Nothing Really Outstanding – Aileen Copithorne

Aileen Copithorne talks about the freedom experienced growing up in Cochrane. CHAPS Cochrane has a YouTube Channel with over 40 interesting stories of Cochrane. 

Aileen Davies grew up in Cochrane in the home that is now the Cochrane Historical Museum.

She has many stories of growing up in a small town.

She tells a story of biking with friend, Dorothy Reed when Mr O’Keefe, the Bank Manager once offered them ride to 12 Mile Coulee to watch the Stampede Fireworks. They left their bikes behind Andisons’ store. Not thinking that fireworks were after dark they didn’t get home until late. Both parents had searched river and creek areas looking for them. “Our parents were so glad to see us we didn’t get in too much trouble.”

“Dorothy and I had stick horses which we rode over the hill to the brickyard. We also had stilts made by uncle Jack. The family across the road had tall stilts and used to sit on roof of house across the street just to watch people.  Their name was  Kinsley.”

Aileen went to school in brick school that used to be where Holy Spirit currently sits. She remembers looking south one day to see the Brushy Ridge fire.  Students were glued to the windows and the smoke was horrendous.

“I was the lone graduate in my class of grade 12. It was very lonely in high school.” She had classmates in earlier grades but they did not stick it out to Grade 12.

“School was  very regimented. Our Principal had a hand bell to call us back to class. If you didn’t behave you got hit with the bell. We used to have to line up girls then boys and march into school.”

“Cochrane used to be divided into east side and west side. You didn’t have friends from the other side of town. You visited the other side if you had relatives but there was little mixing. Many homes in Cochrane had barns behind them for horses and carriages. Homes had large gardens.” Aileen remembers Auntie Annie feeding a lot of men when they got off the train with food from the garden and from local chickens.

She attended a very rigorous 3 year Nursing program at Calgary General. “The first year you felt basically a slave, we were paid $6.00 per month, had no days off, had to attend lectures from Doctors during our off time and had a 10 PM curfew.  Year 3 you were a Senior and had more freedom.” Occasionally she came home on the midnight train.  The uniform was black stockings, striped blue and white dress, with apron and bib with white hat. “The stockings were terrible.” 

Since the train used to stop in Cochrane it was used to get into Calgary.

Thomas Davies Home

Aileen married John Copithorne and moved to their family place that originally sat where Gleneagles Golf Course currently is.

Aileen tells a story about John’s dad when driving their first tractor. He ran it through a fence into McPherson’s. When asked about his accident he said he hollered “Whoa but the damn thing didn’t stop”.

Copithorne family diary
Claude Copithorne 1920 using binder to harvest grain on Cochrane Hill.
John and Aileen Copithorne.

Aileen says they were lucky to grow up in Cochrane in an uncomplicated time. 

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Royal Canadian Legion Collaboration

Dave Usherwood of the local Legion Branch has been in touch for the assistance of our members and followers. The Legion is planning on completing the Cenotaph. While planning is ongoing they are asking for assistance:

  1. Original Cochrane Bricks
  2. Photos of the pre – 1975 Memorial.

Opening of the Original Legion.

I will update this post after doing further research. Right now, we want to get this request out.

Motorcycle Hillclimb Update

CHAPS is collaborating with ACE HY Motorcycle club of Calgary to explore the history of motorcycle hill climbing in the Cochrane area. We’ve met to review club photos to identify local land marks and will soon do the same with club movies.

Our progress to date has been documented in an article in the Cochrane Times. We’ve found some beautiful photos of one hill climb on Cochrane Hill.

Cochrane in the Background
Cochrane Times Article
How am I doing?
Not so well !!!!

History Column Collaboration

CHAPS is excited to begin a collaboration with the Stockmen’s Memorial Foundation to create twice monthly articles in a local paper.

The Cochrane Times contacted us about the possibility of regular articles on the history of Cochrane and Area. Our first article will appear in the Jan 23rd issue followed in two weeks time by the article from Stockmen’s.

We're excited about this opportunity to educate about the history of Cochrane and area.

We're looking forward to explaining history one brand at a time.

Can anyone suggest a name for our Article?

Answers to Jan 19th Pioneer Terms Quiz

Last Friday we ran this quiz.

Do you know what these local pioneer terms mean?

1. Anti-I-over A favorite team game at country schools, which involved catching a ball that was thrown over the schoolhouse.

2. Bee. A co-operative effort by the neighbours to get a job done quickly, such as seeding or harvesting the crop of a settler who was ill, or constructing a barn or community building.

3. Bennett Medal. A medal, later a ten dollar cash prize, given annually to the student having the highest marks in each country school in R.B. Bennett’s constituency

4. Broadcast. To throw seed from the hand for dispersion in sowing. Many settlers seeded their first crops in this manner.

5. Buffalo Chips. Dried buffalo manure used for fuel when firewood was unavailable.

6. Bull Durham. A very fine cigarette tobacco sold in a small red and yellow sack with a draw string. Cowboys usually catied the sack in a shirt pocket.

7. Scrip.  A certificate or coupon given by the government to certain settlers, entitling them to land.

8. CPR Strawberries. Dried prunes

9. Remittance Man. An immigrant, usually from Britain, who received a regular allowance or remittance from home.

10. Rubbering . Listening in on the neighbours’ conversations on a party line telephone.

Stacking Hay

Sunday Puzzler Jan 20, 2019

I overheard someone ask this question at our Photo opening the other night. I never noticed the characters on this sign before nor do I know what they mean.

We’re asking all those puzzle masters out there to help us solve this one!

What are these characters?

Contacts on Twitter have provided a partial answer to our question about the language on Bob and Alice Graham’s Pharmacy sign.

What is our Why?

We want to share our “Why” with you.  I prefer to have other peoples perspectives but I’ll share a couple of my own first.

  • 20 years ago,  a volunteer group of people concerned with saving the history of Cochrane started the Cochrane Historical & Archival Preservation Society. 
  • 5 years ago,  CHAPS opened the Cochrane Historical Museum. This scope of this one project amazes and motivates me. CHAPS saved a historic building, fund raised, co-ordinated with several levels of government , had it moved to a wonderful location and had the building restored as a Museum. Truly Inspiring.
  • A dedicated, core group of volunteers has been keeping CHAPS active for 20 years. We are in need of help. We need to expand our membership, our influence and our volunteers.

In the next year, I want to interview a number of our volunteers and get their perspective on being involved in CHAPS. Stay tuned.

I hope you are asking yourself how I can help. I have a few ideas that don’t cost a lot of your time or money.

  • share and comment on our social media posts with your friends. We want to share our core message of saving and educating about our history to be spread widely. We’re seeing a massive swing lately. Help us keep it going!
  • Like our pages. CHAPS Cochrane and Cochrane Historical Museum have pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Youtube. I’ll be adding social media icons to our webpage soon to help you find and like our feeds.
  • Become a member. It’s super inexpensive. $10.00 a year for an individual, $15.00 for a family. Here’s a link to our Member page.
  •  Attend one of our meetings. We are having more and more educational meetings. Stay tuned to our events webpage for updates. 
  • Donate to CHAPS to help us fund our projects. We have a Donate button on the top right side and bottom of our webpages. Our CHAPS Facebook page is running a fundraising campaign until the end of March. They have been hugely successful so far and we can always go over the top.
  • Lastly, most importantly, become a volunteer. We have a core group but they can’t do it forever. We can use your help however you want to become involved. A couple of my own ideas are:
    • Membership. Help us find new members and stay in touch with existing members.
    • Become a Director. Volunteer now and let your name stand at the September A.G.M. I did, scared me to death but I’m sure glad I did.
    • Research. Get in touch to hear the topics we’re planning.
    • Volunteer at the museum during the summer.
    • Attend or help with our summer time guided tours of Historic Cochrane.

5 years ago,  CHAPS opened the Cochrane Historical Museum. This scope of this one project amazes and motivates me. CHAPS saved a historic building, fund raised, co-ordinated with several levels of government , had it moved to a wonderful location and had the building restored as a Museum. Truly Inspiring.

We have to say thanks:

  • to everyone that came out to our Photo Archive opening. Both members who shared stories and 15 excited, interested guests.
  • the support of the local media who have helped us share our message.
  • local admins of Facebook pages who provide a means for us to share.
  • everyone that has shared our message on any of our social media feeds.
  • to our existing members and volunteers.

Those other perspectives I spoke of:

  • an editorial in the Cochrane Eagle about maintaining our Heritage.
  • an article on CochraneNow about our Photo Archive.
  • an article in the Cochrane Times about a new exhibit in the Cochrane Historical Museum

Blue Sky Memories

Another in the 100 Stories for 100 Years series produced by Barry Thorson.

Vernice (Towers) Wearmouth talks about the Brushy Ridge fire and cutter rides from the Ranch to Cochrane to attend dances.  It’s a lovely story from a local pioneer of the challenges and joys of living in the area.

The Brushy Ridge Fire 

from an article by Bob Callaway in Big Hill Country page 718

Nov 19, 1936 a day remembered by many for years to come. Winds up to 90 MPH  (150 kmh) fanned a fire that raced across the prairie.

With the gale-force winds driving the fire, there was no fighting it. The year previous had been very dry and the country was dry as tinder. A haystack or field of grass would catch fire and be picked up by the wind and carried a half mile, mile or even two miles only to be set down and start another fire.

Then came a shower of rain, bringing a day of living hell to an end. Men had come from Cochrane, Jumping Pound and Springbank to help fight it. Many different methods were tried. George Callaway tried to plow a fireguard in front of it, to no avail. Lennie Blow rode a truck tarp being dragged behind a truck to try and smother the flames that too, was unsuccessful. The fire continued its course and a drop in the wind and a shower of rain were the only things that stopped it from continuing right into Calgary.

Digitally Preserving Alberta’s Diverse Cultural History

We recently heard from a group doing some interesting work to preserve our history. They asked us to make our members aware. We’re happy to do that.

Hi! I’m working with Dr. Peter Dawson at the University of Calgary. We have recently made a Facebook page to help share our digital preservation work in Alberta. I was wondering if you would be willing on sharing our page to your group? We thought many of your members might find the content interesting, especially as we continue to grow over the next few months!

From tent rings and bison jumps to large scale industrial structures, Alberta’s heritage resources reflect our collective histories. Wildfires, flooding, vandalism, and development continue to place Alberta’s heritage at varying degrees of risk. Reality capture technologies like terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and aerial photogrammetry can be used to digitally capture and preserve provincial heritage resources. An archive has been created as a repository for these digital data sets so they will remain accessible to future generations. Learn more and keep updated by following the project's Facebook page here!

Madisen Hvidberg

Here’s a backgrounder that mentions some work they’ve done on the McDougall Church.

Here’s an update from their website with a visualization of the Perrenoud homestead.

New ways to support CHAPS

CHAPS has always accepted donations to support the Museum, Historical Signs and other projects we have. All of our projects are listed under the Activities option on our website. We’ve just modernized that process.

Facebook and Paypal have offered their services at no cost to registered charities like CHAPS. We receive 100% of your donation.

This Facebook Fundraiser will run until the end of March. We’re already well on our way to our goal. Why not help us exceed it?

Thanks to everyone who has donated and shared our Fundraiser.

The second way to donate is to use the yellow Donate button you see on the right of this image or on the top right of this page. Clicking this button will take you to Paypal and you have the option of using a credit card or Paypal to make a donation.

Thank you to everyone who has already made a donation. If you prefer to send a cheque please see our contact page.

The Easy Way to make Hard Ice Cream

No matter where I’ve lived, whenever someone learns I’m from Cochrane, they mention Mackay’s Ice Cream.

This video from the 100 Stories for 100 Years series features Chris, Heather, Rhona and Robyn Mackay talking about their family, growing up in Cochrane and this famous local business.

From an Article in Big Hill Country 1977

James (Jimmy) served overseas with the Canadian Armed Forces in World War II. In 1946 he married Christina (Chris) Beck who was born near Glasgow, Scotland , and he and his bride returned to Cochrane.

Jimmy and his wife operate a general store, which was formerly owned by F.W. Maggs. For the past 15 years they have been making and selling ice cream. 

Chartered busses on tours make a point of stopping in Cochrane so their passengers can buy a cone. People have sent papers published from around the world, complimenting them on their ice cream. Jimmy and Chris have made an interesting scrap book of them. They make every flavor their imagination can come up with, even confetti ice cream for weddings. Their cardboard ice cream cartons are designed of dark, green plaid the Mackay tartan. in 1971 they started a guest book which now contains signatures of people from many parts of the world. They also have a map of the world on a wall of the store and a thumb tack is placed on every country the guests are from. 

Big Hill Country 1977 page 395

Customer Map photo taken Dec 30, 2018

Mackay’s has a great history wall along one side of the interior of the store. There are photos of early Cochrane, Chris and Jimmy Mackay, and receipts from long ago. Also the ice cream machine that’s visible in the video.

We believe the features under the roof line behind the MacKay’s sign are original to the building.

Photo Archive Open House

Archive Open House

Jan 16th 7:30 PM

Cochrane Historical Museum

Cost: Free

Most commented on photo on our Facebook page.

CHAPS is planning on having regularly scheduled events to talk about the History of Cochrane and area. This is our first where we plan on opening up our photo archives. We have many more photos than what we’ve been showing on our social media feeds.

Plan on joining us for this free event.

Raking Prairie Wool

In the News

Stay tuned for a new magazine debuting in February 2019. CHAPS and the Cochrane Historical Museum will be a feature.

Existing publications in Cochrane and Airdrie will be merged into a new magazine called “townsizing”.

Bernice, Larry and myself had the opportunity to talk to Carmen about our passion for the history of our town and the spirit of volunteerism that our volunteers exhibit that keeps the Museum and other projects going.

Dewey Lee Blaney

Dewey was born in Roanoke County, Virginia in 1897. He moved with his parents, brothers and sisters to Salem, VA in 1906. He was hired to work for the Barnett family in their home and feed store.

Dewey came to Alberta with the Barnett’s in 1915 to a farm in the Bottrell area. He worked for them for 4 additional years before moving on to work in Dog Pound and Bottrell area.

Later, he found work with the Hogarths tending teams of horses on the Banff-Jasper Highway construction and again with local ranchers in the Cochrane area.

Dewey loved children and as Ivan in “Skippin’ Sugar Cookies”, says spent a lot of money on them.

Dewey passed away in 1970 and is remembered here in Cochrane in St. Andrews Cemetery and Dewey Blaney Park.

from an article in Big Hill Country


Dewey Lee Blainey (1897 - 1970)

Long after Dewey passed away he inspired me.

He was around Cochrane alot when I was small and I also saw him at the Cochrane Racetrack site where he lived. He worked for many ranchers in the area including my grandfather J.W. (John) Boothby.

Dewey inspired my interest in history. I read in Big Hill Country that his grandfather was a slave.  That small piece of information made me realize that the Civil War and slavery were not long ago even though 1861-65 sounded so many years passed.

That small fact also made me realize that the study of history helps understand why we are the way we are today.

by Mark Boothby

1907 Canadian Red Ensign Flag Premiered

CHAPS premiered a new Exhibit at the Cochrane Historical Museum. A unique Canadian Red Ensign flag was unveiled at the Museum today.

Mike Taylor describes Flag Research

The flag was donated by David and Jane Raymont of Toronto who have familial ties to the area. Mr. Raymont purchased the flag in memory of local rancher Arthur Scott Lewis who died in W.W. 1 (1885-1918) He and his wife Maude Lewis, purchased a section of Spencer Creek Ranch (Beaupre Lake area) in 1908.

Alberta became a Province in 1905 and the shield of Alberta was added to the other 8 shields on the right hand side of the Red Ensign flag in 1907. The Union Jack was on the left side, so this flag represented all 9 provinces and England. This Red Ensign, or similar one would likely have been flown in Cochrane with great pride after Alberta became a province. It is therefore very appropriate that this flag will be prominently displayed at the Cochrane Historical Museum.

After the flag was donated it became clear that this was an important acquisition that should be restored, preserved and given pride of place in the Museum. Thanks to a generous grant from the Rotary/Lions/Bow Rivers Edge Campground Society, the Museum was able to have the flag cleaned, repaired, mounted and framed. The meticulous work of professional restorer Gail Niinimaa and the painstaking framing of Scott Winter at Winter Photographics has restored, preserved and beautifully displayed this unique acquisition.

Despite the Canadian Red Ensign never being officially approved by Ottawa, it flew over the Parliament Building for several years before being replaced by the Union Jack during the Boer War. Flag manufacturers capitalised on nationalistic feelings and produced several different varieties of Red Ensigns, adding the new Provincial Shields when they were approved by England. The Museum’s flag, like others has the Union Jack on the left and the provincial shields on the right, but unlike most Red Ensigns has a maple leaf and beaver garland around the shields, making it rare and truly Canadian.

Since the ‘Great Flag Debate’ of the 60’s when Canada finally acquired its own officially approved flag, little has been heard of Canada’s original flags. The history of the Red Ensign is in danger of being lost. In their lifetime, many Canadians have only known the current flag, and its a revelation for them to see an original early Canadian flag. The museum will be showing this history along with countless other exhibits when it opens again in June 2019.

Mike Taylor, Cochrane Historical Museum Committee member. The museum is a part of CHAPS, Cochrane Historical and Archival Preservation Society.


December 15, 2018

Hill Climb Location update

Gordon and I spent an hour trying to locate 1 of the 3 motorcycle hill climbing areas around Cochrane. We think we’ve found 1. These images are approx. 80 years apart. Do they look like the same plateau and corner of the river?

We are meeting with Ace Hy Motorcyle Club later this month  to see their photos of 1930’s hill climbs to see if we can find the other 2 sites.

Merry Christmas 2018 from CHAPS Cochrane

CHAPS wishes everyone a joyful, peaceful, loving and Merry Christmas.

Our gift to you are some memories of Historic Cochrane from our new Youtube site.

Please Subscribe and Like our Youtube channel. Look for this button in Youtube.

We’d like to see you at our Christmas celebration at the Museum December 17th, 7:00 PM.

Rona B Shot Tower

We’re starting of series of blogs based on the 2005 The Live Stories Programme: 100 Stories for 100 Years produced by Barry Thorson and Lone Wolf Theatre Company. CHAPS has had the source material in our archives for years. There are some really interesting stories of Cochrane that we want to share.

The first video is Ron Baker describing how Cochrane’s Rona B shot tower was built.

Ron was a trap shooter who began experimenting with creating his own shot. He came upon a special lead alloy and local shooters began asking him to supply lead shot.

The shot tower was a former oil derrick.  The buildings and equipment were home made or adapted from oil equipment. Ron felt his product was harder than any other produced in North America.

Lead bars were melted at the top of the tower, poured through a sieve and dropped to the base to be cooled in a vat of water. During its peak, Rona B used 3 to 4 tons of lead daily. The Tower stood 181 feet top to bottom.

The finished lead shot was used in Olympic shotgun shells and by Western Canadian shooters who made their own shells.

Rona B Lead Shot was started by 1959 by Ron Baker and his father C.W. Baker. We believe the tower was completed 1961-2 and was torn down in 2006.

Mark Boothby from files submitted by Garney Baker.

Rona B Shot Tower
Approximately where Bow Ridge Sports stands todaay

A bag of the shot produced at the tower. It  recently sold on the Internet along with 20 of the bags used.

I didn’t know anything about the topic of making shot so I looked a video up. I’d not seen any other shot towers in Canada. According to the video there were only 3 in England at that time.

Motorcycle Hill-Climbing

Did you know Cochrane had Motorcycle Hill-Climbing in the 1930’s. Just like today, people from Calgary liked to visit Cochrane. One of the popular activities was Hill-Climbing. We’re looking for photos on those races.

Thanks to Deeley Exhibition for providing this image. For more on Hill-Climbing visit their site at

Will Pratt supplied these images on our Twitter account. He describes the locations as 8 miles west of Calgary. Obviously, a popular event.

Congratulations to the Glenbow for tracking down some History.


This news from the Glenbow inspires me. We have so many photos in our archives with few or no details. I’m sure it’s within the collective memory of our members so we need to record it. This is one of our goals when we open our photo archives; to record peoples memories. Goto to our Activities page for more details on our Photo Archive event.

Here’s is the Glenbow story about recovering the people and circumstances from one of their photos. 

Jingle Dance Detectives


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