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A Calgary Soldier's Story

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1478I.O.D.E. War Memorial outside Memorial Park Library

I’m a little late with this post. We were in the throes of preparing for our Historic Calgary Week presentation “A Calgary Soldier’s Story” which we delivered successfully (whew!) at beautiful Memorial Park Library last night. We told the story of Joseph A. Convery, an Irish immigrant who came to Calgary from Belfast at the age of 16 and made a success in his farming endeavours, which allowed him to bring his parents and sister to live with him. He was a brave young man who, possibly sensing that the war was coming, joined the 15th Light Horse, a militia unit in Calgary, became a Lieutenant, and then enlisted in the CEF. His bravery and daring (how else would you describe a man who came alone to the barren prairie at 16) led him to the Royal Flying Corps, those Knights of the Air, who were so important to the success of the forces in Europe. Sadly, he lost his life when his plane went down near Arras just before the last major German offensive of the war.

As usual I learned a lot about many different things when I was researching this gentleman. I found out about the Canadians in the RFC/RAF, whose fearlessness allowed them to climb into these canvas and wood crates and fly over enemy territory, sussing out the lay of the land and dropping bombs from the cockpit. Some of the great men of Canadian history passed through the RFC/RAF including Roland Michener, Lester B. Pearson, Kenneth Irving, and other men of note. This fact leads me to wondering what would have become of our intrepid Irishman had he survived the war.

Joseph’s story was just one of many and I was honoured to be able to bring it to life and share it with everyone. Our history (and I know I harp on this, forgive me) is the history of people just like Joseph Convery, who came and made something of himself and the offered all that to the defense of his adopted home. It is the story of people like Joseph that is the story of this country – the pioneers who came and stayed, even though the weather sucks and the animals will kill you. We are something else, aren’t we?

The C-Train: One of the 10 Triumphs of Canadian Transportation

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

PC 1333Calgary, looking along Memorial Drive, showing the new, modern LRT

What do the Avro Arrow, the Canadian Pacific Railway, Pearson Airport and the C-Train have in common? They are all on the list of 10 Triumphs of Canadian Transportation as chosen by the Transport Association of Canada in honour of its 100th anniversary. At least two of the above are resounding successes (sorry Pearson) and both the Railway and the C-Train have had a huge impact on our city.

The coming of the railway to Calgary is a pivotal point in the city’s history. Becoming the hub of the rail system west of Winnipeg insured that Calgary would be a “big city”. It was the starting point for settlement and was also the place where those settlers came to pick up their goods and machinery and deliver their products. This started the first of the city’s great population booms. Without the railway, we would not be the city we are today. The railway was so important to the people settled around what would become Calgary that when the location of the station was announced, folks packed up their homes and moved them to be closer to what was going to be the centre of the town.

PC 604The Imperial Limited arriving at Calgary

The C-Train also changed the landscape of our city. I remember when we got around the city on electric trolley buses. While great, they did not allow for rapid movement so commutes could be nightmarish (especially in the winter, when the slip-sliding trolleys would lose their contact with the overhead lines on a frighteningly regular basis). We became a city of cars, but not, sadly, of roads that could handle them. Rush hour was sometimes traumatizing – more than once a commuter, trapped in his or her vehicle in unmoving traffic, leapt from their car in a claustrophobic panic. The coming of the C-Train, fraught as it was with conflict, allowed us to move further and further away from the core (for good or ill) and has allowed the city to grow to over a million people. The C-Train just came to my neighbourhood and I am in total agreement with the Transport Association of Canada that it is a triumph (but that’s just my personal opinion)

PC 969Streetcar accident at the corner of 14th St and 17th Ave SW, 1919

The Community Heritage and Family History department has a lovely collection of early transportation images online as well as an outstanding collection of books and other documents about the history of both the railway and the transit system in Calgary. One of the newest books we have on how the railway could have shaped Calgary, had we followed their plan, is Development Derailed by Max Foran. Copies are available in the Local History room as well as in the general collection.

Yahoo! It's Stampede Time Again

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

1977 Stampede Poster1977 Stampede Poster from our Collection

Stampede time is upon us once again. The Parade went off without a hitch (at least I think it did) and we are now all kitted up in our very best cowboy gear. I love this time of year! Stephen Avenue is alive with visitors and weekend cowboys (and some real cowboys, too). There are buskers and vendors and food trucks and it is all being enjoyed by people from all over the world. They are here to partake of Calgary's unique personality as dazzling urbanite meets small town prairie good old boy. Yahoo, dawg.

 

1923 Stampede Poster1923 Stampede Poster from our Collection

 
 

Things were not much different 100 years ago. In early July of 1914 the Industrial Exhibition was under way. There were 7000 entries, surpassing the previous year’s numbers by nearly 2000. Over 700 babies were entered in the baby show (yes, that's what I said) and the Tuesday of the exhibition was "Better Babies" day. There were interesting performances, including an acrobatic troupe, an aeronaut who dropped a bomb from his balloon which, when exploded, "emits the aeronaut" and the "greatest number of musicians in the assembled bands that have ever appeared." The papers listed the all the winners of the competitions, see this link for a list of the winning chickens Right alongside the half page spread of prize poultry was an ad for shares in the Turner Valley Oil Company Ltd. ($1.00 a pop – a lot less than you'd pay for a prize hen) In fact, the newspaper was filled with advertisements for oil companies, punctuated with prize lists and race results. For the first time, oil derricks were set up around the grounds, primarily as advertisements for the companies drilling in the area. Salesmen were on hand to convince fairgoers that this was their chance to make it big. "Oil offices sprung up like magic and frantic representatives of the up town magnates were this morning dashing about in advanced state of frenzy, vainly attempting to get carpenters to do a dozen things at once.” Then, as now, the two worlds of Calgary existed side by side.

While our collection doesn't hold much about the 1914 Industrial exhibition, we do have an extensive collection of Stampede memorabilia including postcards, programmes, reports and posters, as evidenced by the two that grace this posting. The Stampede Archives has the poster for the 1914 exhibition and it eloquently sums up the two sides of this city; the fashionably clad young lady, with her equally fashionable collie, gazing lovingly at her prize winning horse. Need I say more.

1914 Industrial Exhibition poster1914 Calgary Industrial Exhibition from Calgary Stampede Archives

The Calgary Stampede Archives is a treasure trove of information about and images of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. Check out their wonderful collection to see more.

Trains, Again

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 412At the Summit of the Rockies, 1908

I was digging around the University of Alberta Press site looking for a particular book, when I happened on the Atlas of Alberta Railways Online, a resource that lit up the heart of this railroad junkie. This resouce includes tons of information and pictures and documents about the history of railways in Alberta (hence the name, I suppose). I hate to admit my ignorance, but it looks like this site has been up for years and I have never used it. It is much more than a traditional atlas because, in addition to maps, there are photos and documents, plans (such as the plan of the typical prairie grain elevator) and news clippings.

There are also essays on the history of the railways and bits and pieces of interesting trivia. For example, did you know that many of the men who laid the tracks on the Calgary to Edmonton railway were of Scandinavian origins and that they could earn up to $3.50 a day? Well, according to the Edmonton Bulletin of September 1, 1883, them's the facts!

 

PC 424Four Engines Driving a Passenger Train to the Summit

We have a great collection of railway stuff in the Local History collection at the Central Library as well. We have photos and postcards, which you can see in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library but we also have a lot of ephemera, which is just a fancy name for the kind of things you generally throw away once you've finished using them. This includes menus, brochures, timetables and other promotional material.

The collection also has personal stories of people who worked on the railway, original documents relating to the railways in Canada and Alberta, like some of Sanford Fleming's reports and other really interesting works on railroads. This is a great resource for railway nerds, but it can also be a goldmine for genealogists as well.

Promotional material, pictures, settler's guides (like the one shown below) were published by the railways to encourage and aid settlers on the Prairies. Adding this information into a family history would give rich detail to your family's story and lead to a greater understanding of the motivations and expectations of prairie settlers.

 

Settlers GuideCPR Settlers Guide to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 1912

 

My Favourite Flood Story (so far)

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Flood Centre Street Bridge Centre Street Bridge during flood 2013, City of Calgary

We had a very successful launch of our Flood Story website on Saturday. Our Mayor Nenshi came and shared his flood story as did Councillor Druh Farrell. We also collected stories from many of our library patrons and this is exactly what we are looking for. Anyone who has heard me speak about genealogy knows that, while I know the documents and dates are important, it is the stories that make our family history. The research is the framework; the storytelling is the real work.

In doing some last minute work on the website I came across some really wonderful stories. This is mostly thanks to John Gilpin, whose dogged research provided the content of the website. He uncovered some colourful stories, such as the fire department rescuing dogs that were trapped in the pound by the rising waters during an ice jam flood in 1950. Animal rescue is a recurring theme in the flood stories I've been reading. Whether it was the horses gathered for Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebration in 1897 or the man out by the Industrial School, nested in the rafters of his barn with the chickens in 1902, right up to the last flood, where the Humane Society opened its doors to animals whose families were displaced (including two pigs).

Another common theme is the constant need for people to be reminded to stay away from the rushing rivers. In almost every flood, the papers bemoan the fact that people haven't the common sense to stay away from the water. My favourite story of all comes from the blatant flaunting of this advice by a Senator, no less, during the flood of 1884. Senator Ogilvie had been visiting Banff when the floods hit, washing out roads and rail beds. He was desperate to get back to Calgary so set off with his entourage by hand car. I'll let the Herald reporter take it from here:

[The Senator] "with commendable courage, bordering almost on senatorial recklessness, started via handcar for Calgary. Having to do some fording over the rivers where the bridges had once been, the burly form of the Senator suddenly disappeared from view...Gen. Supt. Egan and others of the party at once organized themselves into a committee of investigation to make due enquiries for the missing representative of Her Majesty's Senate. The Hon. Senator being a good representative of flesh and blood and being hard to conceal in a small space was very fortunately discovered clinging with wonderful tenacity to an iron rail..." (Calgary Herald July 23, 1884)

That is a great story and so is yours. Please tell us your flood story, it doesn't have to be from the 2013 flood. You may have been here for the 1950, maybe even the 1932 flood. We'd like to hear from you. You can post your story on the website, just click on Memory Bank, or if you'd prefer to write it, we have forms at all of our branches that will allow you to do just that. Check out the website - its great!

Senator Alexander OgilvieSenator A. Ogilvie from biographi.ca

On the Move

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1075McHugh House in 1966

It's been quite an interesting week watching the McHugh house on the move. Contemplating the extent of the job and the equipment required made me really appreciate the efforts of Calgarians of the past who picked up and moved their homes, with, seemingly, no cares. This can’t have been the case, but the number of incidences of “mobile homes” in Calgary in early years always astonishes me. In the program on house history that with do with our Heritage Triangle partners, the City Archives and Glenbow, we even have a section about finding out exactly where your house started its life, as moving houses was common enough, at one point in the city’s history, that the city government had to legislate that a permit was required to move your house. Before that you could just harness up the horses and drag your house down the street.

The Deane house was moved, not once but twice, in its long life. The first move saw it shifted from one location to another on the Fort Calgary site. The second move saw it migrate across the Elbow River on a temporary bridge. That feat was daring enough to garner a mention in Popular Mechanics (July 1930).

Popular Mechanics July 1930Deane House Being MovedI'm guessing that houses were moved for lots of reasons but in many cases, I blame the railway. Certainly when Calgary was just a baby town, the CPR decided to lay out a townsite on the west side of the Elbow River, whereas most residents had set up on the east side. Many of these enterprising pioneers picked up their houses and moved.

Whole towns up and moved when the railway finally announced its routes. Castor, Alberta, known then as Williston, was picked up and moved a mile to be closer to the rail line. Wainwright, too, had to be moved 2 ½ miles to closer to the Grand Trunk line. This move included the hotel, which was pulled by horses along the railway grade. An earlier post to this blog talks about these moving villages as well as others.

The Map

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

PC 712 eFire Headquarters 1930s

I spent part of my day off at a presentation at the Firefighter’s Museum listening to the story of “The Map.” During the clean out of the civil defense bunker at Shaganappi, a huge map was discovered. It was one of those pull down maps, like we all had in our classrooms back in the day, but this one was very special. It is a map of the city of Calgary used by the Fire Department in its headquarters (see the postcard above). It indicates all of the fire stations and the call boxes and measures 12 x 9 feet. It had been lying in water and was quite badly damaged but because it is such a vital record of the city’s history, a paper conservator, Lee Churchill, was hired to restore it to its former glory.

I work with maps in the local history room, but I have never seen one like this. First off, it is the largest map I have ever seen. It is larger than some of the rooms in my house. In order to open it to work on it, Lee has spread it across nine of those ubiquitous folding utility tables (with several layers of underlayment to protect it of course). There are districts on the map that I have never heard (Bryn Mawr Place? Harlem?) and it has red dots marking the location of all the fire alarm call boxes. It is a very cool thing, and Calgary Public Library got a mention as one of the sources tapped to try to determine the age of the map.

The talk was very interesting. When I started in the local history area of the library I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a paper conservator, and Lee’s talk about the process of paper conservation really opened my eyes to the delicacy and precision (and patience) that the job requires. Also, because this was the inaugural session of “Conversations in the Kitchen” we were treated to Newfoundland Toutons, courtesy of our presenter. For me it was the best day possible: old maps, a museum and food. My thanks and deep admiration go out to all of the staff and volunteers at the Firefighter’s Museum. What a wonderful place you have. To find out more about the museum, you can visit their website. Lee is also keeping a blog about the process of restoring the map.

 

PC 936Cappy Smart on the Webb Car

The Royal Visit, 1939

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

CrowdsCrowds 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.

 

Route mapMap 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.

 

PC 1061Their 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.

Oh, It's Lion Time Again....

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1255One of the Magnificent Beasts for whom the Awards were Named

Alison Jackson Collection, 1255

Two weeks! That’s all the time we have left to nominate our people and groups for the Lion Awards. What are the Lion Awards, you ask? Well, every two years the Calgary Heritage Authority, those valiant defenders of our city’s history, honours the people and projects that preserve our city’s heritage. This can be restoring a heritage building or landscape, promoting awareness of heritage issues, revitalizing a neighbourhood or being involved in a heritage trade or craft.

This year, since we are just a year out from the floods which devastated many of our historic neighbourhoods, so an award category has been created that recognizes the effort many people have put in to protect and restore buildings and neighbourhoods in flood prone areas.

The Lion Awards are a big deal for the heritage community. For many years promoters of heritage in Calgary were viewed with the same kind of sideways glance that your crazy uncle Bill was, when he started talking about his youth. Heritage activists were nutty old ladies who were stuck in the past, unable to see the bright shiny new buildings that were being built to replace the tired old eyesores that sat on very expensive land. Now, we have come to an understanding that to move ahead and build a great city, we need to keep the past alive.

So, if you know of a project or a person who is working to that goal, why not nominate them for a Lion Award? You can nominate yourself if you are that person or you are involved in a heritage project. We have a Lion Award. We got it for this blog and we still brag about it.

Lion AwardOur Lion Award for Advocacy and Awareness

(See, here’s the picture of our award) It was a great recognition from a great organization (and the gala where the awards are given out is excellent) So, check out the criteria and get your nomination in. You’ve got two weeks. (And register for the party as well. It's at the Grand this year.)

To find out more about the awards, you can watch Terry MacKenzie, a member of the Heritage Authority, on Shaw TV or read about it on the City of Calgary's news channel

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.

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