Joe Shaw was a shift boss for the Back-a- Church coal mine when he decided to sail from Liverpool in September of 1920. He left behind his wife Gladys and his eight month old daughter Irene. His first job was at Nordegg, Alberta, where he worked for the Brazeau Collieries.
He had been a soccer player in England, so naturally played for the Nordegg team, and came to Kimberley to compete with one of their teams. When a strike at Nordegg caused unemployment, Joe came to Kimberley and started work at the Top Mine, and he sent for his family.
Gladys was born in Lancashire, of Welsh parents, and worked in a material factory before her marriage. She and Irene sailed for Canada in December of 1920. Joe had put a ten dollar deposit on one of Gough's shacks, but when Gladys saw it, she flaty refused to move in. Joe's brother, Granbille, with his wife and young son, lived in another shack near by, so for one week they were all crowded into two rooms until other I accommodations could be found. As none was available, both families bought tents and erected them in a little hollow below the last row of houses at the Top Mine.
The hardships that followed were many. They had to live in that tent for three years, winter and summer, rain or shine, snow and sub-zero weather. In the beginning there was no room for the stove, so it stood outside where the cooking was done and the finish on it was ruined for all time.
Joe was no carpenter, but the necessity of outdoor plumbing had to be attended to at once. He managed to build one, but not having the proper tools or the know how, it was a rather crude structure. Suspended between two trees, it had no door and the hole was left square, and when the wind blew, it rocked in the breeze.
Water had to be carried from the kindly neighbors on the hill. In winter, snow was melted in a large container on the stove. A water line was finally installed.
Irene's bed was the packing box in which the blankets and bedding had been shipped from England.
Gladys recalls the first bad electrical storm and how the rain poured in on everything. All three were tucked in the same bed with a washtub perched on their stomachs to catch the drips, and every available pot and pan was placed around to catch the numerous leaks. It was following this episode that Joe built a bedroom of sorts out of powder (dynamite) boxes. There was no insulation other than being lined with blue building paper. It had a tar paper roof. The dynamite boxes caused frightful headaches, but they were unaware of the cause at the time.
They had ordered six tons of coal for winter fuel, but the delivery man refused to take the wagon down the steep little hill into the hollow, so he dumped it on the edge of the hollow, and it all had to be moved down to their tent in a wheelbarrow. If wood was needed, Gladys would haul in small dead trees from near by and chop them up herself.
They eventually moved into one of the first houses built in upper Blarchmont. A few of their neighbors were P. McKim, E. Stone, E. Woods and Lloyd Crowe.
From the beginning, Joe played soccer on the Top Mine Team. He once had a leg broken while playing. His other leg had been broken in a mine accident. The rivalry between Top Mine, Tunnel and Chapman Camp teams is still a conversation topic today.
Joe was very interested in First Aid. He was involved in Mine Rescue in Nordegg before coming to Kimberley and continued by expanding its scope. He not only acted on teams but he began teaching First Aid to large classes in the schools. He participated in many competitions for years, and acted as a judge at all school competitions after months of arduous training. Joe Shaw and Joe McLay, another devoted First Aid man, both received a Citation from the St. Johns Ambulance Association, making them Serving Brothers of the Venerable Order of Jerusalem.
Kimberley was a Company town for years and Joe became the Fire Chief for the Mine. This included fire protection for the entire town as well. Three fires that Gladys remembers were the Masonic Hall, the Home Inn and the Wilcox home. The house in Upper Blarchmont proved too far away from the Mine in emergencies, so, as Fire Chief, Joe had to move into a Company apartment on the Townsite.
He retired in 1960 after forty years service and the following year, he acted as tour guide for the Mine. This was the first year the Company opened the Mine to visitors and tourists.
Joe took a correspondence course in sketching and pastel drawing, and spent many hours outdoors sketching scenes of the area. He passed away in 1963.
Irene married Doug Jarrett. Prior to her marriage she was employed at the Post Office when Mr. Fisher was the Postmaster and she continued to work there when Jessie Bonner took over.
Doug used to deliver bread for his father's bakery before he went to work for the Company at the Concentrator pipe shop. He was First Aid Attendant at the Fertilizer Plant before he retired. They had two sons: Dan and Darryl. Dan is manager of the local Super Valu store. He married Valerie Seward and they have three children: Vaughn, Troy and Dannette. Darryl was an excellent ball player and an all-round athlete and sportsman. He married Vern Horkoff of Grand Forks in 1974. He died of leukemia in 1976.
For many years Irene was Superintendent of the Presbyterian Sunday School when her boys were young. For the past number of years she was a clerk in Norman's Pharmacy until this year when it was sold. She is now working part time for the Super Valu.
Gladys has been a member of the Presbyterian Church Choir for many years, both in the old Church and the new one. She is a member of the folk singing group and has delighted people with her inimitable fashion of singing solos. She now resides in Lions Manor, and although over eighty years old, she can still entertain most admirably.