Beveridge, Johanna (Blake)

(1899 - 1978)

Johanna Ronaldson Blake was born on November 6, 1899 in Cardenden, Fifeshire, Scotland. She was educated in Cardenden not only in the usual academics, but also in music and highland dance; her love of the latter forming an important role in her later life. In her late teens and early twenties, she worked as a shop clerk and part-time movie projectionist - this latter job replacing an male projectionist during World War I. She met her husband at this time and, when he emigrated to Canada in 1923, they arranged that she would join him the following year.

After a rough sea voyage and a long, tedious train trip, she arrived in snow-covered Medicine Hat, Alberta on December 10, 1924 at 11 p.m. where the temperature was -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees Celsius) - a startling discovery for a young Scottish bride-to-be. She was married that same night and left for Bow Island the next morning where her husband worked on a farm owned by his uncle.

It was a hard life for the young newly-wed during this first severely cold winter, but the situation seemed to improve when her husband obtained employment in the coal mines in Coleman, an occupation more related to his mining experience in Scotland. Unfortunately, the improvement was short-lived when the miners went on strike shortly after their arrival in Coleman, and this situation lasted for over six months. Her husband, a hard working Scot, could not stand idle for long so he left his young bride with old family friends, and worked in Mercoal, Alberta until the strike was settled in Coleman.

Johanna gave birth to her only child, Alex, after a trying ordeal in March of 1926, and subsequently suffered a severe bout of depression which necessitated her return to Scotland with her new baby for a year-long period of convalescence. In the meantime, her husband had obtained employment in the mines of Nordegg and it was to Nordegg that Johanna and baby Alex returned from Scotland in 1929.

It was a very happy reunion after all the trials and tribulations of the past five years, and marked the beginning of a happier and more tranquil life for the next 25 years. Nordegg was located 60 miles (97 kilometres) west of the nearest large town, Rocky Mountain House, over a road that could best be described as barely passable, and with rail accessibility limited to only three trains per week, the people of Nordegg had to generate their own forms of entertainment. Summertime sports included golf, tennis, softball, swimming and camping at Fish Lake. In winter, curling, hockey and general skating were the outdoor activities, while badminton, movies, dances and stage play s and concerts were the main indoor attractions.

The Beveridge family participated in many of the social and sporting activities, but Johanna's main interest involved stage productions including performances of Scottish and Irish country dance and some tap performances, and various musicals such as operettas and musical comedies as well as stage plays involving many would be actors in the community. Johanna's early Scottish background in dance and music enabled her to train and encourage many of the young people to participate in these various functions, and because the children and teens sought their parents and friends help in these activities, many of the townspeople became involved. Mrs. Shanks, the mine manager's wife, and her daughter, Margaret, collaborated with Johanna in some of the more lavish productions which once again encouraged more participations by the community. Many happy and hilarious hours were spent in the theatre during rehearsals and final performances.

Johanna was also active in church affairs, especially in the choir where her alto voice contributed to many of the choral presentations.

During World War Two, Johanna was elected president of the women's section of the Red Cross responsible for the distribution of parcels to the men overseas, and a prodigious amount of knitting, sewing and baking products left our little town for the boys in Europe. After the war, Johanna continued her dancing classes with the young children and the subsequent recitals displayed the various talents of the little troupes.

Closure of the mine in 1955 devastated the community, and resulted in dispersal of most of the inhabitants to other parts of the province. After a brief stay in Drayton Valley, the Beveridge family moved to Calgary to be near other family members, and although she once again became active in local church affairs, Johanna never renewed her dancing classes. She spent the rest of her life enjoying pleasant times with her family in Calgary and at the small family farm at Water Valley. She loved all children and was especially devoted to her beloved granddaughters. Johanna Beveridge died of cancer in January, 1978.

Category: Nordegg