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Horses, horses, horses

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 324f

Guy Weadick, Organizer and Manager of the STAMPEDE, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 324f

The Calgary Stampede has announced its plans for the big centennial celebration in 2012 and I am thrilled to say that the party will include “Together we create” which will showcase the horse. It is only fitting that these magnificent animals will play an important part in the Stampede Centennial.

I love horses. They have always been the highlight of the Stampede for me. I’m not really a midway fan and though I enjoy the spectacular stage shows and all of the hoopla that goes with the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, it is always the horses that draw me to the grounds. I try to catch the heavy horse and cutting horse competitions and I always visit the barns to see who is there. I am a city girl, and have never owned a horse (or really wanted to) but I do appreciate the intelligence and the grace of these big animals. I heard a man once describe them as being like big dogs, meaning that you develop the same kind of bond with a horse, that they are loyal and loving and smart. That certainly has been my experience of them.

While cruising through our postcard collection here, I came across a series of wonderful postcards showing Alberta Slim (Eric Edwards), Canada’s Yodeling Cowboy. The photos show Slim and his horse Kitten (named for his beloved childhood pony) who, it is said, could tell fortunes and perform any number of tricks (see the photo below). In addition to the photos, we have Alberta Slim song books in our Local History collection.

More trivia: Did you know that we have a national horse? The Canadian is a breed that had its origins in the horses that were sent to Quebec by Louis XIV in the 17th Century. The breed was used to develop other North American breeds such as the Morgan and the Tennessee Walking Horse. It is a multi-purpose breed that was used in logging, pulling coaches and for riding. Strong, smart and easygoing (just like the rest of us Canadians) it was named the official horse of Canada in 2002. I saw this beautiful breed at Horse Haven at the Stampede last year (See, I do spend a lot of time in the horse barns). Let’s celebrate the horse!

Alberta Slim and Kitten

Postcards from the Past, PC 1559c

PC 1559c

Lest we Forget: Researching Military Ancestors

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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IODE War Memorial in Memorial Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1478

The Military keeps excellent records. Some of them they won’t let you see, but some of them are rich with detail for the family historian. We are privileged at Calgary Public Library, to be included in a project with Library and Archives Canada called ‘Lest we Forget.’ The aim of this project is to commemorate those who gave their lives in the service of their country. Students are given the opportunity to use primary source material (some of those wonderful records created by the military about their men and women) and tell the story of a member of Canada’s Armed Forces who died. Students can get the names of people they would like to research in a number of places – on cenotaphs, in the Books of Remembrance (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/collections/books) the Virtual War Memorial http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/collections/virtualmem) or through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://www.cwgc.org/debt_of_honour.asp?menuid=14)

There are also resources for research closer to home. Many schools have plaques dedicated to their students who served in the military; churches also have memorials to their members who died in war. I have found lists of the war dead in company histories and in the histories of towns and communities, many of which we have in our Community Heritage and Family History collection. And that is just the beginning.

The next step in the students’ research is to look at the personnel records of their chosen person. These are available online at Library and Archives Canada for members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I ( http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/cef/index-e.html ) and can be requested for those who died in World War II. Of course there are other military service records, many of which can be viewed at the Central Library (for example, some mercenary soldiers came to Canada after the American Revolution and put down roots. We have lists of these soldiers in our genealogy collection – weird, eh?)

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Of course there are tons of other records that can be accessed if you have military ancestors. You can find out some of what is available for your own research in the following sources:

Canadians at War, 1914-1918, a research guide

Index to Canadian Service Records of the South African War

Tracing your Army Ancestors

And that doesn’t even begin to touch the resources that are available for “putting the flesh on the bones” so to speak - the resources that can tell us what it was like to serve in the war. These are available online and at the library. We have an extensive collection of books and resources relating to the Canadian military. There are also resources at the Military Museums, the Regimental museums and the University of Calgary.

If you are a teacher and are interested in having your class participate in the “Lest We Forget” program, please contact me, Christine Hayes, at email

If you are interested in learning more about researching your own military ancestors, keep our Family History Coaching program in mind. On the last Saturday of every month (except December) from September to June at 10:00 we have two coaches from the Alberta Family Histories Society on site to help genealogists with their questions. We also have knowledgeable staff available at all times to help with any and all questions related to genealogy (and anything else Humanities related)

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Six Soldiers in Calgary, 1916?

Postcards from the Past, PC 569

Bye Bye Ogden Grain Elevator

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

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Ogden Grain Elevator, 1974

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1185

Sometimes even the ugliest structures evoke a feeling of nostalgia. I felt very sad when the Robin Hood elevator came down in 1973. It had been a landmark from my childhood – I liked to see the jaunty Robin as we made our way downtown. I was impressed that he was also on our flour bag at home. Nice, warm fuzzy for such a cold, concrete structure, eh? Its destruction netted 27,000 tonnes of rubble that was cleared away to make room for the new Gulf Canada Square. Admittedly, there is not much that can be done with huge concrete tubes, in the way of repurposing, but it is still sad to see these landmarks go.

The Odgen Federal Grain Elevator had that effect on a many people, as well. No less a person than Le Corbusier discussed the Dominion Grain elevators in his publicationToward an Architecture. He speaks of them as “not pursuing an architectural idea, but simply guided by the results of calculations (derived from the principles that govern our universe)… [they] stir in us architectural emotions, thus making the work of humanity resonate with the universal order.” (p. 106). Well, I guess that explains it. I was responding to the universal order when I cried at the loss of Robin Hood (I’m going to go with that explanation, it sounds like I know what I’m talking about). The illustrations of the elevators included in Toward an Architecture were considered so beautiful (or something) that they were reproduced as postcards. Years later, Yousuf Karsh would photograph similar elevators in Port Arthur, treating them, he said “just like cathedrals.”

The Ogden Elevator had an interesting history. Normally these huge concrete terminals were built in port cities. The prairie elevator, with which we are all familiar, was the tall wooden structure situated every five or so miles along the rail line. Those elevators, the prairie sentinels, definitely evoke warm fuzzy feelings. But the Dominion Elevators were designed for the much larger volumes of terminals and ports. The Dominion/Federal/Ogden elevator was designed by C.D. Howe and built in 1915 by the Dominion government to work in conjunction with similar elevators in Saskatoon and Moose Jaw, as well as with port terminals such as Port Arthur, Vancouver and Port Nelson. It would provide storage and cleaning facilities for 2.5 million bushels of Alberta grain and act as the shipping centre to the ports. It was a marvel of construction for its time. It was powered by electricity from the City of Calgary, channeled through a substation on the site to power the 53 engines required to work the machinery; there was a state of the art dust collection system installed and it could handle the loading of 36 railcars per hour. It cost one million dollars to build this massive concrete structure. It was such a wonder that it featured in a publication put together to promote business development in Calgary.

But what do you do with 56 cement silos? It was no longer efficient to run the elevator and its location in the heart of the city made it difficult for farmers to get their grain there. The Calgary Heritage Authority has been working with the owners of the site and has photographically recorded the interior and exterior of the building so there will be a record of its existence. But the old gal herself is gone. I read it took six seconds to bring her down.

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Robin Hood Flour Mills

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1265

It's Heritage Weekend Time Again!

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Heritage Weekend 007Stephen Avenue Then...and Now

It is once again time for our Heritage Weekend. We had a wonderful turnout last year and are looking forward to seeing even more folks down here on Friday September 23 and Saturday September 24. This weekend features a great line-up of people who are involved in the heritage community in Calgary and the talks and programs promise to be interesting and thought-provoking.

We are going to start the weekend off on Friday evening at 5:30 when we will host another Heritage Matters program on the main floor of the library (and after-hours, too, so you can see what happens after the customers go home!) The topic will be “The Convergence of the World in the Last Frontier” by Matthew Siddons, a recent Urban Studies grad. He will discuss the contributions of several different cultural groups to the heritage of Calgary.

On Saturday, join us in the Dutton Theatre for displays, discussions, films and more. We will be hearing about the British Commonwealth Air Training Program, Calgary’s historic resource evaluation system, medical history and how heritage groups are communicating in the age of Twitter. We are also hosting Reel History at lunch time. We will show short documentaries relating to the history and heritage of Calgary and Southern Alberta. Although this year we won’t have the clack-clack of the actual film projector, this still promises to be a diverting lunch time pursuit so bring your brown bag and join us. As part of the "festivities" we are also launching a new season of Family History Coaching. Volunteers from the Alberta Family Histories Society will be on the 4th floor in the genealogy area from 10-12 on Saturday to help you with your genealogical challenges. (This program is a drop-in so you don't need to register in advance - but we ask that you register for the other programs, please.)

The final program of the weekend will be a tribute to the great historian Hugh Dempsey, on the publication of his memoirs Always an adventure. In the heritage community Hugh Dempsey is an icon. He has been a great author, advocate and mentor and there will be many people at the Dutton Theatre who want to congratulate him on his exemplary career and his latest publication. Please drop by and offer your best wishes to this legendary historian. (This is also a drop-in program so you really can just pop on by).

Always an adventure by Hugh Dempsey

You can register online at http://calgarypubliclibrary.com/services/programs-events/register-for-programs or by calling 403-260-2620.

We hope to see you there.

The Heritage Triangle

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Heritage Triangle

Part of the reason we are so happy to be staying in the East Village is that we will still be smack dab in the middle of a very important group of heritage partners. Some years ago we formalized our association with our near neighbours and history colleagues, the City of Calgary Archives and the Glenbow Museum, Library and Archives. We call ourselves the Heritage Triangle, because within the radius of a couple of blocks there sit three very valuable repositories of information for researchers. (Once we move, the triangle may need to be renamed – maybe we’ll become the Heritage Line or the Heritage Ellipse) In the few years we have been actively collaborating, our affiliation has been very productive. We never hesitate to take advantage of our partners, in the best way of course. Each of us has wonderful and unique stuff and while we may covet just a little, we have also gotten to know the people and the collections so well that we know where to send researchers if we don’t have what they need. This is a very efficient and effective way to operate and it provides a very good service to our customers.

Each of the organizations involved in the triangle has its own different and interesting stuff. Among the Glenbow’s many strengths are an amazing collection of personal papers from individuals and families in Calgary and area, extensive data on Metis genealogy and an unrivalled collection of historic photographs of Calgary and Southern Alberta. They also have an outstanding map collection as well as directories from many different locales. You can visit the Glenbow site and see some of what they have to offer at www.glenbow.org.

Next door to us is the City of Calgary Archives (officially, the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives.) Their mandate is to acquire, preserve and protect civic documents. Civic documents are the papers of people and departments of the City and its predecessors and organizations and individuals that have a close affiliation with the City. These can be of great value to researchers as they are the primary source materials for the administrative history of the city. The strengths of the City Archives collection include records relating to building research, such as records of tax assessments; records of official representatives of the municipal government such as mayors and aldermen/councilors and a whole swack of documents relating to the Calgary Winter Olympics. You can find the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives online by going to the new, user friendly City of Calgary website (www.calgary.ca) and searching for Archives.

We here at Calgary Public Library are the last (but not least) leg of the Heritage Triangle. We have a wonderful collection of material in our Community Heritage and Family History Collection that is just waiting for you to explore. There is great material for historic research in other departments as well, such as our government documents collection on the 3rd floor. Some of the items in our collection are a complete run of Calgary Henderson’s Directories and telephone directories, an extensive collection of local histories of Southern Alberta towns, historic newspapers, a complete collection of Canadian Census on microfilm as well as three great photograph collections, available online through our website. We also have a great staff who are always available to help you – and I can say that for our partners as well, having worked with them as a colleague and as a researcher.

You can see the Heritage Triangle brochure through the link right next to this posting or by going to http://tinyurl.com/3b4soch Do come down and visit us – ignore the construction – we would be delighted to see you.

8th Avenue SE

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1331

Stephen Avenue

More Good News for East Village (and a tangent on the brutalist style)

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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East Village from Bow Valley College

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection, JU 030518-4

By now you know I am passionate about my adopted neighbourhood. I love the East Village and I am so excited about the developments that are taking place down here. You have all probably heard that our new Central Library will be down here in the Village and I saw on the news today that Bow Valley College had purchased the old Calgary Catholic Board of Education building which is just across 6th Avenue from us. This is yet another expression of the optimism that many Calgarians feel for the future of this area.

The Calgary Catholic School District building is relatively new, in heritage terms, but it does carry a great deal of sentiment. It was built in 1967 to commemorate the country’s centennial. A few years later, to celebrate the city’s centennial 10,000 students were asked to make terra cotta tiles. These were mounted on an obelisk that stands on the grounds of the building. The CSSD has indicated that they will be preserving and moving the obelisk. The CSSD building has been at the centre of some debate as it is one of the few surviving examples of brutalist architecture in Calgary. Other examples include the building’s neighbor, the Calgary Board of Education building, and the former planetarium (Telus World of Science). The Catholic School District building was a part of an earlier attempt to revitalize the east end of Calgary, a process called “urban renewal” (which is nearly a swear word in the heritage community.) Many buildings of historical interest went down to build these brutalist beauties and now they, themselves face the wrecking ball. But it is ever thus. What is seen now, as an eyesore – as were many of the old houses in the east end (as the area was known) may be viewed differently in the future.

The talk now of brutalist architecture raises some of these same questions. Brutalism lives up to its name because it is quite brutal on the eyes – no one could argue that these concrete structures are traditionally beautiful. In fact, it was the brutalist style that Prince Charles was referring to when he said, “You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe: when it knocked down our buildings it did not replace them with anything more offensive than rubble. We did that.” It is hard to generate love for something that is unattractive – think pandas versus gila monsters – but it is something we must consider when we are looking at buildings. If you are interested in brutalism you can find good books on architectural styles in the library catalogue by searching “architectural styles” in the general search. If you’re particularly interested in Calgary’s buildings, you can search “Calgary architecture”. And if you’d like to see some of Calgary’s brutalist architecture up close and personal, the Calgary Heritage Initiative is going to be holding another “Brutal Bus Tour” in November. Check out their website for more information.

Historic Calgary Week, 2011

by Christine Hayes - 3 Comment(s)

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Eighth Avenue West

Postcards from the Past, PC 712f

It’s that time of year again. Chinook Country Historical Society’s Historic Calgary Week kicks off on Friday. This year the theme is Trails and Tales and, believe me, are there ever some great stories waiting to be told. The opening ceremonies are at the Southern Alberta Pioneers Memorial building at 3625 4 Street SW at 9:45 am and what follows is eleven days of tours, stories, presentations, songs and over all celebration of this city’s history. There is an excellent line-up this year including our presentation of “Lest we forget” in which we will talk a little about the military heritage of the city and show you some of the very neat things we have for anyone doing research about the military in Calgary or about an ancestor who served with the military. This one is proving to be quite a challenge for us to pull together because we have SO MUCH STUFF! It’s amazing what you find when you start looking. Even though I’ve been working with the collection for eons (literally, I’m a dinosaur) I always find new bits and pieces when I start one of these projects. Our program goes July 27 at 6:00 here at the Central Library.

Another presentation that I am looking forward to is the talk by Brian Brennan on the history of the Calgary Public Library. Brian has written the history of the library for our centennial celebration next year. I always love to hear Brian talk and the subject of this particular presentation is near and dear to my heart. This presentation is at the Memorial Park Library, our very first Central Library (1221 2nd Street SW) on Tuesday July 26 at 7:00. This is going to be a treat.

There is also going to be a tour of another proud centenarian, our old City Hall. Clint Robertson, one of the city’s Heritage Planners, is going to tell us about the architecture of old sandstone beauty and show us some of the changes that have been made over the years. He will also take us into the City of Calgary Archives. For any of you who are history geeks like me, you have to see what is in the archives. The staff there are the greatest and they have even cooler stuff than we do (well, mostly – our stuff is still pretty cool). City Archives are our partners, along with Glenbow, in the Heritage Triangle (see our brochure) and is a necessary visit for researchers and the history-curious.

John Gilpin will also be giving a talk on the Elbow River and the waterworks question at noon on Monday July 25 at Central United Church. I’ve heard John talk and he is like the Local History Room, just packed with fascinating bits of historical information.

Also on the agenda are two programs for the genealogically inclined offered by the Alberta Family Histories Society at their library at 712 16th Avenue NW. They will be offering a Genealogy 101 course for those interested in getting started in their family history and they will present “Here’s looking up your address” on Thursday July 28 at 7:00.

Clayton Buck, the indefatigable promoter of this great neighbourhood we are in (East Village) is giving a walking tour of the Village on Sunday July 31. The CHA is giving a tour of Mount Royal, CHI is doing a tour of West Connaught and the Beltline, Mount Royal University is talking about its centennial history, Southern Alberta Pioneers are giving talks about some of the early denizens of the Calgary area, Harry Sanders, another fascinating speaker, is talking about his passion, early hotels of Calgary...the list goes on and on. I wish I could list more but I’m running out of space. You really have to check out the Historic Calgary Week brochure. You can find it at http://www.chinookcountry.org/ Most programs are free, although donations are always gratefully accepted, and most don’t require registration (although there are a few exceptions, due to space limitations – these are noted in the brochure)

Keep an eye out, we will be attending as many of these events as we can fit in – come by and say ‘Hi!’

I.O.D.E. War Memorial in Central Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1478

PC 1478

Old City Hall turns 100

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Artist's rendition of proposed Calgary City Hall, 1909

Postcards from the Past, PC 221

The early part of the 20th century was a time of great optimism, not just here, but all over the world. In Calgary, that optimism was expressed in a population boom and the resulting building boom. As a result, for us here in the 21st century, there are a lot of anniversaries to celebrate. As everyone knows (;-) the Calgary Public Library is turning 100 years old on the 1st of January 2012. But another icon of the city, our beautiful sandstone City Hall turned 100 this year. It was officially opened on June 26, 1911 by the leader of the opposition, then the Conservatives, Robert Borden. That night he gave a speech at Sherman’s auditorium, where “questions of interest to Canadians” would be discussed. “Ladies,” the advertisement read, “are cordially invited.”

In order to build the sandstone building, the old city hall had to be torn down. A lament for the old building was published in the Herald in Wee Willie’s column. “They’re tearing down the old brown barn, which many people call, the poorest thing that ever held, the name of city hall. No more the filthy daily drunk, will call the place his home; no more cockroaches, beetles, rats will through its limits roam,” he wrote, concluding with “but though they may tear down the walls, destroy an earthly hell, there is a thing they cannot do—They can’t destroy the smell.” (Calgary Daily Herald, February 8, 1911, p.8) Must have been some place!

Anyway, back on track, the new city hall was built at a cost of around $300,000 which was double the original estimate. (You can imagine the political fallout from that-probably akin to the current issue in parliament surrounding the cost of fighter jets.) The sandstone came from the Bone and Oliver quarry up on what is now 17th Avenue SW. The clock in the tower was ordered through D.E. Black Jewellers and cost nearly $4000. The building has weathered the years well. It was given an exterior restoration when the municipal building was built in the 1980s and an extensive interior restoration from 1995-1997.

If you haven’t been inside this building, you should go have a look. It is quite beautiful and one of only seven original city halls still standing in Canada. We should be proud that we have kept the old girl.

Here is the link to a video, in which Heritage Planner, Clint Robertson, talks about the history of the building and the opportunities for Calgarians to take a tour of the building and the City Archives (housed in the 1962 addition next door) http://www.calgarycitynews.com/2011/02/old-city-hall-to-turn-100-this-year.html#

We also have a large number of photographs and postcards of City Hall in our Community Heritage and Family History Collection. We also have all kinds of information in the Local History room on the 4th floor of the Central Library. Come by, maybe after your tour of Old City Hall. We’re right next door.

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Entrance to City Hall, 1966

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 1060

Doors Open Calgary

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Crest on the wall of Lougheed House

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0358

Here is a novel way to explore your city. In October, Doors Open Calgary will invite you in to see what goes on behind the scenes in some of Calgary’s familiar landmarks. So those of us who are curious (or just plain nosy) will get to see behind the facades into the innards of buildings of historical, cultural, social or architectural significance. Participants can gain an intimate feel for a place – a kind of "warts and all" affection. This intimacy can work toward fostering a sense of caring and stewardship for heritage in our communities.

Doors Open was a concept launched in France in 1984. The idea was to give people a chance to see, for free, an inside view of significant buildings in their city, some of which might not normally be open to the public. It was take up by other European countries and in 1999 it came to Toronto, the first North American city to embrace the idea. From an idea for a millennium celebration, it has expanded to an annual event and has spread to other communities in Canada.

Doors Open Calgary started in 2003, with 10 venues on their list. Participants got to see behind the scenes at the Municipal Building, the Saddledome and Haultain School. The next year, 2004, had 32 venues for interested visitors to check out. They are currently looking for organizations that would like to make their sites available for Doors Open in October. On Saturday February 26 they are having a demo event at the magnificent Lougheed House (707 13th Avenue SW). You will be taken along “secret ways” and will be able to explore the archives. You can register for this preview at this site: http://www.doorsopencalgary.com/index.htm

I can vouch for the feeling you get when you know a building’s intimate secrets. The Lougheed House has been doing a Doors Open-like event every year, the Ride Through Time. I have participated for several years and now feel that Lougheed House is like an old pal. I have seen her less glamorous side and love her all the more for it.

This year, Doors Open Calgary will take place on October 15th and 16th so mark your calendars. If you want to find out more or would like to participate, all that information is on their website at www.doorsopencalgary.com.

Of course, if you’d like to do some exploring of the lovely outsides of Calgary’s landmarks, you can always visit our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (link at the left). It’s a good way to start your exploration of the city’s heritage.

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Beaulieu (Lougheed House), 1956

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 0001

Cow Town/Punk Town

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Album Cover

The Golden Calgarians - It's Fun to Be Alive

From the Author's Collection

I may be showing my age here, but punk rock meant a lot to me. I had the misfortune to have missed golden era of counter-culture rock, I was still a pup when The Beatles broke up and the Rolling Stones had gone all “Emotional Rescue” on us. We were mired in glittering lights and Saturday Night Fever. But then my brother came home from university with a bootleg Ramones tape and my life gained new meaning.

I was lucky that I lived in Calgary. Young people are often shocked to learn that conservative old Calgary was once a hotbed of punk music. We saw the best bands and we produced some of the great Canadian punk rock bands. Do you remember The Golden Calgarians? The keyboardist from that band will be coming to talk about this city’s punk rock past. With him will be Lori Hahnel, local author and founding member of the all-girl band The Virgins. She will read from her novel, Nothing Sacred, which draws on her punk rock background and evokes very vivid memories of that time and place.

Because punk was a new kind of music, perceived to be violent and anti-establishment, a lot of the venues available for shows were the older, seedier hotels such as The Calgarian, The New Noble and The National. Kids with Mohawks and multiple piercings would invade the space occupied by the old fellers and good ole boys. I gained an appreciation for the old hotels and their gloomy bars and probably spent more time in them than was healthy. Maybe it was this that led to my interest in old buildings? (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Cow Town/Punk Town is just one of the many programs we are offering on our Heritage Weekend, November 6 and 7, at the Central Library. Check it out on our website http://calgarypubliclibrary.com/programs.aspx - just type ‘heritage weekend’ into the keywords search and you will pull up all the programs we are offering. You can also register in person at your local library branch or by telephone at 403-260-2620. Hope to see you there.

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Calgarian Hotel

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, detail from AJ 1326

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