Former MLA Appleby celebrates 100th birthday
Athabasca resident and former MLA Frank Appleby is celebrating his 100th birthday today.
Appleby was a fisherman for the first part of his life and served in the Second World War. He served as Athabasca MLA from 1971 to 1986 under former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed.
His mother was widowed when he was three years old.
“I don’t remember him well,” said Appleby of his father. “‘Take care of mum, boys’ — and that’s all I remember him saying.
“When I graduated, mother said, ‘You’ve got an education. You’ve got a career, and you can do anything you want, but you’ve got that to fall back on,” said Appleby.
Appleby said he considered teaching but instead branched into another line of work as fish inspector in his early 20s before becoming a fisherman, a lucrative business at the time.
He packed the fish in ice, 50 pounds a box, and they were shipped out through a broker in Edmonton, he said.
“I know I bought things. One thing I remember buying as a boy was a washing machine with a power motor on it, for mother,” recalled Appleby.
He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940 and served overseas for a few years.
He returned to Canada and, feeling restless, became a teacher.
“I was teaching for a while, and then I stood on the steps one autumn day, and the geese were flying south, the sun was shining, and I thought, ‘My god: I should be able to earn more than $50 a month doing something else.’”
He ran in the 1971 provincial election and won 46 per cent of the popular vote to be Athabasca’s MLA. He later served as Deputy Speaker. He also played a major role in the formation of the College of Alberta Professional Foresters.
He was a 2005 recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Athabasca University, partly because he was instrumental in bringing the university to the Town of Athabasca.
Appleby said one of the highlights of his life was when the paved highway to Athabasca was still being developed years ago.
“Nobody thought Fort McMurray would boom like it has, you know,” said Appleby.
“I wanted to improve the district entirely,” he recalled.
Appleby acknowledged he has been around for 100 Christmas seasons and recited the words to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” the 1943 Bing Crosby hit.
“I’ll be home for Christmas, but only in my dreams.”