That's Life - August 9, 2017

On Sunday, July 2, 2017, I had the privilege and pleasure of speaking at the Canada 150 Three Hills Church Community Service at our very beautiful Anderson Park.

Over 600 people attended under a sunny sky and very hot temperatures.

As Mayor of the Town of Three Hills, I was asked to present a summary of the Town’s history. That’s a difficult task for a storyteller, like me, who likes to ramble on and on and, oops, there I go again.

I must have done something right because I have been asked, many times, to publish my speech. So, here is my 12-minute version of the history of Three Hills.

Three Hills was incorporated as a village on July 12, 1912 and as a Town on January 1, 1929.

In 1901 Henry Evans arrived to homestead just north of “The Flats” or what is now known as the Three Hills Golf Course.

He built a post office. It needed a name. The Three Hills, to the north, inspired him to name it Three Hills. Settlers continued to move into the area and businesses began to establish on the flats. Henry moved the post office to the people in 1906.

But in 1911 the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad would be established about two miles east of the flats. R.E. Morgan sold real estate and farm machinery. He bought land at the present site and started his own town. Others soon followed.

Once again, Henry Evans would move the post office. It sits on 4th Ave. South, today, the former Charlie Evans home. With farmland selling at about $3.10 an acre, the region quickly developed. Like any rural town, Three Hills grew to serve the needs of the ever-growing agricultural industry. Groceries, dry goods, lumber yard, bakeries, butcher shops, clothing stores, cafes and banks were all established. The Three Hills Capital first published in December 1915.

Some buildings had been moved from the flats. Some included the old Chinese cafe, known for yeas as The Queen’s. It was a creamery on the flats.

The “Old Red Barn” that sat at the north end of Anderson Park was moved from the flats. It took several attempts, over two years. This land was the location of the Three Hills Dairy.

Three Hills became a grain delivery point on the Grand Trunk Pacific Line in 1912. The first elevator was built that year. Soon the entire west side of town was lined with grain elevators, nine in total. The last to be built was by the Alberta Wheat Pool. It opened June 17, 1967.

In the early years homes and businesses were heated by coal.

The Ellis and Trentham mines operated here. People came from miles around for their coal supply.

Kirk’s Furnaces were know from coast to coast. Kirk’s Heating Ltd. started in 1930. The production of their famous coal stoker began in 1950.

Prairie Bible Institute was established in 1922. In 1924 two lots were purchased in town on the corner of 4th Ave and 2nd Street North for the back taxes of $10. Remember, there was no running water and no power in town. Prairie would grow to over 100 buildings on a 450 acre campus. There was also the Prairie Farm, along with another 625 acres of rented land. Today’s President, Mark Maxwell, is the grandson of Founder, Principal and President, L. E. Maxwell.

Three Hills has come a long way from its early beginnings.

In 1922 there were four gas powered lamps on Main Street. The first village school was built in 19014. That very building was moved on Wednesday, June 28, to the Kneehill Museum grounds. The building had been moved to make way for a new brick school, located where the Public School track is. The first section opened in 1920 with an addition in 1929. George Meikelejohn and Simon Megli formed the Three Hills Power Company in 1925. Up until then it was candles and coal oil lamps. Initially, power was only supplied to customers from dusk until the respectable hour when all citizens should be in bed. The construction of the Three Hills Water Tower was completed in 1948. Water was pumped from wells, west of town. Three Hills would enjoy tap water and flush toilets to the new sewage disposal system.

The water system would have been helpful when fire destroyed many businesses on the south side of Main Street on January 19, 1930. It was minus 32 farenheit. 10 buildings were lost and 22 citizens were left homeless.

The first hospital was built in 1948.

Television arrived in 1954 and natural gas in 1960.

The Three Hills outdoor swimming pool opened on May 16, 1957 and operated until the end of the 1986 season. The Three Hills and District Aquatic Centre opened November 7, 1987 at 2:30 p.m.

In the early 70’s the Three Hills oilfield really started to take shape.

Over the next 20 years over 350 wells were drilled resulting in oil and natural gas becoming another strong economic engine for Three Hills. Homes were built to accommodate the influx of families involved in the oilpatch. Service companies arrived, truck and excavation companies were established as were companies supplying pipe bits and fittings.

This also resulted in retail growth, the IGA expansion, as well as the arrival of the Toronto Dominion Bank, Fields and SAAN Store.

Main Street was first to be paved in 1961.

The old brick school closed in 1963, having served the town for 42 years.

The Three Hills Centennial Arena was built in 1967 and the Three Hills Flying Club was formed.

The Town’s boundaries expanded to Highway 21 in 1973.

The Three Hills Provincial Building opened in 1975.

The new town office opened in 1980.

Cruise Nite begins in 1981.

In 1982 the water treatment plant opens bringing water from the Red Deer River.

1984 - New hospital opens

1985 - New RCMP barracks built

1990 - Hotel burns down

1996 - Elevators came down

2000 - Town buys 95.5 acres of land from Doris Anderson

We see the birth of 24 Hour Convenience Stores. Additional restaurants, new hotel/motel accommodations.

And we are seeing retail and industrial development with companies like Gas Pro, BCP, Home Hardware Building Centre,

Bigfoot & Co. Ltd. and Kirk’s Heating and Sheet Metal locating on the town’s east side.

On the west side, we see Richardson Pioneer, the Three Hills Seed Cleaning Plant and a string of service trades.

At one time business was contained to the downtown core.

To the north we are home to Golden Acres Honey, who package and ship honey around the world.

In the last year we have seen the opening of the new Kneehill County administrative Building, the new Kneehill Medical Clinic, the new Three Hills Town Office (renovated former Kneehill County Administrative Office), the newly renovated Three Hills Library and Kneehill Regional and Family Support Services, has moved into their new quarters at the former Medical Clinic, now newly renovated.

Three Hills is home to about 1,000 students from K to College each year. Prairie Christian Academy just finished their first year in their new facility. Three Hills Public School was completely renewed about 12 years ago.

The Three Hills Centennial Arena Revitalization campaign ran over 13 years, from start to finish, with the ribbon being cut on the final phase in 2009.

The sod was turned for Anderson Park during our Town’s 100th birthday in 2012. The official opening was held during our Summer Celebration in 2014.

Three Hills Fire and Rescue moved into their new fire hall in the spring of 2010.

We are on our third sewage lagoon system, due to growth.

Three Hills has seen three curling rinks over its 105 year history. The first built in 1925, the second in 1947 and the present was built in 1979.

The Three Hills Golf Course had its grand opening on June 7, 1985.

Three Hills received a Canada 150 grant from the Federal government in the amount of $156,000. This is a matching grant and it will be used to completely rebuild the town tennis courts and the outdoor skating rink in Kinsmen Park.

This summer will see infrastructure in place for a new 13 lot residential subdivision in the town’s northeast corner.

This is phase one of a two phase project.

The service road, from Carillion west to the Seed Cleaning Plant has been paved this year and sidewalk replacement and repair is ongoing as the budget allows.

There is much more to Three Hills than I have covered today. Lots happens in 105 years. Change will be ongoing as the years go by. Some good and some might be conceived as not so good. That’s just human nature. Some say nothing ever changes in Three Hills. They are most likely the ones who say “It can’t be done”.

I will borrow a quote from former Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs, Doug Griffiths, when I say “Those who say it can’t be done should not stand in the way of those who are doing it.”

Thank you and God Bless you all.

That being said, I would like to remind everyone that the offering at the service was dedicated to the Three Hills Tennis Courts and Outdoor Skating Rink Re-build Canada 150 Project. If you would like to contribute, please make cheques payable to the Town of Three Hills and please write in Tennis Courts. Cheques can be dropped off at the Three Hills Town Office or Capital Printers Ltd.

That’s Life.