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  • Writer's pictureErin Dentzien

509-1st Ave - Gone Fishin'

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

The Kirstein family has seen six generations call Ma-Me-O Beach home over the years. Whether they were out for a summer break or eventually living there full-time; each family member left their mark on the cabins fondly referred to as 'Hacienda' and 'Hasta la Vista.'

Hacienda entry & gate - 1944

Sandra (Kirstein) Wright's grandfather Fritz was almost a “permanent fixture” on Pigeon Lake. He was an avid fisherman and for many years could be seen standing fishing off of the end of the pier or sitting in his boat either at the end of the pier or near the weeds at the north end of the beach. The family couldn’t eat dinner until Grandpa Fritz was home from fishing and sometimes they would have to run or drive to the end of the beach and yell out to their grandfather that dinner was ready.

Fritz Kirstein "Catch of the Day"
Trying to get Grandfather Fritz to come off the lake was often a chore!

Close to Home

Fritz and Lillian Kirstein, bought the property, Block 5, Lot 4 (509 -1st Ave), at Ma-Me-O Beach in 1926 for $300. When they bought the cabin they were raising four sons, Kenneth (Ken) who was 11, and his three younger brothers Raymond, Frederick (Freddie) and Robert (Bob) in Wetaskiwin. In the early years when her boys were in school Lillian, spent the whole summer at the beach with no electricity or running water. The icebox on the porch and root cellar under the kitchen floor kept food fresh and cool. When the roads were passable, Fritz would drive out from Wetaskiwin on Sundays during July and August to spend the day with his family and bring them fresh food and supplies. There were other Wetaskiwin families that did the same with the mother and kids at the lake for the summer and the father working in town during the week.

Lillian Kirstein with 2 sons - 1920's

The four sons grew up spending summers at Ma-Me-O and continued the tradition with their own families. Ken’s children Sandra and Ron, Raymond’s children Barb, Tom, Karen and Paul, Freddie’s children Larry, John, Kevin and Melissa and Bob’s children Brian and Debbie, also grew up spending summers at the lake. The inside of the original cabin, 'Hacienda', had 2 bedrooms, large kitchen/dining area and a long screened porch that ran the length of the cabin from the roadside to the beach.

Hacienda - Beachside - 1929

The cabin could sleep quite a few people with double bunk beds that slept at least six children in the one bedroom, and a cot in the living area and hammocks and cots on the porch. Fritz and Lillian stayed at the lake in June and September and doled out a two week stay for each family during July and August.

Cramped Quarters

When the families grew larger the one cabin couldn’t accommodate everyone. In 1952 Bob Kirstein and his wife Lila purchased Sandra's great grandfather Anton Jensen’s garage and paid $50 to have it moved from Wetaskiwin to the lake property. Bob did the job of renovating the garage and built it into a small, 2 bedroom cabin, “Hasta la Vista”, where Bob’s family then enjoyed their summers. As well, during the summer months, everyone in the family usually came out to enjoy the beach every Sunday and Wednesday afternoon (the half-day holiday in Wetaskiwin).

Skating on Pigeon Lake, Ken, Raymond, Freddie, Bobby - 1930

One son, Raymond, lived in Vancouver with his family and his four children have fond and vivid memories of the years they were able to travel to spend time at Ma-Me-O with their Alberta cousins. The original cabin that was on the property was replaced in 1954, and the new cabin was built on weekends in the fall months by all of Fritz’s sons and daughter-in-laws.

Building New Hacienda - 1955

Summer Splendour

Sandra recalls summers were spent at Ma-Me-O, without electricity or running water. They used coal-oil lamps at night for light, carried buckets of water from the pump on their block, bought ice for the icebox from the Jackson’s and used the outhouse in the yard. The children entertained themselves on rainy days and evenings by playing cards and board games. Some of those things changed when electricity came to the beach in the early 1950’s, electric lights were introduced along with a pump for their own well. Riding horses along the beach road, that were rented by the hour from the Jackson stables, was a popular activity.

Image 1: Raymond, Freddie, Ken, Bob - 1955

Image 2: Alf and Alyce Maggs (Lillian's sister), Fritz and Lillian Kirstein - 1920's

Image 3: Ma-Me-O Beach - Kirstein Boathouse -1946

Both young and not-so-young enjoyed swimming off of the end of the pier where the water was over 12 feet deep and for a few summers in the mid ’50’s dove off of the two-level diving tower that was anchored in the water near the pier. Many of the kids took swimming lessons that were offered at the main pier by the Boosterettes group.

Bonfires were allowed on the beach and most cabins had small wooden piers out in the water in front of their cabin along with boat houses on the beach...
Fritz Kirstein and his new boat - 1936

Events for Every Age

A great highlight was attending movies and Bingos both once a week in the Town Hall. The annual summer parade and carnival celebration were great events as were the fireworks held across from the Town Hall on Canada Day. In the 1940’s and early 1950’s Adult “western” dances were held in the Log Cabin every Saturday night and as a kid Sandra remembers watching the dancing from outside the hall by looking through the spaces between the logs. Sandra and her brother would get up early Sunday morning and walk the Beach Road collecting beer bottles that were tossed into the bushes along the boulevards from the festivities the night before! In the mid and late 50’s when Sandra was in junior high and high school and “Rock & Roll” had hit the scene; the Saturday night adult dances were replaced by teen dances. At first the dances were held in the Log Cabin on the beach and then later in the Town Hall with bands such as the “Rock-a-Tunes, “The Lords”, “The Nomads”, “Wes Dakus and the Rebels” providing the music. For a teenager, summers at Ma-Me-O were the best! The teen dances lasted until the early 70’s when crowds got “out of hand” and supervision became a problem.

Helen, Marg, Lila, Noreen - 1975

Bustling Community

With three stores (Jackson’s General Store on the Highway 13, between Block 6 & 7, Brodrick’s Store and Post Office on the corner of the highway and 6th Street, and Thompson’s Beach Road store on Block 6) there were plenty of options for necessities and treats on hot summer days. Alongside the stores were four restaurants: the Tea Kettle Inn, Ma Samborski’s, Hannigans Drive-In, Marvin Glantz’s trampolines and Hoyle’s Pool Hall. A couple of garage and service stations on the highway (Bidinger’s and Madson’s) rounded out the businesses operating in the area. In the 1950’s and 60’s Ma-Me-O Beach was a busy summer community!

Passing the Torch

In the early 60’s when Fritz, retired and sold his City Market Butcher Shop in Wetaskiwin, he and Lillian decided they wanted to sell the cabin for extra income.

Fritz & Lillian Kirstein

They put their property up for sale, devastating the whole family. Sandra's parents, Ken and Helen Kirstein, offered to purchase the cabin and paid Fritz and Lillian an amount per month for 10 years to pay off the debt. Ken and Helen also bought Hasta la Vista from Bob and Lila and built an addition of six feet to the front of the living room to add more space to the small cabin. In 1964, once Ron and Sandra were living on their own, Ken and Helen moved from Wetaskiwin, and took up year-round residence at the cabin. The first year they used the outhouse all winter but did add an inside bathroom and an enclosed porch to the cabin the following summer. For a few years they commuted back and forth to work in Wetaskiwin, but eventually they both retired and then spent their senior years enjoying lake life. They became involved in the community and enjoyed curling, playing cards and getting to know their neighbours. They became involved in the community and enjoyed curling, playing cards and getting to know their neighbours.

Kirstein family all together! - 1958

Ron and Sandra inherited the property when their parents passed away; Ken in 1986, and Helen in 1987. Ron lives in Victoria BC and couldn’t readily access the cabin, so sold the property with the two cabins to Sandra in 1994. Sandra and her husband Terry Smith moved from Edmonton to Ma-Me-O in 1996. Sandra commuted to Edmonton for ten years until 2006, when she retired from a teaching position with Edmonton Public Schools. They are now happy, senior, permanent residents of the beach.

Lake Life Continues On...

Sandra's daughter Kristine, and son Greg, grew up spending their summers at Ma-Me-O Beach. Both live in Edmonton and continue to make the lake part of their life. Greg and his wife Johanna are raising their children Taeya and Kaesen as “lake kids”. Taeya and Kaesen are the sixth generation of family to spend time at Ma-Me-O Beach. In 2020, the Hacienda property has now been in the Kirstein family for 94 years! Ready to hit 100!

That's all for now folks! Stay tuned for our next post as more stories are collected and submitted.

~History Book Team~

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