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Banff Town Warden

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Banff Town Warden

I am intrigued by the history of the Banff area. It was and is a very special place and we are privileged to live so close to Canada’s first National Park. Anthony Henday had visited the area in 1754 and David Thompson had explored the Bow Valley but it was the fall of 1883 when three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers stumbled across a cave containing hot springs on the eastern slopes of Alberta's Rocky Mountains that the Banff we know now was born.

The people responsible for the park and the town within it were the wardens. A warden was a jack-of-all-trades and his position involved long hours and a wide variety of duties. Walter Peyto was one of those wardens. He served from 1914 to 1948 and as part of his duties he was required to keep a journal of his activities. His grandson David Peyto has edited and published four volumes of these journals which he has called Banff Town Warden. They offer a fascinating glimpse into the activities of the men who fought fires, controlled nuisance animals, feed the zoo animals , maintained the telephone lines, controlled predators, and looked for lost hikers, among other duties. What must have been Walter’s most memorable duty had to have been the eleven days spent in a freight car with two buffalo bound for the Toronto Zoo. The life of a warden was not a boring one.

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Buffalo in Banff National Park, 1905

Postcards from the Past PC 1570

Christmas in Early Calgary

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1263

Horse and Buggy

Postcards from the Past PC 1263

Often, when I am fishing for a subject for the blog, I turn to the newspapers. I love to read the old papers because it gives you a very interesting perspective on the early denizens of this city. For example, here is what was going on the week of Christmas in 1889:

“Shortly after six last night the children of Knox church, to the number of nearly a hundred sat down to a sumptuous tea. After regaling themselves…all eyes turned to the next and no less interesting item of the program—the Xmas tree. A handsome evergreen had been procured and now looked doubly resplendent in its colored wax candles and rich freight.” (Calgary Herald December 21, 1889) This sounds like a recipe for disaster, to me, 100 children and open flames on a wooden structure, but there are no subsequent articles about a fire in Knox Church, so all must have gone well.

In the same paper Christmas goodies were advertised including cheeses, calves foot jelly, mock turtle soup, galantine of wild boar’s head pate and a variety of other delicacies, all available for the festive season at G.C. King and Co. in the Post Office Block.

Continuing my cruise of the Christmas newspapers (it is actually a great way to dodge real work – we call it research) I was also intrigued by an ad I found in The Albertan for Saturday December 21, 1901. We often think of our forebears as stolid, no-nonsense folk not given to frivolity. Then I found this ad:

Buy your Horse a Xmas Present

Few people stop to see if their horse appreciates a gift as much as their dearest friend

JUST TRY HIM ONCE

Give him a comfortable blanket for those chilly days, or perhaps a more comfortable collar to draw his load with. Then make him look well and fell well by dressing him in the latest styles – at the

Calgary Saddlery Co. Ltd.

So, now when I feel the need to buy my dog a Christmas sweater, I feel better knowing that I am following a long line of strange people who feel the need to dress their animals up for Christmas.

The staff in the Humanities Department wish you the best of the season.

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Carnegie Library (now Memorial Park) Christmas Postcard ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past PC 152

Skiing in Calgary

by Christine Hayes - 2 Comment(s)

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Ski Jump on the Roof of the Grandstand,

Built for the Calgary Winter Festival, 1921

Postcards from the Past, PC 963

Because Calgary is so close to the mountains, a ski hill within the city may seem unnecessary. What we need to remember is that at one time, getting to Banff and the surrounding area was not a simple drive up the highway. It could be a journey fraught with peril along the Banff Coach Road (so called, I believe, because it was designed for coaches not cars!) For a devoted skier, this was not an acceptable situation so over the years ski hills have been developed in and near Calgary.

A pioneering organization in the development of local ski hills was the Calgary Ski Club which was founded, originally, early in the 20th century by a handful of Scandinavian immigrants interested in ski jumping. The presence of this group led to the strangest sight ever in Calgary winter history, the ski jump on top of the grandstand at the Exhibition Grounds (see the postcard above).

In its second incarnation, founded in the 1930s, The Calgary Ski Club looked for a suitable venue in or near the city so that avid skiers could ski during the week. Golf courses provided some possibilities. They were unused during the winter and some, like Shaganappi, were owned by the city. So it was to Shaganappi that the Ski Club turned in 1938. A perennial problem in Calgary, of course, is the chinook wind and that, coupled with the drought of the 1930s made skiing in the city a sporadic affair. The Ski Club experimented with farm equipment and eventually started using a grain blower to blow snow from areas where it was abundant onto the hill. Despite its great location (on a bus route), the installation of a rope tow and its popularity, Shaganappi ski hill lasted only until 1951. It wasn't until some 20 years later that the City invited a private operator to re-develop the runs, exactly where they had been when the ski club had them.

Asked to move from the municipal course the club sought another hill, and found what it thought was a good choice, on the north side of what is now Coach Hill, just above Bowness. It was not a unanimously popular choice and the development of Paskapoo in 1961 kind of put an end to that idea.

Happy Valley

View of the Chalet at Happy Valley Ski Hill, 1960s?

Happy Valley Calgary's Year 'Round Playground

Paskapoo remained a public hill and many of us learned to ski there. It would later become Canada Olympic Park. Just down the road a bit (advertised as being 5 miles from the city limits) was Happy Valley, “Calgary’s year ‘round playground,” which included a ski hill with a chalet and two poma lifts. The photograph of the beautiful chalet comes from a brochure dating from the 60s that we have in the Community Heritage and Family History collection here at the Central Library. Also in that collection is the book I used to find out about the Calgary Ski Club, Calgary Goes Skiing: a history of the Calgary Ski Club by David Mittelstadt. If you are interested in finding out more about skiing in and around Calgary, we have some great resources in the Local History Room and we would be happy to show you the ropes (rope tows,perhaps ).Laughing

Not Just Ancestry LE : More Online Resources for Genealogists

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

PC 503

R.B. Bennett Receiving Nomination Convention of Conservatives, Winnipeg 1927

Postcards from the Past PC 503

This is the second of my installments about some of the subscription databases (other than Ancestry LE) that genealogists should try. This week I want to introduce you to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

In my introductions to the genealogy collection here at the Central Library, I always like to mention National Biographies as a potential resource. Many countries have them and they are the semi-official records of the people who played a role in the formation of their respective countries. The grand-daddy of these is the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB – I warned you about libraries and acronyms!) DNB is the national biography of Great Britain. Calgary Public Library owns the original 22 volume set and the 15 volumes of supplements. Sources such as these can be very useful especially if you have ancestors who were notable in some way. In Canada, sometimes being notable just meant being here early so the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, in addition to politicians and industrialists, includes, pioneers, fur traders, and First Nations leaders. The articles are written by many different, reputable authors and include extensive bibliographies of primary and secondary source material. The DCB (again with the acronyms!) covers people who died between 1000 and 1930 (it is traditional in national biographies to include only dead people and to indicate coverage by date of death)

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography was started in 1959 as a joint project of the University of Toronto and the Université Laval. It is available in English and French and has been a staple reference source, in its paper incarnation, on reference shelves in libraries across Canada for decades. Now that it is available online it is much easier to use and the full text searching pulls up names of people mentioned in articles but not necessarily the subject of an entire article themselves.

You can access the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online through our E-Library accessible through the catalogue or via the link at the top of our homepage. In the E-Library you can click on either “Canadian” or “History and Genealogy” and scroll down to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. You will be asked to sign in using your library card number and PIN. Choose your language, and off you go. You can browse the collection by name, by category or by geographic location.

You can also search the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online through the Biographi.ca site http://www.biographi.ca/index-e.html at Library and Archives Canada.

Jane’s Walk : Walk and Talk our City’s Neighbourhoods

by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

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Residential View - Mount Royal

Postcards from the Past, PC 907

I have been very lucky over the last week to meet a number of people who are passionate about their communities. At the Heritage Round Table last Thursday, I was able to hear people speak about Haysboro and Meadowlark Park. I also heard a presenter from the This is My Cecil project talk about the community feeling engendered by that wonderful old hotel and importance of a touch point like The Cecil for the community that existed here in the East Village in the past. I was also able to speak with “Uncle Buck” who is the editor of the East Village View, an important information resource for the people of this East Village community. It may be that as the city grows, the communities that make it become more important. We all want to feel a part of a larger group and many of us want others to know the stories of our communities. I live in the community I was brought up in. It is just over 50 years old and was the ‘burb of its day, but is now considered to be nearly inner city.

I am very proud of my community. If you have strong feelings about your community, or just “community” as a general concept, you may want to consider volunteering with Jane’s Walk to give a tour of your community or to help with other things. Jane’s Walks have been happening since 2007, with the first walk in Toronto. Since then a dozen other cities have started Jane’s Walks. Calgary is one of those cities. The walks are a way to combine a simple stroll around the neighbourhood with stories from the people who live there, people who know the history and local lore of the area. They are named in honour of Jane Jacobs, a visionary thinker, whose book The Death and Life of Great American Cities championed the interests of residents and pedestrians over the car-centred approach to urban planning that was then the norm. She stood up for old buildings and their refurbishment, rather than their destruction. She changed the way we thought about urban life. Her work would inspire generations of urban planners and community activists.

Jane’s Walks are a series of free neighbourhood walking tours that aim to put people in touch with their environment and their neighbours. They are given, free of charge, by people who have an interest in their neighbourhood. They aren’t necessarily about architecture or history or planning – they offer a more personal take on the neighbourhood; local lore and culture, issues facing residents, the social history of the area. If you are interested in Jane’s Walk, it will take place in Calgary on May 1 & 2, 2010. It is organized by the Calgary Foundation and starting in April you will be able to see the roster of walks at www.thecalgaryfoundation.org. If you would like to volunteer to be a walk leader, or would like to volunteer in any other capacity you can contact Julie Black at jblack@thecalgaryfoundation.org or at 403-802-7720. You can get more information about Jane’s Walks on the website www.janeswalk.net.

If you are interested in leading a walk in your community (or if you are just interested in the history of your community) we have wonderful resources here at the Calgary Public Library in the Community Heritage and Family History collection. We would be delighted to help you find information to enhance your "Jane's Walk" of your community. You can find us at the Central Library, 616 Macleod Trail SE, on the 4th floor; you can telephone us at 403-260-2785 or you can contact us by email at information@calgarypubliclibrary.com.

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Sunnyside, ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 623