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Royal Visits

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the Calgary Train Station, May 26, 1939

Postcards from the Past, PC 719

It was a very exciting Stampede Parade this year. There hasn’t been this kind of buzz for a very long time. And much of it, I think, was due to the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It was very nice to see this young, royal couple enchanting the crowd and breathing new life into our (nearly) 100 year old celebration.

The excitement raised by this visit reminds me a little of the visit of Wills’s grandparents, Queen Elizabeth, and King George VI. They came to Calgary in May of 1939, just before the world would be changed by the Second World War. Things were looking grim in Europe when the Royal couple came to visit so the city needed it’s spirits lifted. The Royal Visit gave us that. It was an enormous undertaking. Thirty thousand children were brought in to the city from points around Southern Alberta. Each child was given a bottle of milk and lapel pin as well as flags to wave as they greeted the Royals. The city anticipated over 75,000 visitors would come to Calgary, doubling the city’s population. This all for a visit that lasted only two hours.

The itinerary for our royal visitors was jam packed but they managed to squeeze in an unscheduled stop to visit a First Nations encampment at Mewata Park. The said that this was the highlight of their visit. Even though it was not Stampede, the King had asked if it would be possible to witness wild bronc riding. This event had to be scrapped because the enthusiasm of the crowd raised fears that people would panic. There were two chuckwagons on the site, however. It is not known if the King offered to throw a cook stove into the back of one. The Queen remarked to Mrs. Davison, wife of the mayor, “I am only sorry we are not able to see some of your Stampede events in Calgary.”

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The visit was covered minute by minute by the local newspapers. There was also a souvenir programme produced for the event which included a map of the route of the parade and an article by Alexander Calhoun on “Calgary, the garden city of the west.” The schedule shows what should have been a two day visit, but was obviously seriously curtailed. This is in our clippings file “Visits of State” in the Local History room. We also have a number of books relating to the royal visit including one from a railway perspective (the tour was made on a special Royal train.) You can find information about this and all of the other royal visits by searching the catalogue using the words 'visits state canada'.

Souvenir Programme of the Royal Visit

Islands in the Stream - Heritage Roundtable

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Calgary Auto Club Camping Grounds on St. Patrick's Island
Postcards from the Past, PC 1603

The Heritage Roundtable on the 23rd of this month is called “Islands in the stream.” Historians Donna Zwicker and John Gilpin and archaeologist Brian Vivian will talk about the islands that dot the Bow River. Donna has been researching Archer’s Island, which I had never heard of before this. You haven’t either? You should join us at Eau Claire Market Community Room on June 23rd at 7:00.

There are lots of little islands in the Bow. Some have become well known, St. George’s, for example, houses the zoo. Prince’s Island started out as being more of an isthmus until Peter Prince blew a channel in the river to allow for easier passage of logs to his mill. St. Patrick’s island, once well used as a tree farm and then a campground, is undergoing a restoration to its original use as parkland, as part of the revitalization of the East Village. There was also a third “Saint” island, St. Andrew’s (the three islands in the Bow were named for the patron saints of the then United Kingdom, St. George of England, St. Patrick of Ireland and St. Andrew of Scotland. A fourth island, St. David’s for Wales was mentioned but no other evidence can be found of its existence. St. Andrew’s island has since disappeared – the lagoon between it and St. Patrick’s was filled in, effectively making them one island.)

Something I learned in my research on islands is that islands belong to the Federal government (or Dominion government, as it was called at the time of Calgary’s founding). The Calgary had to ask the Dominion government for the right to use these islands. The city was deeded the islands for use as parks.

There is a lot to be learned about the islands in our “stream” so I am looking forward to the Heritage Roundtable event. I hope to see you there. To register for the event by calling 403-244-4111 or online at (just select “Roundtables - Islands in the Stream” from the drop-down menu)

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St. George's Island

Postcards from the Past, PC 1701




Heritage Matters: Calgary's Chinatown

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Chinatown, along Centre Street, 1967

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0509

We have been very lucky to be the host of some excellent programs in the Heritage Matters series. The next one may be the best yet. On Thursday June 2 during the lunch hour we will be hosting Mr. Victor Mah, the Honorary Chairman, Calgary Cultural Centre and Chinatown Centenary Community Champion.

He will talk to us about the history of Chinatown and the plans for its future development. Our Chinatown is the fourth largest in the country and has been an integral part of the city since the beginning. It has recently celebrated its 100th anniversary – but that was only the anniversary Chinatown in its current location. There has actually been a Chinese area in Calgary since it was a NWMP fort when unemployed railway workers, denied the money to return to China, set up restaurants, grocery stores and laundries roughly where the Glenbow is now.

Calgary’s second Chinatown was on the other side of the railway tracks in the area around 1st Street and 10th Avenue SW. This one didn’t last either. As Calgary boomed in the early part of the 20th century, the railway depot was put up on 9th Avenue SW and the price of land in the area skyrocketed. Because the Chinese were tenants, not owners, they had the land sold out from under them. It was then that the land around Centre Street was purchased by Chinese merchants and the Chinatown we now know and love began to develop. It was not without controversy, however, as the racism that was evidenced in the 1890s during the smallpox epidemic had not diminished. Cooler heads prevailed (the police chief and the medical health officer, for example) and the Chinese were allowed to remain.

This wouldn’t be the only challenge faced by Calgary’s Chinatown, but over the years, it has continued to flourish and today is a vibrant reminder of the Chinese pioneers of Calgary.

So join us in the New and Notable area on the Main Floor of the Central Library at noon on June 2 for Mr. Mah’s presentation. You can register in person, by phone at 403-260-2620 or online at

(You can read about the history of Calgary’s Chinatown in Paul Yee’s book Chinatown: an illustrated history of the Chinese communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary… well as other titles. Find them by searching the catalogue using the terms Chinatown Calgary history)

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Dragon Float in Chinatown, 2008

Judith Umbach Photography Collection, JU 000923-8

Cars, cars, cars!

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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A demonstration by the 100,000 Club, Calgary along Centre Street, ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 1270

Those who know me are aware of my little obsession with cars. I love them (which is a good thing because I am married to a serial collector of weird and wonderful vehicles). We live in a very good place for car addicts because Calgarians love their cars and have since their invention. I suppose it is an extension of the range mentality, the love of horses that still pervades the culture in Calgary.

We went to the first show and shine of the season last week at the Deerfoot Mall. Car aficionados and their vehicles were out in full force. I was reminded (because I am a history geek) of a photo we have in our collection of a very similar exhibition in the early part of the twentieth century. The picture above is of the motor cars of the 100,000 club, a group of city boosters who wanted to see the population of Calgary hit 100,000 by 1915. They put together a number of events to draw attention to the city. Cars, being the novelty they were, were always a good draw.

Tony Cashman, in his book A History of Motoring in Alberta states that Calgarians really embraced the automobile and its attendant clubs because of the lure of Banff. The mountains sat there seemingly at the edge of the city, calling to the intrepid to pack their lunches and head for the town just 85 miles distant. What we didn’t have, however, were the roads on which to travel. Cars need very different surfaces than carts with horses.

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The cars in this picture are, I believe, 29 members of the Calgary Automobile Club preparing for their “motorcade” trip to Banff. The task had been achieved by Norman Lougheed, in his father’s touring car in the summer of 1909. He made it in seven hours with only one flat tire. The Calgary Automobile Club group left at 9:00 am and 25 of the 29 cars had arrived by 4:00 pm. The other four cars had to be left where they broke down.

A trip to Edmonton, which was a very daring proposition, could take several days by car. Add into the mix the lack of service stations (the first garage in Calgary was Calgary Novelty Works who specialized in typewriter and automobile repairs – in the ‘teens it was located just about under where I am sitting right now at the Central Library.)

The car has had a very interesting history in this province. The Community Heritage and Family History Digital library includes many photographs and postcards in which the automobile features prominently. We also have a good collection of books that document our love of motoring. Among them are the Tony Cashman book mentioned above, Roaring Lizzies: a history of Model T Ford racing in Alberta by Kelly Jane Buziak and an official tour book produced by the Alberta Automobile Clubs in the early part of the 20th century.

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Calgary Auto Club Clubhouse, Bowness (formerly the Hextall House)

Postcards from the Past, PC 941

East Village Jane’s Walk is on Saturday

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Calgary Public Market, 3rd Street SE ca 1920s?

Postcards from the Past PC 1375

Well, the day is at hand. We will be starting a Jane’s Walk of the East Village on Saturday May 7 at 10:00 at the Central Library at 616 Macleod Trail SE. Join us on the main floor for introductions and then we will proceed out into the neighbourhood with Walk Leader Clayton Buck, who is a dedicated promoter of this wonderful community of ours. We will also have the opportunity to visit one of our neighbours, the Drop-In Centre, thanks to Jordan Hamilton, from the Centre. We all know that a key risk factor for homelessness is a lack of community. Both Clayton and Jordan are working to build that sense of community here in the Village. I, myself, am very impressed with their efforts. I have worked in the Village for most of my adult life and I can attest to the fact that we now really feel like a community. We are the heart of old Calgary but also the core of the new, hip Calgary. It is a very exciting time to be involved with East Village. Join us on Saturday to get a street level view of what is going on in Calgary’s newest oldest community. (And it looks like the weather will be on our side as well.)

For information click on this link:

There are other walks going on as well. Memorial Park Library in the newly renovated Central Memorial Park is the starting point for “From Sandstone to Skyscrapers” and the Alexander Calhoun Library launches “South Calgary and Marda Loop” led by Harry Sanders and Marje Wing (head of both Memorial Park and Alexander Calhoun libraries) Some of the other neighbourhoods involved are Bowness, Brentwood, Edgemont Ravine, Sunnyside, Hillhurst and Chinatown. There is an edible tour of Inglewood and Ramsay led by Julie van Rosendaal, there is a walk led by Marilyn Williams on “Complete communities by traditional design.” This is just a sampling. Click on this link to get a list of all the walks happening this weekend.

My only regret is that I can’t do them all! See you this weekend.

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East Village from Bow Valley College, 2004

Judith Umbach Photography Collection, JU 041101-25

Do You Remember the Good Old Days?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Inglewood Community Association in the old Firehall #3, 1960s

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 1273

I was born and raised here, so, even though my memory is fading somewhat, I do have a recollection of my community back in the old days. I lived on the edge of town, just east of Sarcee Trail, in what was then the ‘burbs. We had acres of open space and horses just across the road. I remember our community centre, which doubled as our kindergarten classroom. I remember watching the dads of the community flood the ice for the two rinks we had, one with boards, for the big kids and hockey players, and one without for us little kids. I remember the Summer Fun Fests, with hat contests and bicycle parades. My community is now over 50 years old and so is the Federation of Calgary Communities.

As part of the celebrations, the FCC is putting together a 50th Anniversary Magazine that they would like to fill with stories of your community association. If you were one of those dads flooding the ice, or one of the many volunteers who corralled those kids for a bike parade, the Federation of Calgary Communities wants to hear from you. They are offering participants a number of options to share their stories. You can sign up at The Federation has set up a sequence of dates corresponding to the decade your stories come from. You can see them on the site. If you would prefer, you can schedule a one-on-one conversation, conducted either in person or by phone by contacting Rebecca Dakin at 403- 244-4111 extension 204. You can participate either as a group or individually.

Because I work with a historical collection, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of projects like this. I know that as time progresses, what we lose from the record are the experiences of the participants in the events. When we’re doing research we can usually find dates and statistics and news reports, but what we don’t have are the stories of those who were there, and in many cases, this is what we really want to know. So I urge anyone who has volunteered for their community association at any time to participate in this project. It’s your stories that make history.

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Bridgeland Riverside Community Association, 2005

Judith Umbach Photography Collection, JU 051008-9

Jane's Walks 2011

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Cecil Hotel, ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 947

It is hard to believe, but the season for Jane’s Walks is upon us (let’s just hope that the snow is gone, the birds are singing and the cherries are in bloom – oh, wait, that would be Vancouver – sorry). Let’s just hope for some of that famous Alberta blue sky, ok?

Anyway, weather aside, the Jane’s Walks are taking place on May 7 and 8 this year and we here at the Central Library are very excited that one of the walks will be starting at our library and touring our neighbourhood.

The East Village is one of Calgary’s oldest, newest, coolest communities (to steal a line from the walk description). It was where the Mounties established their fort. It was once the heart of the city’s commercial district – hence the presence of City Hall in this area. It was also the home to some of the more famous (and infamous) hotels, such as the Atlantic, the Cecil and the St. Louis. For a while it had fallen on hard times and was the target of the Calgary’s first urban renewal scheme which saw the demolition of many old buildings and the establishment of organizations like the school boards and the “new” Central Library.

The neighbourhood once known as Churchill Park is going through another phase of rejuvenation. With the opening of the River Walk and the development of any number of exciting new buildings either in the planning stages or nearing completion, it is an exciting time for us here in the Village. Check out this site for information on the East Village Jane’s Walk, which will also offer us the opportunity to visit one of our neighbours, the Drop-In Centre.

Also check the rest of the site for other interesting walks that will be going on. Some of the neighbourhoods you will be able to visit will be Bowness, Brentwood, Chinatown, Sunnyside, and South Calgary and Marda Loop just to name a few. This is an excellent opportunity to get to know some of Calgary’s communities. Join us.

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Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre

423 4th Avenue SE

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection, JU 021005-15

RMS Titanic

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)


On right now, until June, at the Calgary Science Centre, is a display of artifacts from the Titanic and re-creations of the some of the rooms on board. The story of the Titanic has held our imagination since the ship went down and the fascination continues. This exhibit strives to tell the story of the RMS Titanic and the people who sailed on her through items retrieved from the wreck.

Like many disaster stories, the story of the sinking of the “unsinkable” ship has grown over the years. More and more people are finding personal connections with those who sailed on the Titanic,often through evidence found while doing genealogical or local history research.

We have several subscriptions to historical newspapers in our E-Library (under History and Genealogy) and it is fascinating to read accounts of the sinking of the ship and the aftermath. Every aspect of the loss is covered including lists of those who survived, a discussion of the effect of the loss on the insurance industry and even questions about the financial liability of the White Star Line for the loss of life and goods. It is also interesting to read about the Carpathia. I suppose I should have known that following the sinking only limited information would have been available, but I didn’t realize that the Carpathia didn’t come into harbor for more than a week after rescuing the survivors. Until the ship docked, information was sketchy at best and rumour ran rampant.

I also found out some things I didn’t know. Did you know that the president of the Grand Trunk Railway was lost on the Titanic? Mr. Charles M. Hays had given an interview to the London Times just before he set sail regarding investment in Canada (he urged caution). Also, did you know that two of the survivors of the Titanic lived in Calgary? Mr. and Mrs. Albert Dick were on their honeymoon in England and also purchasing furniture for their magnificent new Mount Royal home. The furniture was lost but Albert and Vera survived. Bert was the owner of the Alexandra Hotel on 9th Avenue East. You can see photographs of the hotel in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library.

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Alexandra Hotel, 224 9th Avenue E, ca. 1931

Postcards from the Past, PC 1942

Old St. Patrick's Church

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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St. Patrick's Church

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0014

At the Heritage Roundtable on March 17, here at the Central Library in the Dutton theatre, we will be hearing an update on the fate of the old St. Patrick’s Church that stands so near its Anglican neighbor, St. Paul’s , out along Macleod Trail in what used to be the town of Midnapore. There couldn’t be a more stark contrast than the fates of the two nearly identical churches. St. Paul’s is in beautiful condition, with its cemetery intact and well maintained. It has been revived and tended for many years by the Midnapore Church of England Society. St. Patrick’s on the other hand, has been allowed to fall into disrepair, a kind of demolition by neglect. Recently scorch marks were seen on the building suggesting that someone had lit a fire that may have gotten out of control. This is heart breaking as St. Patrick’s has great historical significance to the city. Ironically, the situation was once reversed. In the early part of the 20th century, Patrick Burns used to send a crew out to maintain and paint St. Patrick’s Church. The story goes that he didn’t want St. Pat’s to outshine its near neighbour, which was looking a mite shabby, so he would have St. Paul’s painted by the same crew.

St. Paul’s is actually the older building. It was built in 1885 on land that was donated by John Glenn, who, although a Catholic himself, felt compelled to give to his community. Twenty years later, his son donated the land on which St. Patrick’s was built. Money was raised for the church by the community and both Catholics and Anglicans worked to build it. There is no delineation between the cemeteries, even in death the two communities are as one. When a fire damaged St. Patrick’s, services were held in St. Paul’s until the church could be repaired. The communities, Anglican and Catholic, met and mingled and cooperated over the generations and for that reason alone, the two churches, in their cozy proximity, have heritage value.

Another aspect of the historic value of St. Patrick’s church is Father Lacombe was the parish priest at St. Patrick’s from 1906 (or 1909) until his death in 1916. Father Lacombe is a very important figure in the history of the province. In addition to his work with First Nations people, he also established the Lacombe Home for orphans, the elderly and the handicapped near to the church on land donated by Patrick Burns.

Little St. Pat’s has been declared a Provincial Historic Resource, after the land was sold to a memorial company with the proviso that the Catholic Diocese, which owns the building, either demolish it or move it. Little has been done to maintain the building, although the statue of St. Patrick has been removed and preserved as has the bell that was given to Father Lacombe for the bell tower by Archbishop Legal. There have been developments, though, and we will hear what is in store for the old church at the Heritage Roundtable on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, – quite apropos, I think. If you would like to register for this event, you can do so by calling 403-244-4111 or online at

Heritage Matters....or does it?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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St. Patrick's Church, 1956

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0016

Chances are if you are reading this blog, your answer to the above question would be “Yes.” If that is the case, you might be interested in attending a talk by Dr. Nancy Pollock-Ellwand, Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary. She will be talking about Heritage Futures for the City of Calgary: why we should care, what the preservation of heritage can contribute to the community, what success in heritage conservation looks like and what we can learn from failures. The program will be at the Central Library on the main floor on Friday March 11 at 5:15. You can register online, by telephone at 403-260-2620 or in person at your local branch. This program is offered in partnership with the Calgary Heritage Authority. We always have fun at the Heritage Matters programs (and you get to be in the library after-hours!)

There is another important, heritage-related event taking place at the Central Library on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. The Heritage Roundtable is coming to the Central Library with a line-up of really, really interesting speakers. First will be special guest Matthew Wangler who will give us an update on what is going on with the old St. Patrick’s Church in Midnapore. Father Lacombe was the priest at the church and remained there until his death in 1916. This historic building is on Heritage Canada’s top 10 endangered places list and is very close to ruin.

Also speaking will be Irena Karshenbaum, who will review the Little Synagogue on the Prairie Project which saw an historic synagogue from Sibbald moved to Heritage Park. Ray Lee of the Sien Lok Society will also relate some of the tactics used to save Calgary’s historic Chinatown from “urban renewal” and Laura Golebiowski from Project Brewery will discuss the ongoing fascination with the old Calgary Brewing and Malting site and what the future may hold for it.

Wrapping up the evening is our own Carolyn Ryder who will give us an update on the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (which is the source of most of the pictures I use in this blog). As always there will be time for everyone to ask questions, chat and enjoy some refreshments. To register for the Heritage Roundtable, please call 403-244-4111 or register online at

It will be held in the John Dutton Theatre on the second floor of the Central Library – access either through the library or from the stairs under the +15 on Macleod Trail SE, east of the library doors. Doors open at 6:30 and the speakers get underway at 7:00. I cannot stress nearly enough how informative and valuable these roundtable sessions are to people who are interested in the heritage of their city. I always learn something new and I always meet the most interesting people at these events. I strongly urge you to attend.

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Commercial Buidlings in Chinatown, 1967

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AF 0509

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