Crowds in Calgary from Royal Visit Pictorial Review
Today is the 75th anniversary of the visit of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Calgary. It was the first visit by a reigning monarch to Canada. In today’s terms it would be as if Kanye and Kim decided to hold their wedding in our fair city. In other words it was a very big deal. The guns of the 19th Field Brigade fired the 21 gun royal salute, alerted by a signals officer perched on top of the Palliser Hotel. The roar of cannon could be heard all over the city.
As soon as the royal couple set foot on the platform, Pipe Major William Pow led the Pipe Band of the First Battalion Calgary Highlanders in the National Anthem (“God Save the King” in those days). The royal couple inspected the Highlanders honour guard, resplendent in their new uniforms, and the King complimented the commanding officer on the appearance of his men. Following the inspection, the King and Queen and every dignitary Calgary could muster, leapt into an eleven car fleet that would take the couple, via a very circuitous route, to City Hall. The crowds went wild. The Herald reported that the cheering was like the roar of a “mighty giant.”
Although the visit was only two hours long, it was jam packed, as you can see by the route map below. They passed the Cenotaph, drove through the cheering crowds that lined the roads to Cresent Road, where they would have a clear view of the city and the Rocky Mountains. At Mewata Park, a First Nations camp was set up by people of the Blackfoot, Stoney, Blood, Sarcee and Peigan tribes. Their Majesties were greeted by the sounds of drums and a chant of welcome. Duck Chief, Yellow Horn, Shot Both Sides, David Bearspaw, and Joe Big Plume, Chiefs of all the nations, were on hand to welcome the royals.
Map from Official Souvenir Program of the Visit of Their Majesties to Calgary
The newspapers were full of empire and majesty. The Calgary Herald “Royal Visit Edition” included an insert of 28 pages devoted to royal family and the empire, with lots of Canadian nationalism thrown in.
As the King and Queen left the city for Banff, patients from the Sanatorium were given a special treat when arrangements were made to have the Royal train slow down as it passed Keith. Patients got dressed in their finest and congregated on the lawn, hoping that their majesties would greet them from the observation deck.
Their Majesties Leaving Calgary, Postcards from the Past
The day after the “biggest event in the city’s life” the police reported that the crowds were well behaved, there was no rowdyism and visitors had had the opportunity to see this city at its finest. Events were planned for their entertainment including an exhibition of the musical ride by Lord Strathcona’s Horse and a demonstration by 3rd Bomber Squadron’s Wapiti bombers at Currie Barracks. Many citizens placed pennies on the train tracks to be crushed by the royal train and provide souvenirs. The newspaper estimated that there was about thirty dollars worth of coin on the tracks.
It was certainly the biggest event in Calgary’s history. Commemorative publications were produced by the carload. We have a great many of these in our Local History collection at the Central Library (look in the catalogue under royal visitors 1939) as well as some of the postcards produced to commemorate the event. Check them out and share some of the excitement.