Cecilia (Lilly) Enman




Life and Work

The records from the Old Wetaskiwin Cemetery, state that Cecelia, commonly known to some of the family as ‘Rose’, was born in 1884. It is not known at this time the exact date of Cecelia’s birth, but we do know that she was born in Fremont, Nebraska and was eventually adopted by a family in the state of Illinois with the surname Lilly. She did have a natural brother, named Oscar Noreen that she can be seen with in pictures at an early age, who stayed in Nebraska. Due to a fire in the Nebraska Archives, there is a lack of information about her birth or adoptive parents. Cecelia grew up in Illinois where she began her career in teaching and taught school there in the city of Marshal.

During one of her many trips, Cecelia had come to the Wetaskiwin area from the United States to visit her cousins, Pete and Christina Peterson of Angus Ridge. It was during this visit that she met a young man by the name of Charles Enman. The twenty-six year old woman was so impressed with Charles that by the end of the year 1910 they were married. Charles, one of five sons of Jeremiah and Annie Enman, arrived in the area from Prince Edward Island. He started as a delivery boy for the West’s Department Store and not many years after, opened his own bookstore, eventually becoming a city alderman and then being elected Mayor of Wetaskiwin. Mrs. Enman for a time was known as the mayor’s wife. The couple had five children, two of whom, Peter and Ruth, passed away at a young age from pneumonia. The names of each of the surviving children were Dan, Robert, and Marion. Dan went into a partnership with his father on the farm where they raised and sold Jersey cattle and horses. The Jersey cow milk production was so successful that for years the farm supplied Wetaskiwin city residents with all their milk.

Robert attended the University of Alberta and became a doctor, settling in Taber and raising a family. Marion had taken dance lessons since her mother had hoped her daughter would make a career of dancing. It is reported that Cecelia visited Hollywood annually, possibly as working vacations in her association with the Sally Rand Dancers. It was during one of these trips that Marion performed with the Sally Rand Dancers at the 1937 opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. However, Marion did not continue with dance performance. Marion married Edward L. Larsen in 1941 and lived in Ponoka. At the time of this writing, September 2012, Marion is residing in a senior care lodge in Ponoka.

Mrs. Enman, with her teaching experience and love for the art of dance opened up a studio for young and aspiring dancers. Many of the newspaper articles and programs indicate the Enman School of Dance and Expression was active in the mid to late 1920s to the early 1930s. The dance studio was situated in the basement of the Enman Stationery and Bookstore at 5018 Main Street. The school was very well received by the community and had a high enrollment of pupils. Every performance the dance troupe put on was packed full of Wetaskiwin citizens. In addition, The Wetaskiwin Times always gave outstanding reviews and applauded Cecelia for her productions. Cecelia may have gained some inspiration from the shows in California in one of her trips down south. An added attraction at an Armistice Cabaret in Edmonton was “Cecelia Enman, late of Hollywood, and her troupe of Dancing Girls”. Held at the Club Academy, Kohut Gardens, the Ambassadors Orchestra supplied the music.

Mrs. Enman continued to perform and dance onstage well into her forties. In 1928 The Times states in a glowing review that at the formal opening of an addition to the Driard Hotel, “Madame Enman displayed “an exhibition of dancing… in a [very] graceful manner”. Another one of Cecelia’s interests besides dancing was directing live theatre. She put on many plays for the town and some of them starred her husband, Charles. It seemed as if everything that Cecelia contributed to the entertainment scene of Wetaskiwin was always received positively. So much so that she eventually brought her group of dancers up to Edmonton to perform at festivals and openings. Performing in Edmonton also was a huge success for the Enman School of Dance and Expression. Cecelia also contributed her directing abilities and helped the Girl Guides with their play in the summer of 1933.

Another one of Cecelia’s interests was curling. This is also something that she was very good at. As the skip for her team, Cecelia brought about many wins for the ladies’ team. One of the competitions was the Grand Challenge held in Edmonton where they won the King Edward Trophy as well as a picture in both the Edmonton Journal and The Wetaskiwin Times in February of 1926. Charles was also very involved in curling and the Enman’s Bookstore often donated prizes for curling tournaments held in Wetaskiwin. Golf was a sport which Cecelia was drawn to during the curling off season. Even though she did not win as many tournaments as she did in curling, she still enjoyed herself. Cecelia was the secretary of the Women’s Relief Corps, an organization that sent food packages to soldiers, in 1915. She also contributed homemade preserves to that cause. Cecelia was also involved with the local Elk’s Lodge and with their women’s auxiliary branch, the Order of the Royal Purple, important benevolent societies active in Wetaskiwin.

In her downtime, when she had any, she would always have a good book on the go. This was very fitting and convenient since her husband Charles owned the Enman’s Book Store. After the children grew up and moved away from home, Cecelia worked in the bookstore. Cecelia’s son, Dan and his wife, Hanna brought in their own children and bought books and other supplies for school. The youngsters were told to sit under the desks or tables quietly---and they did. Cecelia raised her children using strict discipline—“seen not heard” and from the above statement she used those tactics with her grandchildren as well.

From many of the news articles from the Wetaskiwin Times, it was learned that Cecelia really enjoyed travelling because she was frequently in Vancouver, Victoria or somewhere in the United States as she had many friends down there. Cecelia and Charles owned a cottage out at Pigeon Lake where Cecelia would often vacation with her children. After Charles passed away, Cecelia would visit Arizona on a regular basis where she visited a friend that lived there. Carole recalls a time when she went to visit her grandma and her friend in Arizona because Cecelia had been feeling under the weather. Carole explains how she thought it was the greatest thing alive because she was able to visit the U.S./Mexico border and spend some quality time with her grandmother. Cecelia and Charles ultimately would have eight grandchildren, twenty great grandchildren, thirty-one great-great-grandchildren, and so far, one great-great- great-grandchild.

Carole also says that it was the little things that her grandmother did for her that she remembers the most, like when she would make sure that all the young grandkids got a gift under the Christmas tree if their parents could not afford it and how she and her siblings would always know when grandma was coming for a visit because Cecelia would grind the gears in her manual transmission vehicle. Carole now says many of the things that Cecelia said to her to her own grandkids: “Seize the moment, tomorrow may never be” and “There is nothing beyond the reach of determination”.

Cecelia was pretty, poised —always well dressed and made up, a talented lady to be remembered from Wetaskiwin’s early history.

The large Enman house where Charles kept an office and would issue marriage licences, still stands at the east corner of 53rd St. And 47A Ave. Cecelia passed away in1971 at the age of 87 years.

Compiled in 2012.


Compiled by: Alesha Hyndman

Sources: Carole Greenwall, Ronald Enman, Marion (Enman) Larsen, Bobbie Fenner, Shanna Aikman, Pioneer Pathways, Siding 16, Wetaskiwin Times, Wetaskiwin City Archives, George Wilson, Pat Ware