Brooker Family

by Ian Brooker Page 313 More Big Hill Country 2009

Just after the war in March 1947, our family emigrated from England. My father had arrived six months earlier and bought 160 acres SW of Condor, Alberta. Mother was left to bring over whatever personal effects she could and two kids, myself age six and my sister Glenda age nine months. We came on a converted troop ship five days on the sea and seven days by train across Canada. 

Times were tough for everyone in our district. The land was either rocky or muskeg and required a lot of work to make it farmable. Dad had little farming experience and we arrived with no money, so buying tractors and equipment was out of the question. My parents bought a rogue team of horses and some old horse drawn equipment and attempted to make a living. We raised a few pigs and hand milked six to eight cows from which we shipped cream. That is we tried to ship cream as often the road was impassible and the truck from Red Deer could not get within a mile of our place. 

I attended a one room, 18 kids grades 1-8, school locat- ed about 1 1/2 miles away. No school buses, so mostly the kids walked. There was a barn at the school, so some kids rode horses. I often walked 3/4 miles then doubled with a friend on his horse to school the rest of the way. 

Mother had four more kids by the time I left school, and we were pretty destitute. As we lived on the farm we didn’t go hungry, but we sure didn’t have much. The winters were very cold, and our old house was not much more than a shack. No power or indoor plumbing. Mom and Dad finally threw up their hands after about eight years and moved to Calgary, where Dad went to work at the Post Office and Mom at the Colonel Belcher Hospital. 

I left school after grade 9, and worked various jobs including cowboying at various ranches, oil patch work and whatever I could get.

approx. Cochrane Foodmaster Location

In 1964 I met Diane (she was a farm girl from Lyalta) and we married and had two children, Ivan and Kathy. I apprenticed as a meatcutter and worked for Safeway, ending up as meat department manager in Banff, but the rural life kept pulling, so in 1970 we bought 253 acres at Dog Pound. A couple of years later we bought the old Wigmore Ranch at Boggy Lake and about 100 head of cows and some machinery. 

No sooner had we gone into debt to purchase our land, etc. than the price of cattle and grain nose dived. We had lots of debt but I could see the potential of the ranch so we purchased about 20 horses and gear and borrowed a few more and started a trail riding business which we called Silver Valley Ranch. 

Business was brisk, and so with farming, trail riding, cutting logs, post and poles, plus even Christmas trees, we did just fine. Occasionally in the winter I helped out as a meatcutter at M&K Foodmaster in Cochrane. After a few years, M&K was put up for sale and we decided to buy it and sell the farm and ranch. 

We operated the store, which we now called Cochrane Foodmaster, and business improved. Our sales doubled as we started supplying oil camps and doing most of the custom meat cutting for local farmers and hunters. In 1983 I was elected Mayor of Cochrane, my first and only stint in politics. 

In 1985 we sold the store to Mr Frank Krause of Red Deer. 

Our daughter Kathy is a Legal Assistant for MacLeod Dixon in Calgary and has been with the firm for nine years. Our son Ivan married Christa Stehr in 1985. They have three great kids: Tyler, Jessica, and Mikayla, all living in Cochrane. In about 1986 Ivan and Christa purchased and ran Big Hill Meats & Deli for four years. 

Ivan was elected to Cochrane Town Council for the term 2000 to 2003. He and Tyler have a couple of franchised distribution routes, supplying bakery products to stores and restaurants in the Calgary, Canmore and Banff areas. Jessica is planning to continue her education to become a psychiatrist and presently works at Mark’s Work Wearhouse. Mikayla is in grade 7. 

After selling Cochrane Foodmaster, I moved to Christina Lake where I met Faye Gustafson. We opened the 50’s theme ‘Great Canadian Ice Creamery’ in 1996 and have operated it as a summer only business for the last 11 years, so were able to travel in the winters. It has become quite a well known shop and we have had some great write ups in travel magazines. We have recently sold this business and Faye is able to go back to her first passion, which is doing western art ( and I am going fishing! 

Winters Last Fling by Faye Gustafson

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