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Merry Christmas, 1912 Style

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 152

Merry Christmas from the Carnegie Library, Calgary, Alberta

Postcards from the Past, PC 152 ca 1912

Whew, we’ve made it. It has been a year packed with lots of great events. This was the year of our 100th birthday, as well as the 100 year celebrations for many of the structures that were built during our 1912 boom. We were the City of culture for 2012 and we hosted a special edition of the Bob Edwards awards. The Mayan calendar came to an end and we are all still here, so all in all, the year was a great success. This will be my last chance to talk about the heady days of 1912 – and since 1913 marked the end of the boom, I am going to close out the year talking about what people were doing for Christmas in that year.

The weather was a bit chilly. The temperature was expected to go up to -1C after an overnight low of -13C.

Charity was a great part of Christmas in Calgary. The Morning Albertan’s Santa fund was over a thousand dollars and The Salvation Army was distributing over 100 food hampers (flour bags filled with necessities for a Christmas celebration) to needy families and providing pastries to people in jail. They also held a Christmas dinner for needy single men.

But giving was also on the agenda, as always. The Calgary post office was overwhelmed with letters and parcels from the Old Country (England). Three special trains were sent west with parcels from the Empress of Ireland.

Pryce Jones stayed open until 11 o’clock on the 23rd and 24th to accommodate those last minute shoppers. The store was offering a new and chic accoutrement for the autoists (i.e people who had cars) – foot muffs. These intriguing little goodies would fit both tender feet of the “fair autoists” (i.e. girls in cars) and would swathe them in fur, to keep them from freezing in the unheated and mostly open automobiles. These little luxuries ran from $3.00 to $12.50 depending on the amount and quality of the furs used. You could have these gifts delivered to your door on Christmas Eve.

Hudson’s Bay was even more modern, offering gift certificates for those who just couldn’t decide on what gift to give.

Senator Lougheed announced that “Miss Calgary”, our dear city, was getting some great presents including a new million dollar post office, a customs warehouse, immigration building and an armory.

As a reaction to this frenetic holiday season a group was formed in New York calling itself, SPUG, the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving. The idea spread like wildfire among the young, fashionable club men and women who believed that society had moved away from the fun and good times spent with family and friends and focused too much on the money one spends.

Food, as much a part of Christmas celebrations as Useless Giving, was very much on the minds of our Calgarians, albeit with a bit of a different twist. Restaurants were getting ready for the rush of Christmas diners. Some didn’t change their menus much, except to add turkey, but the Club Café had an unexpected delicacy to offer, a black bear cub. Many homemakers were planning to roast a fat capon, in lieu of the expected turkey as the capons were less expensive and tastier and the leftovers could be used to prepare various chicken dishes and dainties. The secret to a good capon was the use of fatty bacon as a wrapping as well the liberal application of butter (I think you could probably roast a cardboard box with fatty bacon and butter and make a passable meal!) Stuff that with bread crumbs and a half pound of truffles which have been soaked in Madeira, a goose liver and, of course, bacon and you will have a feast fit for a king.

So, it seems that nothing has really changed, eh? We are still rushing about in the cold, desperate to get that last minute gift and falling back on the gift certificate when we just can’t make up our minds. Young people are still objecting to the commercialization of Christmas, while homemakers are still trying to find the best way to cook a peculiar and rather unpleasant bird to make it palatable. We are still faced with the fact that not everyone will be able to have a happy Christmas, but we are still showing what a great city we are by giving to charities that try to ensure a decent Christmas for the less fortunate. So, my wish for you is that you enjoy the holidays, however you may spend them.

Christmas Picture

Write That Family History, Already!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Remember

With the holiday season now upon us (where on earth did November go, anyway?) we are turning our focus toward the family and spending time with those closest to us (for good or ill.) The holiday season is a great time to spend time with our elders, talking about the past and finding out about our family’s history. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard “I wish I’d talked to my [aunty, grandma, great-uncle] about her/his family, but I didn’t” or “I wish I’d paid attention when granny talked about her childhood”. Don’t be one of those genealogists! Now is the time! Get out your smart phone, set it on record and have that chat with granny or Auntie Jean or Great Uncle Herb. Their stories are the important ones, the ones that can’t be found in census records, birth certificates or city directories. This is what makes your family unique and these are the stories that many genealogists are striving to recreate.

If you need some questions to spur your family member’s memory, there are some great books out there to help you. One in particular isTo our children’s children: preserving family histories for generations to come by Bob Greene. This book has some very good suggestions for questions that spark memories, like, “Did you ever skip school? Did you get caught? Were you punished? How?” Questions like this encourage reminiscing around specific incidents and can get you much more than “Tell me about your school days.”

Once you have done some genealogy and have gotten what stories you can, you may want to write a family history or a memoir. We are having a Writers’ Weekend on February 2nd I’m very excited that one of our programs will be Writing Memoir and Biography with Brian Brennan. Brian is a brilliant storyteller and his skills at bringing a person alive on the page are unparalleled. If you're going to learn you might as well learn from a master. You can register for this free program here or by calling 403-260-2620.

James and Bridget

My Family, ca 1890

Governor General’s History Awards Announced

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

House in Elbow ParkOne of the participating homes in the Century Homes Calgary project


Century Homes Logo

If you read this blog regularly you may remember a post about the Century Homes project. This is a grassroots initiative of the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society, fuelled and supported by individuals and organizations who value the heritage of this beautiful city of ours. The Community Heritage and Family History department’s own librarian was involved in this project and I am delighted to be able to say that the winners of the Governor General’s History Awards have just been announced and the Century Homes Calgary project won in the category of Community Programming. So now I can say I personally know a Governor General’s Award winner (or two).

The project was started in 2011 and grew from there to an extremely successful endeavor, so that by July over 500 Calgarians had researched the stories

of their homes and created banners to tell the rest of us what they had discovered. During Historic Calgary Week thousands of Calgarians toured the homes and read the stories. It was such a success that it will be repeated next year.

At the library we saw a huge jump in the use of our Local History room as customers flocked to us to find out who had lived in their homes. We were delighted to have the chance to talk to customers about what they had found and to help them dig a little deeper into the history of not just their houses, but the people who lived in them, the communities that had grown up around them and the history of the city. We offered programs in conjunction with the City of Calgary Archives to show people the resources we had available in all three repositories within the Heritage Triangle and how to use them.

Calgary Public Library is also involved in the longer term goal of this project, which is to create a legacy database, which will include photographs of the homes and the information and stories that the homeowners have created. This will be an important addition to the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library as it will document, not just the project but the history of some of the century buildings in the city.

We really enjoyed our part of the Century Homes Project and are looking forward to helping even more researchers next year. If you are interested in participating in next year’s Century Homes Calgary, visit this website for more information. To find out more about the Governor General’s History Award, follow this link.

Congratulations to the all of the volunteers and homeowners, the Calgary Heritage Initiative, the City of Calgary Corporate Records, Archives, Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Association, Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association, Calgary Heritage Authority, Calgary Public Library, Chinook Country Historical Society and The Federation of Calgary Communities.

Vive le papier! or, It’s not all available on the Internet

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

paper

I have given many a genealogy seminar on the wonderful online resources available for family history research. But I have also given a lot of talks to beginning genealogists and many are surprised to find that not everything is available electronically.” What”, you say, “not everything is online!!!?” Sad, but true, and possible the best example of this comes from this very province. Access to vital records like births, deaths and marriages in Alberta still requires a request for a search through a registry office. There is no online access to the records at all. However, there is a paper index which covers events prior to 1905.

Before we had newspaper and magazine indexes online (that would be back in the days before there was such a thing as online) we used print indexes to find articles. Even now, with our wonderful collection of online resources for finding magazine articles (have a look in the E-Library to see some of the great databases) there is still very limited coverage prior to 1988. So, we still have the paper indexes on the third floor. Since my library experience dates from the “cardaceous” period, when card catalogues roamed the earth, I am familiar with these indexes and actually use them to find information that predates the electronic age. One such bit of research involved a customer who was looking for an article that was written about a friend’s grandmother and was published in a Canadian magazine, perhaps Maclean’s. The woman had started her own temp agency and was profiled because it was such an unusual thing for a woman to be an entrepreneur and the head of a successful business. The customer was pretty sure that the article was a cover story and thought he remembered photographs. The date of the article was some time in the 50s or 60s. We had the name of the company and the name of the owner. Nothing turned up in a search of the internet or in any of our online indexes. We had no clipping files on the business in Local History and we were going to give up hope but we remembered our old CPI.Q and rushed down to have a look. Sure enough, we turned up a reference to a Maclean’s article from 1954 which included photographs. A quick trip to the basement, and we had the article.

This is a good reminder to genealogists, and all researchers, that we are still a long way from having everything available at the click of a mouse. There are still valuable resources available that can’t be accessed through Google (or even Ancestry). The following indexes, housed on the third floor of the Central Library, are prime examples: Reader’s Guide, Canadian News Index and Canadian Periodicals Index can be used to find articles in magazines and newspapers that haven’t yet made it online. Check them out and see if your family made the papers.

Calgary Public Library Card Catalogue in the 1970s

Calgary Public Library: Our Story in Pictures, CPL 235-05-11

CPL 238 05 11