Highlands Historical Society Oral History Project

Erika Weidemann and Heike Kohl
Part 1
Highlands Historical Society has embarked on a project to capture and preserve voices and
stories from past times in the Highlands neighbourhood. Cast your minds back or imagine anew
as you follow the stories imparted to us from long-time residents. Readers will enjoy trials and
triumphs of immigrant life and the antics of “free-range childhood” in The Highlands.
This time, we have a set of interviews conducted by William Pick of HHS and expertly
transcribed by Louella J. Janzen Pick, also of HHS. On January 16th and 23rd 2021 we heard
from Highlands residents Erika Weidemann and her daughter Heike Kohl who came to
Canada in 1960 from Germany on a ship called the Akadia, arriving in the Highlands the
following year in 1961.
These interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
Arrival in the Highlands
Bill: So the first thing I wanted to ask Erika is, why did you leave Germany? Why
did you come to Canada?
Erika: Well, we thought we had a better life here.
Bill: And you were right? You didn’t go back.
Erika: Of course, of course. Still quite nice over there, too. I was about, what, 22
or something like this?
Bill: 22, in Toronto.
Erika: Yeah, for a year
Bill: Toronto would be pretty obvious. Why would you come to Edmonton?
Heike: Right?
Erika: First of all, to Edmonton we came because Harold, my husband, his brother
was here in Edmonton already. He wanted us to come and so it took about a year
to talk him to come up here, talk him into coming to Alberta.
Bill: Sure.
Erika: And because by that time we had found jobs in Toronto, and —
Bill: So you came here, neither of you had anything waiting for you in terms of
Erika: No.
Bill: But you did have a brother or brother in law.
Erika: Yes. Yes, we did.
Bill: Yeah. To come and stay with. And then you picked the Highlands.
Heike: Well, first we lived at Uncle Leo’s for a week?
Erika: He gave us a bed to sleep in until we found our own.
[Here Erika and Heike describe a place they lived briefly in South Beverly. The
landlady kicked them out because they had a T.V. because supposedly it took up
too much power.]
French Fries from Jamison’s
Erika: We left willingly.
Heike: And then moved into?
Erika: Into Jamison’s coffee shop.
Bill: In the basement. Right?
Erika: In the basement, yes. People said, why would you want to go underneath a
coffee shop, you know? It’s noisy. I say, no, it’s not. Because the time, the noisy
time we are at work, and when we go home, how did that go?
Heike: Well, when we go home it’s quiet.
Erika: It’s quiet. Because they were only open, I think, until about six o’clock or
something like that. It was mostly for the–
Heike: Like lunch and–
Erika: Teenagers, they wanted that [. . .] ice cream and their malt.
Bill: The ice cream was famous. They were famous all over Edmonton, I
understand, for that.
Erika: That I didn’t know, because I couldn’t afford it then.
Heike: I don’t think we ever ate at Jamison’s, did we.
Erika: No, never did.
Heike: No, because we couldn’t afford it.
Erika: And the business hours–
Heike: Were different than when you got home. But they did occasionally give
me french fries. Because our entrance was at their kitchen back door entrance, our
entrance to go downstairs, so once in a while the ladies took pity on this poor little
girl that didn’t speak English, and they would give me french fries, and I thought
that was the best thing ever.
Bill: Of course it was!
Erika: It was. Well, when we sent her up [. . . ] sometimes we splurged, you
know? We bought an order of fries. I would send her up and get an order of
French fries so she had something to nibble on. Well, that was a shoe box size.
That was an order of fries.
Bill: Fries for the whole family.
Early Jobs
Bill: What did you do for employment when you got here? You said you both
Erika: Yeah. My first job was for, what was it called? We sewed jeans.
Bill: GWG maybe?
Erika: Yeah, that was my first job. And Harold was a cabinet maker. He was here
in Canada or in Edmonton in 1957, and he was able to get his job back when all of
us came to Canada.
Heike: So he came here to scout out for a job. Check things out. And then he
went back and told my mom, hey, we should go, and she said, blindly, sure!
Heike: And then we all came over.
Bill: So you were already married when he came over to scout a job?
Erika: Yeah, yeah.
Bill: So cabinet making, I think of that as a very specialized occupation. So he had
his own business, or he worked for somebody?
Erika: No, he worked for somebody. Both times for the same boss. Like, the first
time he came, and then he came to get me. And so and even all the way up to–

Heike: Fort McMurray.
Erika: Yeah, Fort McMurray or, you know–
Bill: Excellent. So you would be alone for a week, days?
Erika: Sometimes for a day, maybe a week, but [he] didn’t go any longer, because
everything was built in the shop in Edmonton.
Bill: So how did child care work? Heike is now, 1, 2, 3?
Erika: She was about 2. Yeah.
Bill: How did that work?
Heike: Babysitting in people’s homes. Right? Because there was no day care at
the time.
Bill: There’s no formal day care, so you would do what we call home care.
Heike: Yeah. I remember one of my sitters where I decided to open up a shampoo
bottle and empty it in her bathtub.
(CHUCKLING) Babysitting was great. I don’t remember much about it, but I do
remember that.
Erika: It must have been good to go to babysitting, that one, because you cried
every time I picked you up to go home.
Heike: She probably had a dog or something, because I loved dogs. Well, I love
all animals, but…
Erika: She also had the son approximately same age as you.
Bill: Good to play with somebody, yeah.
Erika: And at home there was nobody to play with, because we didn’t have time. I
came home from work and made supper.
Heike: Yeah, yeah. I don’t know, did you ever, did you read my little bio in “Next
Bill: I did, yeah.
Heike: Where I kissed a dog while it was pooping and all that? Yeah.
Erika: That must have been nice.
Heike: It’s a long bio: it shows how much I still love animals.
Erika: After GWG was Edmonton Tent and Awning. I sewed tents. And then
what came after that?
Heike: The bedding? Canadian Bedding or something.
Erika: Yeah, Canadian Bedding. That’s right where the LRT station is there. After
that, Canadian Bedding was bought out by–
Heike: Kroehler Furniture Manufacturing.
Getting to Work
Bill: And how did you get to work?
Erika: By bus. Note from Heike: actually, my mom only took the bus when she
worked for the Bay at Southgate. This was many, many, many years after she had
left Kroehler. There were no bus routes that went to that area of the city. Besides
riding with my dad, my mom also carpooled with co-workers, and in later years,
when she got her driver’s license – and we could afford a second car – she then
drove herself. She left Kroehler around 1980. ONE reason that she left was so
that she could watch my son while I worked! Back then you only got six weeks of
Mat Leave, four of which, for me, were wasted because of a minor complication
that put me in the hospital for a week and then I had to stay home for three weeks
until the baby arrived. I had to go back to work when David, my son, was two
weeks old. But I digress. My mom only took the bus when she started working at
the Bay; 2002.
Bill: The local [jobs] where you could almost walk to them: GWG.
Heike: When we were in the basement suite it was still one car and then when we
moved to the house, that’s [when] you got your second car [. . . ] you were in this
Erika: Yeah. And we stayed in this house until now.
Heike: Yeah. So in the early times Opa would ([ . . .] I call him Opa because he’s
a grandfather–he’s not my grandfather, but he’s my dad, and she’s called Oma.)
Yeah, he would take you there and bring you home.
Erika: Yeah. And on his way to work.
Heike: You didn’t have to take the bus. Not at that time.

Learning English from TV

Bill:  So are there other things that kind of surprised or shocked you or amazed you about Canada compared to Germany?  Or Edmonton? 

Erika:  I mean, it might have been surprised, but not that much.  You know, Harold had told me lots [about] Canada or Edmonton. 

Erika:  So I was sort of prepared. 

Bill:  And you had, you know, similar cooking things, [was] kitchen was similar to what you were used to?

Erika:  Well, yes, because this was our heritage.  We came with it, you know?  With the idea that we have to adjust.  And I had no problem with that.  And I’d like to also learn the new things. 

Bill:  Right. 

Heike:  Yeah.  And tell us how you learned English. 

Erika:  How did I learn English? 

Heike:  TV. 

Erika:  Oh, yes, that’s that’s right, yes!  The Lucy Show.

Bill:  Got some ‘splainin’ to do. 

Heike:  That’s right, because there’s no ESL course, stuff like that at that time.  I almost failed Grade 1 because I couldn’t speak English.  Right? 

Bill:  So was there a kindergarten for you, Heike? 

Heike:  No.  Babysitters.  There was no kindergarten. 

Erika:  Just babysitter, yeah.  And there was in the German Church in the basement they had a room for, like–

Heike:  Immigrants? 

Erika:  For immigrants’ kids, so they can learn.  But we didn’t take you there. 

First of all, we left in the morning when you were pretty well sleeping. She wasn’t, but I mean–

Heike:  Yeah. 

Erika:  And then you’re all day there at the babysitter and then I come and pick you up, and the day is gone. 


Learning English from TV

Bill:  So are there other things that kind of surprised or shocked you or amazed you about Canada compared to Germany?  Or Edmonton? 

Erika:  I mean, it might have been surprised, but not that much.  You know, Harold had told me lots [about] Canada or Edmonton. 

Erika:  So I was sort of prepared. 

Bill:  And you had, you know, similar cooking things, [was] kitchen was similar to what you were used to?

Erika:  Well, yes, because this was our heritage.  We came with it, you know?  With the idea that we have to adjust.  And I had no problem with that.  And I’d like to also learn the new things. 

Bill:  Right. 

Heike:  Yeah.  And tell us how you learned English. 

Erika:  How did I learn English? 

Heike:  TV. 

Erika:  Oh, yes, that’s that’s right, yes!  The Lucy Show.

Bill:  Got some ‘splainin’ to do. 

Heike:  That’s right, because there’s no ESL course, stuff like that at that time.  I almost failed Grade 1 because I couldn’t speak English.  Right? 

Bill:  So was there a kindergarten for you, Heike? 

Heike:  No.  Babysitters.  There was no kindergarten. 

Erika:  Just babysitter, yeah.  And there was in the German Church in the basement they had a room for, like–

Heike:  Immigrants? 

Erika:  For immigrants’ kids, so they can learn.  But we didn’t take you there. 

First of all, we left in the morning when you were pretty well sleeping. She wasn’t, but I mean–

Heike:  Yeah. 

Erika:  And then you’re all day there at the babysitter and then I come and pick you up, and the day is gone. 


Highlands Historical Society Oral History Project
Erika Weidemann and Heike Kohl

Part 2

[Heike Kohl and Erika Weidemann continue their stories about life in Highlands.]

Mount Royal School

Heike: I remember Grade 1 not so much. 

Bill:  Mount Royal?  [The name of the local elementary school]

Heike:  I remember my mom talking about it.  The teachers wanted to talk about it because I was going to fail Grade 1, I wasn’t speaking enough English. 

Erika:  No, that was later on. 

Heike:  No, it was Grade 1.  I’m sure it was Grade 1.  But they said that you have to stop.  This was  Mount Royal.  I always thought it was really interesting that they said, You have to stop speaking German to her, you have to speak English, when they’re struggling with English as it is.  Henceforth, I’ve lost my mother tongue.  I still understand much of it.  We now watch a German show on Sundays together, but I don’t get everything.  I get the gist sometimes, so I’ve lost my mother tongue.  To construct a sentence, I’d rather jump off a bridge. I don’t want to speak it.  I don’t want to write it, because I’m no good at it.  I’ll just listen and I’ll reply in English. 

I remember in school also I used to get beat up.  This is a story my dad always told me was I would come home crying from school and he’d say, Why?  What are you crying for?  There was a boy who was always beating me up, calling me “Hitler lover”, and always mak[ing] fun of me.  I could not speak English and all that.  When they start calling you “Hitler lover”, as a child I didn’t realize this, it was from their parents; how would a child know something like that?  This boy was always beating me up, he was two grades higher than me.  He was in Grade 3, and I was in Grade 1 or something, and my dad got so frustrated with me crying all the time, and he said, just haul off and hit him. 

Bill:  And you did. 

Heike:  And I did, and he left me alone.  And there began the day of me becoming extremely blunt, and I’ll say assertive, but sometimes aggressive.  For a girl.  At that time.  Right?  There was “standards”.  Anyways.   I also remember going to the community hall, the Highlands community hall in the basement.  They had movies. Disney movies they would play sometimes for kids.  And I think you had to pay a small amount of money for that.  And I remember once I was devastated, I didn’t know where [I lost my] my coin or whatever, and I was just devastated, so I just sat on the stairs and cried. Then some lady came up and paid for me to go in, and I thought that was really nice of her.  So I do remember those movies quite fondly.

Highlands Junior High

Bill: So you went to Highlands Junior High. 

Heike:  Highlands Junior High, I went there for a number, well, all three years. 

Bill:  So junior high, there’s sock hops, there’s– 

Heike:  I didn’t go to, did I go to some dances?  I don’t think I did. I don’t think so, because my dad didn’t let me. I wasn’t allowed to.  

Bill: Why did you not want to go to dances? 

Heike:  Not that I didn’t want to. My dad wouldn’t let me.

Bill:  Why didn’t he want you to go? 

Heike:  I don’t know. 

Bill:  Didn’t want you too involved with boys? 

Heike:  I don’t know what the reason was, but he wouldn’t let me.

Bill:  You couldn’t question it too much. 

Heike:  Maybe because I needed to pick weeds?  My nickname at the time also through [   ] junior high was “Weeds”, and not for what most people would be named Weeds for.  That’s the time that we [  ]  moved in the house in, what, ’66?  We didn’t have a lawn because it was a brand-new build, so (for many years) there was no lawn, and of course weeds come up, and that was my job after school was to pick weeds, and that’s why I earned the moniker “Weeds”.  And that was what I was known as in junior high, and then I learned that “weeds” could mean something else and I didn’t want that moniker anymore.  That’s how I know if someone knew me in junior high.  I ran into an old schoolmate downtown once in a shop, and he said, “Weeds!” So it does stick.

[In what follows, Bill finds out about Erika and Heike’s memories of small businesses in the area]

Early Stores

Bill:  There was a little bit of commercial there on 53, 112th around 53. What I remember when I moved in, there was a sports store there. 

Heike:  Yeah.  There was Yee’s Grocery. I know [because] when I was young I had to go to the store and buy smokes for my parents, because you were still allowed to do that at that time.  Mr. Yee’s store, had a little convenience store in there and it had a hairdresser.  That was Clint or Cliff? 

Erika:  Cliff.  

Heike:  Cliff’s Hairstyle, and he lived just, for years he lived just off, overlooking the Gretzky Drive.  Is it the house with the big arches?  Yeah, that was his house.  There was Mr. Yee’s store, a hairdresser, and there was something else (112 Ave and 54 St).

Erika:  Something else yet, but I don’t remember. 

[Heike turns to her memories of high school at Eastglen]

The Eastglen High School Strike

Bill:  You had one other little prompt I wanted to go back to, and that was the great strike you talked about. 

Heike:  Oh, yeah.  That strike was because the school board had decided, you know, for budgetary reasons that Eastglen High School was not going to get any of the budget that was originally promised for, you know, upgrading and that kind of stuff, and one of my classmates (and neighbour) Rick Wacko, actually, he lived just down the block from us here on Ada Boulevard, he and his sisters. Rick Wacko, he and some of the other people arranged it, it was a walkout to protest and as far as I know, ultimately we did get the funding back for the school.  A one-day walkout. 

Bill:  So the whole, all the students, basically, or most of the students didn’t go to school? 

Heike:  Just about everybody walked out.  I don’t know how many. Rick played the piano [. . . ] he had protest songs that he had written. 

Bill:  Are you serious? 

Heike:  And he had a good singing voice and also went into Shumka dancing and stuff in later years.  He organized that.  He was my mortal enemy, [CHUCKLES] but I still decided to stand by him on this political issue. 

Bill:  So where was the protest, at the school or?

Heike:  It was at the school.  We just I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was at 10 am.  [. . .] There was one point where we were going to get up out of our chairs and all go outside, and luckily it was a beautiful day. 

Bill:  And you told the media before that?  Like CFRN or?

Heike:  Maybe they did arrange this.  I was an attendee or protestor, but not an organizer.  I’m sure the media was involved, because the school board obviously would not have done anything if it didn’t hit the media.  They don’t care.  But we walked out and wouldn’t go back until we got the money and I think it was the next day that they said, yeah, we’re going to get the money. 

Bill:  Excellent. 

Heike:  Rick’s protest songs were amazing.  Like, he wrote some really good protest songs and got us all going and kept the place moving, not the place, the enthusiasm going.  It was actually a really good day.  Plus we didn’t have to go to school. 


Erika:  That was a bonus. 

A Bucket of Broccoli and Cheese

Bill:  So you graduated from high school, Heike, and then what?

Heike:  [Here Heike describes her working life after high school] No, The Metropolitan, the store, like a Kresge’s, a Kresge’s and the Metropolitan.  I worked at The Met.  I also worked as a dishwasher at the Edmonton Club, which was across from the Hotel Macdonald. It was strictly a men’s club when I worked there.  I was a dishwasher, and it was awesome, because you got to eat all the posh food that they got to eat.  It was after school.  Basically you go in, you do a little bit of dishes because of appetizers, and then you sit for a long time playing cards with my co-worker.  And then the dinner dishes come in, and you do those, like, frantic, and then you sit for a while, play cards.  Because there was no Internet, there was no cell phones, there was nothing so we just played cards.  And then you would come in and you would do the dessert dishes, and you got to take home leftovers.  It was great. 

Bill:  That’s awesome. 

Heike:  It was excellent food and all that.  And I remember coming home, the first time I ever tasted broccoli and cheese sauce and I came home with an ice cream pail full of it. 


Bill:  I think you may be the only person on earth who is thrilled with broccoli and cheese sauce. 

Heike:  I still love it to this day.  I came home with it on the bus and you know how broccoli smells. 


Heike:  Let’s just say there weren’t a lot of people sitting around me. 


Heike:  Oh but I loved it.  I brought it home, and we all just feasted on it, and it was great.  After the Edmonton Club I went to Kroehler part time.  In the summer I think it was parttime or something and then [. . . ] when I left school it was full time. 

[From Interview #2 January 23rd ]

A Car Crash and the Illegal House

Bill:  And [ . . . ] you had four things you wanted to quickly talk about. 

Bill:  So the first one was the scandal involving the house built illegally at 51st Street and Ada Boulevard.  That’s a beautiful piece of land.  Know exactly the spot. 

Heike:  Summer of ’74.  There was a person driving a lovely new sports car, aggressively. Perhaps I didn’t see the actual thing happen.  I was there, like, right after.  So–   

Erika:  We weren’t either, because we were here at the house, you know. The little room, and we hear a bang. 

Heike:  Yeah. 

Erika:  And you know, first you look around, what had happened?  You know?  And then we went down. 

Heike:  Yeah. I think I was outside with my friends, though, wasn’t I?  I remember it being bright and sunny. Discovered the person driving looked rather bewildered.  He was probably in shock from the accident, because he drove off the boulevard and then into those trees right before you go down into the property.  The car ended up in the trees. 

Bill:  This is summertime.  Right? It’s not icy.   

Heike:  No, no. 

Bill:  No reasons like that. 

Heike:  Just a young buck driving a sports car. 

Erika:  He hit the curb and jumped over. 

Heike:  Pretty much, and right into the trees.  And it was the subsequent investigation of that, that they discovered the house that was down there had been built without the City’s knowledge, so I don’t know how they got power and water and all that, because they had all the utilities, but that comes to me as an adult, not then.

Bill:  And sewer. 

Heike:  And no taxes paid, no property taxes. 

Erika:  I think he probably had to pay a little bit something afterwards. 

Bill:  So this house was torn down, so that’s one of the houses that’s down there, that’s still down there? 

Heike:  Not down there. 

Bill:  At the top? 

Heike:  Yeah, the top.  If you picture Ada Boulevard towards 50th Street and 51st comes down.  There’s a little tiny, looks like an old driveway.  Actually, it’s just lawn.  But it goes just down a little bit immediately off of Ada Boulevard. It’s just a flat area in there. 

Bill:  So then the City made him tear it down? 

Heike:  They tore it down, yeah, so that was our big scandal that somebody got away with back in the day right?

Erika:  You [ . . . ] barely saw it when you went down Ada Boulevard. 

Heike:  You barely saw it, that little entryway, and lots of trees, so you didn’t think about it, and the house was tucked way back. 

Playing near the Coal Mines

Bill:  Coal mines.  [Want to know more about Highlands coal mines? Check the note at the end of the essay.]

Heike:  Coal mines, yes!  My mom reminded me of this. I totally forgot about it.  We didn’t really play in the coal mines.  It’s where you go down to those houses by the Capilano walking bridge, it was down around that area. First we’d spend a lot of time eating Saskatoons or whatever, because the river valley or Ada Boulevard was just lush with Saskatoons, way more than it is now.  And then as you went down that hill, which was just a gravel road at the time, the coal mines were down there, and they were boarded up mostly.  But you know, [I] think a lot of the neighbourhood boys probably—and  I’m blaming the boys, because they’re down there all the time. . . . And some [boys] kind of got in there. I don’t think I ever went beyond the entrance.  We’d eat a lot of Saskatoons, and then we’d go down and the boys would want to go in and crawl around.  I wasn’t as gutsy.  I would go as far as sort of looking around, but not crawling in it.  I do remember that.  But    because I was a little bit afraid of it.  But I thought it was cool finding coal all around. 

Bill:  And you’re the rational person.  They’re the ones that–   

Heike:  Well no insult to boys, but lots of times when boys get together they’re general IQ kind of goes down a little bit, too. 


Heike:  And girls don’t tend to dare each other as much as, at least back then.  Maybe now they do, but Yeah, so that was fun, just the coal mines were really intriguing, but those got sealed up pretty quick after a whole bunch of us neighbour kids were poking around in there and stuff. 

Bill:  But you still see, I don’t know what they are, but down towards downtown I assume they’re coal mine entrances.  They’re wood. There are steel gates on them now. 

Falling In the Sink Hole

Heike:  And then on the topic of coal mines … your story.  It’s not on our list.  My mom just thought of it. 

Erika:  Which one? 

Heike:  Falling in the hole. 

Erika:  Oh, oh.  We were out in the yard. Was it Sunday afternoon or something?  Because we were all dressed up.  We were in the backyard in the garden looking at it, and I saw a little weed, oh, see, I have to pull that out.  And I made the step into the garden, you know, so I can reach the weed.  And I went in almost to the knee. 

Heike:  She sunk into the ground almost up to the knee. 

Bill:  Because the coal mine had caved under?  The coal mine was underneath your house. 

Erika:  Not the house.   

Bill:  The property, rather. 

Erika:  Yeah. 

Heike:  The coal mines are under here, so now and again you get a little sink or something. [ . . . ] So it’s possible that things below us are collapsing a little bit still. 

Friends and Neighbours

[In the next passage, Heike reminisces about some of the neighbours and playmates from the street and nearby homes]

Heike There’s the Brunnenkants, Jake and Irene and their kids Barb and Chris.  They’re across the alley from us on 51st Street.  [ . . .] Irene still lives in the house.  I think she’s 93 now. 

Erika:  Yeah. 

Heike:  I think she’s 93.

Bill:  Wow, on her own? 

Heike:  Yeah, she lives on her own. 

Erika:  Her daughter looks after her.

Heike:  Yeah, her daughter comes over every day. We spent a lot of time with them. 

Erika:  Jake used to come over Sunday mornings. 

Heike:  Yeah.  He came every Sunday morning. We’d hear, ding, and all we ever did back then was just ring the doorbell and just walk in.  So Jake would come over, ring the ball, walk in, and we’d have Sunday mornings.  That was our “church”.  Come over and have coffee, which often started to go into Spanish coffees.  My mom makes the most awesome Spanish coffee. 

Erika:  Oh, yeah. 

Heike:  So we’d sit around here.  For many years, even after my son was little, he’d be over here on a weekend, or I’d be over here with him, and we taught him to appreciate Spanish coffees at the age of 2.  He didn’t have alcohol in his, just a little bit of coffee, whipped cream on top in a shot glass. 

Louella:  Sounds special. 

Heike:  Yeah. 

Erika:  And then he would say, David’s “toffee”?  Mom’s “toffee.” 

Heike:  He couldn’t say “coffee”.  And then sometimes Irene would have to come and get Jake, because it was lunchtime. He’d come over about 10:00, 10:00 in the morning, and then we’d sit and chat and chat.  Sometimes Irene would come because it’s lunchtime, and then she’d learned, just invite all of us over, and then the drinking would continue over there sometimes. 

 Erika:  Or she brought it here. 

Heike:  We really enjoyed time with them, and they had two kids, Chris and Barb. Barb goes over there now to take care of her mom.  Chris is in Leduc. 

Bill:  They’re similar age to you? 

Heike:  Yeah Barb’s, I think, a year or two older than me. 

Erika:  One year. 

Heike:  And it’s Mr. Geary who I sent you the picture of. I thought he worked at AGT but my mom says it was Edmonton Telephones.  And my mom says he loved to bake.  I love Mrs. Geary, she gave me great recipes.  Most especially her carrot pineapple muffins, which we still make to this day. 

And I loved being with Mrs. Gittens, too.  She gave me recipes.  I remember most especially her porcupine meatballs made with rice.  Rice in the recipe. 

Louella:  Those are one of my favourites from my Mom. 

Heike:  And Swiss steak as well, lots of recipes which I really appreciated.  This is when I was younger, like, in my mid teens, I would guess, or early to mid teens.  And I remember [ . . .] the Gearys had a dog that I absolutely loved.  Not Toby. 

Erika:  I don’t remember anymore what they called him.

Heike:  He was a cocker spaniel. That’s where I got my life-long love of spaniels, from meeting that dog. 

Erika:  And wasn’t he blind? 

Heike:  He got blind eventually, yeah.  And then there was the Diakurs that lived across the street. They had six kids, and they were named, I think Sharon was the oldest, Judy was next, then Karen, and then was Michael, and then there was Ronnie and Donnie.  They were twins.  And  oh, that was seven kids, isn’t it?  One, two, three yeah.  And then the last one was Shawn.   All of them lived in that tiny house.  I would say it’s almost the square footage of what my garage suite is, about 500 square feet. 

Erika:  And you complaining you have no room. 

Heike:  Ronnie and Michael were the two kids that I hung out with the most.  They were about my age.  Ronnie was a little younger, and, oh, my gosh, they were such terrors. [ . . .] I would go along, like an idiot; right?  I was so naïve, I’d follow them along.  And we’d be walking around the neighbourhood, and Michael would say, Ooh, there’s crab apples!  So we would go in somebody’s yard and climb their tree and steal crab apples, pitching them out to us to catch.  I thought, I’m running with hoodlums! [LAUGHTER]

The Milk Chute Game

Heike: And I remember once in this house we had, in the early days, and of course, there was a milk chute, if you remember. 

Bill:  I certainly do. 

Heike:  So we had a milk chute, and I don’t know what possessed me, but probably trying to get approval from the boys in the neighbourhood or something, I don’t know, but I sold them fruit, fruit from my mom’s grocery haul.  I sold the fruit for leaves.  We played store through the chute, and they would order an apple, and I’d say, That would be two leaves, please.  All my mom’s hard-earned money went toward leaves.

Bill:  Were the leaves tasty?  [LAUGHTER]

Heike:  They went in the “safe.”  Then they went into the “bank”.  So, yeah, we had some [good times]. And the MacDonalds lived next door to the south of us, and I used to, was it not  Rob was the middle brother.  Wasn’t he?  It was Rob, Kenny– 

Erika:  Kenny was the youngest–

Heike:  –that I hung out with the most, because he was mostly my age.  Rob was older than Kenny.  He played the drumsl. I used to love just sitting outside listening to him practice, like, in our back yard we would hear [him].  [ . . . ] And I crossed paths again with Rob once.  I don’t remember where now.  It will come to me, but [ . . .] we didn’t have time to reminisce a whole lot.  You play the drums still?  He says, nah. 

Still Friends

Heike: I’m still in touch with Karen, not quite as regularly as I’d like. We used to work together at Edmonton Telephones.  I mean, we never really hung around a lot, because I wasn’t into playing dolls and stuff like that, [ . . .] I was more of a tomboy.  Which naturally happens, I guess, when you’re in a neighbourhood of boys primarily.  The girls didn’t hang out with me much.  And I never spent time with her in school, just here in the community.  But our paths crossed when I started working for Edmonton Telephones, well, when I had been working for Edmonton Telephones for a number of years, and then we both ended up in the same department. We worked the front switchboard for Edmonton Telephones, and that’s how [ . . .] we got close again.

And then I…when I retired [ . . .] from Telus in 2008 and I went to work for the City of Edmonton. I discovered that Karen is also working for the City of Edmonton, so our paths kind of always seemed to be parallel in some degree or another.  So she was working for Edmonton Telephones for a number of years, and just recently she retired from the City of Edmonton. 

[End of Interview]

Notes on history of coal mines in Edmonton (Highlands)

Michelle Olsen, researcher

Edmonton has a 100-year long history of underground coal mining, due to the rich seams of the rock along the North Saskatchewan River. Early settlement of the city was dependent on this source of fuel. Digging began in the 1870s, and the last Edmonton mine, which was located by the ski-tow in Whitemud, closed in 1970 (Campbell 59, 60). In that timespan, over 13 million tonnes of coal, mostly from the Clover Bar seam, was produced (Campbell, 60). The mines in the area to which Heike refers were among the smaller, short-lived operations: The Standard Mine, which was owned by the Edmonton Standard Coal Co., operated from 1906 to 1923 near 76th Street, and the Premier Coal Co. Ltd. mined near present-day Concordia University for 17 years, up to 1937. Other companies and individual owners which sustained shorter-lived enterprises in the early 20th century included the McPeak Coal Company, City Coal Co., James Kirchner, the Edina Coal Company Ltd, and Reed and Brown Ltd.

The cause of the sinking Heike describes was likely a mine related to the Eliot and Lousberg mine, which was operated by the Eliot and Lousberg company from 1897-98. The mine’s tunnel was driven 15 metres, making it a probable culprit for the minor sinkhole on the property.

Links to further explore former coal mines in Edmonton:

Coal Mine Map Viewer

Searchable list of coal mines in Alberta


Standard Mine, owned by Edmonton Standard Coal Co. Operated from 1906 to 1923. 2 seams were mined – Longwall mining on lower seam. Has ATS survey reference. (https://static.aer.ca/prd/documents/sts/ST45-CoalMineDataListing.pdf, page 55)

51 Street – likely a mine related to claim 0020 Eliot and Lousberg mine, owned by the Eliot and Lousberg company– 1897-1898 Tunnel driven 15 metres (https://static.aer.ca/prd/documents/sts/ST45-CoalMineDataListing.pdf, page 55)

  1 comment for “Highlands Historical Society Oral History Project

  1. g
    January 19, 2022 at 6:08 pm



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