Return of 1919 Vulcan, Alta., letter reveals lost family details

After CBC Calgary broadcast the story of Violet Collier's 1919 letter being returned to its home in Vulcan by an Australian man, her family got in touch with more information on the story.

Violet Collier's descendants get in touch after hearing story on CBC

Tim Lacey (left), his daughter and her partner on a visit to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. (Courtesy of Tim Lacey)

The great-granddaughter of a woman who lived in Vulcan, Alta., in 1919 says the discovery of a letter her ancestor wrote is "incredibly exciting" for her family. 

Violet and her husband Geoff Collier can be seen in this photo, believed to be from their 50th wedding anniversary in 1960. (Courtesy: Vulcan and District Historical Society)

Sheie Collier of Okotoks, Alta. got in touch with the Calgary Eyeopener after the program broadcast an interview with Australian Tim Lacey on Thursday. Lacey had found a letter written by Violet Collier in an antique trunk he purchased some 30 years ago and returned it to the town of Vulcan earlier this week .

The letter, which was addressed to a Miss Scholtz, gives a glimpse of life in the small town at the end of the First World War, with references to a visit by the Prince of Wales, winter sports and poor crops.

  • Listen to the full Calgary Eyeopener interview

In an e-mail, Sheie Collier says she never met her great-grandmother but her father told her she was a marvellous cook.

"I went to dance classes every Friday at the hall in Vulcan where her picture was and likely still is on the wall, " Sheie Collier wrote in her email.

Collier also wrote that they were able to clarify some family history because of the letter's discovery.  

She says the family didn't know Violet called her husband Geoff until they saw the letter. Her great-grandfather, whose name was Godfrey, was known as Joe by everyone else. 

She also says the letter appears to have been written on the letterhead of her great-grandfather's hardware business.

The timing of the letter's discovery comes at a handy time for the town of Vulcan, which is currently putting together a heritage conservation program.

While that program will be aimed at preserving buildings, the town says the letter is an important piece of local history.

Lacey had tried to contact someone in Vulcan roughly 25 years ago to let them know about the letter he had found.

Recently, an Australian friend with a Canadian connection urged him to make another attempt and the rest is history.

Transcript of letter

From Violet Collier (& Geoff Collier), Box 115, Vulcan, Alberta

To Miss Scholz, of (presumably) South Australia

Dated Nov. 15, 1919, on letterhead of the Vulcan Supply Company

My dear Miss Scholz,

By the time this reaches you I guess Xmas won’t be far away, + I wish you all the good things of the season. Since writing last I guess you have Mr. [or Ms.] Norman [or Norma] Scholz with you, + I can imagine what great times you had welcoming all the boys home. Geoff has his four brothers home now (one was killed, + one sent to Siberia for a year. It does not seem as though things will ever be the same again, since this war, everything here is upside down with strikes, + the United States are in a dreadful state, serves them right though they are always saying “How they won the war,” running down other “Nations”, + thinking they rule the world, you should feel thankful you have not got them as neighbours. We have had a very dry year (the 3rd) again, it’s making things bad, + an early winter has set in since Oct 15 we have had 2 ft of snow on the ground with zero weather cattle are dying for want of feed, hay is an awful price, + can scarcely be got. Govt is talking of helping out more than has been. Geoff has started in business in the Hardware (Ironmongery) with two other fellows one who handles implements, + another, + in the Spring they intend combining the three, Geoffs own business the “Harness”, “Implements”, + the “Hardware” if it’s a good year next year they should do well, + really I don’t see how it possibly can be another dry year. We have had the “Prince of Wales” out here, we drove 95 miles by auto to see him, had a dandy view, he is such a nice open faced boy everybody is in love with him. We had another long ride by auto this summer 104 miles to see a brother of Geoffs, our light’s gave out coming home, a pitch dark night, but we got home alright. How are you all keeping + Mr Scholz? My sister Mabel is well, talks of coming out to see me, she is on easy street, to what I am just now, her husbands people seem to be fairly well connected. Auntie Julia in England does not enjoy very good health she is 85 next birthday. Games on the ice is the order of the day out here now, “Curling”, “Hockey” + Skating. How is Miss Atkinson these days. In cannot think of more news just now. So will close. Hoping all are in the best of health.

Yours sincerely Violet Collier


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.