 48th Street for nearly several decades, was Harvey E. Bawtinheimer.
Harvey Elbert Bawtinheimer was born near Hamilton, Ontario, on July 29, 1880, the second of nine children of George Harvey and Elizabeth (Donaldson) Bawtinheimer. The family moved to Alberta in 1890 and came to Red Deer in 1891. They acquired a farm in the Springvale District, just east of the hamlet of Red Deer. The Bawtinheimers quickly earned a reputation as good farmers and very hard workers.
In 1900, George Harvey Bawtinheimer decided to go into the lumbering business. In 1905, he started a large sawmill where Bower Ponds is located today. Harvey was placed in charge of the logging operations.
Unfortunately, the season’s log supply was washed away in a flood. The Bawtinheimers, consequently, decided to sell the business to the Great West Lumber Company in 1906.
In 1904, when the Red Deer Volunteer Fire Brigade was established, Harvey became one of the original members. He was an excellent athlete and was one of those responsible for the Fire Brigade winning the provincial firefighters’ championship in each of the first three years of its existence.
For the next few years, Harvey worked with the family business, Bawtinheimer and Sons, which operated a butcher shop, lumber yard, feed business, and harness shop. The Bawtinheimers were also very active in real estate, subdividing and developing one hundred acres in North Red Deer.
In March 1911, Harvey decided to establish Red Deer’s first garage business, the Alberta Garage Company, in partnership with his father. It initially operated in the old McKee and Cruickshanks carpentry shop on the north side of Alexander (48) Street. Almost immediately, however, a new 372 square metre (4000 sq. ft.), “fire-proof” building was constructed on the site.
Many people thought the venture was doomed to failure as there were only a handful of the “new-fangled” automobiles in the community at the time. Fortunately, the naysayers were proven wrong.
The Bawtinheimers were excellent business people. They were also excellent gardeners. Harvey’s wife Alice served as the first secretary of the Red Deer Horticultural Society. In August 1911, the first Red Deer flower and garden show was staged in Bawtinheimer’s Garage.
In 1919, Harvey sold the garage business to Irish and Goring, and briefly moved to British Columbia. Within two years, however, he was back in Red Deer and running his garage again.
Harvey was active in the community. He served on the Red Deer Public School Board in 1926-1927 and was president of the Red Deer Curling Club.
In 1939, with the economy of Red Deer finally beginning to improve after the terrible Great Depression, Harvey built a large new garage on the south side of 48th Street. He also built a new home on 48th Avenue.
Tragedy struck in January 1940 when Alice died, having enjoyed her new home for only a few months.
In 1940, Harvey was joined in the business by his nephew, Leslie, who had previously worked at Paul Crawford’s White Rose Service Station and later for Hepworth Motors. In 1950, Harvey sold the business to Les but continued to work with him until 1961.
Harvey had a very active retirement. He became an ardent golfer and played 18 or 27 holes of golf, seven days a week in the warm weather months. He also continued his love of curling in the winter. He curled until he was in his mid-80s, well past the time when he could see the rocks at the end of the rink.
Harvey passed away on October 2, 1969. He is buried in the Red Deer Cemetery, next to his beloved Alice. They had no children.
Meanwhile, Les was joined in the business by his son Neil. Later Neil’s son Pat also worked with them. In other words, it became a five-generation family business before it was eventually sold.
Michael Dawe is a Red Deer historian and his column appears on Wednesdays.