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The Weir

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 229

Head Gates and Irrigation Canal, Calgary, ca. 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 229

I seem to be obsessed with water these days. Or maybe it’s a normal reaction to betrayal by your rivers. Possibly not a healthy obsession, but I am going to write one more water-related post and then I will stop, promise. What caught my attention this week was the closure of the Harvie Passage, the man-made rapids designed to make the area around the weir safer for experienced paddlers (although they still strongly recommend that novices and folks in rubber rafts portage around the rapids) Harvie Passage is closed because the mighty Bow has rearranged the area and repairs need to be made before it is safe for use.

I remember going to a meeting where the plans for Harvie Passage were explained. It seemed like such an innovative way to deal with the “drowning machine” as the weir was known at the time. The building of two channels, designed to enhance the experience of the Bow, opened up that area of the river and allowed for enthusiasts to paddle without portage.

Growing up on the Bow, I knew the weir was there, but it wasn’t until much later in my life that I knew, first what a weir was exactly and second, why it was built. It may not seem like it this year, but the area in which we sit was considered by the early explorer John Palliser to be essentially a desert and not suitable for settlement unless irrigation could be provided. That section, still known as the Palliser Triangle, wasn’t even considered good enough to give away to homesteaders so it was taken out of the homestead scheme.

When the CPR came to claim their alternate sections of arable land as payment for building the railway, they also looked at the Palliser Triangle. They had just built a railway from coast to coast. Irrigating the prairie “desert” (the largest irrigation project in North America) would be a piece of cake by comparison and could increase their profits enormously. It was to this end that the weir was built, starting in 1904. This diversion would send water into a canal to send it on its way to the arid lands to the north and east. The Main Canal carried Bow River water to the Reservoir #1, or, as we call it today, Chestermere Lake (that was news to me too).

The weir was always a dangerous spot. A brief search through the old newspapers turns up many accounts of people drowning at that spot. Warning signs and buoys didn’t stop people from attempting to “shoot the rapids.” The idea of turning such a deadly, but necessary, area of the Bow into an attraction, was an inspired one, and I hope all will be well with Harvie Passage in the future.

We have some fascinating material on the history of the Western Irrigation District including Flow Beyond the Weir , which is the history of the Western Irrigation District, and some of the original reports and conference proceedings of the Western Canada Irrigation Association. Drop in to the Local History room at the Central Library and have a look.

PC 668

Canadian Pacific Irrigation Department Building, Calgary, 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 668

The Old Swimmin' Hole

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

 

PC 190

Swimming in Elbow Park, ca 1940s (?)

Postcards from the Past, PC 190

Finally it is summer! Yay, just in time for fall. I was looking for a postcard to illustrate something about Elbow Park and I happened across this one that shows people swimming in the Elbow River. It was also posted as a nice summertime picture for Photo Fridays on our Facebook page. This got me to thinking about one of the best things about living at the confluence of two rivers – we have awesome swimming holes.

If any of you have heard Harry Sander’s list of 100 Awesome Things about Calgary, you will have heard about the rope swing on the Elbow River in what is now Lindsay Park. Well, back in the olden days, when I was a kid, there was no development in Lindsay Park, it was just waste ground owned by the city and the CNR. That made it a great hiding place for us to play hookey on a warm summer day (or a cold winter day, we didn’t need much of an excuse to duck school). We used to swing on the rope swing and drag our feet in the swimmin’ hole, sort of an inlet in the already shallow Elbow River. The more adventurous of us would drop in to the water and spend the rest of the afternoon lying on the bank in the sun trying to dry out our blue jeans. That was a really good excuse not to go back to class.

 

PC 960

Kiddies Pool at Bowness Park, ca 1920s

Postcards from the Past, PC 960

One of my other favourite places, and not just to swim, was Bowness Park. The company my dad worked for used to have a family picnic there every year. We got to ride on the rides and boat around the lagoon and swim in the kiddies pool. While not exactly a swimmin’ hole, it was a great place to spend a hot summer day.

The wading pond at Riley Park was a kind of swimming hole as well. Originally it was just a mud-bottomed slough (familiar to those of us who grew up on the prairies as the place where the cows drink and the ducks float). By the time I was old enough to paddle in the pool, it had been cemented and a lovely clump of willows planted in the middle. It is still a favourite with families in Calgary – my son loved to paddle in the pool when he was a baby.

Pool at Riley Park

Pool at Riley Park, prior to 1930

There were other excursions as well. When we were older we would ride our bikes out to Twin Bridges near the YMCA Camp and wander around in the silty river bottom. When we got our drivers’ licenses we’d pack up the car with towels and beer and dogs and spend the day and the evening hanging out and swimming in the river, until the RCMP whooshed us away and sent us all home.

Our junior high school used to hold its summer field day at Glenmore Park, and when we could shake off the chaperones (our moms and teachers) we would sneak a dip in the reservoir. Swimming in the city’s drinking water was not, apparently, limited to sneaky kids. Before the Glenmore Reservoir was built, there was a city reservoir roughly where Richmond Green is now. Militia units trained in the surrounding park and the soldiers were known to cool off after a long day of training in the reservoir, much to the dismay of the medical officers.

With the recent uprising of our peaceful rivers, it would be best to check on conditions before you try to take a dip in any of Calgary’s swimmin’ holes. But while you’re reminiscing, why not post your swimmin’ hole story in the comments section? We’d love to hear it.

The 1921 Census of Canada is Here!

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

 

Calgary in 1921 Census

Cover page for Calgary, District 4, 1921 Census of Canada

Courtesy Library and Archives Canada

 

Since we’re already on a census theme, I am overjoyed to announce that the 1921 Census for Canada was released by Statistics Canada to Library and Archives Canada earlier this month and the images are now available on Ancestry Library Edition. There is no name index as of yet, but Ancestry is hard at work trying to get all 8.8 million names indexed. This census has been eagerly awaited by genealogists. Given the wrangling required to get the 1911 census released, we weren’t sure we were ever going to see this one. For many genealogists, this may be the first census on which we can find our parents or grandparents. I know it is going to answer any number of questions for me once I can locate my mom’s mom and her family.

I had a boo ‘round Ancestry this afternoon and had a bit of a time finding where they had stashed the images. Because they are not indexed, the records don’t show up in a search or in the card catalogue. But nothing will stand in the way of a genealogist on a quest. The way I found them (thanks to my colleague for assisting) was to log into AncestryLE, hit the Search button at the top of the page and then choose Explore by location in the middle of the page. Then I selected ‘Canada and then Alberta. You can choose any province except for Newfoundland, which wasn’t a province in 1921. Once you’ve selected your province, you will see a list of record types. Census and Voters Lists are the first category but the 1921 is not listed. Select View other… and you will see the 1921 Census at the bottom of the list. You can monitor progress on indexing by looking at the number to the right of the heading. Right now, there is a zero beside it. As indexing is done, the numbers should increase.

Once you’ve clicked on the link for the 1921 census you will see a box to the right labeled Browse this collection (see below).

Select your province and go wild. You can actually do this from home—check out Library and Archives Canada’s information page for a link—but to use indexing, once it is done, you will need to have an Ancestry subscription or use your library card for free, in-library access to Ancestry Library Edition. The images are great, especially compared to those of the 1911 Census, and the names are very easy to read. Have fun!

1921 Census in Ancestry

The 1921 Census Navigation Page on AncestryLE


And here is a reminder for those of you with Heritage Homes which may have been damaged in the floods, there is another information session being held tomorrow night, August 15, at Christ Church, Elbow Park, 3602 8th Street SE. You may have seen one of the presenters, Eileen Fletcher, on the Global Morning News talking about these sessions. There will also be a drop in session from 4-8 p.m. at the same location. You can find out more about this at the City of Calgary’s website and at the Calgary Heritage Initiatives website.

 

PC 51

Elbow Park, Calgary, 1940s

Postcards from the Past, PC 190

They've taken leave of their census!

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Annie Kenny and Christabel Pankhurst

Annie Kenny and Christabel Pankhurst

From the National Archives

I don’t want to talk about flooding anymore. I’m still feeling blue about being displaced and all the havoc that my once gentle rivers wreaked on my beautiful city so I am going to concentrate on genealogy for a while. One thing you can count on when you do genealogy, there is always something worse to discover.

I have a specific topic in mind and that has to do with a kind of ‘did you know thing” relating to finding your female ancestors in the UK. Deciding that if they were not to be considered as citizens when it came to voting, suffragettes, led by women such as Emmeline Pankhurst, declared that they would not participate in the census being taken on April 2, 1911. The census asked that the householders list everyone present in the dwelling on census night. To avoid being enumerated, suffragettes took one of two approaches: Either they defaced the form, writing such things as "I will not supply these particulars until I have my rights as a citizen. Votes for Women” or they arranged to be out of the house on census night. To facilitate that many events were organized across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. This was not as frivolous as it seems as refusing to participate in the census could land one in prison.

The papers carried wonderful stories of the evening’s events. One enterprising woman was discovered in the crypt of the House of Commons on the Monday following census night. She had concealed herself there to avoid being enumerated but was “duly returned” on a census form provided by the police for that purpose. Another woman had hidden herself in a broom closet for 46 hours. Edinburgh protesters spent the night in a vegetarian restaurant and in an abandoned store. Some women slept in vans in parks. The biggest event, however, was an evening rally in Trafalgar Square that was broken up by police. The suffragettes had rented the Aldwych Skating Rink (roller skating, not ice-skating) and retired there to listen to speeches and skate until morning.

The London Times reported that the suffragettes efforts were largely useless as the women were counted by police, however, their particulars were not recorded and this has an impact on researchers looking for female ancestors in the United Kingdom (as if finding female ancestors was not hard enough). If your ancestor was a suffragette, she may not show up in the 1911 UK Census. I can find no indication that suffragettes in Canada and the US attempted the same strategy in any organized way but this doesn’t mean that there weren’t some dedicated women who staged their own census boycott. So, if you’re looking for a female ancestor around that time, keep the boycott in mind and also keep in mind that there may be records elsewhere (such as police rosters, Votes for Women organization lists, newspapers accounts of the boycott, lists of contributors to the cause and other documents. ) As always, be inventive and think outside the page (the census page, that is).

Census