Guter­son lived and breathed Fire Depart­ment

The Drumheller Mail - - Around Town -

Mary says her fa­ther lived and breathed the fire depart­ment and the Elks Hall. When he wasn’t home or at the fire hall he was at the Elks Club. Mary still has all three phone num­bers mem­o­rized.

His son Billy served at the fire hall af­ter the War, and Adolf also joined when he fin­ished his school­ing.

On New Year’s Day, 1937 fire stuck his own home. He came home and smelled smoke. Mary says her sis­ter Patsy was snoop­ing in the at­tic us­ing matches. The only things that were saved were the dirt base­ment and an old Heintz­man pi­ano.

“We had to go and live in the old nurse’s res­i­dence by the old hospi­tal,” she said.

Mary’s mother died in 1943, Mary was 9 and there were still six chil­dren at home.

At 17 Mary be­gan work­ing at the Al­berta Gov­ern­ment Tele­phones and worked her way up to be­ing chief tele­phone op­er­a­tor. While more than a half-cen­tury re­moved from the photo of the Napier fire in 1951, she re­mem­bers it like it was yes­ter­day.

“The big call came in De­cem­ber, The Napier Theatre was on fire. I had to call my dad im­me­di­ately be­cause he had the fire phone in his bed­room,” she re­calls. “The call came in at 5 a.m. was work­ing nights.”

She saw the fire and her dad in front of the theatre as she walked home.

“He was be­side him­self be­cause that theatre had been burn­ing for a long time.”

She said at that time you could smoke up­stairs in the bal­cony of the theatre while sit­ting on the horse­hair seats. It ap­pears some­one put their cig­a­rette out, and the fire had been smol­der­ing for a long time be­fore the alarm came in.

At home, she saw Adolf, and she asked him to I stop and have a cup of cof­fee, he said there was no time and went to fight the fire.

“He went back and the wall fell right in front of my dad,” she said,

She re­ceived a call at home that her brother was in­jured. She ran to the scene and they were load­ing Adolf into Al­lard’s Taxi.

“I was be­side my­self be­cause I thought it was my dad,” she said. “I never thought it would be Adolf, but then I saw my dad di­rect­ing ev­ery­body and watch­ing his son get­ting hauled to the hospi­tal.”

Adolf was taken to Ed­mon­ton for med­i­cal at­ten­tion. the fam­ily went to Ed­mon­ton on the train to see Adolf. It took 9 hours. Adolf passed away on De­cem­ber 16, 1951.

Mary, as was the home at 22.

Bill con­tin­ued to serve as Fire Chief un­til 1961 and was the long­est-serv­ing vol­un­teer Fire Chief in the coun­try. He died in 1967, and the youngest last to leave Mary still comes to Drumheller to take care of her mother and fa­ther’s graves at the Drumheller Ceme­tery.

Mary has noth­ing but fond mem­o­ries of her fa­ther and says he was kind to ev­ery­one, es­pe­cially new­com­ers who he shared the im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence with.

Mary will also be in town for the Drumheller Fire Depart­ment’s cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tion on Oc­to­ber 19. The Guter­son fam­ily will also be hold­ing a re­union over the week­end.

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