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East Village

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1375

Calgary Public Market, 3rd Street between 3rd and 4th Avenue SE

Postcards from the Past, PC 1375

I was recently asked by the publisher of the East Village View to write an article about the site on which Booker’s B.B.Q. is standing. I was happy to do this as the East Village is my second home. I have worked in this neighbourhood for all of my adult life and I love this place. It has changed so much, but there are still stories to be told about the residents and the buildings. The East Village View is our community newsletter and part of its mandate is to bring these stories to the residents. We have copies of the newsletter in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library, if you would like to have a look at them.

Writing about the Booker’s site allowed me to tell the stories of a bunch of interesting people who made their mark down here. Booker’s stands at 316 3 Street SE just across the street from the Cecil Hotel. The current building was built in 1956, following a massive Christmas Eve fire in 1954 that destroyed the original Calgary Public Market building that was on the site.

The Calgary Public Market had been built in 1914 in response to consumer concerns over poor quality and lack of competition. It was a pet project of Annie Gale, who was the first woman “alderperson” in the British Empire. The building to house the market was built in 1915 (see the picture above) and it was immediately filled with vendors. It was a public utility until 1925. Even after that it continued to function as a market. It was purchased in 1946 by Sam Sheinin, who had been manager of the public market and had bought the building as a home for his businesses. He had operated various businesses on the site, Home-Del Foods, Calgary Cold Storage and Sheinin’s Live and Dressed Poultry. Sheinin rebuilt and operated his businesses until 1959. By 1960 the Alberta Poultry Marketers Co-Operative had moved in. They operated from the site until 1960.

By 1972 the chickens were out and the “chicks” moved in. The Betty Shop, which seemed to be in every mall in the city when I was growing up, had its warehouse there. The Betty Shop was owned and managed by Lena Hanen. She was the daughter of a Rabbi, the wife of a successful businessman and the mother of Harry Hanen, the man who gave us the +15 system. She was also a very astute businesswoman and, by all accounts, a great boss. By the time of her death in 1979 she employed over 1000 people in 40 stores in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Lena’s family seems to have owned the building until 1985 when the Kingfisher restaurant opened its doors. The Kingfisher was famous for its owner, Sandy Cruikshank, and his “Tuesdays with Webster” discussions. In the late 1990s it changed hands again and became Booker’s.

This part of the city has a fascinating heritage, one which I am very proud to be a part of. If you are interested in researching your corner of the city, come down to the Community Heritage and Family History room in the Central Library. We’d be glad to see you.

Finding Granny with a GPS

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1458

Grave of George McDougall

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1458

The City of Calgary is thinking about offering a new way of burying our dead. With Queen’s Park Cemetery rapidly running out of space, the City is planning for a new cemetery in the city’s southeast. As part of that burial ground they would like to offer a natural burial ground where graves would be dug by hand, bodies would be buried unembalmed and in biodegradable caskets and the land left to go back to its natural state. There would be no grave markers and anyone wishing to find a burial site would be given a GPS unit and the grave co-ordinates. This idea has kicked up a bit of controversy and lead to a bit of trepidation on the part of genealogists everywhere.

Genealogists love to find records and what is more solid and permanent than a grave marker? Genealogical societies the world over dedicate massive amounts of time and energy to transcribing markers. We have a very large collection of southern Alberta cemetery transcriptions in our Community Heritage and Family History collection here at Calgary Public Library. (If you’re curious, you can find them in the catalogue by typing “cemetery” in the search box and choosing “subject” from the drop-down menu). These are invaluable resources for people seeking their ancestors. But many of the transcriptions also include burial records so that those buried without markers or whose markers have disappeared can also be listed.

There are also, believe it or not, walking tour guides to cemeteries. To some this may sound ghoulish, but in reality, it is an excellent way to get to know the people and history of a place. By touring the graves, with a human guide or a guide book, you get a very personal view of who and what made a city or town what it is. A great one for Calgary is Calgary’s historic Union Cemetery: a walking guide by the inimitable Harry Sanders. Using the graves of Calgarians, both rich and poor, as a starting point, Harry examines every aspect of Calgary’s history.



Calgary's Historic Union Cementery by Harry M. Sanders

So, this new way of burying may have unintended effects, but it is an intriguing proposition. It may affect the way we do genealogy, but then, even stone grave markers don’t last forever. The plot where my earliest ancestors in Canada were laid to rest is a parking lot now. If your people were buried in a potter’s field, they were in an unmarked grave and all that exists is a record of burial. The same would be true if your ancestors were cremated and not placed in a columbarium. I think choice in these matters is a good thing. We are a diverse city and burial customs are very personal and tied to the culture and history of our families. The city’s proposition seems to allow for choice, and, personally, I think I might like to be the granny they had to find with a GPS.

The Olympics

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Torch run

Torch Run in Calgary with the Bow Building in the Background, Jan. 19, 2010

Judith Umbach

With the Winter Olympics set to start in Vancouver in a few days, many Calgarians are casting their minds back to our own very successful Winter Games in 1988. I was working here, at the Central Library, and so had a front row seat for many of the events that went on in the Plaza. I also remember the influx of people from all over the world. It was a very exciting time in the city and I know that Vancouverites are experiencing the same exhilarating rush that we had twenty two years ago.

When the torch came through here on its way to Vancouver, Judith Umbach, who is one of the contributors to our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library, was there to capture the event for posterity. The two photographs showing the torch with the Bow Building in the background are hers.

Torch run

Torch relay in Calgary with the Bow Building in the Background, Jan. 19, 2010

Judith Umbach

We have a great deal of material in the Community Heritage and Family History collection about the Olympics in Calgary. We have a copy of a speech given by then mayor Ralph Klein in 1984, one month before Calgary accepted the Olympic flag in Sarajevo. We have numerous reports and briefings and other official documents. But we also have fact books, athlete biography sheets, pin-collectors’ guides (remember pin collecting?), a guide to finding your brick on Olympic Plaza, a list of souvenirs and their suppliers, and lots and lots of other very cool stuff. It occupies at least three shelves in the Local History room. If you are at all nostalgic for the glory days of ’88, come down and check out our ’88 Olympics collection in the Community Heritage and Family History collection on the 4th floor of the Central Library.

PC 1337

Hidy and Howdy Welcome you to the 1988 Calgary Olympics

Postcards From the Past 1337

Black History Month, 2010

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Black History Month

February is Black History month in Canada. This is a fairly new recognition despite the fact that people of African descent have been playing a role in Canadian history since the time of Samuel de Champlain. Black History Month began as Black History Week in the 1970s. By 1976 it had become Black History Month. It was officially recognized by the House of Commons in 1995 and in 2008 the Senate unanimously passed a motion to recognize the event.

Albertans are often unaware of the history of black people in our province. Most of us know about John Ware, a former slave, who became a legendary cowboy and rancher in Southern Alberta. But many of us do not know of the settlers who came and established towns such as Breton, Campsie, Wildwood and Amber Valley. Many came from Oklahoma, which became a state in 1907. The government there made it quite clear that black people would be segregated and treated differently from the white settlers who were rushing in to homestead. Many of the state’s black residents fled to Canada, about 1000 to Alberta and Saskatchewan. They did not have an easy time of it. They faced prejudice. Canadians were alarmed by the influx of these immigrants and tried various measures to keep them out. In 1911 an Order in Council would be passed which deemed African Americans unsuitable for the climate in Canada and prohibit their immigration. They also faced the difficult reality of the land north of Edmonton. Their homesteads were in heavy bush which had to be cleared by hand. The land was not overly productive and many men had to work in Edmonton to support their families. In spite of this they stayed and Amber Valley, alone among the other primarily black settlements, survived into the middle of the 20th century.

The history of the immigration of African Americans into the Prairie Provinces is a story of determination and courage. You can find out more about it in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. We have The Window of our Memories volumes 1 and 2, by Velma Carter, which is the story of Black pioneers in Alberta and includes the stories of those pioneers and their descendants. Another very interesting book is Deemed Unsuitable by R. Bruce Shepard which looks at the problem of racism on both sides of the border and how it affected the immigration of African-Americans into the Canadian Prairies. And, for those of you who would like to try out an old-school format, we also have a thesis on microfiche by Judith Hill, “Alberta’s Black Settlers: a Study of Canadian Immigration Policy and Practice”. (You can find other works by searching the library catalogue using the subject terms “Black Canadians History”). These works tell us a lot about the immigration of black people into Canada, but they also have a lot to tell us about ourselves and how Canada came to be. It is not always easy to read, but it is crucial to our understanding of our history and our future.