Canadian Track Stars Circa 1931
August 11th and 12th, 1931 were a couple days that Wetaskiwin got to display itself to the rest of Canada. Athletes from across the country converged on Wetaskiwin for the Dominion Womens’ Track and Field Championships, and the Provincial Boys and Girls Championships. At the time this was quite a coup for Wetaskiwin to have secured the high level Canadian Womens’ event. As a result the town was buzzing in anticipation and spent months preparing for the arrival of out of town guests and the revelry associated with something this big. After all, Wetaskiwin was just a small prairie farming community.
The athletes were greeted with ideal weather on Tuesday as the day started with a parade of provinces. The floats in the parade were decorated by Wetaskiwin youngsters. Wetaskiwin athlete Norma Chiddy was the Queen of the parade. Mayor B.D. Howatt introduced Lieutenant Governor W.L. Walsh who officially opened the womens’ events and congratulated Wetaskiwin for being chosen to host the Dominion contest. Mrs. Walsh received flowers.
At the time Canada’s government was a strong constitutional monarchy under the Queen. We were called a Dominion even though the Confederation of Canada was in 1867. The track meet was held at a time when the world was in the throes of the Great Depression and still recovering 13 years after the end of the Great War. Programs for the event were 10 cents and the Driard Hotel was offering a 6-11 am breakfast and 11-8pm dinner for 40 cents. If you wanted a shower or tub bath it would cost you 35 cents. If you were not the shy type you could get the group bath rate of 75 cents for 5 people.
The track meet was sanctioned by the Alberta Branch Amateur Athletic Union of Canada. The athletes started off “hard and fast as record after record was broken. Woman athletes from six provinces and boys and girls from all over Alberta went into action on the opening gun”. Lillian May of Montreal won the 100 yard senior womens’ sprint competition. Ronald Hoskins of Millet placed third in under 16 provincial boys’ high jump contest. Orphan boy Johnny Koculyn of Medicine Hat won all the events he entered in the under 14 category.
Overall the western provinces upset the perennial favorite east on the medal podium that year. It was a stellar track meet except for the damp track on Wednesday due to the heavy rain on Tuesday night. After the meet everybody went home happy and satisfied, and to their lives and the reality of Depression era living. Farmers in the Wetaskiwin area were hit especially hard by the collapse of wheat prices. Eight years after this track meet, the Depression ended and World War Two began. At least for a while Wetaskiwin helped the rest of the country forget their problems and unite together in the name of sport and fair play.
Thanks to the City of Wetaskiwin Archives for reference material. The Archives are located at 4904-51st and are open Tuesday to Thursday. Phone 780-361-4423.
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