This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Red Deer Golf and Country Club. It is not only one of the oldest continuous organizations in the city, it also remains one of the foremost recreational and social facilities in the community. Moreover, it is one of the most picturesque, as it is located on the northwest side of the city along the banks of the Red Deer River.
One of the stalwarts of the golfing community in Red Deer and the first president of the new Golf and Country Club was William Ernest (W.E.) Lord, one of the City’s most successful merchants and businesspeople.
W.E. Lord was born in 1870 in Summerside, P.E.I. His first 19 years of life were spent on the family farm. He then sought out a new vocation.
He noticed an ad for an experienced salesman by a merchant in Nova Scotia. He wrote to the merchant asking that, while he was inexperienced, he be given a three-month trial. The storekeeper agreed and gave Lord a job, with his board and $100 per year as his salary.
One of Lord’s duties, in addition to working in the store, was driving his employer’s hearse. That did not appeal to him, and he took another job in the store across the street.
Lord decided to improve his skills and took a commercial course in St. John, N.B. After working as a store clerk and salesman, he decided to head west to take advantage of the prospects there. After living in Winnipeg, he got a job as a wholesale millinery salesman at a salary of $1800 per year, a very good income at the time.
In 1906, he and his wife, Sciggra, moved to Red Deer. Although he briefly thought about starting his own store in Lacombe, he found the prospects in Red Deer to be much better and decided to expand here, rather than in Lacombe. By 1908, he had established a large store on Gaetz Avenue. Because he sold dry goods, millinery, groceries, drugs and hardware, as well as other items, he created Red Deer’s first department store.
Lord found that he was suffering from an excess of bad accounts during the recession of 1908. Hence, he adopted a policy of cash only. While people felt that would cost him business, he did very well, arguing that by not granting credit, he could offer lower prices. His slogan “It Pays to Pay Cash at W.E. Lord” became one of the most popular business mottos in Central Alberta.
Lord initially felt he needed to concentrate almost solely on his business. However, with the store doing so well, he began to branch into public life. He was a member of Red Deer’s first city council in 1913. In 1919, he was elected and then re-elected as Mayor by acclamation.
In 1911, he joined the Red Deer Agricultural (Red Deer Exhibition) Society. During his term as president in 1912-1913, he led the construction of the most extensive new facilities in the history of the organization, until the move to the new fairgrounds in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
Meanwhile, Lord branched into other businesses. He started the Lyric Theatre in Ross Street. In 1921, he replaced the building with what came to be known as the Rex, an up-to-date motion picture house.
Meanwhile, Lord became active with the first Red Deer Golf Club. He helped to lead the creation of a new golf course on the old Wilkins’ Brothers Ranch, (the first one being on a small, leased site in what is now West Park Estates). He also helped get the organization on a sound financial footing. He then led the reorganization of the old Club into the Red Deer Golf and Country Club. He agreed to become the first president.
In 1923, he became a charter member of the new Red Deer Rotary Club and became its third president.
In 1928, Lord sold his department store to the T. Eaton Co. thereby making him one of the wealthiest people in Red Deer. In 1933, he and his son Ralph bought Bannerman Motors and changed the name to Lord Motors. That business was sold to Fred Jenner in 1946.
Sciggra Lord passed away in 1953. W.E. Lord passed away in Red Deer in May 1959. They are buried in the Red Deer Cemetery.
Michael Dawe is a Red Deer historian and his column appears on Wednesdays.