Today, the Manluk Centre and Wetaskiwin high school bustle with activity as teens pursue their education and local families enjoy year-round recreation and fitness activities.
Eighty years ago, the site bustled with a different kind of activity, as young people from across the country trained for war.
During the Second World War, the Wetaskiwin area was home to the No.133 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre, built on the Recreation Grounds – where the high school, Manluk Centre and Drill Hall are today, notes the team at the Wetaskiwin District Heritage Museum Centre.
The Basic Training Centre — established in 1942 at the height of the Second World War — included barracks, a large drill hall and parade square, later adding a 50-bed hospital and small recreation centre.
“The training centre was officially opened on May 24, 1943, in a grand ceremony open to the public,” Bert Reynolds wrote in his 1980 book Siding 16 – The History of Wetaskiwin Continues, 1930 – 1960. “As the flag streamed from a sixty-foot flagstaff…local residents were able to watch drill manoevers, rifle practice, demonstrations on the assault and obstacle course, and other army activities. In the evening Army Cavalcade, a variety show put on by the army recruits in the Drill Hall, entertained a crowd of fifteen hundred.
“Wetaskiwin was never quite the same after that. Servicemen in khaki seemed to be everywhere – in the cafes, at the movies, in the pool rooms… they were ordinary people who had been obligated to leave their homes and families to live among strangers.”
As overseas hostilities wound down, training was discontinued at the site, which was then used to process returning personnel for a short time until services moved to Calgary in January 1946, Reynolds notes.
Then … and now
Remembering Wetaskiwin’s connection to the war effort then – and wartime and peacekeeping operations since – is key to Veterans’ Week and local Remembrance Day services.
Veterans’ Week is Canada’s annual commemoration of the service, courage and sacrifice – at home, around the world and across generations, honouring those who have served Canada in times of war, military conflict and peace.
City facilities closed; Double garbage collection on Nov. 12
In honour of Remembrance Day, City facilities are closed on Nov. 11 – excluding the recreation facilities and the recycle centre. Additionally, the residential waste collection normally scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 11 will occur on Friday, Nov. 12, so both the Thursday and Friday collection areas will have their waste collected on Friday, Nov. 12.