Mike and Eila Dyrgas

Written by Canmore Museum

I, Mike, was born in Canmore in 1925. We lived in Prospect, the old name for Mineside. Prospect was right close to the mines. We had cold running water supplied by the mine. All the mine property on that side of the bridge had running water.

For fun we played ball on the road, hockey on the road with homemade hockey sticks and frozen horse buns, skied with homemade equipment. 

As part of a large family, we worked hard. We helped in the garden, got in a wood supply, washed clothes, chopped the wood, piled the wood, carried out the wash water. I started school in 1931, went to grade seven and then with Mom and Dad having so many kids, I went to work at the mines in 1940. In the wintertime we used to take shortcuts across the river ice to go to school. We used to go home for lunch. At times, times were tough. There wasn’t family allowance in those days.

For working at the mine, I first started outside on what they called the tipple. We prepared the coal to be shipped out for sale. After that I went underground because it paid more money and I worked as a pipefitter. Later on, mechanical miners came in, and I was the supervisor of all the operations underground. Then after I was promoted to superintendent of all mine machinery and equipment and worked there until the mine closed in 1979. I was kept on until the tipple equipment was dismantled and sold and the land was reclaimed. The land was planted with wild grass. That was all completed by 1981. After that I started work at the Canmore Hospital as a maintenance worker and chief supervisor. I retired in 1989.

I met Eila in 1943 at a show. We married in 1949 and we rented a little converted garage for twelve dollars a month, two rooms, a bedroom and a kitchen, no sink. One morning we woke up and the blankets were frozen against the wall. We heated the house with a cookstove and had to clean stovepipes, etc. We lived there until the spring of 1951, then we moved over to a company house over by Mrs. Reinikka. Rent was twelve dollars for four rooms. The company allowed fifteen dollars per year for paint but you had to get the paint from the company store. If you painted your house you got free rent for one month. This newly married couple helped support the husband’s family as well.

Dyrgas 283 years of service

from left Mike, Tony, Frank, Carol, Leon, Pauline, Joe, sitting Frances, Elsie

Frank Sr. amd Rose Dyrgas, June 1923

Dyrgas girls from left back Elsie, Frances, Mary, Carol; front Rose (mother), Pauline

Dyrgas boys from left Mike, Tony, Joe, Leon, Frank

In Canmore Seniors at the Summit, ed. Canmore Seniors Association, 2000, p. 65.

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