Movie Monday: Peace Country Scenes

Image: A film still showing two young girls in a garden (SPRA 2014.029.03, Fonds 569: J.O. Watson fonds)

Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie.

Today’s Movie Monday features footage showing scenes from around the South Peace, including sunsets, bridges, gardens, and children at play. This footage was captured by the Watson family.

J. O. (John Orville “Jack”) Watson, the son of Thomas and Catherine Watson, was born in Kirkwell, Ontario on April 27, 1894. Jack, his wife Verta, and their young son Jack moved to Grande Prairie in January 1919Three children, Katherine (Dolly), Gerald, and Gloria (born January 20, 1933), were born to Jack and Verta in Grande Prairie.

In 1922, Jack bought a garage from the Charley B. Wilson estate (on ‘the Boulevard’ north of Richmond Avenue, possibly located on the northeast corner of 100 Avenue and 102 Street, where the Crummy’s Garage was later situated) and took over the Ford dealership. Later Jack’s second son, Jim, joined the business. In 1926, the Grande Prairie Garage built a new brick building across from the post office to include a show room, storage, and mechanic shop, on land purchased from Reverend Alexander Forbes (the southeast corner of 101 Avenue and 100 Street). Another building was erected in 1928 on the same lot to house a showroom, offices, stock room, and workshop. By 1928, the Grande Prairie Garage was dealer for Ford and Lincoln cars, Oliver implements, and Humming Bird Separators, and had two gas pumps.

In October 1940, the Garage suffered a fire in the workshop, which burned Jim Watson and another employee and caused damage to the building. The fire brigade was able to extinguish it before the entire Garage and inventory were lost. Another, much more serious, fire occurred in July 1954, completely demolishing the garage building and causing the loss of three cars within a span of 2 hours. However, the business reopened on the same site a couple of days later in temporary buildings. A new location for the garage was found on west side of Clairmont Road (11002-100 Street). The old location on 101 Street appears to have been retained, at least for a time, as a used car lot. The Clairmont Road location also suffered a small fire caused by a dropped gasoline bottle in 1964. Jack retired from the garage business in 1964.

Jack served on the Town Council for seven years and in 1946 was Chair of the town’s Waterworks Committee. During his tenure in this position, the town approved the expenditure of a large amount of money on the Bear Creek Dam, a disposal plant, and the water and sewer system. In February 1949, Jack was elected Mayor by acclamation for a two year term, succeeding J. E. Thomson. He was serving as mayor during the period that the 1950 Grande Prairie High School, Wapiti Dorm, new Memorial Arena, and new Post Office were built and traffic lights installed.

John Orville Watson died on August 16, 1965 at the age of 71. His funeral was held at St. Paul’s United Church. Verta died on October 25, 1983. Both are buried at the Grande Prairie Cemetery.

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