Photo courtesy of Red Deer Archives                                The Penhold Memorial Hall, seen in 1920, was built with the leadership of the Women’s Institute, a group of approximately 40 members.

Photo courtesy of Red Deer Archives The Penhold Memorial Hall, seen in 1920, was built with the leadership of the Women’s Institute, a group of approximately 40 members.

Michael Dawe: Penhold was quick to honour those who served their country

Another Remembrance Day has passed. It is a time to remember and honour those who have served and, in particular, those who lost their lives during times of war or peacekeeping missions.

The time and date of Remembrance Day observances are based on when the Armistice ended the First World War in 1918 – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The war had been a searing experience for central Alberta. More than 850 young men of Red Deer and district had gone to serve “King and Country.”

Of those, 118 lost their lives. Many of those who returned had suffered wounds to their bodies and their minds and/or were suffering from significant illness.

Moreover, the economy was shattered in the aftermath of the war. Local unemployment soared to nearly 25 per cent.

Many businesses went bankrupt, or else quietly closed their doors. Local farmers suffered from a sharp decline in the prices for their produce and livestock. There were also poor harvests due to dry conditions and an early onset of winter.

Nevertheless, despite the hard times and general lack of money, there was a strong push to create suitable memorials for those who had served, and those who had lost their lives, in the Great War.

The first local community to create a major memorial was the Village of Penhold.

The leadership came from the Penhold Women’s Institute, a group of approximately 40 women dedicated to charitable work and the general betterment of the community.

The proposal to build a memorial hall was approved by the institute at a meeting March 6, 1919. Land was purchased from Mr. Carswell for $75. However, this was soon exchanged for two lots on Fleming Avenue that belonged to the Penhold local of the United Farmers of Alberta.

A public meeting was held April 3, 1919, to confirm general community support for the project. That support was readily offered.

A decision was made to make the hall 30-foot by 50-foot in size, with a 16-foot by 24-foot basement. It was also agreed the hall become a multi-use community gathering space, as well as a community gymnasium.

Costs for the building were then determined to be $6,000 to $7,000. However, even before the April 3 public meeting, donations were made toward the project.

Several farmers volunteered to begin hauling gravel to the building site. Students at the rural Fairlands School organized a concert, with the proceeds going to the hall fund.

As the spring progressed, many other fundraisers were held, while many people stepped forward with donations of cash, materials and/or volunteer labour.

A special management committee was set up to oversee the building of the hall. In the late spring of 1919, construction work commenced with excavation of the basement, followed by the installation of the concrete foundations.

Construction work proceeded at a rapid pace. By mid-October, the building was virtually completed. A Thanksgiving supper and Halloween masquerade ball were organized for the official opening Oct. 31, 1919.

The grand opening was a huge success. More than 225 people showed up, which meant most people in the village and surrounding district attended. There were two sittings for the Thanksgiving supper.

More than 40 local veterans were treated as special guests. The Great War Veterans Association Orchestra from Red Deer provided the musical entertainment for the masquerade ball.

Work then began on paying down the $3,500 still owing on the project. With the hall quickly becoming a hub of activity for the community, people continued to donate generously in terms of cash and volunteer time.

A special feature for the hall was added in 1920. A large curtain was commissioned for the stage. Once finished, it depicted the scene of the ruined cathedral in Albert, France.

The work was done by Arthur England and Harold Haste, two local veterans. The curtain is now considered a national treasure and is housed in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Meanwhile, over the past 100 years, the Memorial Hall has continued to be a community hub and valued local landmark.

On Friday, a special event to mark the centennial and legacy of the hall was held with noted local philanthropist and historian Stewart Ford as the key speaker.

Red Deer historian Michael Dawe’s column appears Wednesdays.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Contributed)
Temporary trail closure at Three Mile Bend

Trail closed into the weekend

(Contributed)
Red Deer youth missing

Red Deer RCMP seek public’s assistance

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Trudeau is rejecting accusations from Alberta’s justice minister that his federal government is part of a trio rooting for that province’s health system to collapse due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta justice minister sorry for saying feds, others rooting for COVID disaster

Blame and responsibility have recently been at the centre of debate in Alberta

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Northcott Rodeo Inc. Facebook page)
Alberta takes legal action against pastor, rodeo organizers for gatherings

Rallies and protests have been occurring regularly in Alberta

Minister of Health Patty Hajdu responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Coalition says users were shut out of drug decriminalization proposal, demands redo

Health Canada is working on Vancouver request for exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) celebrates with defenseman Victor Hedman (77) after the team defeated the Dallas Stars during an NHL hockey game Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Analysis: McDavid NHL’s MVP front-runner in condensed season

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid has 100-plus point season

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) makes a save as Maple Leafs defenceman TJ Brodie (78) and Montreal Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli (73) look for the rebound during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The Leafs and the Canadiens will meet in the playoffs for the first time in 42 years when the 2020-21 NHL post-season gets underway.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Singer Celine Dion performs during her first World Tour show called Courage Wednesday, September 18, 2019 at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Songbird Uncaged: Celine Dion readies return to Las Vegas stage for 10-date run

Starting on Nov. 5, Dion will play 10 dates at the Resorts World Las Vegas theatre

An Empire Day/Victoria Day gathering of school children on Ross Street by the Cenotaph in the 1920s. On the right hand side, are members of the Red Deer Citizens Band (forerunner of the Red Deer Royals). (Photo via Red Deer Archives)
Victoria Day event helped after war

One hundred years ago, on May 24, 1921, a major community event… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Gwynne Dyer: Independence is a one-way gate

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland declared in 2014 that the referendum… Continue reading

Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) and Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon (4) battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in Chicago, Saturday, May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Most Read