Did you know…
That Gate Avenue does not refer to a ‘gate’ into Grandin Park but is named after a former St. Albert resident and employee of the Town of St. Albert in the 1960’s? Society Member John Beedle had the distinct pleasure not only of knowing this individual extremely well but also to benefit from his mentorship. John recounts for us some of his memories of this unusual and talented man.
By John Beedle
Mr. André Gate, along with his wife, Odile, and two young sons, arrived in St. Albert from France around 1959. André’s first job was with the Grey Nuns at the Youville Home, in the cluster of buildings where North Ridge Lodge now stands. Before long André applied for a position with the “New Town” of St. Albert, hoping to gain employment in the field of horticulture for which his degree in Agriculture and Horticulture from the University of Paris qualified him. André was successful in securing employment with the Town, though not immediately in his vocation. His first duties were with François Girard in Public Works. One of André’s early jobs was as Dog Catcher for which he was not really qualified. The townspeople were amused to see this 6-ft. tall Ichabod Crane-like figure chasing after dogs that he couldn’t catch. His method was obviously not working but, ever resourceful, André came up with the idea of tying up a female dog in estrus in the back of his van. The idea worked wonderfully well as wandering dogs from all over town were drawn to the back of his van. Now it was no longer a source of amusement to those who had to pay a fine to get their dog back! André was cautioned that he could no longer employ this tactic, but he was soon taken off that detail and was transferred to Administration by Gordon Parkes, Secretary-Manager. He was soon appointed Director of Parks and Recreation.
André’s appointment coincided with a period of rapid growth in the Town’s first four sub-divisions: Braeside (now Old Braside), Mission Park, Grandin Park and Sturgeon Heights. André was called upon to research and develop a parks by-law, which was adopted by Council. This by-law is now under review for the first time. Along the way, André managed to convince Council that the Town should have its own tree nursery and greenhouse to supply the plant material for the Town’s emerging need for trees and shrubs in the parks, school grounds, boulevards, buffers, medians, islands and tot lots which were in the plans. Plots were set aside for the nursery on land that is now Gentry Court and on a plot that is now the site of the Christian Reformed Church. At that time nursery planting stock was available free from the Alberta Government Tree Farm at Oliver. These deciduous 2-ft whips and 1-ft evergreens were also available to farmers and acreage owners under the Shelter Belt Program.
In the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, Town Department Heads were required to attend all Council meetings and present their reports and budget requests – always near the end of the agenda. André, at one of these meetings, put forth the idea of a reciprocal agreement between the Town of St. Albert and the two School Boards whereby the Town’s recreational facilities would be available to the schools during school hours and certain school facilities would be available to the Town for community groups after school hours. After a number of meetings between the Town and the School Boards, the concept was put into effect and became known as the Joint-Use Agreement – a model of cooperation that is still in use today. The City of Edmonton soon followed with a similar agreement.
Another of André’s accomplishments was the creation of a municipal crest for the City of St. Albert. Following the rules and tenets of heraldry, André designed the City’s Coat of Arms, which hangs on the wall behind the Mayor and Council in Council Chambers in St. Albert Place.
Still another initiative advanced by André was to purchase, at a very reasonable price, a number of surplus green-painted pre-fabricated Army huts from the Army Base at Wainwright. There were sufficient panels obtained from these huts to construct dressing rooms at the Grosvenor, Mission and Braeside skating rinks. Each of the rink buildings could be erected by a Parks crew in one day, though it took a few more days to put on the roof, build the washroom, and install the lights, furnace, etc. As I recall, the ‘rink shacks’ were 16 ft. wide and 40 ft. long, though you could make them any size using the 4 ft. wide components. The first Arts and Crafts Centre, located just east of the City’s water reservoir on Sunset Blvd., was also constructed from these panels. At the Public Works yard on Riel Drive, a long carpenters’ workshop was erected, as well as a storage building. In addition, I believe the first Seniors’ Centre on Taché Street was a product of this initiative. After all these projects, there were still enough panels for a tennis clubhouse at the Mission Courts. These buildings lasted for many years and, some 40 plus years later, there may be still a few in use.
In October of 1968, André accepted the position of Director of Parks for the larger City of Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan, where he remained until his retirement. For his outstanding contributions to the greening of St. Albert and for the advancement of recreational activities, the City of St. Albert has accorded André the honour of having a street named for him. It was deemed appropriate to change the name of Ball Avenue to Gate Avenue, where the name fits within the ‘G’ subdivision. The name ‘Ball’ relates to Frank Ball and the Ball Estates which encompassed, from the early 20th century, a large part of what is now the Grandin Park subdivision. The name ‘Ball’ has been consigned back to the name bank to be suitably used in the Braeside subdivision when the opportunity arises. Gate Avenue extends for approximately three blocks from St. Albert Trail to Grandin Road and, incidentally, bisects the two sections of the former Nursery site, where much of André’s time in St. Albert was concentrated. While in St. Albert the Gate family lived at 56 Garden Crescent. André returned to St. Albert occasionally to ensure that his legacy was still in good hands.
Editor’s Note: André’s legacy was, indeed, in good hands. André’s successor was John Beedle who, in his own right contributed in large measure to the ‘greening of St. Albert.’
Reprinted from The Echoes, Vol. XXVII, No. 1, October, 2009; St. Albert Historical Society