|First Okotoks Band, ca 1906 *
On the Lighter Side
Mrs. Bonniman went out and caught a rooster, wrung its neck and plucked it. She left it on the porch step for a minute while she went into the kitchen for something. When she came out, it was gone. She blamed the neighbour's dog until she heard a ruckus in the hen yard. The poor rooster had all the hens upset as he streaked around the yard." (Nel Noonan, Century of Memories)
"One of Dad's stories of early Okotoks was about a local carpenter who fell from a building he was working on and his helpers gathered around him. One offered a drink of whiskey. "Oh no thanks" said the carpenter, "I can't go to heaven drunk." (David J. Morrison, Century of Memories)
Many firsts were celebrated in the early years, including the first local wedding in 1892, the first hotel constructed in 1892, and the first community school constructed in 1900. The Okotoks Fair was a reflection of the agricultural focus of the early years. The Fair in 1900 attracted 600 horses for horse races, shows, and pulling contests. In town, one could also compete on a polo, cricket, or football team. The first and last gold rush in Okotoks was created when Mrs. Tillotson, while preparing goose for a meal, discovered a gold nugget in the bird. Many claims were staked, extending as far as 1/4 mile east of the Sheep River bridge, but no gold was discovered.
We were lucky living in Okotoks in 1906, because we had telephone service. Phone service operators in Okotoks were dubbed the "hello girls", who said "good-bye" to Okotoks in 1963 when the switchboard closed. Electricity arrived in 1906, and by 1912 we were heating our homes with natural gas. Though we don't think about getting into our cars to go to the corner store today, the arrival of the first car in Okotoks in 1909 (driven by Ed Hayes) was a major social event. Many of the buildings constructed during our town’s early history were destroyed by fire due to the lack of water. It wasn’t until 1952 that Okotoks residents enjoyed a public water and sewer system. Finally, indoor plumbing!
The last bison in the Okotoks area was killed in 1879, one mile north of Okotoks.
- Okotoks was renamed Dewdney from 1892 to 1896 in honour of Lieutenant Governor Lord Edgar Dewdney of the North West Territories. The name reverted back to Okotoks due to confusion with a Town of Dewdney in British Columbia.
A flood in 1915 covered the mainstreet with water. In 1916, 200 flat cars of rock were brought by train from Frank Slide in the Crowsnest Pass and placed on the north side of the river one mile west of town to prevent further flooding in town.
From initial settlement to the 1940s, women were expected to quit work once they were married.
- In the early 1900s, land sold for $2.00-$4.00/acre.
- In the early 1900s, a staple food was "sow bosom" - a salty fat pork stacked in stores like cordwood.
- Oats grown in Okotoks took the highest award at the Paris Exposition in 1902.
- Before the invention of fridges, local people used to cut ice from ponds created by the Sheep River, and haul them to their storage house. The blocks would be packed with sawdust and would last through the next summer.
- In 1908 it was custom at the time to welcome newlyweds at the town train station with the Okotoks Band.
- Wooden sidewalks and hitching posts were removed in the late 1920s.
- Wages in the early 1930s were $600-700.00/yr.
- In 1958 there were no "mixed" (women & men) drinking establishments in Calgary, but there was in Okotoks. Needless to say, Okotoks became a popular drinking spot for Calgarians.
- Train passenger service to Okotoks was discontinued in 1971, ending 80 years of passenger service.
Bobby Kennedy visited the St. James Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s.
* Photo left to right: Ira Worth, unknown, George Lindsay (CPR agent), Bert Odger (hardware owner), Frank Paterson, George Paterson (postmaster), unknown, unknown, Jake Steir, S. P. Barth (shoemaker), Tom Wright, J. Morrison, Wyman Edmunds (druggist), Tony Keffler, Harry Colvin, and Carl Chester (store owner).