A Conversation With Mary Newton of the Irma Historical Society Irma, Alberta

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Mary Newton, secretary of the Irma Historical Society, shares her memorable stories of Irma and the various places to visit and experience around the area.

How Did Irma Get Its Name?

I think there are one or two versions. We actually have a picture in the museum of a lady that some say Irma is named after. She was a secretary for one of the railway company officials. Prior to that picture emerging, we always understood that it was named after the daughter of one of the head honchos of the railway company, U. Wainwright. We’ll take two Irma’s if we need two Irma’s. It doesn’t really matter, they were all Irma people.

Tell Us About the Irma Fires

There have been a few big fires in Irma with the biggest in 1931. I just think how hard it must’ve been to fight fires. One story I remember hearing was when the old steam train went through Irma and the conductor saw a building burning, blew the horns and that alerted people in town. The old-fashioned fire crews got together and did their best but many of the buildings on Main Street were lost.

Do Sports Play a Big Role in Irma?

Irma is a very sports-minded town and we’ve had exceptional ball teams all over the years. The Irma Tigers are probably one of the elite teams in the area. We have produced some well-known hockey players too. You only have to look at our fairgrounds to know that sports are a big deal here. What little town gets to have lights that they can play under for a ballgame? That is exceptional.

What Are Some of Your Favourite Parts of The Museum?

I love the veranda! Through my childhood, the veranda was always covered with beautiful creeping vine and it was just a real highlight in the town. We put Christmas lights out to highlight it in the winter.


The stove in the kitchen is very fascinating too. I believe it’s from 1911, and children that visit and look at it cannot believe that people once used that kind of stove. We show them where the wood went in the oven and how the ladies had to adjust their heat depending on what they were cooking. There were no gauges so they had to adjust the temperature by feel. It’s a real learning opportunity when you have children here and you can look at those old antiques and tell them exactly what was done when their grandmas or great-grandma’s were using them.


“My hidden gem is the people. That may sound strange, but I love the people here. We are such a social community. I just think the whole of Irma is a hidden gem.”

Mary Newton – Irma Historical Society

What Should People Check Out When Visiting Irma?

When visitors come to Irma, the first place they should stop is the museum. From here, head down to the ball diamonds or arena and see what is going on. In the summer, the golf course is a nice place to stop.

I am a great believer in supporting local businesses. We have a very neat little place called Margos just down the street that you can have soup and sandwiches. It’s a delightful place to visit. My hidden gem is the people. That may sound strange, but I love the people here. We are such a social community. I just think the whole of Irma is a hidden gem.

Want to learn more about Irma? Check out our posts about the local sporting community and the history of the Irma Museum.