Dr. Jerry Cotter’s Highlands Circa 1950
Dr. Jerry Cotter lived in the Highlands for many years, and in 2010 he wrote this memoir of life in the Highlands in the 1950s. Dr. Cotter passed away in 2011. Thank you to his wife, Laurie Parkhill Cotter, for sharing his memories with us.
Alberta is famous for those very special September days of bright sunshine and crisp Autumn weather. In the early 1950s there were beautiful wheat fields across from the Highlands on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River in what is now Hardisty. I remember the wheat fields, and the reminder of those perfect Autumn days is recorded on 8mm home movie footage. The tractor seemed very small in the distance and the sound was different, very slow and steady. My father explained to me that it was the sound of a John Deere single cylinder with a large flywheel to steady the power. That slow puff, puff of the vintage mechanical workhorse is very familiar to early Alberta farmers.
On the north side of the North Saskatchewan River we enjoyed one of the most beautiful areas of the river valley. What was the river valley and golf course to an adult was the best playground imaginable to a child. There were countless adventures with hiking and exploring throughout the seasons. Tobogganing and skiing were favorite weekend activities during the snow months. Many early residents will remember the excitement of Camel’s Back, Rubber Stretch and the challenging and nearly impossible “S” turn. If you look south at about 63rd Street you will discover a narrow straight down run between large trees from Ada Boulevard to the golf course below. The only “grown up” to conquer this impossible run was Maynard Vollan, about twelve years old and fearless on his jumping skis.
The Mount Royal School was new and very large for the era with multiple classrooms and a large auditorium. I remember my grade school teachers because of their devotion and kindness. The names of Snashall, Bell, Case, Rudko and Powell are imprinted in my memory. We stood and recited the Lord’s Prayer every morning. These were the days of exciting Christmas concerts with participation from eager students and responsive applause from proud parents.
Mount Royal School was going “high tech” with a tube driven amplifier, corded microphone and wired speakers into the upper corner of each classroom. Our principal, Mr. Powell, kept us informed and humored with his morning announcements. I should mention that the initial CFRN television broadcast on channel 3 was months away and the marvel of an orbiting Russian Sputnik was about seven years into the future!
The Highlands was, in 1950, the eastern edge of Edmonton. The transit ended at the 60th Street and 112th Avenue turnabout. At that time the milk delivery came by horse drawn enclosed wagons…the name Silverwoods comes to mind. The horses wore winter blankets and ear protection in the cold weather and had feed bags provided at meal time. They had the best of care and loved their work!
With the post-war “boom” felt around the world, Edmonton experienced tremendous growth and development. The “jewel” of Edmonton was The Highlands. My parents, George and Florence Cotter, purchased their Highlands property in the 1940s and became residents in July of 1950. Some sixty years later many of the homes and the North Saskatchewan River valley have not changed all that much. What has changed is my growing appreciation for living here.