21 Sept. 1928 to 4
By: Kathy Latta and
Alex Latta Jr. was born September 12, 1928 in
Edmonton, Alberta, to Alex Latta Sr. and Catherine "Jessie" Brix. With older
brother, David, and later, sister Izola, Alex grew up in the house on Jasper
Avenue next to the bridge named for their grandfather, D. G. Latta. He attended
Alex Taylor School and Victoria High School. His parents divorced and both
remarried. His step-mother, Grace Oscroft, was a loving influence and when
he was ten she gave birth to his half-brother, Douglas.
While still a youth, Alex worked in his
grandfather's shop and later worked for his father at Alex Latta Ltd. The
experience from those jobs helped him to get his own business started. In
partnership with his younger brother Doug, and their friend Doug Hart, Alex
started Gambit Products Ltd., a machine shop specializing in the manufacture of
small parts for other manufacturers. Today it is a thriving business under
the management of Doug's son, Michael.
One of the smartest moves Alex ever made was to
court and marry the young nurse who was looking after his ailing grandfather.
Alice McDougall was a devoted wife and mtoher to his six children:
Shirley, Kathleen (Kathy), the twins Laurie and Alex, III, Shauna and Carol.
Grandchildren and great-granchildren were a joy to him in his later years.
Throughout his adult life, Alex was a member of
the Highlands Masonic Lodge. A staunch supporter, Alex regularly attended
meetings until his health made it difficult for him. Indeed, he often
credited the Masons with instilling values in him which helped him throughout
He was a great storyteller who dabbled in poetry
and prose. Some of his stories have been published in "Edmonton: In Our
Own Words" and other works have been posted on his web page:
http://myriadweb.ca/latta. His sense of
humor was legendary and he was fond of playing tricks on just about anyone he
met. There are several people who still sport one of his puzzles dangling
from a buttonhole - he didn't always remember to pass on the instructions for
removing it. The boys at Gambit made dozens of these, all suitably
engraved in Alex's memory, to be handed out at his Memorial service. Of
course, the instructions were included.
Alex enjoyed sharing his knowledge on a variety
of topics and was a patient teacher to anyone with an enquiring mind.
Even though Alex and Alice each had hobbies of
their own, his being chess, card games, curling, golf and genealogy, they still
enjoyed the time they spent together doing things that gave them mutual
satisfaction. They would take their family on vacations along the Yellowstone
River picking rocks, looking for agates. It took on a safari-like
atmosphere when the children were told to look out for rattle snakes and
black-widow spiders, neither of which could be found in their own vicinity.
When they went to the Okanogan they brought back fruit, but from Yellowstone
they brought back cartons of rocks! They took up lapidary and there are
several pieces of agate jewelry to be passed down.
A former employee of Gambit, Alex Halliburton,
who was a Scottish immigrant and a talented artist, asked them to take pictures
of old log cabins when on their treks into the countryside. Who needs an
excuses for a country picnic? Plans would be made on any available
weekend, a different route to be plotted each time, and often ended up at a
friend's home or Doug's lake just in time for supper. Lunch often saw them
picnicking at a Greek Orthodox Churchyard. These were all so different and
the granchildren will wonder why there are so many pictures of them. One
of the albums on display at Alex's memorial service was the one of all those log
cabin/Greek Orthodox churches. Often while scouting around for old
homesteads, they furthered their couriosity by asking the landowner for
permission to look for and dig the old dump site. From this Alex, Alice
and Kathy got into antique bottle collecting. They also assisted in
developing the Wild Rose Antiques and Bottle Collecting Society in Edmonton
which hosts many well attended shows each year. One year the City decided
to dig an area of an older city dump for the purpose of developing the land to
build a new stadium. The Club got wind of this and soon had a contract
with the City to dump the dirt in a certain spot of the nuisance grounds, then
the Club went to task digging up old treasures. Ginger beers, ceramic
jugs, cobalt medicine bottles, fruit jars, hand-blown ink wells,
torpedo-bottomed bottles, round-bottomed wine bottles, etc., all found as a
result of first taking pictures in the country!
In later years this industrious pair decided to
explore their overseas roots, and for over twenty years and as many trips they
would return home with tales of having walked in the footsteps of Moore,
Keating, Yeats and Shakespeare! They explored Alice's Scottish roots, and
Alex's Irish ones. They brought back a wealth of pictures of homes,
courtyards, and surrounding lands that pertained to the history of their
ancestors. Alex always got a kick out of looking for anyone named Latta
and the stories he told when he came back from those expeditions were not all
written down, and were lost when he passed away. Kathy has only vague
memories of some of these tales.
When Alex would meet new Lattas he would talk,
take pictures and bring back the stories they shared. One time he met a
trio living in the same thatched farmhouse that they grew up in. He asked
permission to take photographs but one individual preferred to get his teeth for
this special occasion and went off to get them. They waited and conversed
for a long time and finally the gentleman came back without his teeth. He
had left them on a fencepost while doing chores and couldn't come up with them
While traveling down to New Mexico to visit
Branch 16 cousins, the Milligans, Alex stopped for a meal near Aztec, and while
eating, grabbed a local phone book and of course, looked up the Lattas in the
book. He was able to get in touch with Dale Latta, an Arts teacher I
believe. The timing was not good, but while at the Milligan's he was able
to determine which branch they are from. On his next visit through the
area, he was invited to stay over and get to know Dale and his family.
Alex so enjoyed this visit, and later, after going back to Ireland and taking
photos of the actual remains of the farmstead building, asked Dale to paint the
picture. This was done and it hands in the Gambit office. Dale also
honored us with a picture of Alex, now also hanging there. Another
picture, of two Lattas by a thatched cottage will hang in Kathy's home.
They are siblings Tom and Jean Latta of Rooskey.
As Alex's health took its toll on his
activities, he could be found daily at his computer, conversing with people all
over the world, and relishing his part in the ongoing work of Latta genealogy
and the many successes he had had trying to put two and two together to make
one. We would like to thank all of you who helped make his last years more
enjoyable and who so willingly shared stories and information with him. He
was a very proud LATTA.