Latest Posts

On Line

The Heritage Triangle PDF link

We have a Historian Laureate!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Historian Laureate

Harry Sanders is our Historian Laureate

Scott Jolliffe, Chair CHA, Harry Sanders, Alderman Druh Farrell

Photo courtesy Judith Umbach

I was delighted to be able to attend the crowning of Calgary’s first Historian Laureate. Being a long-time Calgary native, I have watched the attitudes of administration toward the preservation and celebration of heritage develop over the years from an almost personal animosity toward old buildings (think Rod Sykes being attacked by the Burns Building) to today’s understanding of the value of preserving the past. Our new laureate is a person who has spent his entire adult life bringing heritage to the people and interpreting it for them through his own, passionate view. Harry Sanders makes history meaningful. In his hands, heritage is a living thing, a story of everyday people – the people who make this city great.

Part of the investiture ceremony was a poetry slam. Our other laureate, Kris Demeanor, Calgary’s first Poet Laureate (and believe me, when I was growing up, studying literature at university, the idea that the city of Calgary, Capitalist Calgary, would ever have a poet laureate would have provoked gales of laughter in all of the cement and steel towers that line our streets) wrote and delivered a challenge – one that Calgarians have long been debating – what use is history?

With his permission, here is Kris’s throw down:

Okay, I know it’s not in the Calgary tradition of niceness and politeness, but I cannot hold my peace!

I don’t care about Guy Weadick’s rope and release any more than I do the fathers of Greece

It’s old news and we all know that’s only fit for wrapping fish and chips

Look, nothing against Harry, I’m sure he’s a wealth of facts colourful, sublime, astounding and scary,

But let me save you all two years of talk of beaver pelt hats and ‘That used to be a nunnery!’

And give you a quick and easy summary of all you need to know about history

PERSONAL: You are the genetic union of a mother and father, they gave you food and water, you grew, learnt a bunch of stuff, most of it useless, you got a job and barbecue.

THE WORLD: Big Bang, plants, fish, caveman, hominid, ice age, Egypt, Rome, Aztecs, war war war war war, Bible, Genghis Khan, Da Vinci, Queen Victoria, war, war, war, Einstein, guy in Hummer with a baseball cap and GI Joe facial hair, there, DONE.

History teaches us nothing, we have always just been bluffing our way from one grand embarrassment to another- we don’t look at letters from our last lover, or replay the video reel of us throwing up at the school dance or failing math.

Let our collective insecurity and shame over the past lead the way to a brighter tomorrow full of wisdom we don’t need to borrow. All I could learn from my forefathers and foremothers is how to stoke a coal stove and churn my own butter, and I don’t want to do that.

I don’t want to imagine a world without frozen pizza, omnipresent technology and direct flights to Cuban all-inclusives for five hundred dollars.

Look, Harry will claim that history is interesting, but when I look back I see buffalo carcasses stacked, endless trains rolling down endless track, dust, snowstorms, scarlet fever and clothing with colour choices ranging from beige to brown, look around, we’re surrounded by concrete, glass, GPS, pubs with seven beers from Belgium and full of people looking forward, ahead, and into the future, why go back or even stay in neutral, sure maybe the Marx Brothers played here, but I can get the latest and greatest sent straight from a satellite and into my ear.

History? Two weeks of the retro kitsch of Stampede is all I need to feel connected to folk of old who found themselves stuck in this cold, harsh land, I’m burning my brand into the hide of this city with a laser.

I’ve been here since birth, and trust me, we’ve long since paved over anything worth unearthing. Harry, good luck putting flesh on the past, but you’re going to run out of fodder fast!

So, though tongue-in-cheek, this does raise the question – What value is there in the past? Harry’s job as historian laureate will be to answer this question, which he did, in verse, no less:

Poetry may be the more universal art

Some things are best said in verse

But a forgotten poem is never repeated

So forgetting our history is worse

Those we follow inform who we are

Crowfoot, Macleod, Weadick, Edworthy

They’re with us still, for good or ill

Daily, we’re shaped by our history

So, it is a great honour to have a small part

In celebrating this 100th anniversary

I pledge to remind you all of our shared past

As Historian Laureate of Calgary

I know that Harry will continue to answer the question in his own inimitable style. Way to go, Harry!

Poet Laureate and Historian Laureate

Poet Laureate Kris Demeanor asks the Question "What's so great about history?"

Photo courtesy Judith Umbach

Heritage Roundtable: Century Homes

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Cliff Bungalow by Bill Longstaff

Cliff Bungalow School

Photo by Bill Longstaff

The next Heritage Round Table is on Thursday at the Cliff Bungalow–Mission Community Association. In keeping with our Century Homes theme, we will be hearing presentations on how to identify the style of your home from David Monteyne of the U of C Faculty of Environmental Design, how to photograph your century home from photographer James McMenamin and historic paint colours and sampling with heritage consultant Laura Pasacreta. If you have a picture of your home, you can bring it along for a “What style is it?” consultation with the experts.

The Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association is at 2201 Cliff Street SW in the historic Cliff Bungalow School. The program is on June 21 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and there will be refreshments, of course. You can find out more on the Century Homes website www.centuryhomes.org

I think just the opportunity to see this beautiful old school would be reason enough to come, but the speakers will be the icing on the cake.

This is proving to be a very popular program and it is filling up fast. Get you registration in today, if you’d like to hear these great presentations.

Century Home

A Beautiful Century Home as Photographed by James McMenamin

UPDATE:

The Round Table was a roaring success. Over 100 people attended. Here is what happened, thanks to our summer library student, Melissa:

On Thursday, June 21, Calgary Public Librariy was pleased to attend the Heritage Round Table hosted by Calgary Heritage at the Cliff Bungalow–Mission Community Association.

David Monteyne, Associate Professor at the University of Calgary Faculty of Environmental Design, began the evening with a presentation about various residential architectural styles from Calgary’s early boom. The two-story home in the photograph below is one example of the homes that would have been available for purchase a century ago from the Sear’s Modern Homes Mail Order Catalogue. This architectural splendor would have sold for only $1277!

Bungalow Plan Sears Catalogue

Modern Home No. c187, The Sherbourne, from the Sears Modern Homes Mail Order Catalog 1913 to 1922

Professor Monteyne also concluded the evening with a “What style is it?” consultation for those attendees who brought along pictures of their century homes to help them identify the style of their homes.

Following Professor Monteyne’s presentation on architectural style, architectural photographer James McMenamin discussed how to photograph century homes. While this was less of a technical demonstration, McMenamin provided helpful hints on lighting considerations, on selecting photographic angles, and on how to position objects in architectural photographs. Some helpful hints include: 1) If there are objects, such as a tree or a flag pole in your yard, be sure to include the entire object; and 2) Try to take pictures of your home in soft lights rather than hard lights, such as the sun, which create dark shadows. Examples of McMenamin’s photography can be viewed at: http://www.jamesmcmenamin.com/.

The presentations for the Round Table concluded with Heritage Consultant and Historic Archaeologist at Donald Luxton, Laura Pasacreta, who discussed historic paint colours and paint sampling of century homes. If you have a century home and you are interested in having your paint sampled to establish its original colour, contact Ms. Pasacreta at laura@donaldluxton.com.

For more information on the Century Homes project, visit http://centuryhomes.ca, or follow them on twitter @CenturyHomesYYC or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CenturyHomesCalgary

Essential Skills for Successful Genealogists

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1649

New Settlers, Their First House, Western Canada

Postcards from the Past, PC 1649

I read an interesting blog posting this week which outlines some of the skills that a successful genealogist will need to develop. Some of these are quite straightforward, things we probably learned in kindergarten, such as, be polite, be a good listener, be patient. Others might not be so obvious, or may be so obvious as to be overlooked. Here is the list, adapted from Bob Brooke at the Genealogy Today blog.

Have a plan: I speak from experience here; you need to have a plan. While certain advertisements and television programs suggest that you really don’t need to know what you are looking for, you really do and having a plan of attack will save you much grief in the long run. It also pays to plan how you will organize the information you collect long before you have too much information to organize. You don’t want this to happen:

Messy desk

Question authority (well, sort of.) In my wild and misspent youth, I had this as a bumper sticker. I’ve adapted it a little for genealogy. What it means is that everyone makes mistakes, even the people who record our data. It helps to know why the document was produced and who provided the information. You know that the person listed on a death certificate did not provide the information to the officials, so who did? Generally, it is best to verify every fact with at least one other document (two documents if the information comes from your family membersJ)

Listen: Learn to listen, not just to family members, who, even if they are not always the most accurate, often have great stories that may provide clues to investigate, but also listen to other genealogists. I have learned far more from the coaches in our Family History Coaching program, from other members of the genealogical society and from customers in the library that I will ever learn from classes. This is why I can highly recommend our Family History Coaching program. We are getting more and more genealogists who are coming to the program simply to work on their research while there are others working on the same thing so that there can be collaboration and information exchange. Many hands make light work (to quote my Nana)

Learn how to ask questions: This skill will arise from your planning skills. Knowing what you are looking for makes it easier to articulate a question. And, yes, you can ask questions. Librarians, archivists, genealogy societies, local history associations, message boards, all invite questions from genealogists. But, it is far easier to answer the question “do you have a transcription for the cemetery in which I think my ancestor is buried and could you look him up?” than “what do you have on Joe Blow?” or “send me everything you have on Joe Blow.”

Learn about the records: It can save you a lot of pain if you learn about the records for the area in which you are researching. Find out what is available, where they are held, how to you access them etc. Don’t waste your time looking for a birth certificate in a place or a time in which births weren’t registered. This also leads to another pointer: learn as much as you can about the place where your ancestors lived. Knowing the history, social customs, religious beliefs etc can lead you to any number of records that may exist. It can also give you insight in to the way your ancestors lived and, perhaps, how they thought. This can also provide clues.

Be patient: Genealogy is not something that can be done in the week before your family reunion. Finding records takes time, getting the records takes time, verifying the records takes time. Pursue this as a long term research project and you will get years and years of enjoyment from it.

Cite your sources: Learn how to take notes and how to properly cite a source. In the long run this will save you endless hours of frustration when you need to go back to find the source again (and believe me, you will) I have known people who have come in with a photocopy of a page of a book asking if we recognize it. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. If you are planning on publishing, you can consult a manual on how to cite sources in genealogy such as Evidence: Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills). If you are planning on keeping records for the family, the citation may not need to be as detailed, but you should give a basic citation that will allow you or anyone following in your footsteps, to find the record again. .This is usually the title, the author, if there is one, the volume number, the page number, the date it was published. For microfilm you can record the reel number and the name of the repository (each archive and library uses a different numbering structure). Actually, it probably wouldn’t hurt to read Evidence even if you’re not publishing.

Keep an open mind: This applies in many different instances. Keep your mind open to other resources, follow any leads, no matter how thin they may seem and please, please, keep in mind that just because you spell your name one way, doesn’t mean your ancestors didn’t spell it differently or that is wasn’t butchered by a census taker, a transcriber, a government official or anyone else.


So that was my lecture. I’m sure there are lots of other pointers, but in my long career as a genealogy-helper, these are the ones I wish I had followed (especially the organization one – that isn’t my desk in the photo above, but mine is just as bad)

So Happy Hunting and remember, the librarian is your friend.

Librarian

The Cowtown Dilemma

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1394

Cows on the Bow River, Calgary 1903

Postcards from the Past, pc 1394

I was cruising through the newspapers, looking for something genealogical or locally historical to talk about in the blog. I thought I’d hit something when I read an ad for cholera medication. On second thought that seemed a bit grim for the beginning of summer, so my next idea was to see what was going on in the city in 1912 but Harry the Historian has that covered, so that one was out. Then I decided to take the advice of a historian who I admire and look at what was happening in Calgary in 1913 – the year after the big boom. And I found this in the Calgary Daily Herald’s Query Column on January 2.

Question 777: Kindly inform me if there is any bylaw prohibiting people from letting their ducks and hens come on your lawn. I live right in the centre of Calgary and my neighbour’s hens come along the walk…and when the door is open they go into the house. Can you kill the hens…?

Ans. A person who keeps fowls in the city is obliged to keep them shut in. …You are not allowed to kill them. You should keep your door shut.

It was forty years later that poultry farming was made illegal within the city limits. I’ve written before about my sister’s “farm” – I spent a lovely week out there helping her build a bird coop so her chickens, pheasants and, particularly, the peacock (I know, but it is Vancouver Island!) wouldn’t go into the neighbour’s yard. Now, granted, a peacock isn’t everyone’s idea of livestock, but she does live in a rural area , so having wandering animals is not unusual. But Calgary is now a major urban centre with a population of over 1 million, very far from our rural roots.

However, I am constantly reminded that we are not so far from those roots as we may think. I still remember farm houses sprinkled through the neighbourhoods at the west edge of the city when I was growing up. The Pony Palace riding stables were out there within smelling distance. And there were farms just over the rise where Christie Estates now stands. If I faced west, I could see horses grazing on the hill, when I turned east, I could see the towers and office buildings in the downtown core. This is the very nature of Calgary. I remember reading an article in which the writer proposed that instead of the white cowboy hat, we could be wearing oil derricks on our heads. It is a valid point.

The Stampede turns 100 this year. Even at its start, the Stampede was a celebration of a way of life that was passing. It was supposed to be a one-time event, so the space for the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth was leased from the Calgary Industrial Exhibition. In 1923 the Exhibition would merge with the Stampede to become The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, thus uniting the rural past with the industrial present. We have always had our feet in two worlds and this may be what gives us our unique character. I am planning on whooping it up big time during this special Stampede week, maybe even while wearing an oil derrick, a la Flare Square, on my head.

Chickens