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.”
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'.