By Jensen, Randy on September 3, 2020.
Lethbridge Herald – coaldale
Alan Graham, a former mayor of Coaldale, is marking his 100th birthday today, celebrating a life filled with family, public service and years of hard work in the beekeeping and honey fields.
“Well, it’s a long time. As you put in all those 100 years you never dream you’re going to make a hundred,” says Graham.
Born on Sept. 3, 1920, Graham was raised in Coaldale, the son of a First World War veteran who took up beekeeping after his service.
The family beekeeping business grew with Alan, and a number of years after moving out on his own and marrying, he took over the operation.
“It was my turn, I guess. I did enjoy it. It kept me on the run.”
And keep him on the run it did. In the early days Graham kept bees in the clover and alfalfa-rich fields north of the Bow River, making the commute some 70 miles north of Coaldale.
“We’d get up at five in the morning and then head out, get ourselves together and away we would go.”
It would take a couple of hours to travel that 70 miles, he says. There were no paved roads, half weren’t gravelled and instead of a bridge a ferry ride was required to cross the river.
He remembers coming back with the first truckload heavy with honey and bees. To not risk getting stuck on the riverbank, the ferryman had him take a run onto the platform and then jam the brakes at the same time the ferry was released.
“”I went down that hill and that’s what I did. We made it. We made it every day for years and years,” he recalled.
“And then finally, of course, they built bridges. Well then it became almost a piece of cake.
“Didn’t have to get up at 5 anymore, roads were paved, bridges were in.”
Along with his own growing operation Graham was heavily involved within the industry, serving on the boards of the honey producers co-operative and the provincial and federal beekeepers associations.
Graham served a number of terms as mayor of Coaldale through much of the 1950s and 1960s. Among his council’s accomplishments, he counted the expanding of the town’s fire equipment and a new fire hall, developing business, and construction of the tot-lot playground – still popular to this day with the community’s youngsters. But one of the biggest undertakings he oversaw was the paving of most of the town’s streets, which had been a challenge to motorists having to navigate the dirt and gravel roads.
Having sold the bee business and spending some years in real estate and working with a canola company on pollinator bees, he was again approached to run on council in 1998.
“Well, you do enjoy it to a point. The fact you have people asking you to take the damn job, it kinda feels good. And so well, we’ll give it another shot,” he figured.
He ended up winning that election and served for three more years as mayor.
A birthday celebration is planned for Sunday with a drive-by parade beginning at 1 p.m. through the Gem of the West Museum parking lot followed by a small dinner get-together for family and guests.
With current pandemic health measures in place Graham is taking the unconventional celebration in stride.
“You do the best you can with what you’ve got to work with,” he says.
“That’s been sort of my whole philosophy anyway. You do what you can do, and what can’t do, you can’t. That’s the way I’ve felt through life. It’s there and you make out of it what you can. You try and stay out of trouble and get jobs done. Live with people and hope that they can live with you.”
Follow IMartensHerald on Twitter