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Houses Tell Great Stories

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 7520

Fred McCall Home

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 7520


Your house holds many secrets. Some we probably don’t want to know about and only surface if we start removing walls. Other secrets can be interesting, even fun and you won’t even have to swing a sledge hammer to find them. There are scads of resources available at the Calgary Public Library, the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives and the Glenbow Museum, Library and Archives. Staff from those three Heritage Triangle members will be at the Central Library on Saturday to introduce some of the resources that we have, all within walking distance of one another, that can help you tell your home’s story. Register here.

Maybe your home is an elder statesman – one of the many houses built during the big building boom in the early 20th century. If that is the case, you might want to consider joining the Century Homes project. This project was a great success last summer with over 500 homes on the list. The photos of those homes and the information signs that the owners created to share their stories are now in our Century Homes database, the newest member of our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. Check it out to see the kinds of stories other owners have uncovered.

You don’t have to own a century home to join us at this program, though. Maybe you have a fabulous 50s bungalow in one of the suburbs built during yet another of Calgary’s booms. What did the land look like before the ‘dozers moved in? Who was the first person to live in this house out in the boonies and what did they do? There is always an interesting story to be told. Just look at this one:


Sunalta HouseSign for Sunalta House

The original land title from 1910 states that C. Montrose and Florence B. Wright purchased the lot from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company for $200, as well as the lot to the east. Although it is not certain if they lived in the house, they were definitely an intriguing couple.
Clare Montrose Wright studied divinity at Victoria College in Toronto.
Florence (Kinrade) Wright had been an aspiring vaudeville stage performer in Hamilton, ON until February 25, 1909 when her sister, Ethel Kinrade, was murdered n the family home. Florence and Ethel had been the only ones home at the time and Florence claimed that a “tramp” had come to the door demanding money. When Florence went to get the money, the tramp shot Ethel. When Florence returned , she quickly handed him the money and fled out the back door. A man that met Florence’svague description was never found and eventually suspicion landed on Florence herself. Florence stood trial, an event that made the news clear across North America, but there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.
Following in trail, the couple married on June 28, 1909 in New York and moved to Calgary. Montrose gave up his plans to pursue the ministry and ended up practicing law.
Montrose died in 1918. After Montrose’s death, Florence returned to the stage, gaining moderate success, and eventually moved to California where she died in 1977.
The life and trial of Florence was immortalized in a book titled “Beautiful Lies” by Edward Byrne and a play in 2007 titled “Beautiful Lady, Tell Me” written by Shirley Barrie.

Your home may have an equally compelling tale (although perhaps without the murder). Join us and find out how to uncover it.

Can't make it to the event on Saturday? Watch the Livestream here: http://www.livestream.com/virtuallibrary

Century Homes Database Launched!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Century Home

One of the beautiful residences in the Century Homes database

Photograph courtesy James McMenamin,

Have you ever wandered past an old house and wondered when it was built, who used to live there, and what stories it contains? I know I do this all the time and, because I work in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library, I have resources at my fingertips that allow me to do a little house genealogy in my spare time. But today, we have launched a new database that will make information about the Century Homes in our city available online to anyone who cares to look.

If you read this blog regularly you will have read about the Century Homes Project. Most recently I posted that Century Homes had won a Governor General’s History Award for Community Programming. It was, and still is, a great initiative that got people involved in documenting their own century homes and sharing that information on signs posted in their yards. As part of the legacy of Century Homes (and because we don’t like to lose any information at all about the history of our beautiful city) Calgary Public Library is hosting the database that was created using the photographs and documentation that were created. It was launched this morning at City Hall and boy, are we chuffed. (You can see the Mayor's presentation to the proud Century Homes folks here) We’ve been working away at transcribing and uploading and doing all the things that are involved in getting a major project like this off the ground and we are delighted with the results. As of today we have all the photographs loaded and have about 100 of the yard signs transcribed. We will continue with the transcription until we have every bit of information in the database and accessible to everyone.

We invite you to have a look at this newest addition to our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. If you are interested in having your century home included in the 2013 tour (and in our database), check out the Century Homes website.

Write That Family History, Already!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Remember

With the holiday season now upon us (where on earth did November go, anyway?) we are turning our focus toward the family and spending time with those closest to us (for good or ill.) The holiday season is a great time to spend time with our elders, talking about the past and finding out about our family’s history. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard “I wish I’d talked to my [aunty, grandma, great-uncle] about her/his family, but I didn’t” or “I wish I’d paid attention when granny talked about her childhood”. Don’t be one of those genealogists! Now is the time! Get out your smart phone, set it on record and have that chat with granny or Auntie Jean or Great Uncle Herb. Their stories are the important ones, the ones that can’t be found in census records, birth certificates or city directories. This is what makes your family unique and these are the stories that many genealogists are striving to recreate.

If you need some questions to spur your family member’s memory, there are some great books out there to help you. One in particular isTo our children’s children: preserving family histories for generations to come by Bob Greene. This book has some very good suggestions for questions that spark memories, like, “Did you ever skip school? Did you get caught? Were you punished? How?” Questions like this encourage reminiscing around specific incidents and can get you much more than “Tell me about your school days.”

Once you have done some genealogy and have gotten what stories you can, you may want to write a family history or a memoir. We are having a Writers’ Weekend on February 2nd I’m very excited that one of our programs will be Writing Memoir and Biography with Brian Brennan. Brian is a brilliant storyteller and his skills at bringing a person alive on the page are unparalleled. If you're going to learn you might as well learn from a master. You can register for this free program here or by calling 403-260-2620.

James and Bridget

My Family, ca 1890

Give Me Shelter: Civil Defense in Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Calgary Herald photograph

Civil Defense Headquarters bunker

Calgary Herald, March 29, 1955

I had the privilege of hearing some of this city’s great historians at the Heritage Weekend. Max Foran, Hugh Dempsey, Nancy Townsend and Harry Sanders all spoke about great Calgary characters and events. The highlight of the afternoon had to be Brian Brennan talking about Paddy Nolan and finishing up with “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”, a song that Paddy may have enjoyed himself. All the presentations were excellent, capping off a really great weekend of heritage programs.

Dr. Foran spoke on an event which is somewhat amusing, but also speaks to the fears faced by many during the Cold War years. I had originally done some research on this story when I was looking for information about the fate of the air-raid sirens that were scattered throughout the city. There had been one in the yard of my kindergarten (which was held in the community hall) and I always wondered what they were for. Digging into the clippings files in the local history room, I found a wealth of information about civil defense and, particularly, about Operation Lifesaver, the topic of Dr. Foran’s talk.

The idea behind Operation Lifesaver was to practice an evacuation of a portion of Calgary, to simulate what might happen in the event of an enemy attack. So, the Civil Defense Authority planned the evacuation of a quadrant of the city, requiring the population to pack up and move to designated safe spots outside of Calgary. This was planned for September 21, 1955 and the quadrant chosen was the northeast. The population of that area was about 40,000 people at that time. Most were expected to participate. The populace was asked to fill out cards (such as the one below) to indicate whether they had a car, how many people the car could hold, whether they were physically capable of participating, ages of any children etc. Calgary Herald

Calgary Herald, May 5, 1955

The headquarters of the Civil Defense Authority were in a specially built bunker in the Municipal Golf Course (now Shaganappi Point). The photo above isof the interior of the bunker taken from the Calgary Herald of May 29, 1955.

In the end, Operation Lifesaver was postponed due to bad weather (it snowed quite heavily on September 21). When it took place, a week later, smoke bombs were detonated and the air-raid sirens wailed. Only 10,000 (as reported in the papers, but some estimates put it at only 3000) of the 40,000 population participated, but it was still hailed as a great success. It was the first of its kind, where citizens were directed out of the city, and cities across North America took note.

This would not be the last civil defense drill Calgarians would be subjected to. By the 1960s the focus had changed from preparing for an enemy invasion to surviving a nuclear detonation. To that end, the government released the pamphlet “Your basement fallout shelter”. This booklet, pictured here, includes a message from our PM, John Diefenbaker and complete plans for the building of a fallout shelter and instructions on how to live in it after the nuclear disaster. It is made clear in the instructions that this is not a bomb shelter, so it wasn’t advisable to hide in the shelter to escape explosions; it was designed to protect the homeowner from nuclear fallout, assuming they survived the initial blast.

Pam file

So in the next exercise, in November of 1961, the sirens sounded to alert the population to a mock nuclear attack. Most of downtown was unaffected. The people, having not heard the sirens, continued on about their business. Some sirens didn’t sound at all. An investigation blamed dirt for the malfunction.

If you would like to find out more about Canada’s civil defense policy, Andrew Burtch has just published Give Me Shelter which examines the effectiveness (or lack thereof) Canada’s policies during the Cold War. (This title is on our NextReads History and Current Events newsletter. You can sign up for it here.) CBC was on hand to film the exercise. The video is available through their archives. You can see the clippings and the booklet on building a fallout shelter in the Community Heritage and Family History Room on the fourth floor of the Central Library.

Awesome Heritage!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 947

On Friday we will be launching our third annual One Book One Calgary. This year’s book is The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha. There is going to be a lot of exciting programming associated with this celebration, starting with the launch itself – Calgary’s Poet Laureate, Kris Demeanor will be on hand as will a number of other prominent Calgarians who will tell us what they find awesome about this great city. Click here to find out more.

Another of the programs, and one that I am particularly looking forward to, will be with Calgary’s Historian Laureate, Harry Sanders (who is pretty awesome). He will be regaling us with awesome things from Calgary’s past. You can find out more and register for this program here. It will be at the Memorial Park Library (which is also awesome)

As my contribution to the “awesome” parade, I thought I would list the heritage buildings that I find awesome (and I’ll stop using that word now) This is only a very small part of my list, this is a blog, after all, and I’m sure I’d lose you all about number 40, so here is my much abbreviated list of some a-word heritage structures in Calgary.

The Cecil Hotel – it may seem weird that this hotel, which has recently been in the papers as a prime candidate for demolition due to its unsavory past, would make my list, but there is something about this building that I love and I would hate to see gone. It is one of the few remaining hotels of its period and although many call it an eyesore, it does have its own charm. For me, the Cecil represents the working class roots of Calgary, especially the East End of Calgary.

The Calgary Public Building – built in 1931, this edifice includes the only manned elevator in the city. It is a wonderfully elegant concrete structure which retains much of its original exterior detail . In its adaptation to modern use, it stands as an example of how heritage buildings can be made useful and efficient.Post Office

The Craftsman houses along 17th Avenue SW. I love the Craftsman style of house. There is a block just east of the Richmond Road turnoff that has several original Craftsman style homes still standing. I know this isn’t exactly a heritage site, but I smile whenever I drive past them.

The Burns Building – this was the building that got me interested in my city’s heritage. I was oblivious to all of the beautiful old buildings in the city until the Burns Building attacked Mayor Sykes and nearly sealed its own fate. That we were able to save it was a triumph and a symbol of what can be done when citizens raise their voices.

The CNR Building/St. Mary’s Parish Hall, beside St. Mary’s School. This building was derelict when I was attending St. Mary’s. We occasionally (don’t tell anyone) would sneak in and have a look around. It was a beautiful building, even in its dotage. It was also the scene of the most memorable event of my high school years. Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor filmed a part of the movie “Silver Streak” in the old building. It stood in for an abandoned railway station somewhere near Kansas. Sadly, the interior was gutted by fire in 1985 but it was brought back to life in 1987 when it became the home of the Alberta Ballet.CNR STation

These are just a very few of the heritage structures I find “awesome” (sorry) in this city. (And I didn’t mention the Glenmore Dam once) What is your most favourite heritage site?

Heritage Weekend is Just Around the Corner

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Lake View Heights, Proposed Community, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 925

Have you signed up for our Heritage Weekend programs yet? Better get on it – you wouldn’t want to miss any of these great programs.

We start the weekend with Heritage Matters on Friday night. We will hear about the fabulously successful Century Homes project and follow the quest of one homeowner to discover his homes’ past.

Right after that, pop up to the Dutton Theatre to hear about one of Calgary’s aviation heroes, Freddie McCall (for whom McCall Field was named). Shirlee Smith Matheson and Freddie McCall Jr. will be speaking and the Aero Space museum (a partner in this presentation) will have artifacts and art on display. You don’t have to register for this one – just drop in.

Next day starts with Irena Karshenbaum presenting The Oil Barrons, a talk about the Barron family and their remarkable contribution to Calgary. I’ve heard Irena speak and can say from experience that this will be a great presentation.

Then at noon, there is a Communities Heritage Roundtable about Canadian Heritage in our Midst. A panel of experts will talk about sites of national significance right here in Calgary.

At 1 o’clock we will hear from Stephanie White about Unbuilt Calgary. This will be an intriguing presentation as we hear about a century’s worth of plans for Calgary development, some of which never made it off the drawing board, some which may one day come to fruition (boating reach ‘round City Hall, anyone?)

At 2, we are going to be regaled with Stories of Calgary. Some of my favourite historian-storytellers are going to be on hand to tell us stories of Calgary’s past and the intriguing people who made up this great city. Hugh Dempsey, Harry Sanders, Max Foran, Nancy Townshend and Brian Brennan – all brilliant storytellers, will keep us entertained, and probably teach us a thing or two.

Last, but not least, we will have a Meet and Greet with representatives of some of Calgary’s heritage organizations. These are the folks who work behind the scenes to support and protect heritage in Calgary. Come and mingle with some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met – it’s going to be grand.

To find out more information and to register, follow this link.

I hope to see you there.

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Calgary Municipal Airport, McCall Field, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 70-18

We Say Goodbye to a Great Man

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

analecta 1947

Central Collegiate Institute Hockey Team, 1947

from Analecta, 1947

Peter Lougheed passed away last week. We have lost a great man. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at an awards evening and at other events and I always came away from those speeches inspired and proud of my province. He was a member of one of Calgary’s oldest and most notable families, but he treated every one he encountered as an equal. He has earned a place in the hearts of most Albertans, not just for his accomplishments, which were great, but also for his qualities as a person.

I wanted to write something about Mr. Lougheed that spoke to these qualities. I remembered a question we had had, shortly after I started working with the Local History collection. We use this story to illustrate how parts of the local history collection can be used for genealogical research. A customer had called asking us to find out, if we could, what Peter Lougheed had done in high school: what clubs he belonged to, when he graduated, what sports he played, etc. We knew that he had attended Central (it was called Central Collegiate Institute at the time) and that we had some of the yearbooks, the Analecta, in our collection. (I know it is kind of a dirty trick to pull someone’s high school yearbooks and look at the photos – I never tell any of my colleagues the year that I graduated, because we have my high school yearbooks here in the collection, and the last thing I want them to see is me in my teenaged glory. But I am not one of the great leaders of our century, so this is different). We have the Analecta for the years that Mr. Lougheed attended. He was called Pete then and he was a handsome and richly accomplished young man. His is a yearbook to be proud of. The photo above, is of his year on the Central Hockey team. (I like this one in particular because one of his teammates is a man that my father worked with and who lived next door to us when I was growing up.)

That year St. Joseph’s, a school in Edmonton, wanted to have an unofficial “Alberta Interscholastic Hockey Championship” and the only Calgary school that answered the call was Central. It was proposed that the two teams play a two-game, total-point series. St. Joseph’s took the first game, played April 11, 1947, 6-5. Pete Lougheed scored an unassisted goal late in the third, but it was not enough to push Central to victory. The next night Central came out shooting. Lougheed scored one in the second which helped Central score 8 goals to St. Joseph’s 5, giving Central the “mythical title” (as the Herald put it) of provincial high school hockey champs.

This is just one example of Pete Lougheed’s many accomplishments in high school. He lettered in Activities and Athletics in 1946, serving on student council (he was president in 1947), participating in Hi-Y, playing basketball, hockey and rugby, doing track, coaching football, working on the Analecta, and participating in Naval Cadets. His nickname was Chief. Prophetic, perhaps?

When I think of Peter Lougheed, I do so with affection. Although I’d met him only a few times, I felt I knew him, maybe that is how we all felt. Under his leadership, Alberta realized that it was a great province. Looking at his record of accomplishment in his youth, it is obvious he was destined for greatness, but perhaps that is because he did not see anything as impossible. It seemed nothing was beyond his capabilities. He made us feel that way about ourselves, about our province. That may be the greatest gift he has given us.

PC 1957

Central High School

Postcards from the Past, PC 1957

 

Maps, maps, maps

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Calg 4

Calgary, NWT, 1884

Community Heritage and Family History Map Collection CALG 4

In passing, in an earlier blog, I mentioned that we are undertaking a project which will digitize parts of the collection of maps that is held in the Community Heritage and Family History room. We have been looking forward to this day for a very long time, as maps are such great resources, but such awkward things to use. They are even more awkward to store, and this sometimes makes accessing them a bit of a fight. (Not that the fight isn’t worth it!)

Well, with our new project, cranky maps are going to be a thing of the past. We have digitized a small number of early Calgary maps, but, and this is a way better thing for a library-geek, we have entered the information on all of our maps, even the ones that aren’t digitized, into the database as well. What this means is that the entire collection can be searched by keyword and the date of the map shows up as well. This is a vast improvement over trying to find the maps by looking at the red duo-tang which held the list of maps (in no particular order) or by browsing the collection, which didn’t work either, as more than half the collection is not in the map cabinet at the front of the room. (I told you they were awkward to store!)

The upshot is that we hope to see many more users of our map collection and many more requests for particular maps. In my last blog entry I talked about how important maps can be to genealogists. Aside from the directory maps of rural areas, which include names of landowners, maps can tell their stories about the place and the people. When we do tours of the local history room for schools, I like to show a wonderful map we have from 1913 (the Harrison & Ponton map of the city – which is digitized on the site) and point out the wonderful names of the districts of Calgary: Deer Park, Silver Heights, Poplar Grove, and the location of the proposed university, just west of the Banff Motor Coach Road. This map tells a story about Calgary and the people in it. We were coming off one of the greatest booms in our history; we had annexed miles of land and laid out neighbourhoods for the coming population boom. We were determined to be a city of substance. We were going to have a university, just on the western edge of the city. So what happened? We don’t have a Silver Heights or a Poplar Bluff, or a Happyland for that matter. And we know that the university isn’t west of the Banff Coach Road. Well, just as we are today, we were a city with our eyes on the future. But the future was going to be a little further off than we thought, because by 1913 the boom that we are celebrating this year, with all the building that occurred in 1912, had bust. The city did not grow to be the huge, sprawling metropolis that we had anticipated in the early part of the 20th century. This is the story behind the map.

So, check out our map collection and let us know what you think. You can post a comment at the bottom of the page. And when you’ve found the map you’d like to see, come down and visit us on the 4th floor of the Central Library. We would love to take you on a tour of our delightful (yes, now it is delightful) map collection.

Our Mayor Launches Historic Calgary Week (and we launch a collection!)

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

 

Mayor Nenshi

Mayor Nenshi Proclaims Historic Calgary Week,

Photograph courtesy Val Jobson

It is here! Mayor Nenshi launched Historic Calgary Week this past Friday at the Southern Alberta Pioneers building. There are SO many interesting programs going on this week, I can’t decide where I want to go. Check out the brochure and join in on this celebration of our heritage.

So, because it is the annual celebration of our history, Calgary Public Library has launched our newest digitized collection - Historic Maps of Calgary and Alberta. Maps can be a fascinating way to look at the history of a city and its people and this collection highlights a sampling of historic Calgary maps that have been digitized from the Community Heritage and Family History's print map collection found in the Local History Room at the Central Library. The print map collection consists of hundreds of maps dating from the early 19th century and into to 21st. Below is a sample of one of the digitized maps:

Calg 4

 

Map showing Calgary in 1884

Community Heritage and Family History Map Collection, CALG 4

This map of Calgary N.W.T. shows locations and dates of early Calgary buildings and provides valuable insight into our city's history and development. For example, did you know that in 1884 the City Pound was across the street from where the Central Library is now?

 

Click here to see the collection, or find it through the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (under Books & More from our website)

To see the sample of digitized maps available online, click on Digitized Map link on the collections front page. You can also access information about the hundreds of actual maps in our collection; click on the Browse All tab at the top of the page. So while we work at getting more of the maps digitized and available, you can see the real thing in the Local History room on the fourth floor at the Central Library. And keep in mind, that if you have any questions about the maps or about history or genealogy, you can contact us via our Chat Reference, by email or by telephone at 403-260-2785.

100th Anniversary Stampede Parade - Yahoo!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1573

Cowboys and Cowgirls in 1912 Stampede Parade

Postcards from the Past, PC 1573

Well, it’s nearly here! The 100th anniversary Calgary Stampede begins with the parade on Friday. The parade is, for many, the most important part of the Stampede celebration. The streets are lined with thousands of folks, many of them dressed up in western regalia. The first Stampede parade I can remember was in 1965. Walt Disney was the parade marshal, and if I’m not mistaken, Mickey Mouse was here, too. I may have been at other, earlier, parades as my parents loved the Stampede and my dad’s office was right on the route. I wouldn’t have been one yet when Bing Crosby was parade marshal, but I bet my parents took me to that one – they were Bing Crosby fans. I don’t remember the Three Stooges, but I bet I was at that one, too as my brother was a die-hard fan.

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Bing Crosby, Parade Marshall, 1959

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 34-06

My favourites were always the marching bands and the mini-cars. Those seemed to be pretty standard over the years. I live near a wide open field so I get a sneak preview of some of the marching bands as they practice (at 9:00 in the morning on the weekends, mind you). My other faves were the First Nations representatives who have been an integral part of the Stampede since the beginning. And with the 100th anniversary Stampede parade, the chiefs of the Treaty Seven Nations are going to be honourary parade marshals. It is going to be something, I tell ya.

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First Nations People in Traditional Dress in Stampede Parade, undated

Postcards from the Past, PC 593

I believe that everybody, even those of us with curmudgeonly tendencies, loves a parade. And it seemed that in the days before we were inundated with entertainment options, parades were a very common event. Military bands paraded up and down the streets, returning soldiers paraded through the city, there was a parade on the opening of baseball season, (for which the mayor had declared a half-day off for the city). There were Victory Bond parades, which included floats and fire eaters supplied by Cappy Smart and the fire department. It seems that on any excuse, a parade was held. This must have been a very interesting time. Some of the fanciest parades, pre - Stampede, were for the Dominion Exhibitions that were held here. The postcard below is a photo of a Roman chariot in the parade for the Dominion Exhibition of 1908.

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Roman Chariot on 8th Avenue, possibly part of an historic parade

Dominion Exhibition, 1908(?)

Postcards from the Past, PC 868

So, the parade itself is a nostalgic event, from a time when you could just get up a bunch of yahoos and march down the street for any good reason. I like that. Let’s bring that spirit to the 100th Anniversary Stampede Parade and get your yahoos out.

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Start of the 50th Anniversary Stampede Parade, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 63-15

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