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My Favourite Flood Story (so far)

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Flood Centre Street Bridge Centre Street Bridge during flood 2013, City of Calgary

We had a very successful launch of our Flood Story website on Saturday. Our Mayor Nenshi came and shared his flood story as did Councillor Druh Farrell. We also collected stories from many of our library patrons and this is exactly what we are looking for. Anyone who has heard me speak about genealogy knows that, while I know the documents and dates are important, it is the stories that make our family history. The research is the framework; the storytelling is the real work.

In doing some last minute work on the website I came across some really wonderful stories. This is mostly thanks to John Gilpin, whose dogged research provided the content of the website. He uncovered some colourful stories, such as the fire department rescuing dogs that were trapped in the pound by the rising waters during an ice jam flood in 1950. Animal rescue is a recurring theme in the flood stories I've been reading. Whether it was the horses gathered for Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebration in 1897 or the man out by the Industrial School, nested in the rafters of his barn with the chickens in 1902, right up to the last flood, where the Humane Society opened its doors to animals whose families were displaced (including two pigs).

Another common theme is the constant need for people to be reminded to stay away from the rushing rivers. In almost every flood, the papers bemoan the fact that people haven't the common sense to stay away from the water. My favourite story of all comes from the blatant flaunting of this advice by a Senator, no less, during the flood of 1884. Senator Ogilvie had been visiting Banff when the floods hit, washing out roads and rail beds. He was desperate to get back to Calgary so set off with his entourage by hand car. I'll let the Herald reporter take it from here:

[The Senator] "with commendable courage, bordering almost on senatorial recklessness, started via handcar for Calgary. Having to do some fording over the rivers where the bridges had once been, the burly form of the Senator suddenly disappeared from view...Gen. Supt. Egan and others of the party at once organized themselves into a committee of investigation to make due enquiries for the missing representative of Her Majesty's Senate. The Hon. Senator being a good representative of flesh and blood and being hard to conceal in a small space was very fortunately discovered clinging with wonderful tenacity to an iron rail..." (Calgary Herald July 23, 1884)

That is a great story and so is yours. Please tell us your flood story, it doesn't have to be from the 2013 flood. You may have been here for the 1950, maybe even the 1932 flood. We'd like to hear from you. You can post your story on the website, just click on Memory Bank, or if you'd prefer to write it, we have forms at all of our branches that will allow you to do just that. Check out the website - its great!

Senator Alexander OgilvieSenator A. Ogilvie from biographi.ca

Flood Stories

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 611Elbow river at 25 Avenue Bridge, 1915

It will be the one year anniversary of the floods of 2013 on Friday. On Saturday, as part of the city-wide Neighbour Day celebrations, we will be launching our Flood Stories website at the Central Library. The website will be an online resource for people who are looking for information about the all of the floods we have seen in Calgary, and it will also be a place where we can keep all the stories of the people who lived through these floods.

Living at the confluence of two rivers, we are no strangers to flooding, and in the early days a really good rainstorm could knock out all access to the city and leave people stranded. Routes into and out of the city, road and rail, could be inundated or undermined and this would leave the citizens without necessary supplies. This meant milk shortages and even shortages of materials needed to rebuild the bridges.

Bridge washouts sometimes created a domino effect as the debris from one bridge knocked out the next bridge, which knocked out the next bridge and so on. Logs were a hazard as well. When we had major logging operations, such as Eau Claire Power and Lumber, on the Bow, careering logs could wreak endless havoc on bridges and other structures in the river.

The old gravity feed water supply system was often a victim of the floods, not that it was ever a great system, but high water would stir up the rivers and the silt and debris would be pulled in to our water supply. This created other crises, as these were the days before bottled water and even those with wells might find their water contaminated by the floods.

PC 1984Bow in flood, Louise Bridge, 1923

What I have noted, though, as I have been working on the information for this site is that Calgarians are a resilient lot. After each and every flood, the newspapers have stories about how neighbours helped one another, how people got together to fix the things that had been broken by the waters. We are citizens of a very special city, and I am looking forward to hearing the stories and keeping the stories of all of you great people. Tell us your story

InvitationInvitation

On the Move

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1075McHugh House in 1966

It's been quite an interesting week watching the McHugh house on the move. Contemplating the extent of the job and the equipment required made me really appreciate the efforts of Calgarians of the past who picked up and moved their homes, with, seemingly, no cares. This can’t have been the case, but the number of incidences of “mobile homes” in Calgary in early years always astonishes me. In the program on house history that with do with our Heritage Triangle partners, the City Archives and Glenbow, we even have a section about finding out exactly where your house started its life, as moving houses was common enough, at one point in the city’s history, that the city government had to legislate that a permit was required to move your house. Before that you could just harness up the horses and drag your house down the street.

The Deane house was moved, not once but twice, in its long life. The first move saw it shifted from one location to another on the Fort Calgary site. The second move saw it migrate across the Elbow River on a temporary bridge. That feat was daring enough to garner a mention in Popular Mechanics (July 1930).

Popular Mechanics July 1930Deane House Being MovedI'm guessing that houses were moved for lots of reasons but in many cases, I blame the railway. Certainly when Calgary was just a baby town, the CPR decided to lay out a townsite on the west side of the Elbow River, whereas most residents had set up on the east side. Many of these enterprising pioneers picked up their houses and moved.

Whole towns up and moved when the railway finally announced its routes. Castor, Alberta, known then as Williston, was picked up and moved a mile to be closer to the rail line. Wainwright, too, had to be moved 2 ½ miles to closer to the Grand Trunk line. This move included the hotel, which was pulled by horses along the railway grade. An earlier post to this blog talks about these moving villages as well as others.

The Map

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

PC 712 eFire Headquarters 1930s

I spent part of my day off at a presentation at the Firefighter’s Museum listening to the story of “The Map.” During the clean out of the civil defense bunker at Shaganappi, a huge map was discovered. It was one of those pull down maps, like we all had in our classrooms back in the day, but this one was very special. It is a map of the city of Calgary used by the Fire Department in its headquarters (see the postcard above). It indicates all of the fire stations and the call boxes and measures 12 x 9 feet. It had been lying in water and was quite badly damaged but because it is such a vital record of the city’s history, a paper conservator, Lee Churchill, was hired to restore it to its former glory.

I work with maps in the local history room, but I have never seen one like this. First off, it is the largest map I have ever seen. It is larger than some of the rooms in my house. In order to open it to work on it, Lee has spread it across nine of those ubiquitous folding utility tables (with several layers of underlayment to protect it of course). There are districts on the map that I have never heard (Bryn Mawr Place? Harlem?) and it has red dots marking the location of all the fire alarm call boxes. It is a very cool thing, and Calgary Public Library got a mention as one of the sources tapped to try to determine the age of the map.

The talk was very interesting. When I started in the local history area of the library I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a paper conservator, and Lee’s talk about the process of paper conservation really opened my eyes to the delicacy and precision (and patience) that the job requires. Also, because this was the inaugural session of “Conversations in the Kitchen” we were treated to Newfoundland Toutons, courtesy of our presenter. For me it was the best day possible: old maps, a museum and food. My thanks and deep admiration go out to all of the staff and volunteers at the Firefighter’s Museum. What a wonderful place you have. To find out more about the museum, you can visit their website. Lee is also keeping a blog about the process of restoring the map.

 

PC 936Cappy Smart on the Webb Car