Shirley (Hoyle) Cripps




Life and Work

Shirley was born on September 11th, 1935 to Joe Hoyle and Mildred (Davis) Hoyle. Her father’s family had emigrated from England when Joe was 12 years old. Shirley’s dad, along with his family members, rode in a cattle car from Quebec City across Canada to Wetaskiwin. Her mother’s family, the Davises came from Nebraska and settled in the New Norway district. Joe Hoyle later went to work in New Norway where he met Mildred Davis and they married in 1935.

Joe Hoyle’s father farmed in the Bulyea area, southwest of Wetaskiwin. After Joe and Mildred married they settled on what is now Dorchester’s Golf Course near Westerose. Shirley was born not in a hospital, but on the family farmstead in the heart of the Dirty Thirties. She has dubbed herself “homemade”. Her brother Larry and sister Jean were also born on the farm.

Shirley did not begin school until the age of eight, although she was ready at six, because there was no school near enough to attend. For the first 3 years, Shirley and her siblings attended Victory School a mile east of their home. The Hoyle children sometimes found themselves unable to get to school if rain or spring break-up caused the fast flowing creek that ran through their land to flood. They followed fence line trails to get to school. Shirley loved school and was an avid reader, devouring every book in the limited library at Victory School.

At the age of eleven, Shirley began attending Lakedell School and stayed to complete her grade 11 there. She loved life on the farm and remembers milking cows at the age of six. However, in 1951 when circumstances dictated that the Hoyles leave the farm they moved to Ma Me O Beach. Moving into the village made her feel like it was the worst day of her life.

Shirley attended Red Deer Composite High School, for her last year of high school allowing her to pick up courses not taught at Lakedell. While there she lived in the old Army Barracks. During the early 1950’s there was a desperate shortage of teachers, so Shirley decided she would take the quick course offered by the University of Alberta and within 12 months she had her teaching certificate. She began her teaching career in 1954. Her first school was Pleasant Prairie. The following year she taught at Lakedell School. When Shirley and Lorne married and moved to the farm she began teaching at Winfield School and remained there for three years after which she subbed or taught on a part-time basis.

During her years of teaching, Shirley established some long term friendships that have stood the test of time. People who have taught with her and worked with her at the Winfield Ag Society know her as “a person who is always there to help. Whenever anybody needs something and doesn’t know how to go about getting it, they always ask Shirley. She knows how to get things done. She finds a way”. Notwithstanding her serious side, Shirley is still known to have a fine sense of humour, sharing a chuckle with teachers in the staff room over something one of the kids had said.

Shirley met her future husband Lorne in Banff when they were both working for Brewsters Trail Rides in 1956. Shirley was an experienced rider. After the third summer of working for Brewster’s, Shirley and Lorne got married on October 4th, 1958, beating the common colloquial expression in Banff: I love you honey, but the season is over.

In November of the same year Lorne went to work for the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch near Sundre, breaking horses for the Park wardens. The couple shared a tiny 10 by 14 foot cabin. With time on her hands, Shirley gladly left the cabin to ride with Lorne every day. They tended over 170 head of horses that were pastured out all winter, feeding on the tough wind-blown grasses.

In the spring of 1959 they bought a half section farm 5 miles east of Winfield. Shirley recalls: “That summer we worked in Banff at a fishing camp...everything we did in those years was ride-in. Our main neighbours, besides the fishermen, were bears. One stole a bushel of oats and when I followed the oat trail with the camp dog, the bear chased the camp dog back to me. The bear stopped and we just stared at each other, then the bear ran off...”

Upon returning to the farm in September, the couple found the venture was not without sacrifices. They didn’t have plumbing, electricity or a telephone. Shirley was teaching at Winfield and her monthly salary almost covered the monthly land payments, just over $200. The couple were living on a shoe string but they had cows so they sold their cream to the dairy for extra income, relying on the $7 weekly cream cheques to survive. The creek beside their house was a perfect place to keep the cream cold but they lost their prime source of spending money when heavy rains washed the cream cans downstream on 3 separate occasions. Shirley recalls that she once cried when this happened. Shirley remembers: “When we moved to the farm, we had a pick-up truck, a stove and a mattress and that was it. That was a year after we got married.”

In 1963, Shirley and Lorne began their family when their first child Christine was born, followed by Rosanne in 1964 and Maxine in early 1966. Shirley and Lorne’s youngest daughter, Maxine, was born with a congenital heart condition which seemed to steadily worsen as she got older. At the age of 7 she passed away at the Children’s Hospital in Toronto. Maxine had been in and out of hospitals for most of her young life and, understandably, losing her was the toughest challenge of the parent’s lives.

In time, Shirley and Lorne were operating a true mixed farm with 15 milk cows, a few beef cattle, chickens and pigs. Ultimately, they decided to raise beef cattle and began a pure bred herd of Charolais. Lorne looked after the cattle and guaranteed the bulls that were sold. Thus began Shirley’s involvement with the Charolais Association, where she served as Secretary and then Secretary-Treasurer. She was instrumental in negotiating, along with Jim Golley, to have Charolais accepted into the Edmonton Farm & Ranch Beef Breed Show, thus opening the door to other new breeds. Their involvement with purebred Charolais cattle led to meetings in many provinces, discussing using artificial insemination, resulting in province-wide friendships.

Shortly after her marriage Shirley became very active in community life on a regional and province-wide scale. Her volunteer activities along with farming have engaged her for many years. The most important and time consuming volunteer project began with being appointed, along with Lorne Jones, Pete Wald, Aaron Brown, & Alvin Harmony to the building committee of the new Winfield hall. She was active on building committees for the hall, curling rink, arena and dressing rooms, then in redeveloping the curling rink into community use rooms. Researching and writing grant applications and the mandatory reports on behalf of the Winfield Agricultural Society required countless hours.

In 1979 Shirley was elected to the Legislative Assembly representing the constituency of Drayton Valley, encompassing Winfield and coming as far east as Falun. Shirley was a member of the energy, economic planning, agriculture and rural economy committees. Her political involvement included the Heritage Trust Fund, Tourism and Fish Marketing and Processing. Many oil-well service industry companies situated in Drayton worked with Shirley to simplify and standardize safety and operational rules related to movement of oil service equipment. In 1999 the Canadian Oilwell Drilling Contractors Association (CAODC) and Alberta Transportation signed a formal “Safe Transportation Memorandum of Understanding” based on the earlier agreement. British Columbia and Saskatchewan have also adopted the basic Memorandum, harmonizing interprovincial equipment movement. “While working as an MLA she found that what the people of Alberta respected most was her honesty.”

The highlight of a political career that spanned 10 years was her appointment to cabinet in May 1986. As the Associate Minister of Agriculture she was the first woman to be appointed to an agricultural portfolio. As such she took part in trade missions from 1986-1989 in China, Japan, Korea, and Mexico. During her term she was instrumental in revamping the lending practices of the Alberta Agricultural Development Corporation. In her new role, she was compelled to be less active in the daily operation of the family farm; instead she was concentrating on the needs of other farm families. The grey wooded soil made their farm a cattle and hay operation. Shirley loved haying, the smell, and the accomplishment of a winter feed supply. She tried, when possible, to schedule meetings close to home during haying season so she could help in the hay field. Shirley knows first-hand the pitfalls of the industry, but it didn’t make her love it any less.

After leaving politics in 1989, Shirley joined the Leduc/Devon Historical Society to help tell the story of one of the most significant economic events in Alberta’s history, the discovery of oil in Leduc on February 13, 1947. She served as president and on the executive when the original rig was set up. She assisted with the acquisition and erection of the drilling rig which is on the site of Leduc Well #1, now the site of the Canadian Petroleum Discovery Interpretive Centre. Through her work with the Leduc/Devon Historical Society, she achieved her goal of helping make the Canadian Petroleum Discovery Interpretive Centre a reality. It was her first project when she got out of government and she is proud that the continuing work of the oil industry volunteers has made it reputed to be one of the best oil museums in the world.

Serving as president of the Federation of Alberta Bingo Associations for 10 years she continues to help community organizations to raise money for their projects, and is presently President of Bingo Alberta. She has just completed the background work on a brochure that features a schedule of bingos around the province so that travellers will be able to attend a bingo close to where they are visiting.

Shirley has written 5 documents since 2005, based on motions passed at municipal provincial meetings and at provincial policy conferences supporting fair access and equalized returns for charities working Casino events. The problem is finally under review as 47% of the population live outside of the two major centers, but only receive approximately 30% of the designated charitable return.

Today Shirley continues to lead a very active life as a volunteer, but the love of her farm, rural life and family bring her the most joy and contentment. It is with gratitude she acknowledges her good fortune in being a citizen of Alberta. She says “she has been lucky to live in Alberta, Canada with the freedom to opportunities that each and every one of us have. We have to thank our ancestors for their choices!”

Compiled in 2010.


Compiled by: Gloria Baker

Sources: Shirley Cripps, Christine Cripps-Woods, Helen and Lorne Jones, Rosanne Shippelt, Bernadette Elliott, The Roughneck, Alberta Farm Magazine