Prince Charles Community – my Birthplace, my Roots and my Home
My life in Prince Charles began on March 8, 1950, when I became one of three daughters of Myrtle and Norman Reidford. My father built our home in 1946, along with three other homes in the area. The Reidfords were well known in this new and vibrant community. My grandfather built, owned and operated the family business, Airport Greenhouses, which sat on four city lots on 119 avenue and 122 street. My dad often told the story of how the greenhouse was a vital part of community and Edmonton during the depression. Not only did it support 5 growing families, one of which was mine, provide hundreds of people with fresh vegetables which they grew and sold at the city market, but it was also was a key part of the gateway to the north. Back in the early thirties and forties, there were little to no lights at the airport. But, the greenhouse lights were always on keeping the valuable plants warm. Pilots flying in from the north would see the lights and know exactly where they were to land. The airport was such a thrill to Prince Charles kids. I fondly remembering standing outside the fence on what is now 120 street on bright Sunday afternoon with my dad just watching the plans take off and land. Dad knew all about them, as he was in the air force during WW II.
I have so many fond memories growing up here. The neighborhood was full of young families just like mine, struggling to make ends meet with meager pay and resources. Those were the days when community really meant something. Families pulled together, helped each other out, looked after each other kids and made darn sure there was lots to keep us occupied, so we hopefully didn’t get into too much trouble.
So what did we do? Well, there was always lots of things happening. We had the bare stretch of treed land roughly where the impound lot sits not. We called that “Skyland”. There were lot of trees and great places to play hide and seek which we often did until our parents would find us and drag us home to eat or bed. There was a store up there as well called Camp Five Fifty. For 10 cents you could get a whole bag of jawbreakers. Boys and girls hung out together back then and enjoyed all the neighborhood had to offer. We couldn’t afford a lot, so had to make our own fun. Because of the nice big boulevards, we were able to play lots of football. When the girls played, it was called flag football, and we put a flag in our back pocket which the boys were supposed to grab instead of tackling us. I say supposed to because many a time, they made like they missed the flag and accidently [on purpose] tackled us anyway.
The community league was very active during the fifties and sixties. Although it’s gone now, the community hall and rink provided no end of fun. I remember my ballerina dance lessons which didn’t go so well. And then there was Brownies and Girl Guides. I loved the uniforms and badges. As young teens, several of us got together and started the Classic Teen Club. We had an official sweater with our log on it, which with bought through fund raising. Once a month at the hall we held a dance and brought in really great bands. Parents took turns as chaperones. People came from far and wide. We had line ups around the block of kids wanting to get in. We were great partners with Sherbrooke and Dovercourt and we alternated sites, making sure there was a community dance going on most weekends. With the money we earned, the team club was able to make several renovations to the hall over the years.
The rink was packed every night. My father took his turn at being the caretaker and rink maker. When my brother was big enough, he helped him. I still remember fondly skating to Billy Holly music and huddling around the fire in the rink shack and all the other kids. Crack the whip would really get everyone flying and many a hockey game had parents and kids out yelling and cheering.
I attended Prince Charles School from 1956 to 1962. It was new and we could walk to school. There were many adventures to and from as we’d stop to talk and play along the way. A lot of us played softball and baseball. I was a pitcher and played many a game in the school field. I remember one particular game that got a little rough and the catcher broke her nose when a bat hit her. Again, there were lots of parents who came out to watch and support the children.
We all loved going to the movies. The Towne Cinema sat on 118th avenue and 124 street, where now there is a grocery mart and liquor store. We would go there on a Saturday afternoon for very little money that was earned delivering newspapers or helping shovel walks during the winter. Later on, they added a bingo hall upstairs which my mom and her friends attended regularly.
Slowly, we grew up and moved away for a while. I say a while, because in 1998, I moved back with my husband, Rick. We were neighborhood buddies back in the sixties and early seventies. We didn’t know it at the time, but thirty years later and a lot of life between, we would be reunited, married and move back into the old neighborhood. My father still lived in the same house I was born and raised in. My mother had passed away 8 years before.
The neighborhood has changed quite a bit, and yet in many ways remained the same. I still see familiar faces of those young parents I remember, who have now grown older and wiser, but still live in Prince Charles. My father passed away two years ago. The green house is now a fourplex housing structure. Sadly, we had to demolish the hall and rink. Many of the buildings are run down and in need of repair. But I see renewal happening. Rick and I have rejuvenated our home as others have done as well. New construction is underway. As Community Executive members, we were able to help with getting the park redone in 2005, so that all age groups can enjoy it.
Thus brings me to the present time. Prince Charles will always hold a dear place in my heart. It will always be my birthplace, where my roots are, where I spent my youth and is once again my home.