Written by Canmore Museum

Anita’s father, Emilio Casale, emigrated from Italy in 1921, aged fourteen, to join his father, Tony,who worked in the Bankhead Mine, moving to the Canmore Mine the following year. When he was twenty years old, Emilio married Millie Byers. 

Millie was born in Czechoslovakia in 1910. She and her parents, John and Albina, moved to Nova Scotia where her brother, John Junior, was born. The family then moved to Canmore where mining jobs were available.

Anita, only child of Casale and Millie, was born in Canmore in 1928. When she was three, they moved to Calgary where Anita attended “Holy Angels Catholic School”. Those were tough years in the city during the Depression and they returned to Canmore in 1940 where Casale was employed in the mine.

Anita started singing for Casale when she was only twelve years old, entertaining many of the local people. During the war years, she often sang at various dance halls in Calgary. At eighteen, she married William Allon who had moved to Canmore, as a child, with his parents, from Durham, England. Anita continued to sing and work in Banff. She sang at the Timberline, Voyageur, Cascade Music Hall and the Banff Legion and worked at the Elite Cafe, Tomboy and Safeway, at various times. Word has it that she made grocery shopping fun, dancing down the aisles with the customers! She made nightly appearances at Tito’s and joined the Eldorados, providing the first “live” entertainment at the Canmore Hotel. She also sang with her father at the Legion in Canmore.

Her singing talent brought Anita into contact with several Hollywood celebrities in the ’40’s and ’50’s. She went canoeing with Peter Lawford at Lake Louise, and met Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum in Banff while filming “River of No Return”. She looked after Lassie during the making of “Lassie, Come Home” and met Shelley Winters and Alan Ladd in Banff. In Calgary, she was introduced to Spike Jones, the famous (and off-the-wall) bandleader.

Anita’s husband, William (Willie) Allon was born in 1924, coming to Canada in 1928. He had three sisters, Dorothy, Mary and Edie, and a brother, Stanley. Willie attended school in Canmore and worked in the mines for thirty-eight years. After the mine closed down in 1979, he did janitorial work at the school and maintenance work at the golf course until his retirement. He still resides in Canmore. 

Willie and Anita had three children – a girl, Toni (Cootchie) in 1949; a boy, Billie, in 1952; and a second daughter, Terina (Tina) in 1955. 

Cootchie attended school in Canmore but did not complete her studies. At seventeen years of age, she became the first “flag girl” in Alberta. In 1970, she married Art LeBlanc, and had two children, Danny and Brandy. In her thirties, Cootchie returned to her studies, and, in 1986, proudly graduated with her grade twelve diploma, alongside her son, Danny. After working at jobs at the Canmore Hotel, McLeod’s and Bow Valley Provincial Park, she attended SAIT in Calgary, obtaining a Diploma in Business Administration. Returning to Canmore, she and Tim Heath established “Wilmer Homes”, a house construction firm. Sadly, her son Danny was killed in a helicopter crash at Blue River, B.C. in 1990. Her daughter, Brandy, continues to reside in Canmore with her husband, Jeff Herbert, and their children, Demi and Danny.

Billie Allon also attended Canmore school. He is married with four children: Charlie, Cindy, Billy and Chrissy. After living in Fredericton, N.B. and Dartmouth, N.S., he now owns and operates “Summit Painting” in Calgary. He enjoys a well deserved reputation as a friend to those in need, always willing to lend a helping hand. 

Tina graduated from the Canmore school in 1973 and then moved to Ontario for a few years, returning to Calgary to attend the College of Art. Her daughter, Tyla, was born in 1981 and a second daughter, Nikki, in 1993. Her interest in art is expressed in beautiful watercolour paintings. In 1997, Tina and her husband, Stewart Thompson, moved her grandfather Casale’s house from downtown Canmore to Teepee Town, where they currently reside.

Anita and her family remain very close, enjoying their homes and lives in Canmore, sharing memories and experiences from past to present. “Nita” is well-known for her outgoing personality and sense of fun – a character who’ll do “anything” to get a laugh! There’s no doubt she has continued the Casale name in fine style.

William Allon, Cootchie LeBlanc, Bill Allon, Tina Thompson, Anita Casale

Anita Casale sings with Emilio Casale’s band

In Canmore Seniors at the Summit, ed. Canmore Seniors Association, 2000, p. 35-36.

About the author

Canmore Museum

Leave a Comment