Letter: Preserving small town history

Small towns are under appreciated; more accurately, stories about small towns and their inhabitants are under appreciated and glossed over by ‘big city’ folks.

Having grown up in a small town and now living in a ‘big’ city, I can appreciate the advantages of both settings.

Trochu, Alta. is one of those gems that is easily passed by on Hwy 21. You drive by and see a cemetery and as you leave the area, a large golf tee. Unless you turn left and drive through you miss the beauty and richness of the rural community. Murals decorate the walls of the pharmacy, and a restored building is the bottle depot. A restaurant now inhabits an old clothing store gracefully. Implement, car dealerships and ag businesses seem to dominate the area.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Bill Cunningham, a lifelong citizen of Trochu, has honoured his community with something intangible that can not be described well. It is passion mixed with commitment and a demeanor that echoes the sentiment being at peace within himself and history around him. It is almost as if the Trochu Museum president looks around and sees history playing itself out right in front of his eyes.

Not only has his family served the area in his lifetime, but his mother and fathers as well. They have been fixtures in the community and its functions for decades. His mother was part of the first history book, and Cunningham has been instrumental in the growth of the museum and the 2nd volume of the history book.

He went to school in Trochu Valley, interned as a teacher in Trochu Valley, and taught his whole career in Trochu Valley. He coached volleyball, basketball and took students overseas many times. He is a rare individual. Those who know him, call him ‘sir,’ out of respect for his respect for them.

During his historical journey, his interest in the World Wars has resulted in two books, with the 2nd just released.

“Small Town Stories of World War II,” is a 120 plus page book packed with photos, personal stories and is an amazing piece of research and passion.

During the writing, Cunningham poured over provincial archives, interviewed families of veterans, scanned photos and learned more about the men and women from Trochu and area who went off to war, most of whom returned.

He included lists of individuals who served in the army, navy, air force and hospitals. As a student of the school in the mid 1970s, I remember many of the men and women without knowing anything about their past, now I do.

Huxley, Torrington, Elnora, Wimborne and Trochu volunteers are included.

One of the most amazing stories in the book is that of George Eckenfelder and his capture of 119 Germans in a cave. For those who have read the first book, his father was also a distinguished soldier in the First World War. Courage and service came naturally for the family.

Priced at $30, this book deserves to be on the shelves of family members, collectors and veterans across Alberta. As an added bonus, funds raised from the sale of this book go to the museum Cunningham so loyally supervises.

You can buy this book by going to UFA Fuels and the Trochu Library. Or you can mail a cheque for $36 payable to the Trochu Museum to: Box 538, Trochu, Alberta, T0M 2C0.

Tim Lasiuta, Red Deer

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