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Central Memorial Park

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Central Park prior to planting

Central Park Prior to Planting

This week is Historic Calgary Week. We here in the community heritage and family History department at Calgary Public Library are doing some things to celebrate (see our earlier blog entry about that) but there are loads of other things going on as well. One we’re particularly interested in is the Central Memorial Park Walking Tour on Tuesday July 27 at 7:00 pm. Heritage architect Lorne Simpson will be leading the tour of the newly restored park.

We have an attachment to the park as our first library sits proudly at the east end. It might not have been so had some members of City Council had their way. The matter was put to a plebiscite and on August 12, 1908, the site in Central Park was chosen over Sharple’s Corner by a vote of 193 to 157. I don’t know exactly where Sharple’s Corner was, but the Sharple’s Block was at 123 8 Avenue East. (If that’s the case, we would have started out very close to where we ended up!). At the same time the good people of Calgary voted 336 to 115 to give $20,000 to build the new library. At the time the library was built, Central Park was just an uncultivated green space originally set aside as a park in 1899. When the library’s chief librarian first saw it in 1911 he said it was “an unsightly wilderness of sand and scrub.” This may have been partly due to the construction work on the library, but planting had not begun (see photograph above), though the bandstand was in place by 1909.

Early in its history the park had been used as a tree farm by the city. In 1899 maple trees were brought from Brandon Manitoba and sold for 15 cents to Calgary ratepayers. In 1901 other varieties of trees were brought in. There was a windmill to pump water and a man hired to take care of the trees in the park (and on the boulevards). By 1912, however, Central Park was a showpiece. Plans, some of them carried out, included a South African War Memorial and two large fountains and plantings in front of the library that included a statues of Amazons. Now, the fountains did not come to pass, although the plumbing for them was discovered during the excavation of the garden for its renovation and the fountain was finally built during that restoration. The South African War Memorial and the Amazons, however, were put up in the garden. The memorial remains but the Amazons have disappeared. One can only wonder at the reaction to the half-naked ladies in the garden was, although it is possible that because it was in front of a cultural institution, it may have been tolerated, much as the statue of David at the top of the stairs in the Memorial Park Library was tolerated. (The story was told to me by a lady who used to visit the library when she was a child. She loved the fancy washrooms and the naked man at the top of the stairs!)

PC 961

Central Park, ca. 1910s

Postcards from the Past, PC 961

The park has been restored to its original glorious state and is a very important feature in the neighbourhood. I have heard Lorne Simpson talk about the park and I can highly recommend his walking tour. For more information you can visit the Chinook Country Historical Society website where you can look at the brochure as well as a schedule of events. Historic Calgary Week is a great opportunity to get to know your city. I hope to see you at some of the events.

From Aalborg to Zip: A Look at the Library’s Biography Clippings Files

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 841

Newspaper Office, Daysland Alberta

Postcards from the Past, PC 841

Newspaper articles are a great resource when conducting genealogical and historical research. Not only can newspaper articles be a source of biographical information for a specific person - such as his or her date of birth or death, marital status, or profession - but they can also provide a snapshot of the public opinion of that person at a specific point in time.

It is very easy to search for newspaper articles from The Calgary Herald in Canadian Newsstand (an electronic database available through Calgary Public Library’s E-Library). Simply enter the name of the person you are researching into the search box and the database will retrieve relevant full-text articles. Unfortunately newspaper articles published prior to 1988 are not indexed in this database, which means that researchers looking for older articles need to manually scroll through the library’s collection microfilmed copies of The Calgary Herald (August 31, 1883 - current) to find relevant articles. However, if you are looking for newspaper articles on a notable person (for example, a sports figure, an artist, a businessperson, etc.) from Calgary or Southern Alberta, I would recommend checking the library’s biography clippings files collection.

We are in the process of adding records for the biography clippings files to the library catalogue, so I have had the chance to look through the files to see the wealth of information that can be gleaned about a person from newspaper articles. For instance, did you know that former Prime Minister Richard Bedford Bennett had a sweet-tooth? According to “The Death of A Great Canadian,” an article which appeared in the June 28, 1947 edition of The Calgary Herald, Bennett was so fond of candy that “when doctors advised cutting down his consumption of candy, he took to hiding chocolates in drawers, filing cabinets, and behind books on the bookshelves, where conscientious secretaries wouldn’t find and confiscate the forbidden sweets.” The biography files are also extremely useful when a formal biography has not been written on a person. For example, I wanted to know more about Nelson Skalbania, the man who brought the Flames hockey team to Calgary, but no formal biography has been written about him; I was able to learn more about his business dealings through the articles in his biography file though.

You can search for biography files in the library catalogue by entering the name of the person you are looking for and the phrase PAM FILE i.e. Hansen AND PAM FILE. We have not yet gotten the chance to enter in all of the biography clippings files, so do not worry if you cannot find a file for a well-known person from Calgary or Southern Alberta in the catalogue: we most likely have one! Please come visit us at the Reference Desk on the 4th Floor (Humanities) at the Central Library, we have a master list of biography clippings files that we can check for you. We would love to help you with your questions!

I hope that you take advantage of this great resource; you never know what you could discover about a notable person from the newspaper articles in his/her biography clippings file!

Stampede Parade 2010

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Booking Bronco

The Booking Bronco

Calgary Public Library

It is Stampede Season again. And, once again, Calgary Public Library is a proud participant in the Calgary Stampede Parade. Our “Booking Bronco” (see above) is ready for action and our staff will be walking the route, some of them dressed up as characters from books. This gives us a different kind of opportunity to meet our friends and customers and it is one we look forward to every year. Watch for us this Friday and if you’re on the parade route, give us a YAHOO!!!

Both Calgary Public Library and the Stampede are approaching important anniversaries. In 2012 we will celebrate the first 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede and of Calgary Public Library. Calgary in 1912 must have been quite a town. The pride and optimism that fueled calls for a public library for this fine city also found expression in the Calgary Stampede. This is a dichotomy that continues to define Calgary to this day. We know how to celebrate our origins in the rural and ranching communities and the rugged entrepreneurs that started the city and we also value our more refined cultural institutions like libraries. (Not that we’re that refined – watch for us in the parade and you’ll see what I mean. Library employees can Yahoo with the best of them). Our library has one of the highest per capita usage levels in North American and our Stampede is the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. We certainly don’t do things halfway.

Parade day marks the dividing line between business as usual and a pancake munching, bbq lunching debauch. It was ever thus, as the pictures below illustrate. The first postcard is from the 1908 Dominion Exhibition, which gave Guy Weadick and the Big Four the idea for an annual version of this grand annual party. It shows a log cabin, being hauled through the streets of Calgary. The second photo is of the Pendleton Band and it is from the first Stampede parade in 1912. These two pictures are from our really great collection of Stampede postcards. You can find them all in the CHFH digital library by clicking on Browse and then typing in “stampede parade”.

PC 630

Dominion Exhibition Parade, 1908

Postcards from the Past, PC 630

PC 284

Pendleton Band, Stampede Parade, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 284

We also have a great collection of books relating to the Stampede. One of my favourites, that really goes a long way toward explaining this seeming anomalous annual event, is Icon, Brand, Myth by Max Foran. You can find this and other titles in our catalogue by searching for the subject “Calgary Stampede History”.

So YAHOO to you and Happy Stampedeing.