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  • Oct 15 - The Empress of Ireland - This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland. Her legacy in Canadian immigration lives on
  • Oct 7 - World War I Remembered - Calgary Public Library is offering some great programs to commemorate the start of WWI
  • Sep 30 - The Cecil Hotel - The Cecil Hotel is in the news again and its not looking good for the old fella
  • Sep 23 - Fall is the Season for Heritage Programs - There are a lot of very cool heritage events taking place over the next few weeks
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Onoto Watanna

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

We were very lucky this week to have a visit from our new writer-in-residence, Gail Bowen. Logically, since she is a fiction writer from western Canada, we pointed out our pride and joy, the fiction collection in the Local History room. This got us to thinking, do people even know we have a fiction collection in the Local History Room? So we thought we would write a few blog entries on the novels that we have collected over the years. The collection is unique; the novels we house here reflect Calgary and Southern Alberta in some way (set in Calgary or southern Alberta, for example). There are many different and interesting authors represented. Our librarian’s fave is Onoto Watanna, also known as Winnifred Eaton Babcock Reeve and when she told me her story I knew I had to share it.

Winnifred Eaton was born either in 1875 or 1879 (she wasn’t always candid about that particular detail) in Montreal to a Chinese mother and an American Onoto Watanna book cover father. Her mother was either a missionary or a tightrope walker (again, kind of hazy on the details) but in any case Winnifred published a story at 13 (or 15 – again, hazy) and was bitten by the bug. She went to New York to pursue her writing career, but knew she needed a hook to get people to read her books. Her sister had already capitalized on her heritage by publishing stories about Chinese immigrants under the pen name Sui Sin Far. Winnifred, possibly wanting to avoid the prejudices directed against the Chinese at the time, reinvented herself as Japanese and embarked on a writing career that would lead her to Hollywood and, yes, Calgary Alberta.

Winnifred’s novel A Japanese Nightingale was very well received. Many editions were published and it was translated into a number of languages. She wrote at least a dozen Japanese themed novels and numerous short stories and became quite well known. Divorced from her first husband, she met and married Francis Reeve, a businessman, who persuaded Winnifred to start a new life with him in western Canada. They moved to BowView Ranch, near Morley. Winnifred loved the country but needed the buzz of “big city” life to enable her to write, so she took rooms in Calgary and, in 1923, turned her skills to writing about her new home. Her novel Cattle was not well received by her American readers, but was acclaimed in Canada as a great novel. When Frank’s farm started to fail, Winnifred headed to California to find work. She spent seven years in Hollywood as a screenwriter, specializing in adapting stories for the screen. Among her works was “Showboat”. Winnifred returned to Calgary in 1932 and moved into a home at 801 Royal Avenue in Mount Royal. She remained here until her death. Both she and her husband are buried in Queen’s Park Cemetery. Frank eventually regained his fortune and established a charitable foundation, the Francis F. Reeve Foundation, as a memorial to his wife. The Reeve Theatre at the University of Calgary is named in their honour. Winnifred’s papers are at the University of Calgary. The Local History Collection at the Calgary Public Library holds several of her novels, including a signed edition of Miss Nume of Japan. If you are interested in finding out more about this fascinating woman, her granddaughter has written a biography of her called a Onoto Watanna: The Story of Winnifred Eaton and we have a file of clippings both by and about her in the Local History room.

From Aalborg to Zip: A Look at the Library’s Biography Clippings Files

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 841

Newspaper Office, Daysland Alberta

Postcards from the Past, PC 841

Newspaper articles are a great resource when conducting genealogical and historical research. Not only can newspaper articles be a source of biographical information for a specific person - such as his or her date of birth or death, marital status, or profession - but they can also provide a snapshot of the public opinion of that person at a specific point in time.

It is very easy to search for newspaper articles from The Calgary Herald in Canadian Newsstand (an electronic database available through Calgary Public Library’s E-Library). Simply enter the name of the person you are researching into the search box and the database will retrieve relevant full-text articles. Unfortunately newspaper articles published prior to 1988 are not indexed in this database, which means that researchers looking for older articles need to manually scroll through the library’s collection microfilmed copies of The Calgary Herald (August 31, 1883 - current) to find relevant articles. However, if you are looking for newspaper articles on a notable person (for example, a sports figure, an artist, a businessperson, etc.) from Calgary or Southern Alberta, I would recommend checking the library’s biography clippings files collection.

We are in the process of adding records for the biography clippings files to the library catalogue, so I have had the chance to look through the files to see the wealth of information that can be gleaned about a person from newspaper articles. For instance, did you know that former Prime Minister Richard Bedford Bennett had a sweet-tooth? According to “The Death of A Great Canadian,” an article which appeared in the June 28, 1947 edition of The Calgary Herald, Bennett was so fond of candy that “when doctors advised cutting down his consumption of candy, he took to hiding chocolates in drawers, filing cabinets, and behind books on the bookshelves, where conscientious secretaries wouldn’t find and confiscate the forbidden sweets.” The biography files are also extremely useful when a formal biography has not been written on a person. For example, I wanted to know more about Nelson Skalbania, the man who brought the Flames hockey team to Calgary, but no formal biography has been written about him; I was able to learn more about his business dealings through the articles in his biography file though.

You can search for biography files in the library catalogue by entering the name of the person you are looking for and the phrase PAM FILE i.e. Hansen AND PAM FILE. We have not yet gotten the chance to enter in all of the biography clippings files, so do not worry if you cannot find a file for a well-known person from Calgary or Southern Alberta in the catalogue: we most likely have one! Please come visit us at the Reference Desk on the 4th Floor (Humanities) at the Central Library, we have a master list of biography clippings files that we can check for you. We would love to help you with your questions!

I hope that you take advantage of this great resource; you never know what you could discover about a notable person from the newspaper articles in his/her biography clippings file!

When Irish Eyes are....Calgarian?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 83-14

Burns Block, 1964

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 83-14

The Scottish origins of Calgary’s heritage are quite obvious. We have Macleods and Macdougalls and Lougheeds aplenty. Even the name “Calgary” is taken from a Scottish place on the Isle of Mull. What many people don’t realize is that Calgary had its Irish contingent as well. Many well known people in Calgary’s past have an Irish background and, given that Wednesday is St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going to tell you a little about a couple of the notable Irishmen that helped build this city.

The first and probably most famous is Patrick Burns. He was a man of humble origins, born Patrick O’Byrne near Kirkfield Ontario. A note on the census record for a town near Kirkfield in 1851 says that “the Gaelic is the general language spoken, the greater part of the people understand English particularly the young people. In some cases I was forced to hire an interpreter which cost me one pound.”

Burns came to Calgary, via Minnedosa Manitoba, in about 1890, when the Calgary-Edmonton Railway was under construction. Pat’s friend from his childhood, William McKenzie, had turned to him to provision the railway workers.

He’d only been here a short while before he set up his abattoir east of the Elbow, near Calgary Brewing and Malting. By 1903 he had moved into his beautiful mansion on 13th Avenue SW. By 1911 the Burns Building had been constructed. By 1912, Burns and his buddies had funded the first Calgary Stampede. Pat Burns died in 1937 and left his huge estate in trust to the Burns Memorial Fund, created to help children “reach their full potential.”

If you’re interested in Pat Burns and his contributions to Calgary, there is an excellent book by Grant MacEwan, Pat Burns: Cattle King available at the Calgary Public Library. You can also view pictures of the many buildings and businesses owned by Pat Burns in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. Just search using the name Burns.

The second Irishman whose efforts helped make the city what it is today is John Glenn. He was born in 1833 in County Mayo, Ireland and rattled around England and the United States before finding his home where Fish Creek met the Bow River. When he settled there in 1875 he became one of the first European settlers in this area. He sold his original farm to Edgar Dewdney, the Indian Commissioner, in 1879 and moved to the south side of Fish Creek near the Macleod Trail crossing. He was one of the first farmers, along with neighbour Sam Livingston, to cultivate a cereal crop in the district. He was also responsible for the first irrigation system on the prairies which he shared with his neighbour Sam Shaw, who also used the irrigation system to operate his woolen mill.

John Glenn contributed the land for the building of St. Paul’s Anglican Church near Midnapore. This was in spite of the fact that Glenn was a Catholic. When the Catholics of the area wanted to build a church, it was John Glenn’s son, Patrick, who donated the land right beside St. Paul’s for the Catholic St. Patrick’s Church.

John Glenn was also a pioneer investor. When the CPR was selling lots for the townsite of Calgary in 1883, Glenn was the first to purchase. He built the Frontier Livery Stable, which was then the largest in the city, as well as two other buildings. When he died as the result of an accident in 1886 he left an estate valued at $2600. John Glenn was remembered as a charitable and hospitable man whose name was to be found on many a charitable subscription list in and around Calgary. The Glennfield picnic area in Fish Creek Park is named in memory of John and his wife Adelaide. Information about the Glenn family can be found in the Community Heritage and Family History Collection at the Calgary Public Library by searching the catalogue with the subject “John Glenn Calgary” (so you won’t get books about the astronaut). In particular, the DeWinton and area history book From Sodbusting to Subdivision has a lot of information.

There were many, many more Irish folk who came to Calgary and left their mark. These are only two of those notable sons and daughters of Eire. Slainte!

East Village

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1375

Calgary Public Market, 3rd Street between 3rd and 4th Avenue SE

Postcards from the Past, PC 1375

I was recently asked by the publisher of the East Village View to write an article about the site on which Booker’s B.B.Q. is standing. I was happy to do this as the East Village is my second home. I have worked in this neighbourhood for all of my adult life and I love this place. It has changed so much, but there are still stories to be told about the residents and the buildings. The East Village View is our community newsletter and part of its mandate is to bring these stories to the residents. We have copies of the newsletter in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library, if you would like to have a look at them.

Writing about the Booker’s site allowed me to tell the stories of a bunch of interesting people who made their mark down here. Booker’s stands at 316 3 Street SE just across the street from the Cecil Hotel. The current building was built in 1956, following a massive Christmas Eve fire in 1954 that destroyed the original Calgary Public Market building that was on the site.

The Calgary Public Market had been built in 1914 in response to consumer concerns over poor quality and lack of competition. It was a pet project of Annie Gale, who was the first woman “alderperson” in the British Empire. The building to house the market was built in 1915 (see the picture above) and it was immediately filled with vendors. It was a public utility until 1925. Even after that it continued to function as a market. It was purchased in 1946 by Sam Sheinin, who had been manager of the public market and had bought the building as a home for his businesses. He had operated various businesses on the site, Home-Del Foods, Calgary Cold Storage and Sheinin’s Live and Dressed Poultry. Sheinin rebuilt and operated his businesses until 1959. By 1960 the Alberta Poultry Marketers Co-Operative had moved in. They operated from the site until 1960.

By 1972 the chickens were out and the “chicks” moved in. The Betty Shop, which seemed to be in every mall in the city when I was growing up, had its warehouse there. The Betty Shop was owned and managed by Lena Hanen. She was the daughter of a Rabbi, the wife of a successful businessman and the mother of Harry Hanen, the man who gave us the +15 system. She was also a very astute businesswoman and, by all accounts, a great boss. By the time of her death in 1979 she employed over 1000 people in 40 stores in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Lena’s family seems to have owned the building until 1985 when the Kingfisher restaurant opened its doors. The Kingfisher was famous for its owner, Sandy Cruikshank, and his “Tuesdays with Webster” discussions. In the late 1990s it changed hands again and became Booker’s.

This part of the city has a fascinating heritage, one which I am very proud to be a part of. If you are interested in researching your corner of the city, come down to the Community Heritage and Family History room in the Central Library. We’d be glad to see you.

Kolb's Restaurant

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 987

Kolb's Restaurant (Western Canada's Most Sanitary Building)

Postcards from the Past, PC 987

This year, once again, we were thrilled to be asked to prepare a presentation for Historic Calgary Week. We love to be a part of this great celebration of our city’s history for many reasons, not the least of which is the chance we get to use some of our great photo collections to tell stories of the history of the city and province. This year we presented a history of immigration and settlement in Alberta and we included a brief history of postcards in that presentation.

One of the aspects of postcards that we looked at was their use as advertising tools. We picked the one in this entry because we thought it was kind of funny that a restaurant would advertise itself as having the most “sanitary restaurant building.” What we didn’t know at the time was the fascinating history of the man who owned that restaurant, Eddie Kolb.

Edward William “Eddie” Kolb was born in 1880 in Cincinnati. He was a baseball fanatic but his team, the Cleveland Spiders, was widely acknowledged to be the worst team in baseball (a title they still hold.)

The story goes that the last game of the season, the 2nd game of a doubleheader after a season where they had lost 134 games, a hotel cigar boy named Eddie Kolb was given a shot at pitching for his team in exchange for a box of cigars. He gave up 19 runs. Thus began and ended the major league baseball career of Eddie Kolb.

It didn’t dampen his enthusiasm, however, and he continued his involvement in baseball. Eventually, though, Eddie ended up in Calgary and opened a successful restaurant two doors down from the Palace Theatre. He ran this restaurant for 22 years until the Great Depression. Jeffrey Williams, in his book Far From Home: A Memoir of a 20th Century Soldier“ tells the rest of the story:

“The staff at Eaton’s included several who would not have been there but for the Depression. To me at the time, the most tragic was Mr. Kolb. When I was a small boy, I w as taken to his elegant restaurant for dinner with my mother, but in the 1930s people could no longer afford to eat in places like his and it had closed. Now, in his fifties, he was working as a salesman in the shoe department.

One morning I went into the cafeteria in the basement for coffee. Mr. Kolb was behind the counter, peering into urns, sniffing at Danish pastries and tasting the cream in a dispenser. Here was a different man from the quiet shoe salesman.

Eaton’s cafeteria had been losing in popularity to Picardy’s across the street and Mr. Swann had asked Kolb to advise. Within a week, a remarkable change had taken place. At the end of the month the cafeteria was making a useful profit and Mr. Kolb was back to the shoe department. I knew that Eaton’s were not exploiting him…His salary as a shoe salesman was higher than that of the manageress of the cafeteria. Even if it had not been, I doubt that he could ever have reconciled the clatter and breezy service of the coffee shop with the memory of the crystal-chandeliered restaurant which had once been his” (p. 102)

Mr. Kolb would eventually become involved in the development of the Turner Valley oilfields and became the first secretary of the Alberta Petroleum Association. He died in Calgary in 1949.

The Big Four

by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

Cover of 1912 Stampede program

The Big Four on the cover of the 1912 Stampede program

The Big Four were the four businessmen/ranchers responsible for funding the dreams of Guy Weadick, who saw the potential for a championship rodeo event and Wild West show in Calgary. He approached four of Calgary’s leading ranchers with his proposal. So who were these guys? Each man was an enthusiastic booster of the city of Calgary and each of them was a living example of the possibilities offered by this relatively new part of the country.

Archie McLean was a cattleman who became a politician. He was Provincial Secretary in the Sifton government and would become the Minster of Public Affairs under Premier Charles Stewart. A.E. Cross was the founder of Calgary Brewing and Malting and the owner of the A7 Ranch, which is still one of the largest ranches in the west and is still held by the Cross family. George Lane was the owner of the Bar U ranch, another large and influential ranch and Patrick Burns was the founder of P. Burns and Company, one of the world’s largest meat packing companies and the owner of the Bow Valley Ranch. Weadick convinced each of them to put up $25,000 to help realize his dream.

The Stampede was an ingenious idea for promoting the possibilities available out here in the west. It was also an exercise in nostalgia. Although the Big Four were all ranchers of one sort or another, Cross and Burns owed much of their wealth to industry, rather than the pastoral life of the plains. Calgary was becoming a metropolis and the Stampede was a nod to the past, rather than a reflection of the present.

The Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library holds a great deal of information about the Stampede and the Big Four. The picture used to illustrate this entry is a scan of the cover of the program for the first Stampede. We have a very good collection of these programs. We also have a history of the Bar U ranch (The Bar U and Canadian Ranching History) as well as other ranching related materials. We also have a great collection of the postcards created from Doc Marcel photographs of the first Stampede. You can find them in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library by using the search terms stampede 1912.

Flores La Due

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 314

Flores LaDue, Champion Lady Fancy Roper of the World, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 314

Women have always been involved in events at the Calgary Stampede. There have been changes over the years, for example, women do not compete in bronc riding anymore, but there have always been cowgirls in Stampede competition.

By far the best known of the cowgirls, in these parts, anyhow, was Flores (sometimes Florence) La Due who was the Champion Lady Fancy Roper of the World. She was also Mrs. Guy Weadick and was a very important element in the first Calgary Stampede in 1912.

Guy met Florence (whose real name, according to her headstone was Grace Maude Bensel) at a Wild West show in Chicago. They were married in Memphis in 1906 and started a partnership that would last for forty five years. This partnership included Guy’s dream of having world championship cowboy competitions in Calgary – a dream that he would promote to four of Calgary’s most prominent businessmen as the Calgary Stampede. In 1912 this dream became a reality. Guy’s involvement with the Stampede lasted until 1932. After that he and Florence retired to The Stampede (or TS) Ranch which they had purchased in 1920 in Eden Valley. The operated a dude ranch there and when times got tough it was Florence who assisted with the family finances by trading in uncut diamonds. It is also said that she taught their neighbor, the Prince of Wales, how to do fancy roping. When the Weadicks left, to move to Phoenix for Florence’s health, the community of High River threw a grand party to see them off. Florence was given a gold wrist watch engraved “To Florence – a real partner” and this is maybe the truth of Florence and Guy. You rarely read an article about Guy without there being a mention of Florence and the important role she played. They seemed to be partners in the fullest sense of the word.

Florence died in 1951 on a visit to High River. She, her father and Guy are all buried in the Highwood Cemetery.

Needless to say, our Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library has a lot of information relating to the Weadicks and the founding of the Stampede. We are also honoured to present professor Max Foran who will speak about Guy Weadick, the founding of the Stampede and the controversial end of Weadick’s association with it. The program will be presented on Friday June 26 at 2:00 PM in the 4th floor meeting room at the Central Library. You can register in person at any library branch, by telephone at 403-260-2620 or online at calgarypubliclibrary.com (click on Programs in the bar at the top of the page).

Maxwell Bates

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1147

William Stanley Bates Residence, 734 13th Avenue SW

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1147

I was very lucky to have been able to attend the Historical Society of Alberta Conference at the end of May. One of the speakers there was Nancy Townshend who was talking about her ancestor Colonel James Macleod and his homes. This put me in mind of another architectural subject that she had presented to us at a library program. Her topic that night was Maxwell Bates, an often overlooked Calgary artist and architect.
Maxwell Bates was the son of a famous Calgary architect, William Stanley Bates, who was a partner in the firms that designed some of Calgary’s early buildings such as the Grain Exchange, the Beveridge Building and the Burns Building.
Maxwell was born in Calgary in 1906 and started working for his father’s firm when he was eighteen. He attended evening art classes at the Provincial Institute of Art and Technology in the 1920s and then went to England where he worked as an architect and developed his style as a painter. In 1939 he joined the British Territorial Army and in 1941 was captured by the Germans and was sent to a POW camp where he remained until the end of the war. His account of his time in the camp, Wilderness of Days can be found at the Calgary Public Library, both in the Arts collection and the Community Heritage and Family History collection (940.547243 BAT B). Excerpts can be found on the website www.maxwellbates.net, which also contains biographical information, other writings and samples of his designs among other things.

Bates returned to Calgary in 1946 and became an architect, while he continued to pursue his art. His most notable contribution to the Calgary skyline is the beautiful St. Mary’s Cathedral, built between 1954 and 1957 and shown in this picture:

AJ 25-10

Entrance to new St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 25-10

If you are interested in Maxwell Bates, there are some excellent resources available at the Calgary Public Library including Ms Townshend’s book Maxwell Bates: Canada’s Premier Expressionist(759.11 BAT T). They can be found in the library catalogue using Bates, Maxwell as a subject search. If you are interested in other architects who worked in Calgary, we have an invaluable resource by Marianne Fedori and Lorne Simpson entitled The Practice of Architecture and Construction in Calgary 1900-1940 (720.9712338 PRA – available in the local history room). If you would like to have a look at some of the buildings designed by these architects, check out the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. The link is to the left.

Black History Month

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1485

Main Street, Pincher Creek, 1908

Postcards from the Past, PC 1485

February is Black History month and it is the perfect time for an examination of the people who settled this lovely province of ours. Because I am a family historian, my focus has always been on the stories of "regular" folks - not the kings and politicians that make up the official record but people like me and you and our families, the real builders of this country.

People of African descent have settled in Alberta since the middle part of the 19th century. Many were escaping slavery or racial discrimination and all were looking for a better life. People like John Ware, a legendary rancher who was born into slavery in South Carolina and whose skills as a cowboy made him famous. Or people like the Lewis family who settled near Calgary and moved into the bustling town to work in the construction trade during one of Calgary's many booms. Or Annie Saunders, a nanny and domestic to Colonel Macleod's family who set herself up in business in Pincher Creek.

Black History month is our chance to celebrate those pioneers and their descendents. Check the Community Heritage and Family History collection for books like John Ware's Cow Country, Blacks in Deep Snow: Black Pioneers in Canada or the magazine Alberta Views which contains a fascinating article on Annie Saunders by local author Cheryl Foggo in the January/February 2009 issue.

Farewell, Doc

by Christine L Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

PC 1327The city has lost a great man. Daryl "Doc" Seaman passed away on Sunday January 11, following a long battle with prostate cancer. Doc is probably best remembered as the man who brought the Flames to Calgary in 1980 but he was also a great philanthropist and a great businessman.

He was born in Rouleau Saskatchewan in 1922. He joined the Canadian Air Force during World War II and flew a Hudson bomber in 82 missions in north Africa and Italy. After the war he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Saskatchewan and with money saved from his wartime salary, Doc and his brothers B.J. and Don started a company that would grow into Bow Valley Industries.

But his lasting legacy can be found in his devotion to his community evidenced by his involvement in causes as diverse as amateur hockey, environmental protection and medical research. In every article written about his passing, mention is made that Doc preferred to keep his philanthropic work low-key and understated.

If you are interested in reading more about this great Calgarian, author Sydney Sharpe has donated copies of her biography of Doc Seaman, Staying in the Game, to the Calgary Public Library (and other libraries in Canada). You can place a hold on the title by following this link.

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