Clarke Family

Written by Canmore Museum

Grandpa “Tom” Clarke, made the trek from Toronto with many other North West Mounted Policemen in the early 1890’s, to Fort Macleod, Alberta, where he met our granny, formerly of England. Our dad was one of their five children. (Grandpa took part in the publishing of the first Calgary Herald – so long ago!).

Mother was born in Wales and in due time, the Whites went to Fort Macleod and took up farming with their four children, and it was there that Mother and Dad met, married and honeymooned in Calgary. Their first four children were born in Fort Macleod and John in Olds, Alberta (as a wee boy he always said he was born in the “Old Country”). 

Dad took his police training in Regina with the Northwest Mounted Police and was first stationed in Olds, and in 1917 was transferred to Canmore. Ultimately the Northwest Mounted Police became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The barracks was also our home and although it was rather small for our seven-member family, the grounds were beautiful and extensive. This was prior to automobiles so there was a large barn for the horses for Dad and his assistant Mountie, space for the rabbit family and we also had a dog. We had a lovely large garden which, in the winter, was flooded into a nice skating rink for us and our friends. In the summertime, we kids played “anti I over” over the barn; had a small ball diamond; played “jacks” and John and Hap slept in a tent as long as the weather permitted. Life was great.

Of course, recently our home/barracks has been beautifully restored as a heritage site, open to the public. All those involved are certainly to be commended for the fabulous job they accomplished. Different members of our family drop in whenever they can from their various locations. If Mother and Dad could only have seen it, but the passage of time didn’t allow it. They are certainly in our thoughts when we go there. Phyllis and I were so thrilled to be invited to the grand opening; unfortunately the rest of the surviving family could not attend, but they certainly got lots of pictures of the great, festive, well organized affair. It was so well attended it was overwhelming. They even, with icing, had a lovely picture of the house on the large celebration cake!

Our dad really enjoyed his posting in Canmore for about thirteen years, but was then transferred. We were so sorry to leave, but that is life. Canmore put on a lovely farewell party for the Clarke family in the Union Hall before our departure, complete with a beautiful gift we have treasured over the years.

We watched, with great interest, the renaming of “Chinaman’s Peak” as our mother, in the company of others, climbed that mountain and found it a great adventure. 

Canmore was, and still is, a very aggressive town. It is amazing how it has grown up and enlarged so much, and the planning goes on. 

Do you remember the wonderful Christmas parties the town and the Mine put on, complete with entertainment and gifts? I’ll never forget the excitement. A dandy variety of entertainment filled the time it took for Santa to leave the North Pole, arrive in Edmonton on the way down to Exshaw, arrive in Canmore – then we heard the sleigh bells as Santa arrived via his reindeer, at the Union Hall. The excitement built. I could hardly believe my eyes when he came over to me (how did Santa know me?) and gave me a fancy wrapped Christmas card and a gift from one of my friends. Was I ever thrilled and excited!

And of course, among the various forms of entertainment throughout the year was the big deal that was put on on July 1st, complete with a judged parade; sports; all the ice cream you could eat – wow!! Canmore was so aggressive and into everything – and the greatest town to grow up in.

Remember, before the skating rink was ready, how it would get around town that the backwater, at the back of Canmore, had enough ice for skating? (It is now a lovely subdivision). We’d have a great time there and a few boys sometimes would build a bonfire so we could rest. When we kids were young, Dad had our garden space tumed into a skating rink and kids from all around came over and skated. 

Bet there aren’t many left who can remember Diamond’s Department Store. It burned down one night after we had all gone to bed, but we put some clothes on and watched it until it was all gone. It was across from C.T. Sing’s (now known as Marra’s Grocery). I find fires fearful! It was scary when our first school burned down. We were very young then. It was surprising how soon our grand new school was built. (And now there is another new school.)

Going back to skating for a moment, Phyllis was a beautiful skater and trained to compete in the Banff Winter Carnival. She came in second, but the Clarkes thought she had won! Guess we were kind of prejudiced!! The next summer she left home to train as a nurse in the Galt Hospital in Lethbridge. After graduating, she went to Vancouver General Hospital for some extra training and was next a supervisor until her marriage. 

Hap loved Canmore too. He completed high school here, took a course in journalism in Calgary, and bought the Hillhurst-Sunnyside weekly paper. John joined him, and World War II started, (not between the boys!!). They sold their business and made a pact to go back into a newspaper business if they survived the war, which they did. In Canmore, John was our very own hero – played first base for the baseball team – and was a forward for the Canmore Briquetteers.

  • Anne – that’s me – took a business course while Dad was stationed in Calgary, and later ended up as secretary with Marshall-Wells Wholesale Hardware. It was the most interesting job for quite some time. Of course, the inevitable happened; I met the most wonderful man! (That is a beautiful story in itself.)

Eleanor trained as a registered nurse at the Calgary General Hospital while we lived in Calgary, and subsequently, after graduation, also went off to Vancouver and nursed in the Vancouver General Hospital. 

The boys and our husbands, all, thankfully, returned after the war. The brothers bought the Drumheller Mail and ran it. All the kids were happily married and have stayed that way. 

Needless to say, there is so much more to the “Clarke’s” story, but that would be a book in itself. Our lives were very full and wonderful, and we are very thankful. Phyllis, Eleanor and I miss our wonderful Mother and Dad and our two great brothers, but nothing lasts forever! We are widows with wonderful dreams and memories.

Father: C. Howard Clarke. R.CM.P.
Mother: Dora M. Clarke
Children: in order of their birth.
Arthur H. (Hap or Happy)
John, the baby!

In Canmore Seniors at the Summit, ed. Canmore Seniors Association, 2000, p. 47-49.

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