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The Rotary Club Celebrates 100 Years of Service

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

Programme

Racy Daze Programme

Rotary Club of Calgary, 1934

One hundred years ago, while the world was about to find out just how ugly war could be, a group of sixty four men met in the Elizabethan Room of the Hudson’s Bay Company to start an organization that would bring good to the city (and the rest of the world). The Calgary chapter of the Rotary Club was born under the leadership of James S. Ryan and Douglas Howland. They were the first men’s service club to be formed in the city.

Of course we all know about the Rotary Club, they are the people who give us dreams of luxury living with their Stampede Dream Home. More precisely, it is the Rotary Clubs of Calgary who offer us the dream home – there are now thirteen clubs in Calgary. Over the years they have done an amazing amount of good in Calgary. They are major contributors to my favourite organization, the Calgary Public Library, sponsoring It’s a Crime Not to Read, a brilliant program that partners Calgary Police Service volunteers with staff from the Library to promote reading and literacy among grade 2 and 3 students. The Rotary Club was also behind the refurbishment of the cupola from James Short School, providing funds and hunting down the clock from the demolished Burns Block to finally give it the timepiece it had been designed for.

 

AJ 1258

Cupola from James Short School before the Restoration funded by the Rotary Club of Calgary

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1258

To honour the years of service to the community, Mayor Nenshi has declared April 28 to May 3 to be Rotary Week. There will be Service Before Self displays at each of the 18 library branches as well as celebrations at City Hall on Thursday (bring your fork, there’s cake).

Until I started looking into this, I wasn’t aware of the extent of the Rotary Clubs’ charitable work. I had visited a few chapters to talk about genealogy and of course knew about the Dream Home, but I wasn’t aware that among some of their first projects were vacant lots gardening, lights along the Elbow River for skaters and tree planting campaigns. They did all kinds of wonderful things to help those in need, such as furnishing rooms for returning soldiers at the Ogden Home, hampers for the widows of soldiers, boots sent to needy people in Belgium, ambulance service during the ‘flu epidemic, a Boys Town, skates sent to Northern Metis communities and picnics and parties for seniors. They also threw a picnic for 14,000 family members of soldiers serving overseas in 1918. As part of the celebration they took 2000 feet of movies of the families to send to the soldiers. This is just a sample of the projects that this club has sponsored over the years. They still continue to be active worldwide providing operations to restore sight, polio vaccinations, clean water projects and micro-credit loans, just to name a few.

Early members included Dr. George Kerby, Frank Freeze, F.E. Osborne, Fred Shouldice, and James Fowler. Few records were kept of the early years but an interesting tidbit from the 50th Anniversary publication was that “it is believed that amongst other things, the Club donated a kangaroo to the zoo. (Tradition has it that the animal bit a Rotarian and died).”

To raise money the Rotarians put on entertainments, such as a Minstrel Show and Parade and, curiously, in 1924, a Potlatch in the hole left by the demolition of the first post office. They raised nearly $15, 000, an impressive sum even by today’s standards.

We have memorabilia from a number of these fundraisers in the Local History collection (including the programme of the “Sunset Revue: Racy Daze” of 1934, seen above) and a 1924 roster, including photographs.

Rotary Banner

The Bowness Flying Field

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Fred McCall

Captain Fred McCall, founder of the Bowness Flying Field, June 1919

Calgary Herald, June 30, 1919

I’m always learning new things at the heritage events I attend. What I learned recently was that Calgary’s first commercial airfield was actually in Bowness, started by Fred McCall, a former RAF pilot on fallow land near the Calgary Electric Railway tracks just after the end of the First World War. According to Bernd Martens, writing in the Bowness history book Our Village in the Valley, “the airplane hangars associated with the Bowness Flying Field were located just east of present-day Bowness Road. The runway extended eastward in a large empty block of farmer’s field, likely between the present 47 Avenue and 44 Avenue and eastward to the present high school field.”

The Bowness Aerodrome (as it was sometimes called, a rather lofty name for a farmer’s field) saw its first flight in May 1919 when Frank Donnelly flew his Curtiss from Bowness to the HBC company building in downtown Calgary to drop streamers advertising the company’s 249th birthday. “1670 – A Message From Mars – 1919” was what the streamers read. “Calgary celebrates the greatest event of the year, the 249th birthday of the Hudson’s Bay Company. So unusual are the values that we’ve chosen an unusual way to tell of them….Keep this streamer as a memento of the first literature ever dropped in Calgary from an aeroplane." Tappy Frost was one of the first to get his streamer, chasing it down in his little Ford car and clambering up on a roof when the elusive little thing tried to hide from him.

Power was taken from the electric railway lines to service the hangar but there were no runway lights so when Capt. McCall was flying at night, he would buzz his house so his wife would know to bring the car to light the runway with its headlamps. Car lights provided illumination for the landing of Capt. Ernest C. Hoy from Vancouver, the first flight over the Canadian Rockies, which touched down in Bowness on August 7, 1919.

The Bowness Flying Field was also the place from which the plane carrying W.J. (Bill) Oliver, Calgary Herald photographer, took off. Oliver would take the first air photos of the city which were published in the Herald. Below is the photo published in the June 30, 1919 edition:

Calgary Herald June 30, 1919

Aerial Photograph of Calgary taken by W.J. Oliver from Fred McCall's Plane, June 1919

Calgary Herald, June 30 1919

What I Learned from Dave Obee, Part 2

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

1851 Census LAC

1851 Census page

As I mentioned in my last post, I had the privilege of attending the Dave Obee seminar put on by the Alberta Family Histories Society last Saturday. I learned a lot about sources and records and where to find them but the most important lessons were about the goals of doing family history (which I wrote about last week) and about research techniques to maximize results.

Good research skills do not come naturally. We aren’t born with an instinct to find records (food, yes, data, not so much). Research skills are a tool, just like your genealogy software and your laptop. They are the most important tools however, because if your goal is to find your ancestors and tell their stories you must become a sleuth and to do that effectively, you need to learn how to look, not just where to look.

It helps, when you are looking at a record, to know what it is you are looking it. Is it an index, a transcription or an original document? Our goal as outstanding researchers is to track back to the original source, so indexes and transcriptions are just “maps” to help us uncover those documents. In many cases, those maps are just like the ones drawn by the gas station attendant on the back road in Italy when you find yourself lost. There may be language barriers, varying levels of local knowledge and drafting skill, and even changes in the landscape such as washouts and road works.

What this means in purely practical terms (and to not stretch a metaphor too far) is that you should use every index and transcription available. For example, there are several different indexes available for Canadian census records. Automated Genealogy has an index created by an army of volunteers. This is a particularly good index to the census records because it is done by people who are familiar with local names and places. FamilySearch also has indexes done by volunteers. Ancestry (available at Calgary Public Library branches) has all of the census records for Canada indexed and available on their site. Their indexing is done commercially, often by off shore companies, and this can sometimes cause problems.

So, what would you do if you couldn’t find your ancestor in the census in one index? Would you stop there and assume they weren’t in Canada at the time? What we should do, if we want to be the Sherlock Holmes of genealogy researchers, is check every index and transcription available (and sometimes this means paper — oh the horror!)

What if they still don’t show up, but you know they were there? Library and Archives Canada has a number of censuses scanned on their site. There are no indexes but you can look at the original documents without having to touch microfilm. Sometimes this is the only way to find your folk. You will recognize a family name when someone who isn’t familiar with the name doesn’t.

Dave has written a book on how to get the most from Canadian census records, Counting Canada, which includes lots of other pointers for squeezing every last drop of information from a census record.

Happy hunting.

What I Learned from Dave Obee

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

CPL 103 15 01

Students at the Central Library, ca 1914

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures, CPL 103-15-01

I was as happy as a pig eating rhubarb on Saturday — I was at a genealogy conference given by the Alberta Family Histories Society featuring the Canadian genealogy guru, Dave Obee. Dave is the author of a large number of reference works relating to Canadian genealogical records, including Destination Canada, and Counting Canada, as well as a bunch of great guides to things like directories, voters’ lists, and citizenship indexes. In addition he is the proprietor of the best (in my opinion) website for Canadian genealogy research, CanGenealogy. Dave is also a library supporter, and has written the history of library service in British Columbia, The Library Book. In his other life, he is also a working journalist so his insights into the study of people (which, really, genealogy is at its heart) are particularly valuable.

So, the most important thing I learned from my day-long participation in this genealogy conference is not about a particular kind of record or a really snazzy website to check. No, the most important lesson that I took away from Dave’s lectures, was that we have a duty to our ancestors to tell their stories. We have to look beyond the census and vital statistics and research the time and the place of our people who went before. For this we use the secondary sources such as local histories, general histories, ephemera, maps and any other number of cool, non-traditional sources (like those found in our Local History Collection). I was delighted to hear this affirmation of my own belief from someone whose work I admire. I, too, believe genealogy is not just the process of collecting names and dates. The true value of genealogy lies in the history of the people and the building of their story.

This is the approach we have been taking with the Lest We Forget project. The students we visit take documents, facts, and statistics and turn them into a life story. Perhaps they may even be interested in looking beyond their soldier, to the families left behind. This is certainly a more challenging assignment, but it is one that has immeasurable value in the understanding and the remembrance of those who went before.

So, this is the most important thing I learned from Dave Obee, but it wasn’t the only thing so in my next posting, I will mention some of the other great tips I gleaned from my day with the expert.

Who Was Lindsay?

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

1907 Map of Calgary

1907 Map of Calgary showing Lindsay's Estate

From Historic Maps of Calgary and Alberta CALG 6

With the snow still pelting down and the arrival of spring weather seeming less and less likely, I thought I would write about Dr. Lindsay. Now this is a convoluted path of reasoning, but quite logical (to me, anyway). One of my fondest summertime memories is of the rope swing near my school. We would skip class and watch the bravest souls swing out over the Elbow and drop, fully clothed, into the river. Though we said we were going to go back for the last class, we knew that once we were soaked, there was no going back. “I fell in the river and I couldn’t go to class all muddy and wet!” Rarely worked, but it was worth it.

The swing and the tree it was attached to were in the waste ground behind St. Mary’s school. We knew then that it had some kind of railroad connection as the school’s next door neighbour was the old CNR station. There was no development to speak of in the area, until after we were out of school, when Lindsay Park was developed. So who was Lindsay?

Dr. Neville James Lindsay was an Ontario born physician who came out to Calgary when it was still essentially a tent city. His office in 1883 was little more than a sheet strung across four poles. He took to the fledgling town and was quickly elected to the first town council and founded a Masonic Lodge. His medical practice grew and he was soon appointed the physician to the nearby First Nations reserves. He was also the CPR surgeon for the area.

He was a bit of an adventurer (I suppose anyone who came to Calgary in 1883 must have been something of an adventurer) and by the turn of the century, he was seeking his fortune in the Yukon, along with hundreds of other adventurers. Because of his medical knowledge and his experience with the First Nations people, he was able to find gold and copper deposits that others didn’t.

This wasn’t enough for Neville, though. Returning to Calgary he turned his hand to real estate investment. Calgary was booming prior to the First World War and adventurers found another thrill ride in the city’s economy. This was when the good doctor procured the land on the edge of the city that would become first “Lindsay Estate” and then Parkview. Although he subdivided the land for development, he never followed through. He sold the land to the Canadian Northern Railway. He then purchased the Knox Presbyterian Church on Centre Street. This was close to Lindsay’s old stomping grounds as his office and home were at 503 Centre Street. His plans for the church did not include taking up residence there, however. He was going to build a commercial development on the site, but he was going to take the sandstone of the church and build himself a beautiful mansion overlooking the Elbow River.

Dr. Neville James Lindsay

Dr. Neville J. Lindsay

From A History of Alberta by Archibald MacCrae

He got as far as building the foundations and some of the walls when something happened. Stories vary; one has him losing his shirt in the economic downturn caused by the advent of World War I, another story is that the house started to sink as soon as walls were erected. The least plausible is that in grief over the death of his wife, he could not continue with their dream home. This one is patently wrong because his wife Florence outlived him by a number of years. It was Florence who had to surrender the property to the city because she could not pay the taxes. The walls of the house stayed mostly intact until the 1950s. The site, sometimes called “Lindsay’s folly” became a popular trysting place, providing shelter for necking teens and young knights and ladies playing castle.

Herald Photo March 31 1950

Lindsay's Folly

Taken from the Calgary Herald, March 31, 1950

Dr. Lindsay was a very interesting man and there is quite a bit of information available about him. The portrait is taken from A History of the Province of Alberta by Archibald MacCrae, which can be viewed in the Local History room (in all its engraved glory) or online through Our Future Our Past. There is also an excellent collection of newspaper clippings and a research article by Harry Sanders in the clippings files in Local History. Drop in to see us.