by Laurie Chilibeck
A walk through the streets to the tune of the dance halls or on a midnight stroll with just the moon to witness the crunching of his footsteps in the snow, gave John Bos time for reflection.
This new country had been good to him and his family. Soon the dough would be rising while the big rotating oven would be heating up to golden brown his bread and buns. The delicious smells would capture the customers as they rushed in to get their orders before the shelves were empty.
John came from Friesland of northern Holland in 1927 at the age of 22 years. He sailed with a special friend, Jessie, whom he knew from his homeland, and then by train from Halifax to Lacombe, Alberta.
John and Jessie married and they started their family in Lacombe supported by various jobs as everyone did. John tried farming, but he decided he was a better baker than a farmer. After all, he had apprenticed as a baker since he was 13 years old. He had come to Canada with a secret in his pocket and he was willing to use it.
The Bos family moved to Sylvan Lake in 1958 and opened the bakery on main street in 1959. Thus started the famous Sugar Loaf. It was made with original ingredients and had a melt-in-your-mouth flavour to satisfy any sweet tooth. It went nicely with cheese, you could toast it, cook as French toast — a wonderful treat for kids or adults alike.
By word of mouth local residents and tourists from far and wide raced to the bakery to grab enough to fill their freezers for the winter. Even if John and his staff had baked for 24 hours, they wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the demand.
Over 150 loaves were made for Saturday morning and they would always be short. People started phoning in their orders and would take 40-50 loaves at a time to stock up.
Finally John had to put a limit on each order and customers had to spread their orders over two or three weekends, but usually by 2 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, the bakery would close due to empty shelves. The unlucky ones would knock at John’s residence on Sunday hoping for any extra, but he always kept the Sunday aside for his family.
John had the bakery for twenty years and retired at the age of 68 years. He left behind a wonderful legacy which brings back the wonderful memorable senses of a smell on main street. In honor of John Bos and his Sugar bread, Sobey’s Sylvan Lake will be making the sugar loaves for our 2013 centennial. Get them while you can!