| 38,000 people, $8,177,000 In Debt, and The Damndest Mud In the World Becomes Part of Edmonton, read the headline in the August 17th, 1964 edition of the Edmonton Journal. This is the end, began the story, which commemorated Jasper Places amalgamation with Edmonton, ending its reign as the largest town in Canada.|
That day Edmonton swallowed up Jasper Place ended years of wrangling over if, how and when the amalgamation would occur. The process goes back to 1913, when the land west to 149th Street was appropriated by Edmonton, leaving West Jasper Place a loosely administered ward of the Stony Plain municipality.
In its early days, it was home to just a few hundred people, who often homesteaded a meagre existence and raised a few farm animals and tended gardens. In the heady days of growth after the Second World War, Edmontons rapidly overflowing population spilled into the hamlet of West Jasper Place, pushing the population to 4,000 by 1948.
In those days, the community stretched from the North Saskatchewan River on the south to 118th Avenue and from 170th Street on the west and 149th Street on the east. When the hamlet became a village in early 1950, it was home to nearly 9,000 persons and growth continued at a frantic pace through the 1950s. Between 1950 and amalgamation in 1964, Jasper Places assessment increased from $1.65 million to $56 million.
Business prosperity was assisted by a night shopping bylaw, passed in 1953. While stores in Edmonton were constrained by laws that prohibited them from opening at 6 pm, except on Thursdays, retailers in Jasper Place were permitted to remain open until 9 oclock six nights a week.
Jasper Place made the national news in 1958 when Richard (Dick) Butler, councillor and publisher of the weekly Jasper Place Citizen, was shot and killed by a deranged gunman who had dug a series of trenches around his home and then barricaded himself inside. The incident began one August morning when the gunman, an elderly recluse who lived in a converted boxcar at 112th Avenue and 150th Street, pumped shots into a car and house across the street.
Two Jasper Place policemen tried to get him to surrender but without success and so more police officers and fire department backup were summoned. Streams of water from firehoses and tear gas grenades failed to flush him out.
Jasper Place Fire Chief Barney Weygood was wounded as he and his men attempted to flush the recluse from his shelter with the firehoses, strung across the trenches. It was then that Dick Butler, armed with a police revolver, worked his way into the recluses property, the Edmonton Journal reported. But (he) was cut down by a shotgun blast after an exchange of shots.
The recluse was eventually captured with the assistance of a bulldozer, ending the six-hour siege. He was later declared insane and committed to the Oliver Mental Institute. Butler was honoured with Butler Memorial Park.
As Jasper Place continued to grow, the demands on infrastructure increased correspondingly and, in the early 1960s, the community expanded several schools and began work on a $430,000 sports centre on 163rd Street. Planning began on development of the Meadowlark Shoppers Park.
But Jasper Place was backing itself into a corner. With precious little industrial tax base, phenomenal growth and an ever-increasing debt load, Premier Ernest Manning saw the writing on the wall and refused to grant the town extra funds.
Through the 1950s and into the early 60s, amalgamation was the best way to get a good argument going with Jasper Place residents, with those for and against the idea firmly entrenched. Feeling reached a fever pitch in 1962, when the town council met and in a session that lasted barely 16 minutes, approved amalgamation.
But that wasnt to be the end of it. A petition calling for a halt on amalgamation proceedings until Jasper Place residents voted on the issue garnered several thousand signatures. The question came to a vote in a plebiscite held along with the October 17th, 1962 civic election.
Despite the financial pressures facing the town, residents were a proud, independent bunch and many wanted to remain separate from Edmonton. The final count was 3,618 votes in favour of amalgamation and 2,811 votes against -- a plurality of just 56 per cent. Candidates in favour of joining Edmonton swept the slate, winning 57 per cent of the popular vote.
With amalgamation, the City of Edmonton assumed Jasper Places bonded indebtedness of $8.177 million, the towns infrastructure and responsibility for all public services such as sewer, water and transportation. Kenneth Newman, who had been a councillor and mayor of Jasper Place since 1952, was elected to Edmonton City Council in 1964.
While Jasper Place as a separate entity has been swallowed by time, its still possible to glimpse what life in the town was like all those years ago. The main street, Stony Plain Road west of 149th Street, and many of the small single family bungalows still retain some of the character of the mid 20th century.
If you'd like to offer your thoughts, please drop me an email at email@example.com
For information on reprints of previously published articles, check out my website at www.lawrenceherzog.com