The Chamber & The Great Wars
The beginnings of both Great Wars vastly changed the priorities of Central Albertan’s as it shifted to help the war effort. The Board of Trade successfully undertook intense lobbying efforts to have the Canadian Government locate a military training camp in Red Deer. The initial camp would be in the site of the old Exhibition grounds and would eventually result in the permanent A-20 camp being built in 1940.
The camps, along with the training facility at the Red Deer Airport brought in thousands of Canadians from across the country with many choosing to call Red Deer their permanent home following the end of the war.
The Board of Trade took a leading role in the fundraising efforts after the government began the first Victory Loan campaign. The Red Deer & District quota was set at $177,000.
“In order to get the appeal off to a strong and emotional start, the local officials organized the largest parade of military personnel and equipment in Red Deer’s history. More than 3,000 people turned out for the event. (Dawe, 1996)”
Despite lingering effects from the Great Depression, local organizers were proud to report that 132 percent of the quota had been raised within just one month, making Central Alberta one of the largest financial contributors per capita in the Country. Later going on to exceed succeeding quotas as well.
With so many men overseas, the harvest of crops became a major issue. The Board of Trade coordinated a major labour recruitment effort to help with the harvest, which included paying 6 cents per mile to those willing to drive harvest workers to farms.
With the war ending, the Board of Trade coordinated VE day celebrations in Red Deer – a large parade proceeded down Ross Street to the City Square where a crowd of more than 1,000 gathered. The Board then undertook a strategy to help with the repatriation of returning soldiers and worked to improve quantity and availability of low-income housing.
Throughout history the Chamber undertook initiatives to support and build the community to what it has become today.
With notes from Michael J Dawe’s 1996 book, Red Deer: An Illustrated History.