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Kimberley Families

The Almas Family
as told by Esther

Mr. Lelo J. Almas was born in Tuscola County, Michigan, His parents moved to Wetaskiwin, Alberta, when he was nine years old.

Esther Borgstrom, also from Michigan, born of Swedish parents, came west to Ferintosh, Alberta, where they homesteaded. Lelo and Esther were married in 1911 and had three children before they came to Kimberley.

It was in 1924 that Mr. Almas came to work for the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company. That first year, the bunkhouses were full so he, along with another four families, lived in tents in the valley just below the mine portal. He ate at the cookhouse on the townsite.

A year later he procured one of the small company houses facing the cookhouse and bunkhouses. Mrs. Almas left her children with her parents in Ferintosh while she came to see what the situation was in Kimberley. She was a bit dubious after travelling from Cranbrook on Mrs. Brown's stage, where the passengers sat facing one another. The road was rough gravel and very winding as it followed the valley, out of Cranbrook, past the old hospital. But when the stage got to the top of the old townsite hill it couldn't make the turn without backing up a bit before pulling up at the cookhouse.

The prospects must have impressed her enough to warrant bringing her family to live here in 1925.

Esther and Lelo Almas

Mr. Almas was underground shop foreman in charge of all types of drilling machines. He was called a "Drill Doctor".

Mrs. Almas remembers when Gus Nelson first started the Company Gardens in 1927.They are now known as Cominco Gardens and are quite famous. It was about this time that they moved to 445-4th Ave., just half a block from these beautiful gardens.

Their daughter, Violet, married Ernest Potter of Trail. They live in Duncan, B.C. and have a son and a daughter. Lawrence married Velma VanSteinberg. He now runs a butcher shop in Okanagan Falls. They have two girls. Eugene (Gene) has lived in Kimberley since he was six years old and some of his recollections of growing up here are the long bobsled rides from the Top Mine into town and delivering papers and getting to know many families in this manner. Skiing was just beginning to be a popular winter sport and some of the interested young men built a ski jump on the hill overlooking lower Blarchmont. Mr. Almas was perhaps the first President of the newly formed Ski Club and Henry Hepper was Secretary. Some of its members were John Olsen, Pete Luberg, Trig Anderson, Arne Moan and Leif Lunn. They were fortunate enough to bring in a world champion ski jumper, Nels Nelson, to put on some exhibition jumping. The first ski cabin was built in the area of the new Happy Hans Campgrounds. When the second cabin was built, Charlie Deschamp skidded the logs, Martin Aason's father planned the lodge and Ole Linquist built the beautiful stone fireplace. When the new lodge was erected, Frank Biddlecombe moved the old cabin to Meadowbrook.

Lelo Almas was also on the executive of the Rodeo Club with Jimmy Riddell and helped arrange the first indoor Rodeos held in the old arena.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Almas went through all the chairs in the Orange Lodge when it was active in Kimberley.

Gene married Thelma Dyson in Cranbrook in 1942. Their four children have all grown up in Kimberley. Roy works for a contracting company. He lives in Kimberley and is married with two sons and a daughter.

Brian lives in Skookumchuck and is married with one daughter. Maxine, now Mrs. Admussen, lives in Penticton and has two girls. Colleen married David O'Conner, who is a lineman for the B.C. Hydro.

After Lelo retired, he took up leather work. He prepared his own hides and fashioned them into bridles, halters and dog collars and gave most of them away. He made several leatherseated stools and showed anyone who was interested how to do it.

Mr. Almas passed away in 1975, but Mrs. Almas still resides in the little house on Fourth Ave., Townsite. Gene lives a few blocks away on Eighth Ave. and retired in 1978. He plans to spend his retirement right where he is. He enjoys hunting, fishing and camping.

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