"The Bremner I Remember" by Lorna Davies – The following is a story written by Lorna Davies. Lorna is a long-time Strathcona County resident and wife of club member Lynn Davies. Lorna grew up in the Bremner area and has fond memories of her childhood days when she was Lorna Reynolds. We're sure you are going to enjoy this little piece of local history.
I grew up in Bremner and my memories are from the early 1940's through the 50's. My parents raised my three siblings and me on a small farm located on the quarter section on the northwest corner of the intersection of what is now the Hwy 16 / Hwy 21 interchange. My father, Martin L. Reynolds, owned and operated the Bremner Garage located with our home just up the rise and to the west of that corner. At the bottom, near Oldman Creek, was a skating rink and picnic grounds complete with a ball diamond (home field for the Bremner Seagulls). Across the road, south of 16, was Johnny Bertwell's general store and next to it, right on the corner was the United Church manse. North from the corner on what is now Highway 21 was the community hall on the right and on the left was the road leading to the grain elevator, railway station and post office.
I remember once having the great treat of going in to downtown Edmonton on the train with my mom. The little red brick United Church was just a little further south on 21. The Oldman Creek ran behind the manse and Bertwell's store, under Hwy 16 on through the picnic grounds and farm. I remember the water being clean, my brother building rafts and catching minnows in a jar. All these places were within easy walking distance of home and as a child, I didn't believe things could be better than that. It was a wonderful life for a youngster to grow up on this small farm where we had a couple of work horses, some cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and of course the cats and always a dog. We always had a large vegetable garden, raspberries and lots of wild saskatoons for the picking. There was a couple of bee hives for a supply of honey. We kept a supply of ice in the icehouse through the summer. Once needed for the icebox, the ice would be cut from the nearby lakes in the winter. A real summer treat was the homemade ice cream! Our home was heated with a coal furnace with the coal supply coming from the mine at Clover Bar.
My father, besides having the farm, service station and bulk fuel delivery, was a mechanic and electrician. A favourite expression of his was "I can fix anything but a broken heart." A bit of a local character, he was the self-proclaimed "mayor of Bremner" and once pulled off a hoax that he had been invited to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II by posting in the service station, for all to see, an official looking invitation he had carefully cut out of a magazine that stated "You are invited to view the coronation of Queen Elizabeth...". This rated a small item in the "Fort Record" with the heading: "Mayor of Bremner receives invitation to the Coronation"
Social life in Bremner centered around church and school functions, community picnics and ball games, summer CGIT camps at Elk Island and Cooking Lake and in the winter there was sledding and always the Saturday night skating at local rinks. Children in Bremner attended school at Clover Bar Center, a one room school situated a mile and a half west from the corner on Hwy 16. (Approximately where Walmart is now.). The building had no telephone or running water. One teacher had to cope with seven grades, often doubling as janitor as needed. Those teachers were amazing women. To say they had to multitask would be an understatement. My sister taught there the year I started school which often made for interesting discussions around the supper table when we got home. Christmas at the school was magical. That one room school was transformed into a theatre. My oldest brother and other locals would arrive with lumber and throw together a proper stage complete with curtains hanging across the front and costume change areas curtained on both sides at the back. The entire school would practice for weeks to provide the entertainment and of course Santa arrived just as we finished. A vivid memory for me was the night one of the local boys and I got into a disagreement backstage and accidentally brought down the entire curtain arrangement leaving us revealed as the culprits. We were in a bit of trouble but I still recall we got the biggest laugh of the show! As a child I could revel in these events but as I got a little older I began to understand the struggles of our lives. Public buildings with no running water, hard to keep warm through the winter, outhouses, wringer washing machines, clotheslines, etc. In spite of these hardships the community would manage the wonderful summer picnics with homemade pies cooked in old wood stoves under the trees and marvelous turkey suppers in the church basement.
On a hot summer day, I believe the year was 1945, there was an accident at my father's service station which resulted in the whole building burning to the ground. The black smoke could be seen for miles and a small army of neighbors arrived and set up a system to get water from the creek to save the bulk fuel warehouse and the family home. It took a long time before fire crews arrived from the city and by that time quite a crowd had gathered. Fortunately no one was injured and with plenty of help from friends and neighbors, the mess was cleared, a new service station was built in no time and life went on.
My mother was a beautiful, busy, kind woman who always managed to keep a tidy home and plenty of food ready for our family of six and usually a hired man and sometimes random folks who happened by because of car breakdowns and were in need of a place to warm up and enjoy a cup of tea. Tragically, when I was ten years old, she passed away after a short battle with cancer. We all were devastated. Again, the love and support of family and community helped us through.
Bremner, once named Hortonburg, has continuously evolved through the years. My memories are from a relatively short period of time but during that time all the community buildings disappeared; they were victims of progress as the new highway construction commenced in the 1960's. Residents moved on, children were bussed off to bigger schools. The churches amalgamated with half the community attending Ardrossan and others coming In to Sherwood Park. People of my generation moved on to lives elsewhere and the older generation passed on. Nothing I remember is left except for the front door to the family home which is on display in the Sherwood Park Museum.