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Congratulations on 100 Years, Mount Royal University

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Mount Royal College, 1962

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0196

The early part of the 20th century was heady times for the city of Calgary. As you will notice over the next few years, a lot of our important institutions will be celebrating important anniversaries. The library will be 100 years old in 2012 as will the Calgary Stampede, Calgary Transit celebrated 100 years in 2009, Old City Hall, itself, will celebrate its centenary this year and Mount Royal College (now University) just turned 100.

The Methodist Church received a charter in 1910 to run a co-ed boarding school. It chose as the first president of the college, Dr. George W. Kerby, the very popular minister of Central Methodist church. His goal was to provide a good education to both boys and girls. In 1911 a two storey brick building was built at 11 Street and 6th Avenue SW.

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Dr. G.W. Kerby's Residence, 1125 7th Avenue SW

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0436

A list of the Board of Governors from the 1915 calendar is a veritable who’s who of Calgary business and society. It included W.H. Cushing, A. Judson Sayre, A. Melville Scott, Pat Burns, E.H. Crandell, Dr. T.H. Blow, and O. Devenish, many of whom had children in attendance at the college. The school was described as a “high class and residential college for boys and young men, for girls and young women” in the Merchants and manufacturers record of 1911. The college had “122 registered, and more coming daily.” Courses were offered in academic subjects, commercial and shorthand, expression and physical culture and the conservatory of music.

By 1929 the college had outgrown its building and was seeking 20 acres of land near the Technical School grounds. This never came to pass and in 1931 ground was broken on an addition to the college. In the 1930s, the college gained affiliation with the University of Alberta and university courses were offered. In the 1940s the college experienced an influx of servicemen seeking to further their education and was forced, by a shortage of space, to offer classes in army huts on the grounds of Mewata Park. The article mentions that this will be only until “the proposed new college building is constructed.” (Calgary Herald June 28, 1946) In 1948, a start was made on building a gym, named after Dr. Stanley, who had sat on the board since 1910, and a memorial building in honour of Dr. Kerby. The memorial building was opened in June of 1949, the gym in November 1949. The Kerby building was enlarged in 1961 to keep up with the continuing success of the college, but by 1964 enrollment was once again at capacity and the school was bursting at the seams.

This pushed the drive for the new campus and in the 1966 land in Lincoln Park was acquired as a new site for the college. The Lincoln Park campus opened for classes in the fall of 1972. By 1981 the school had established satellite campuses. Growth continued and by 2000, 10,000 students were enrolled. In 2009 the Mount Royal College officially became Mount Royal University.

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Corridor at Mount Royal College, ca. 1920s?

Postcards from the Past, PC 1782a

Christmas Memories from a Calgary Childhood

by Christine Hayes - 2 Comment(s)

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Eaton Store in the 1950s (not at Christmas, though)

Postcards from the Past, PC 1282

Calgary is my home town. My parents came here in the 50s because my dad had landed a job with Pacific Petroleums. Having grown up and gone to school here, I find myself in an interesting position, working with the history of the city because, apparently, the time of my childhood is now a historical era! In that spirit, I often find myself combing our Local History collection to verify my memories. Now seemed like a good time to go on a hunt since the Christmas season is upon us and is much on my mind.

We had a few family rituals at Christmas. One was the Pacific Petroleums’ children’s Christmas party. In those days, the company was fairly small and two annual events were planned for the kids of employees: in the summer, the company picnic, often at Bowness Park, and, in the winter, the Christmas party. There was a Christmas party for the adults, too, and I remember my mother’s collection of blue Christmas plates from Birks that were the annual gifts to the wives.

I also remember the trip to Eaton’s to see Santa. I never sat on Santa’s knee, I was far too timid to do that, but I did look at him. My brother was braver and was easily convinced to climb on the strange man’s lap. We would also visit Toyland to see what kinds of things we would like for Christmas (everything) and we took a look at the beautiful window displays. We had one of the moving vignettes here at the Central Library for a while. A group of dancing bears done up in Victorian nightwear spun and twirled here for a few years after Eaton’s closed its doors.

I had two favourite things that I just had to do when I was at Eaton’s. Since my Nan worked there, I used to “do lunch” with her in the cafeteria and I always finished with a bowl of square jello. That was de rigueur for a visit to Eaton’s. And my most favourite thing? It had to be the tunnel that led from the parkade to the store. We got to take the elevator, with its funny round buttons and then roar down the underground passage, so cool, making echoes all along the way (but only if we were alone, my mom said.) That was the very best part of the whole trip. We would start before we got our coats on asking, “can we go through the tunnel, can we?” Probably drove everyone nuts, but at least I wasn’t begging for toys.

Do you have Christmas memories you’d like to share? Post a comment to this blog to tell me about your favourite Christmas things and places. And to you all, Happy Holidays from all of us here on the 4th Floor of the Central Library.

The Virginian, an Alberta Resident?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Dispatch from Calgary

Postcards from the Past, PC 928

Traditionally, the time around Christmas is the time when we at the library undertake some of our longer term projects. This year we are looking at our clippings files and sorting through some of the biographical information we have found there. We found a very interesting clipping in the ”J” file about a man who claimed to be the inspiration for the Owen Wister novel The Virginian.

Now, I may be dating myself, but I remember the television show that was loosely based on this novel. It starred Doug McClure (remember him?) and James Drury and ran from 1962 to 1971. I was too young to actually remember the novel in its heyday, but according to Alex Calhoun as he is quoted in the article from 1932, in the first twenty years of Calgary Public Library’s existence, it was the most consistently popular work of fiction in the library.

The journalist uncovered the interesting detail that the man on whom Wister based his novel was none other than Everett “Dad” Johnson, a resident of the Cochrane district. Mister Johnson had lived in southern Alberta for more than 40 years when the article was written. Born in Virginia, he followed the cowboy life through Texas and the American west until he ended up in Alberta as manager of the Bar U Ranch, a role which he had taken over from George Lane.. Sure enough, a quick check of the 1891 census shows him as foreman of a cattle company, listed alongside Fred Stimson and his wife Mary.

Johnson, known as Ebb, had been a foreman in the Powder River Cattle Co. in Wyoming, It was here that he acted as guide and hunting companion to Owen Wister. It was his job as foreman that led him up to Alberta, seeking grazing land for the 76 Ranch. Johnson was recommended to Stimson for the Bar U as the “best all round cowman in the country.” While on the Bar U he met Mary Bigland, who is shown in the 1891 census as a domestic at the ranch but was in fact a nurse, there to help Mary Stimson overcome a bout of scarlet fever. Mary and Ebb left the Bar U shortly after 1891 and moved on.

Johnson, in the 1932 interview, admitted he sometimes felt a bit contemptuous of the changes made to his story by Wister, but conceded that it did make a “right good story.”

The photo below is of Johnson in 1882. I found it on the Glenbow Archives website, after seeing it in the book The Bar U by Simon M. Evans. There are more pictures at the Glenbow of Mr. Johnson. You can check their photo archives at and search for "everett johnson. If you would like to read more about Johnson, we have the clipping in a file in the local history room and the book mentioned. If you’re interested in looking at census records for Alberta, we have them on microfilm in the genealogy collection here at the Central Library and they can be viewed on Ancestry LE, which is available at every Calgary Public Library branch through our E-Library.

Everett Cyril Johnson in 1882

Glenbow Archives, NA 2924-12

Glenbow NA 2924-12

Have a Chat with Grandma this Holiday Season

by Christine L Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

Grandma from iStock

Whenever I give a presentation to beginning genealogists, I tell them that the first step in any genealogy project is to talk to the oldest member of your extended family and really pump them for information. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard researchers say “I wish I had listened when my grandma talked about her life”. People have information that you cannot get from documents. Yes, you can usually find out when someone was born, but it is very unlikely, unless the dad got completely out of hand with joy and ended up being arrested, that you will know how people felt about that birth or what that birth meant to the family. The same is true of marriages. You can imply that the bride’s parents didn’t approve of the groom if you find a marriage record in a “Gretna Green” kind of locale, or if the parents didn’t attend the wedding, but you won’t necessarily know why they felt that way. This is where your human resources come in.

Now, if you have a particularly chatty aunt or grandmother, or uncle or grandfather for that matter, you can just set up your recording device and let them go but it does help to have a few pointers in mind so you get not just gossip and random bits of information, although for me those were always the best, but also facts that may be pertinent to your research. There are ways of going about this. I found a very good article by Juliana Smith on the Ancestry Learning Centre about how to get the interesting details but also to get information that may be helpful in your search.

She suggests questions like: “Who were your neighbours when you were growing up?” or “What landmarks do you remember from your childhood neighbourhood?” Not only will questions like this open up the door to childhood memories, but when researching families, it is sometimes useful to know who was living around them (for example, if you can’t find your family in a census index, maybe you can find the neighbours, or use the names of the neighbours to verify that you have the right family in a census record or directory). The article contains other very interesting ways of asking questions to get dual purpose answers. There are also some very good books in our genealogy collection about interviewing family members. Some titles are Oral History Workshop by Cynthia Hart. It contains information on how to do interviews with family as well as lists of questions. There are also a number of very good resources available on the internet. There is a list of suggested questions at Louisiana State University.

It was the table chat about my relations (some might have called it gossip) that got me hooked on family history. The stories I gathered from my grandmother and my aunts and uncles could not have been found in any archive or library. For me, this is family history.