|Photo courtesy of Dick Kroll|
At the official opening of the newly-built Beverly Bridge, 1953.
August 18th, 1953 was a big day in the history of Beverly. It was the day the Beverly Bridge was officially opened by Premier Ernest Manning.
The Premier cut the red ribbon as gala ceremonies accompanied the bridge’s dedication. It had been a 30-year journey that began in 1923 with a request for a vehicular and foot bridge and punctuated by recurring interest and efforts over the years – like in 1933 when council went so far as to pass a resolution urging the federal government to build it.
The bridge put the town on Highway 16 – central Alberta’s major east-west thoroughfare. With oil refineries and chemical plants springing to life across the river in the County of Strathcona, traffic on 118th Avenue catapulted to new highs.
Businesses opened by the dozens, and homes filled long vacant lots. By the time the bridge was twinned in 1972, Beverly was a thriving community.
While most of the Edmonton area boasted municipal services such as power, gas and municipal water and sewer by the 1920s, it wasn’t until the boom days after the Second World War that such infrastructure began to find its way into Beverly.
Calgary Power began stringing power lines in 1947 and by the end of the year electricity was available to much of the town. Natural gas arrived at the same time and then, in 1953, construction began on a much talked about water and sewer system.
In November 1953, Mayor Charles Floden turned the sod to mark the commencement of construction at property along 34th Street once belonging to Jacob Prins. Crews from Dominion Construction Company worked to install the lines for the better part of the next two years, ripping up roadways and making already difficult travel even worse.
When the well at the Town Hall was demolished in May 1954, it was headline news in the local paper. The well had been a landmark for 40 years, but with the connection to the City of Edmonton municipal water system, it was no longer necessary. However, residents had to dig deep to pay for this new luxury of running water: Beverly consumers paid 35 per cent over city rates for water.
Stories of the construction of the lines and the conditions encountered by the crews are legendary. Crews arrived one morning to work on the section along Ada Boulevard to discover, much to their chagrin, that their huge backhoe had disappeared.
One man ran to call the police and several minutes passed before another crew member found the backhoe – at the bottom of a quicksand pit along the bank below the boulevard. Door-to-door mail delivery, another Canadian tradition that had long bypassed Beverly, finally commenced during September 1957.
In 1954, records were broken in nearly all departments. The population catapulted over 4,000 and school enrolment topped 700.
A $175,000 extension to the sewer and water system was completed in 1955 and by early 1957, more than 100 new citizens were pouring in every month, placing ever more strain on the infrastructure. Beverly was called one of the fastest growing towns in Alberta.
The population in 1958 topped 8,250. During 1960, Beverly completed 14.8 miles of sidewalk construction, 19.6 miles of curbs and gutters and 2.04 miles of paving on 118 Avenue, 38th and 50th Streets. The work also included grading and levelling seven miles of back alleys.
Under a $28,000 agreement with the city, Beverly’s sewer system was cleaned, with crews discovering 80 per cent of the sewers were blocked. The blockages were attributed to “improper care.”
Ending many long years of hand wringing over whether to join or not to join, Beverly citizens voted 62 per cent in favour of becoming part of Edmonton. The amalgamation approved by the Public Utilities Board and was made effective December 30, 1961. There was no fanfare like signing on the dotted lines or shaking of hands by town and city officials to “close the deal” on the effective date.
Instead, an order proclaiming the merger of the two centres, signed by R.D. Henderson, chairman of the Public Utilities Board, was issued and published in the December 30, 1961 issue of the Alberta Gazette, the official publication of the provincial government. At the time of amalgamation, Beverly’s population was 9,000, bringing Edmonton’s population to 287,000.
Edmonton agreed to absorb the 30 permanent Beverly employees into its workforce and provide utilities at the same cost Edmonton residents were paying. The city also absorbed Beverly’s debt of $4.163 million on an assessed value of $8.57 million.
The Edmonton Transit System began bus service in Beverly at 7 am, News Year’s Day, absorbing Beverly Bus Lines Company’s seven drivers. ETS announced plans to buy the company’s nine buses, five of which were more modern coaches.
Excerpts from “Built on Coal: A History of Beverly, Edmonton’s Working Class Town,” written by Lawrence Herzog and published by the Beverly Community Development Society.