I could never understand why my eldest sister 'Betty' was called 'Betty', having such a beautiful name as 'Elizabeth Margaret'.
Betty was born in 1925 and was three years older than I. She was a very clever girl - always nice and kind to me and helped me in many ways, such as when I was knitting or sewing at home. She would say 'Well Jean bach, what are you trying to do?' I would reply, 'Trying to make a dress for my doll'. Betty would take over and help.
Betty left, with sister Myfanwy
and their mother Sarah Michell Roberts
Betty took great pride in her appearance, knit beautiful jumpers and cardigans for herself. She was also a very good cook.
Sometimes I noticed a slight stammer in her speech, but it wasn't very noticeable.
She was very attractive and dressed very smartly.
Betty, Myfanwy and Jean on their garden swing
Jean, Betty, Myfanwy and Eric
As a family, we all went to Dolgarrog Central School. I can remember it being built. They held evening classes in the school. Betty was often asked to help the cookery teacher who was in charge. They did a great job.
We three girls went to chapel one Sunday morning and on the way home one of the Deacons passing us said in Welsh 'Mae'n debyg i law' - silence - then Betty said 'Mae'n edrych fel o'. Myfanwy and I laughed at her Welsh, to which Betty replied 'At least I answered him!!'
Betty left school. Across the valley from Dolgarrog was a place called Maenan, and on leaving school she went to work at 'Maenan Abbey' - a very posh building. It can be seen from Dolgarrog. The Abbey was taken up by a private school from England, where Betty helped with looking after the children, who had come over as evacuees. To get there, Betty cycled past the Aluminium works, down the track and across the railway line and up a very long steep hill to Maenan. She wasn't there long.
Mr Humphreys, the school headmaster called at our home and said that Betty should have a much better job than that. and recommended she went to work at the Aluminium Corporation's offices in Dolgarrog, 'with the London staff '.
Jean, Betty and Myfanwy
There she worked until she met and fell in love with her future husband, Flying Officer Alvin Gaetz of the Royal Canadain Air Force.
5th August 1920 - 17th March 1953
Alvin Gaetz was born in Craigmyle, Alberta on the 5th August 1920,
a son to Mr and Mrs Fred Gaetz.
He had two brothers Albert and James, and three sisters. In 1937, Al settled in Banff, and two years later moved to Calgary to qualify for a private flying license, and intended to join the Air Force. Instead, he joined the Calgary Aero Club as an apprentice engineer and when the club took over the No 5 Elementary School at Lethbridge, he went along. Read about them below.
On November 1, 1927, barely six months after Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean, a group of over 100 aviation enthusiasts met to form an organization that would become an important part of the lives of several thousand pilots over the next seventy years.The Calgary Aero Club (the name was changed to "Calgary Flying Club" in 1946) came into being due to a number of factors. Chief amongst these was the financial and material support provided by the Department of National Defence (DND).
Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War in September of 1939 the Club's facilities, aircraft and staff were moved into the service of the Air Force. The Department of National Defence completed a study of the Renfrew Aerodrome in Calgary and found that although it was large enough to accommodate a flight training depot, the fact that it was bordered by residential areas made it a less than perfect location for military flight instruction. The Club recommended using High River (an aerodrome just south of Calgary) since it had been used frequently by instructors and members and was clearly suitable. The DND however chose Lethbridge as the base of operations, and No. 5 Elementary Flight Training School (EFTS) was born.
New procedures and rushed wartime training meant accidents took place. Several instructors and students were killed or seriously injured in crashes. Sacrifices by pilots were not limited to the skies over Europe.
In 1941 it was determined that No 5 EFTS would be moved to a new base near the town of High River just south of Calgary so that the school could get away from the wind and concentrate on graduating courses on time.On June 28th the EFTS was moved to the new airfield and a new chapter in the history of the Club began. Conditions at High River were almost as rough as they had been in the early days at Lethbridge.
Lethbridge is a city in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is Alberta's fourth largest city by population after Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer. At 127.19 km* (49.1 sq. mi.), it is the third largest in area after Calgary and Edmonton. It is located near the Canadian Rockies and is 210 km (130 miles) southeast of Calgary on the Oldman River. Citizens of Lethbridge are called Lethbridgians.
|Royal Canadian Air Force|
In 1942, Al joined the R.C.A.F. and was commissioned.
On his discharge in 1945, he became a Flying Officer instructing in England.
Following the War, Al returned to Banff, and for a year worked for the government in the engineering and construction department. From the fall of 1946 until a year later, he was employed by the Foothills Flying Service in Calgary, which had a licence to operate from the Banff Airport.
In 1947, Foothills withdrew from Banff, when Al bought his own aircraft and assets of the company and was in business under charter of the Foothills firm.
The following year, Department of Transport regulation changes prevented him from operating under that charter, and he turned to stone masonry for a living, while flying privately to further his experience of mountain flying in light aircraft.
Banff is to have a geological garden which will be the only one of its kind in the world. It will depict in rock, plants and models the evolution of life*and it will be named The Cascades of Time.(Banff Crag & Canyon, 1934)
Harold C. Beckett dreamed of creating in his garden a journey through time. A series of pools were to represent the main geological periods during which the rocks of the Rocky Mountains were formed. Cascades of water The Cascades of Time would connect these pools made from rocks of an appropriate age.
THE BANFF NATIONAL PARK ADMINISTRATION BUILDING
The Banff National Park administration building (above) is situated on 12 acres of land that were acquired by Parks Canada in 1934. From the 1890's until the disastrous fire of 1934, the Bretton Hall Sanitarium, one of Banff's oldest resort businesses, had occupied the property.
Built in 1935-36 for park administration purposes, the building was the first representation of the federal government in the national parks. Beckett insisted on using locally acquired materials on the exterior as well as the interior of the building. The interior architecture can be viewed inside Canada Place, a free admission exhibit celebrating Canada.
The aesthetic design and craftsmanship as well as the historical relationship between the building and the landscape were all factors leading to the administration building's designation as a Recognised federal Heritage building.
Al built the stone piers for the Administration Building grounds or the new building at the Eastern Gateway to the park in Banff.
Courtesy of David Fleming
Encyclopedia of Banff History
Al met Elizabeth Margaret Roberts at a Royal British Legion dance
| Courtesy of David Fleming|
Encyclopedia of Banff History
in Dolgarrog and they later married.
GAETZ - ROBERTS
Miss Elizabeth Margaret Roberts, eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs O. J. Roberts, 26 Gwydr Road, Dolgarrog and Flying Officer Alvin Gaetz of the Royal Canadian Air Force, son of Mr and Mrs F. Gaetz 101-8a Street, N. East, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, were married yesterday week at Talybont C.M. Chapel. The Rev W. E. Thomas officiated with Mrs Meredith Jones at the organ.
Given away by her father, the bride wore a powder blue two piece with navy accessories and carried roses and carnations. Her attendant, Miss Jean Roberts, sister, was attired in a bois de rose dress with dark brown accessories and carried a spray of rosebuds. Mr Stanley Jones was best man.
Following the reception, Flying Officer and Mrs Gaetz left for a touring honeymoon in North Wales, the bride travelling in a light grey costume. She is on the staff of the Aluminium Corporation Ltd., and will join her husband in Canada later. F. O. Gaetz, who has been stationed in various parts of Britain, has expressed his warm appreciation of the hospitality and kindness shown to him during his service in this country.
| Dolgarrog for Canada|
Mrs E. Margaret Gaetz, eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs O. J. Roberts, 26, Gwydr Road, sailed last week for Canada, where, at Calgary,
she will join her husband, Flying Officer A. Gaetz, RCAF.
Prior to her marriage, Mrs Gaetz was on the staff of the Aluminium Corporation Ltd, and she leaves for Canada with the best wishes
of her many friends.
POSTCARDS TO DOLGARROG
Al sent these two postcards to his parents in law in Dolgarrog on the 23rd August 1952, from Wichita, Kansas.
||Dear Folks, Thought I'd send you a card from here. Wichita is about 1500 miles south east of Banff. I am down here to buy a new Cessna Airplane, a real beauty, all aluminium, seats four people, radio and everything. I was fortunate to get one. Al.|
Dear All, Here is another scene from Wichita, it is just about the centre of United States, it is about 200,000 population a highly manufacturing centre right on the prairies. Bye now, Al
Al with baby Keith by his Cessna Airplane.
Since receiving his charter, he had operated a flying service to Jasper and Calgary, and provided a service for skiers to Bonnet Glacier in the summer, and to Mount Assiniboine in the winter.
Photos taken by Mrs Willa Fuhrer nee Skoreiko,
wife of Mr Herman Fuhrer.
Willa worked at Sunshine Village
Courtesy of Barbara Karen Fuhrer
Baroness of the
by Ruth Oltmann
Courtesy of David FlemingEncyclopedia of Banff History (facebook)
|Al at work|
Courtesy of David Fleming
Encyclopedia of Banff History, facebook
The sound of his little airplaine's engine droning across the valley on a frosty winter morning was a familiar one, as was the gleam of sun on the silver wings on a lazy summer afternoon as Al circled the town for a landing.
His cheery smile, the old blue parka, and the big sloppy flight-boots (which never seemed to be fastened) were his trade marks.
When there were no flights to Assiniboine or to Bonnet Glacier for skiers, no bookings to take photographers aloft for an eagle's eye view of the mountains, or no biologists who wanted to penetrate the wilderness in search of a mountain goat, then Al, clad in the most fantastic garb imaginable - a sort of canvas suit-parka-coverall affair which afforded him protection against the cold days of winter - could be seen busily slapping "mud" as he built the stone piers for the Administration Building grounds or the new building at the Eastern Gateway to the park in Banff.
The gates built by Al
Courtesy of David Fleming
Courtesy of Leissa Remessoff
The old gates
Courtesy of David Flemming
Encyclopedia of Banff History, facebook
Al was nothing if not versatile. But he was much more than that. A wonderful mountain pilot, a keen flyer and promoter of flying, he did much to open up the wonders of the Canadian Rockies to those who flew with him. His keenness, his eagerness was infectious; his friendliness genuine.
MOUNT NORQUAY Downhill slopes Ski Jump.
This post card photo was taken from Al's plane.
This mountain is the highest in the Banff National Park at 12,000 feet.
Al has flown right over the peak, it is covered in snow all year.
Look at the glaciers.
Al, aged 32, was manager of Inter-Mountain Airways Ltd, and had a great determination to make a success of the company in the face of many obstacles and difficulties. His efforts were always inspiring to others, and it is doubtful if the activities of any one single individual were watched with more interest and concern by the people of Banff.
On the 13th March 1953, Al's Cessna Airplane had been stranded at Lake Louise, after one of of the plane's skis had broken when he landed on the ice-covered lake.
The following Tuesday, Al together with Ed Mader, returned to Lake Louise. He was planning to bring his plane back to Banff in severael trips before sending to Calgary for repairs.
Tragically, when 29 miles west of Banff, the light delivery truck which he was driving, skidded on an icy patch of road and hit a patch of dirt that threw the truck out of control. Al was thrown out of the driver's seat and was crushed as the truck rolled over him. The truck rolled over several times before landing upright, facing the opposite direction. Ed Mader the passenger, was not seriously injured.
It was three quarters of an hour before a road grader appeared at the scene of the accident, followed by Mr E. R. Charlton of Banff driving another truck.
Mr Charlton proceeded to Lake Louise where he summoned help.
Al was rushed to hospital by ambulance, where he later died from severe chest injuries and shock, less than 24 hours later, in the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital.
Blood was rushed from the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service in Calgary in an attempt to save his life.
Al's funeral service was held on Friday, March 20th at 2pm at St Paul's Presbyterian Church, officiated by Rev G. Peddie, assisted by Rev William Larsen.
Photo courtesy of David Fleming
Encyclopedia of Banff History (facebook)
Al was survived by his widow, Mrs Betty Gaetz, children Keith and Wendy; parent Mr and Mrs Fred Gaetz of Calgary; two brothers Albert of Edmonton, and James of Red Deer; three sisters, Mrs G. Melner and Mrs Kurt Scheller, both of Craigmyle and Mrs Alvena Urdell in Missouri.
Al is buried in the Banff Cemetery.
The mountains will miss Al. But he will never be forgotten here, for the gate to the administration grounds, which he built with his own hands, will stand as a memorial to the young man from the prairies who devoted himself to further in air travel in the mountains, and lost his life in their shelter.
Crag & Canyon
BANFF, ALBERTA, BANFF NATIONAL PARK, FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 1953 $2.550 Per Year; $3.50 to U.S.A.
Well-Known Flier Dies in Accident
COMMUNITY LOSES MODERN PIONEER.....
We shared the sorrow of the town this week, sorrow for a young man who challenged the Rocky Mountains and conquered them from the clouds - and lost out to fate in a cruel highway accident. Al Gaetz was a flier of incredible courage, whose personality reached out and warmed all who knew him from the inside out. He knew and loved the mountains and he opened up vast ranges and eternal glaciers for the modern day travellers, just as generations before, the alpinists had explored the Rockies afoot.
after Al's death
Courtesy of David Fleming
Encyclopedia of Banff History, facebook
Received the following enquiry from Gerd Schulze.
Do you have any further information about this Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Scheller mentioned above?
It might be that he is that Cousin of my mother, a farmer near Craigmyle, born about 1911. Thanks for any help!
Many Regards! Mit freundlichen Gruessen
If you can help Gerd, please contact email@example.com
This Family History tribute to Al has been adapted from the Crag and Canyon newspaper report.
| Thank You|
I am extremely grateful to
David Fleming and other members of the
ENCYCLOPEDIA of BANFF HISTORY
for their tremendous support
in supplying me with so much invaluable information
about Uncle Al.
Access the ENCYLOPEDIA of BANFF HISTORY here
Letter to Betty's parents from Al's sister Lena.
March 22, 1953.
Dear Mr and Mrs Roberts,
Needless to say, I wish I was writing a different letter. I know you are all anxious to hear about your treasure. She is just like a flower with the stem so badly bent but such a brave little one.
She is really bearing up well after being so grief stricken. Every one is so proud of her and Paul and I especially since we realise just how great her sorrow is.Al had made a landing at Lake Louise about 40 miles from Banff and with the soft snow had damaged a ski on the plane. He was on his way Monday morning in a truck to get it fixed, when an icy spot was hit and the truck turned over. He was thrown out of the truck as his door had opened. The man with him, apart from being shook up and stiff, is fine. Unfortunately there was no way of letting anyone know immediately and he was not in hospital until about two hours after it happened. This man with him just had to wait until someone came along to phone an ambulance and as roads were terrible it was a little slow too.
Betty was called to the hospital about 2 o'clock, but Al was in a state of shock by then, and wasn't able to speak to her. We were there all afternoon and by 6 o'clock the Doctor thought he had a chance. That night he was quiet at 10pm, and things looked a little better. However next morning she was called about 5.30am (Thursday). Paul and I went up with her and at 6am he was gone.
It was very hard to believe and such a shock. His chest had been badly crushed and there was internal hemorrhage. Outwardly he hadn't even a scratch.
The funeral was held Friday and it was a nice one. Rev Peddie of the Presbyterian Church just gave a wonderful little talk. There were just ever so many flowers. Al was just so natural looking. Betty bore up beautifully. It was just a priviledge to see anyone with so much courage.
Keith and Wendy just really don't realise what it is all about, even though Betty has told them.
I wish I could tell you what inner fortitude Betty has. She is really a "woman" to be proud of. It was such a tragic thing and they were so very happy together.
It seems so cruel that her great happiness should cause such great grief. However if tragedy strikes, the one is a result of the other isn't it?
We did what we could for her and she has many good friends, really true ones, that have stood by her. I was sorry you couldn't have been her, but she wasn't alone.
She will have written to about her plans and how she is getting along. I know you must have been concerned and waiting to hear.
I 'm sorry I didn't write sooner but it seemed we were all so disorganised.
One thing, believe me, you have Betty to be proud of. I have learned to love her dearly and it was hard to see her suffer so, but through these trying days, found out just what a great person she is and I know she will be able to meet her difficulties with grace and dignity.
My sympathy to you all and I do hope this will ease your concern in some little way as I'm sure you must be anxious to know,
Betty, Al and Keith
Keith and Wendy.
When Al was tragically killed, the children were young, and Betty, Keith and Wendy came over to Wales to live with her parents in Dolgarrog.
However, after a few years, the pull of Canada came over her, and she and the children returned there.
Betty is pictured here, standing right on a visit 'home' with
Bill, Jean, Myfanwy, parents Owen John and Sarah Michell Roberts with nephews Paul as a baby, Ken and Richard.
The years rolled by and Betty eventually came back to Dolgarrog to live.
She died in Bakewell and her ashes are buried in Talybont Chapel, where she rests with her parents.
Tal y Bont Chapel
| Graveside visit.|
In 2015, I had the pleasure of taking Al and Betty's
granddaughter, Wendy Gaetz, of British Columbia,
daughter of Keith and Wanda Gaetz,
to her grandmother's grave at Talybont.