Tony Le­febre share sto­ries of grow­ing up in the val­ley

The Drumheller Mail - - Front Page - Patrick Ko­lafa

The Mail had the opportunit­y to dig into the liv­ing history of the Val­ley when it sat down with Tony Le­febre, the son of Harry Le­febre, who per­ished in the line of duty as a Drumheller fire­fighter in 1937.

Tony, who is ap­proach­ing his 95th birth­day, dropped by the Mail on Tuesday, May 28 to rem­i­nisce about grow­ing up in the Val­ley. He is the son of Harry Le­febre, who was killed in the line of duty with the Drumheller Fire De­part­ment in 1937.

In a quick scroll through the archives of The Drumheller Mail, the name Tony Le­febre comes up nu­mer­ous times, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing sports. The young athlete was a star base­ball and hockey player. He played ball in Rosedale and was man­aged by Elmer Gag­stet­ter. He was a con­tem­po­rary of Glen Gor­bus, who went on to ma­jor league fame. John An­der­son also helped Tony sign a ne­go­ti­a­tion with the New York Rangers.

While hum­ble, he counts among his great­est ath­letic feats his provin­cial cham­pi­onship half mile run in Ed­mon­ton when he was about 15 years old. He raced in 220-yard and 880-yard events.

“It was my great­est sports thrill of my whole life,” he said.

In the 880, he was the last place af­ter the first quar­ter. A cou­ple of rac­ers in the 12-man event dropped out and Tony be­gan to make his move.

“Some­thing hap­pened and I don't know what it was. I started to run faster and faster”. When he got to the fifth place, he ran past team­mate Greg McLel­lan.

“He said to me ‘where have you been? You bet­ter get going!'”

He waited un­til the straight­away to pass the num­ber two run­ner, as per coach Jock Pen­ny­cook's ad­vice and then moved into first place.

“I passed the first place guy and ran like it was a 100yard race to the end of the track,” he said.

A memory for Tony was the day that Fire Chief Wil­liam Guter­son's home caught fire. Guter­son was Tony's uncle, and the Guter­son fam­ily lived next door on 3rd Street East.

On New Year's Day, 1937, when Tony was about 12 years old, they heard hol­ler­ing com­ing from the Guter­son house.

“Next thing I know, Uncle Bill was on the Fire Phone, This was the only phone any­one had. He was close enough to our home that we could hear him re­port that his house was on fire. When he got off the phone, he kept hol­ler­ing ‘they won't come!'” re­calls Tony.

Tony and his old­est brother Bill ran to the fire hall, and the de­part­ment mo­bi­lized. These were days be­fore there were self-drain­ing hy­drants, so fire­fight­ers had to use picks and shov­els to

break up the box and ma­nure around the hy­drant used to in­su­late it from freez­ing. Fire­fighter Tommy Coad rushed into the at­tic, took two steps in, missed the joist and fell through the ceil­ing.

It was only a month later when tragedy struck. On Fe­bru­ary 2, Tony re­calls he was com­ing home from play­ing hockey, walk­ing up Cen­tre Street past the fire hall and you could see flames com­ing from the Vick­ers' store. He saw his dad on the end of a hose, and Tony ap­proached him.

“I said to him 'you know what daddy, tonight I got my first goal ever.'” He thought that was great but said, “You bet­ter get out of here because it is kind of dan­ger­ous”.

There was an ex­plo­sion near the back of the build­ing near where the coal oil and gas was stored and a brick hit Harry Le­febre in the back of the head killing him at age 42.

From that day on his mother raised the small fam­ily. She never re­mar­ried and lived to 102. Af­ter the war, Tony's brother Bill came home to sup­port the house­hold.

Bill was a char­ac­ter like none else. He en­listed in the Air Force and would tell ev­ery­one he would fly back af­ter he re­ceived his wings. That day hap­pened when he was sta­tioned in Calgary.

One day they heard a roar­ing noise and a Har­vard flew right over the house.

“He flipped it side­ways, so he could wave, and you could rec­og­nize that it was his face,” re­calls Tony. “My mother passed out on the floor because she was sure he was going to crash into the house. When he got back to Calgary, the po­lice were wait­ing for him and they put him in jail for a month.”

Bill even­tu­ally re-earned his fly­ing priv­i­leges, but a cou­ple of years later be­came in­fa­mous for fly­ing a Har­vard un­der the Cartier Bridge in Mon­tréal. This time he did a bar­rel roll so his mark­ing wouldn't be rec­og­nized, be­com­ing a folk hero.

Tony joined the Navy in 1943. He said for his first year they kept him in Calgary to play hockey, but as soon as the hockey sea­son was over he was shipped east. There he worked on a Patrol Tor­pedo Boat to pro­tect con­voys as they formed up to depart for Europe. While he never en­gaged with a U-Boat, he knew they were around. In fact, he said a few en­tered the har­bour.

“We de­tected some of them… the odd one slipped through into the Hal­i­fax Habour. I was told they had show tick­ets when they fi­nally caught them,” said Tony.

Af­ter he left the Navy he moved to Vancouver Is­land where he mar­ried Lil and raised two daugh­ters BeeJay and Judy. He worked in a sawmill in Youbou for a few years and then across the lake to a mill in Honeymoon Bay. He even­tu­ally be­came the fire chief of the com­mu­nity.

He was back in the com­mu­nity last week with his nephew, also Tony, to visit and talk to the Drumheller Fire De­part­ment about his history in ad­vance of the Fire De­part­ment's cen­ten­nial. For years Tony and his wife Lil would re­turn to the val­ley, of­ten tak­ing in the Canada Day Pa­rade.

“We al­ways went to the Le­gion. We have been Le­gion mem­bers for­ever.”

mailphoto by Patrick Ko­lafa

Tony Le­febre be­side a memo­rial plaque for this fa­ther Harry (inset) at the Drum- heller Fire Hall. Harry was killed fight­ing a fire in 1937.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.