Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dedication and Grand Opening of Turcott building at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village

The Turcott/CIBC building is now ready for an audience
C. Davis photos
Christian Davis

The Turcott/CIBC building's long history in Pincher Creek was celebrated on Wednesday, July 29 with Grand Opening and dedication services at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village (KBPV). Attendance was kept deliberately small.  Formalities included a speech from former occupant and owner Garth Turcott and his wife Joan, and remarks from MD of Pincher Creek Reeve Brian Hammond, Town of Pincher Creek Councillor Jim Litkowski, and Pincher Creek and District (PCDHS) President Colleen Cyr.

Farley Wuth and Colleen Cyr
KBPV Curator Farley S. Wuth gave introductory remarks (as his Kootenai Brown alter-ego), outlining the structure's history in the area, including its recent move to the KBPV grounds from Hewetson Avenue, and the hours of work that has gone into making it ready to exhibit to the public.  

Garth A. Turcott
It is now one of 24 historical buildings on exhibit at KBPV, and is open to the public.

You've got to see it to appreciate it.  It's a beautiful building, inside and out.  The KBPV volunteers knocked this one into the park.  In a word, fabulous.

"We are pleased to have the Turcott's here for our grand opening of this very important local landmark for our local history here," said Wuth.

Curator Farley S. Wuth outlines the history of the building
Town councillor Jim Litkowski said he appreciated how the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society was helping keep history alive in the area.

Town Councillor Jim Litkowski checks out the displays
Reeve Brian Hammond
Reeve Brian Hammond grew up with the building as part of the Main Street landscape, when it was a law office.  "It always goes back to your own personal experience," he said.  He talked of a few trips to the building in the late '40s and '50s, accompanying an adult who was on the way to conduct business.  Garth Turcott was one of those imposing lawyers in their robes.  Hammond appreciated seeing the building reunited with its smaller companion out front.  At present that smaller structure displays long-johns, among other washing related things.  Hammond laughed and said he might have some suggestions as to a more appropriate display.  He said his uncle Tom participated in local municipal politics back in the day, serving as a councillor and Reeve for approximately 30 years. "They spent the first 20 years in this building."  He thanked the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society (PCDHS) for having the determination and foresight to save the building.

PCDHS President Colleen Cyr
PCDHS President Colleen Casey Cyr thanked those who donated the building, and the Pauline Breeze cataloguing crew, who orchestrated the interior displays. "We had an awesome group of people come together, a lot of our directors, a lot of the businesses in town, and volunteers to put this together, and get it here, the way it was," said Cyr. She reminded the gathering that the building's move to KBPV attracted a lot of attention, being filmed for HGTV's reality show Massive Moves.  "It was absolutely awesome to see the interest people have rekindled in the history of Pincher Creek."
Video of Turcott/CIBC building move

"I have been racking my brain about what all happened to me in the 60 years that we've been here," said Garth Turcott. "Sixty years this January." He and wife Joan met at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. His father was involved in the mining industry, and his family travelled.  He went to a one room school house through grade 9 and then pursued more education in Saskatoon.  They moved to Calgary, and then Garth articled in Pincher Creek for Judge Levine, "Who was judge here for many years".  That was circa 1956.  Turcott said articling earned him $75 a good month and $100 a bad month.  He believes he paid $1,600 to become a half partner in a law office in Pincher Creek. "It was an experience."  His partner was Charles Carswell, who lost an arm in World War 1.  "He was a brilliant man."

^ Farley Wuth with photo of Lawyer Charles Carswell and Garth Turcott with a photo of himself as a young lawyer.  Garth is wearing his lawyer's robe, now part of the exhibit.  Carswell was Turcott's first partner in Pincher Creek.

There was a succession of partners after that.

The MD of Pincher Creek kept expanding and taking up more space.  "We went upstairs for a couple of years, and after they built their new building, and I bought this building, we came back downstairs."

Garth Turcott
"It was most enjoyable. I spent 34 years here, and I guess that's why they named it the Turcott Building. Nobody else stayed in it that long. "

Garth Turcott and Farley Wuth 
Turcott's political career started 1966 "Grant Notley, who's the father of Rachel Notley, who is now Premier of this province, came down and asked me if I would like to run for NDP, and I said, 'Hell, no'."   He said Joan's response when she heard the request was 'I hope you said no.' 

Garth and Joan Turcott
"But Grant was pretty persuasive, and I finally agreed to run."

Turcott ran as a New Democratic Party candidate in a fall by-election for what was then the Pincher Creek - Crowsnest electoral district.  "I think every major person in the NDP was here to help out with this program, Turcott said, adding there were offices for the campaign in Bellevue, Pincher Creek, Coleman, and Blairmore.  On October 6, 1966 the by-election was held, and "The upshot was I won."  Alberta had its first NDP MLA.

"I have been called a muckraker, because I accused two of Mr. Manning's cabinet ministers of using their position for their own uses. I don't take it back, because I know damn well they did. For that I was censured by Mr. Manning." 

"One of the most interesting things that happened in the whole thing is on a Friday afternoon we had some documents we had been feeding out to the public about these two ministers, and he said on Friday afternoon, 'You bring in all the rest of your documents by Monday morning or put up or shut up.  That was his exact term."

"We had given all the documents we had."

"I went over to our office totally dejected because I had just been censured 59 to 1, guess who was the one..."

"Then the phone rang, and it never quit ringing that whole weekend. People said 'I feel sorry for you, and I've got this documentation, and someone else said 'I've got that.'"

The CBC was going to do a piece on the Manning government but chose not to at that time. "They turned over all their documents, and it turned out that I was able to walk in on Monday morning with 35 new documents about what I had been talking about in the legislature."

"Well, the Porter Commission went for about three months and came out with 35 pages of documents. The judge said they weren't guilty of criminal offences, but they had been rather loose in their management of their business. They were exonerated. By then they had the general election, and the 700 liberals that had voted in the by-election for the Liberals all voted for the Social Credit."

"So, that's the end of my political career."

"Mr. Manning, after I was defeated said 'Be careful, the socialist hordes are at the gates'. I was the one socialist horde, but now our socialist hordes are here."

"It took 50 years, but I'm as happy as can be."

Garth Turcott as a young lawyer
"Anyway, It's been a very interesting life and I wouldn't traded it for any other town in the country except Pincher Creek. I'm very happy to be here." 

Robe still fits
His lawyer gown is part of the display, and he donned it one more time for a star turn as the press cameras whizzed and clicked.  It may have been an artifact long before making it to the safety of the museum.  According to Joan  "All of these young lawyers came up in their beautiful coal black gowns, and oh, my God, his was green." 

"It was hanging behind this door when I got to this building," explained Garth.

Partially visible in background (left) as MD of Pincher Creek building
From KBPV archives

Garth Turcott interview prior to recent Albert election

Garth Turcott was one of the visitors during a drop-in organizational meeting with Alberta New Democratic Party Livingstone-Macleod candidate Aileen Burke.  Burke ultimately didn't win her seat in the recent election, but her party swept to a previously unimaginable Alberta NDP government.  I was at the meeting to interview Burke, but could not resist the temptation to interview Turcott about what was already looking like a startling turnout for the NDP.

"I was elected 49 years ago as the first New Democrat in the province, in 1966," said Turcott.  He said of the Alberta government at that time that "It was run by God, or at least by his deputy, Mr. Manning."

"I have been waiting for almost half a century for the NDP to have a shot at this province, that certainly could use them.  Maybe our time is coming, I certainly hope so."  Turcott said he thought Grant Notley would have been a fabulous Premier.  "Maybe his daughter is going to do the job that he would have done, if he had lived long enough."

He didn't enjoy his own experience in the legislature, so perhaps its brevity was a blessing. "It was God awful, to be honest with you."

To read the above interview in its entirety click here.


According to Curator Farley S. Wuth, the prefabricated building was transported by rail to Pincher City (now Pincher Station) and then hauled to the corner of Main Street and East Avenue in 1906 for the Pincher Creek Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. According to Wuth it is one of almost fifty similar buildings built by the Bank of Commerce across the Canadian Prairies at the time, and is one of the few such structures still in existence. During discussion with Pincher Creek Town Council Councillor Wayne Elliott said it is exactly like the CIBC building in Rockyford. The bank occupied the main floor and there were living quarters for the manager on the second floor.

The bank closed in 1934, at which time the building was sold to the Municipal District of Robert Kerr for $2000. The MD of Robert Kerr was then the municipality south of Pincher Creek. In 1944 it merged with the MD of Castle River and the MD of Livingstone to form the MD of Pincher Creek, which continued to occupy the building until 1964. The MD of Kerr and the MD of Pincher Creek successively occupied the west side of the main floor of the building. The law offices of Jackson and Carswell, Carswell and Butterworks, and finally Turcott and Company occupied the east side of the main floor. The MD of Pincher Creek vacated after purchasing the Kettles Street building in 1964 (which it vacated for a new building late last year), and the building was purchased by Turcott and Company, which continued to use it until 1989 when it was purchased by a Lethbridge based architectural firm and moved to the Hewetson Avenue location. Most recently the building was home to the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative (SASCI), who vacated in late 2011.

Artifacts on display show an even more complicated history, as various lawyers came and went.  Garth Turcott described an irregular series of moves around the building, floor-to-floor, room to room, to wind up back where he'd started.

Related stories:

Looking north from the Turcott/CIBC front porch

Garth and Joan Turcott are shown the exhibits by Farley Wuth

It still works!

Kitchen upstairs

The original Cowboy Poetry stage is now gone, but has been remembered

Library upstairs

Radio displays

KBPV's Charles Ross and Ray Degan

Elusive history preserver Pauline Breeze in her natural habitat

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