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Our Mayor Launches Historic Calgary Week (and we launch a collection!)

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

 

Mayor Nenshi

Mayor Nenshi Proclaims Historic Calgary Week,

Photograph courtesy Val Jobson

It is here! Mayor Nenshi launched Historic Calgary Week this past Friday at the Southern Alberta Pioneers building. There are SO many interesting programs going on this week, I can’t decide where I want to go. Check out the brochure and join in on this celebration of our heritage.

So, because it is the annual celebration of our history, Calgary Public Library has launched our newest digitized collection - Historic Maps of Calgary and Alberta. Maps can be a fascinating way to look at the history of a city and its people and this collection highlights a sampling of historic Calgary maps that have been digitized from the Community Heritage and Family History's print map collection found in the Local History Room at the Central Library. The print map collection consists of hundreds of maps dating from the early 19th century and into to 21st. Below is a sample of one of the digitized maps:

Calg 4

 

Map showing Calgary in 1884

Community Heritage and Family History Map Collection, CALG 4

This map of Calgary N.W.T. shows locations and dates of early Calgary buildings and provides valuable insight into our city's history and development. For example, did you know that in 1884 the City Pound was across the street from where the Central Library is now?

 

Click here to see the collection, or find it through the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (under Books & More from our website)

To see the sample of digitized maps available online, click on Digitized Map link on the collections front page. You can also access information about the hundreds of actual maps in our collection; click on the Browse All tab at the top of the page. So while we work at getting more of the maps digitized and available, you can see the real thing in the Local History room on the fourth floor at the Central Library. And keep in mind, that if you have any questions about the maps or about history or genealogy, you can contact us via our Chat Reference, by email or by telephone at 403-260-2785.

100th Anniversary Stampede Parade - Yahoo!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1573

Cowboys and Cowgirls in 1912 Stampede Parade

Postcards from the Past, PC 1573

Well, it’s nearly here! The 100th anniversary Calgary Stampede begins with the parade on Friday. The parade is, for many, the most important part of the Stampede celebration. The streets are lined with thousands of folks, many of them dressed up in western regalia. The first Stampede parade I can remember was in 1965. Walt Disney was the parade marshal, and if I’m not mistaken, Mickey Mouse was here, too. I may have been at other, earlier, parades as my parents loved the Stampede and my dad’s office was right on the route. I wouldn’t have been one yet when Bing Crosby was parade marshal, but I bet my parents took me to that one – they were Bing Crosby fans. I don’t remember the Three Stooges, but I bet I was at that one, too as my brother was a die-hard fan.

AJ 34-06

Bing Crosby, Parade Marshall, 1959

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 34-06

My favourites were always the marching bands and the mini-cars. Those seemed to be pretty standard over the years. I live near a wide open field so I get a sneak preview of some of the marching bands as they practice (at 9:00 in the morning on the weekends, mind you). My other faves were the First Nations representatives who have been an integral part of the Stampede since the beginning. And with the 100th anniversary Stampede parade, the chiefs of the Treaty Seven Nations are going to be honourary parade marshals. It is going to be something, I tell ya.

PC 593

First Nations People in Traditional Dress in Stampede Parade, undated

Postcards from the Past, PC 593

I believe that everybody, even those of us with curmudgeonly tendencies, loves a parade. And it seemed that in the days before we were inundated with entertainment options, parades were a very common event. Military bands paraded up and down the streets, returning soldiers paraded through the city, there was a parade on the opening of baseball season, (for which the mayor had declared a half-day off for the city). There were Victory Bond parades, which included floats and fire eaters supplied by Cappy Smart and the fire department. It seems that on any excuse, a parade was held. This must have been a very interesting time. Some of the fanciest parades, pre - Stampede, were for the Dominion Exhibitions that were held here. The postcard below is a photo of a Roman chariot in the parade for the Dominion Exhibition of 1908.

PC 868

Roman Chariot on 8th Avenue, possibly part of an historic parade

Dominion Exhibition, 1908(?)

Postcards from the Past, PC 868

So, the parade itself is a nostalgic event, from a time when you could just get up a bunch of yahoos and march down the street for any good reason. I like that. Let’s bring that spirit to the 100th Anniversary Stampede Parade and get your yahoos out.

AJ 63 15

Start of the 50th Anniversary Stampede Parade, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 63-15

We have a Historian Laureate!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Historian Laureate

Harry Sanders is our Historian Laureate

Scott Jolliffe, Chair CHA, Harry Sanders, Alderman Druh Farrell

Photo courtesy Judith Umbach

I was delighted to be able to attend the crowning of Calgary’s first Historian Laureate. Being a long-time Calgary native, I have watched the attitudes of administration toward the preservation and celebration of heritage develop over the years from an almost personal animosity toward old buildings (think Rod Sykes being attacked by the Burns Building) to today’s understanding of the value of preserving the past. Our new laureate is a person who has spent his entire adult life bringing heritage to the people and interpreting it for them through his own, passionate view. Harry Sanders makes history meaningful. In his hands, heritage is a living thing, a story of everyday people – the people who make this city great.

Part of the investiture ceremony was a poetry slam. Our other laureate, Kris Demeanor, Calgary’s first Poet Laureate (and believe me, when I was growing up, studying literature at university, the idea that the city of Calgary, Capitalist Calgary, would ever have a poet laureate would have provoked gales of laughter in all of the cement and steel towers that line our streets) wrote and delivered a challenge – one that Calgarians have long been debating – what use is history?

With his permission, here is Kris’s throw down:

Okay, I know it’s not in the Calgary tradition of niceness and politeness, but I cannot hold my peace!

I don’t care about Guy Weadick’s rope and release any more than I do the fathers of Greece

It’s old news and we all know that’s only fit for wrapping fish and chips

Look, nothing against Harry, I’m sure he’s a wealth of facts colourful, sublime, astounding and scary,

But let me save you all two years of talk of beaver pelt hats and ‘That used to be a nunnery!’

And give you a quick and easy summary of all you need to know about history

PERSONAL: You are the genetic union of a mother and father, they gave you food and water, you grew, learnt a bunch of stuff, most of it useless, you got a job and barbecue.

THE WORLD: Big Bang, plants, fish, caveman, hominid, ice age, Egypt, Rome, Aztecs, war war war war war, Bible, Genghis Khan, Da Vinci, Queen Victoria, war, war, war, Einstein, guy in Hummer with a baseball cap and GI Joe facial hair, there, DONE.

History teaches us nothing, we have always just been bluffing our way from one grand embarrassment to another- we don’t look at letters from our last lover, or replay the video reel of us throwing up at the school dance or failing math.

Let our collective insecurity and shame over the past lead the way to a brighter tomorrow full of wisdom we don’t need to borrow. All I could learn from my forefathers and foremothers is how to stoke a coal stove and churn my own butter, and I don’t want to do that.

I don’t want to imagine a world without frozen pizza, omnipresent technology and direct flights to Cuban all-inclusives for five hundred dollars.

Look, Harry will claim that history is interesting, but when I look back I see buffalo carcasses stacked, endless trains rolling down endless track, dust, snowstorms, scarlet fever and clothing with colour choices ranging from beige to brown, look around, we’re surrounded by concrete, glass, GPS, pubs with seven beers from Belgium and full of people looking forward, ahead, and into the future, why go back or even stay in neutral, sure maybe the Marx Brothers played here, but I can get the latest and greatest sent straight from a satellite and into my ear.

History? Two weeks of the retro kitsch of Stampede is all I need to feel connected to folk of old who found themselves stuck in this cold, harsh land, I’m burning my brand into the hide of this city with a laser.

I’ve been here since birth, and trust me, we’ve long since paved over anything worth unearthing. Harry, good luck putting flesh on the past, but you’re going to run out of fodder fast!

So, though tongue-in-cheek, this does raise the question – What value is there in the past? Harry’s job as historian laureate will be to answer this question, which he did, in verse, no less:

Poetry may be the more universal art

Some things are best said in verse

But a forgotten poem is never repeated

So forgetting our history is worse

Those we follow inform who we are

Crowfoot, Macleod, Weadick, Edworthy

They’re with us still, for good or ill

Daily, we’re shaped by our history

So, it is a great honour to have a small part

In celebrating this 100th anniversary

I pledge to remind you all of our shared past

As Historian Laureate of Calgary

I know that Harry will continue to answer the question in his own inimitable style. Way to go, Harry!

Poet Laureate and Historian Laureate

Poet Laureate Kris Demeanor asks the Question "What's so great about history?"

Photo courtesy Judith Umbach

D-Day: The Battle for Normandy - A Program

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

They must not go alone

into that burning building! – which today

is all of Europe!

 

(from Poem and Prayer for an Invading Army by Edna St Vincent Millay)

 

The dangers confronted by Canadian soldiers on June 6, 1944 are unfathomable to anyone who didn’t live through those times or fight those battles. For the most part we know war stories through the dramatization of film, through school lessons blurred by time, or the reluctant reminiscence of veterans. Unless you are a devout student of history you may not often get the chance to be the audience of empassioned, highly-informative presentations on subjects that continue to shape our lives, even 68 years later.

On Wednesday, June 6, the library offers such an opportunity as we host “D-Day: The Battle of Normandy”, presented by a military historian known to leave audiences dazzled and enlightened - Stephane Guevremont. Bringing the gems of his research to life, along with many of the actual artefacts in the form of rare film footage, photography, enlistment documentation or machinery maintenance reports, Guevremont’s presentations are guaranteed to engage you with history in a refreshing light.

Don’t miss Guevremont’s presentation on Canada’s critical contribution to the success of D-Day. The details:

 

Wednesday, June 6
7 - 9 p.m.
2nd floor, John Dutton Theatre
Central Library

Register in person, by calling 403-260-2620 or online.

 

The Times they are a Changin'

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Library and Archives Canada

Genealogists and local historians are people who love heritage – that is an obvious statement, I think. Genealogists and local historians are also people who understand the value of heritage and of the documents and artifacts that constitute that heritage. Here at the Calgary Public Library we put requests in for documents that are sometimes arcane, sometimes bizarre, but always valuable in the pursuit of our history. We often request these items from our national “memory keeper” Library and Archives Canada.

Changes are taking place at Library and Archives Canada, though, and they may have an effect on how we are able to access those documents that are so important to our research. Proposals for trimming the budget include reducing hours of service in the Library and Archives itself and ending LAC’s role in the national interlibrary loan program. There are also changes being made to what LAC will acquire and hold and who will be responsible for protecting the documents in the care of the national repository. These changes may have far reaching effects on those of us who rely on our national library to have and hold the literary output of our country.

Anyone who works in a library and most of you who use our library are aware that the way libraries do what they do will have to change. Library and Archives Canada has been noticing a decrease in in-person visits, with a corresponding upsurge in the use of their website. And, to be fair, the changes proposed for Library and Archives Canada do include the potential for increased digitization of the holdings that are most accessed. What scares many of us genealogists is that we remember what happened with the last technological advance in document management, the evil microfilm. While we are glad that we have it (it is virtually indestructible) we are leery of what happens with the originals once the copy is made. In the case of census records and passenger lists, once the microfilming was completed, the originals were destroyed. For most of the collection that is fine but there are several dozen reels that are filmed very badly, are basically unreadable, and we have no recourse to the original. Now, I understand why destroying the census originals seemed like a good idea at the time. The books were large and hard to store, old paper requires special care and a special environment. Getting rid of these things might have seemed like a great cost-cutting measure. I’m not sure it was.

These changes are going to have effects in the future that we can’t even begin to foresee. While changes do need to be made in all libraries we need to consider the LAC as a special case. They are not just any other library and their role as the collector and protector of the country’s documentary heritage needs to be recognized as a pillar on which we can build the future. We will never maintain the greatness of this country by dismantling the past.

If you are interested in developments at Library and Archives Canada, you can visit our E-Library under Newspapers and read the papers in Newspaper Direct Press Display. You can read up on the cuts in a number of Canadian newspapers by entering a search in the text box at the top of the page.

Attestation Paper from LAC

World War I Attestation Paper from Library and Archives Canada Collection

Inspiring Life Stories

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Inspiring Life Stories

I know you’re probably tired of my rambling on and on about our 100th birthday, but I am sooooo excited (and I just can’t hide it). So many cool things will be going on connected with our birthday that we are guaranteed to have the best year yet. And the event that I was most excited about will be happening on May 17 when our own history book Calgary Public Library: Inspiring Life Stories since 1912 will be publically launched. Because it is a book about our history and I work in the history area of the library, my colleagues and I were involved (in varying degrees) in some of the research for this book. And we were privileged to have the author, Brian Brennan, working in our local history area.

You may think that a book about the history of a library may not exactly be your cup of tea, but when you think about it, the library is central to the life of a community. It is a meeting place, a place where you can come to learn, to have fun, to just hang out. That is what a good library should strive to be. And I think we are a great library. The story of the library is the story of our city, it is our story, so please join us on May 17 at the place where it all began, the magnificent Memorial Park Library (Click here for a link to the information about the program) . You will be able to buy a copy of the book and have it signed by the author. Or you can purchase the book on www.goodread.ca - Your Library Store. All proceeds from the sale of the book support the Calgary Public Library Foundation.

As I mentioned, the book launch is only one of a huge number of programs that will be offered to celebrate our 100th. You can check out what is going on at the Celebrate our Centennial cpl100.ca section of our website. There will be birthday parties, the Annie Davidson Lecture Series, Community Gardens and on and on. You can also check out our archive photographs in “Our Story in Pictures” also available at the cpl100.ca site. It is going to be a great year – please come and be a part of it.

CPL 103-22-01Our Stories in Pictures, cpl 103-22-01

It's Jane's Walk Time Again!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 63-09

House of Jacob, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 63-09

Spring must be coming because it is Jane’s Walk season again. This has become an annual event, and for any of you who have not heard of the Jane's Walks, well, let me fill you in. Jane's Walks are named in honour of Jane Jacob's who was an extremely influential thinker who advocated a community approach to city building. As part of this legacy, the Walks are held every year in many major cities. These tours are led by volunteers who talk about their communities. Last year we had a number of excellent neighbourhood tours, and this year, the momentum continues to grow and we have a choice of some extremely interesting topics and areas.

One that I am particularly looking forward to is Harry Sanders’ tour of Jewish Calgary on Sunday May 6. It will start at the Central Library and meander up to Memorial Park Library and back. Harry will point out historic and modern buildings, sites of demolished buildings, parks and institutions that have a link to the Jewish community in Calgary’s past. This is going to be great. Harry has a great knowledge of Calgary’s history and a brain packed with fascinating details. I never fail to learn from him and his talks are always entertaining. He and Marje Wing, the Customer Service Manager of the Alexander Calhoun Library, will also be conducting a walk through Marda Loop, starting at the Calhoun library on Saturday.

Calgary Public Library is connected to some other walks as well. Two of our staff members will be taking interested “Jane’s Walkers” on an Art Circuit tour of the City of Calgary’s art collection. This tour also starts at the Central Library and will proceed from there through the Plus 15 system. That tour will take place on Saturday May 5.

For a look at a “newer” area, Ann Lidgren, the Customer Service Manager of Nose Hill Library, will be exploring the Brentwood area around her branch and talking about the impact that a library branch can have in developing a community.

There will also be a tour starting out at the Louise Riley Library that will explore the history and homes of the surrounding area. This tour is led by Professor Graham Livesay.

This is just a hint at some of the walks that will be taking place. The subjects range far and wide, just like this vibrant city. You can find out about the East Village (with Clayton Buck), you can visit the Drop In Centre and see the wonderful work they are doing there, you can check out the bridges of the Mission area with Marilyn Williams or look out at the city from Crescent Road with Judith Umbach and her co-presenters. Our new Poet Laureate, Kris Demeanor, is even involved, giving us his view of the Bridgeland area. The list goes on and on. You have to check out the website (http://janeswalk.net/cities/landing/category/calgary/) and the huge variety of walks available. The chance to have an insider’s look at the various communities is a great way to get to know about our home. The walks and talks are always interesting and this year’s selection is the best yet.

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Mission Bridge, ca 1936 (from postmark)

Postcards from the Past, PC 1278

House History

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 5213th Avenue looking east

13th Avenue Looking East

Postcards from the Past, PC 52

On Saturday May 12, we will be presenting a workshop, with an archivist from the City of Calgary Archives, on how to research the history of your house. We have done these before, but this time we are happy to be giving the presentation as part of an initiative called “Century Homes.” What we want to do is to encourage people to research the stories of their homes. Your house doesn't have to be 100 years old for you to attend, but we would like people who do have a home that was built in or before 1915 to look into the Century Homes initiative (http://www.centuryhomes.org/). Doing house research is kind of like doing genealogy, but much, much less complicated (houses don't move, change their names or hide from the law, for the most part). Between the members of the Heritage Triangle, we hold vast amounts of information about homes and the people who lived in them.

Calgary experienced a building boom in the early part of the 20th century and there are still plenty of houses around from that era. If you own one of them, you can get a kit from Century Homes to help you make a yard sign. You will be asked to put up the sign during Historic Calgary Week (Friday July 27 through to Monday August 6) The information you gather about your house will be archived here at the Calgary Public Library so we will have a record of your house. As I like to tell people, history is made by the people like you and me – the very people who lived in your house. (My colleagues will tell you I beat this topic like a rented mule) Your home doesn’t have to be a massive sandstone pile to have historic value. Cities are built by the folks in the three room cottages, the tiny bungalows and the once grand multi –stories converted to boarding houses. So, think about participating in this very exciting initiative. Researching your house is not an onerous job – there are lots of sources and there are people to help you use them. And I want to stress that, while your home has to be 100 years old or thereabouts, to be considered a Century Home, there is lots of information available for people whose houses are younger. Join us to find out how to get started with your own home's unique story.

Registration for the May 12 program will begin on April 23.

Century Homes Logo

Bridges

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 226

Centre Street Bridge, pre 1915

Postcards from the Past, PC 226

Well, after much controversy, many delays and a healthy dose of skepticism, the Peace Bridge is scheduled to officially open this Saturday with a celebration including the blessing of the bridge by a First Nations elder – suitable, as the confluence of these rivers had long been a meeting spot for the people living in this part of the country.

The bridge was designed by Santiago Calatrava, the architect chosen to design the train station which will be part of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site in New York. He also designed two beautiful bridges that span the River Liffey in Dublin, one of my very favourite cities. Both are named for famous Irish authors (James Joyce and Samuel Beckett) and are beautiful additions to that city. But I digress. Our Calatrava bridge was faced with much nay saying and continual back and forth between proponents of the unique structure and those who felt the money could be better spent. Because I am a history buff, this called to mind the foofaraw over the Centre Street Bridge (of course there has to be a tie to something in the past, right?)

The part of the city north of the Bow had been settled long before it was part of the city. In fact, the area just beyond the Langevin was the red light district for Calgary because it actually fell outside of the jurisdiction of the city police. For people living on the north side of the Bow, it was imperative that they have a decent bridge to cross to the city. The developer of Crescent Heights had built a steel span bridge with wooden approaches. He sold shares in the company and used the bridge as a selling feature for the land that he was developing on the north side of the river. There were other crossings, but the closest bridge was at what is now Kensington, and it was a bit of a hike for people who were coming from Crescent Heights and area. When Crescent Heights was annexed by the city in 1908, many expected that the bridge would also fall under the care and maintenance of the city. The annexation meant that lots were opened up and houses were being built. Construction materials had to be hauled up to the hill, but the Centre Street Bridge Company was still the owner of the structure. The company wanted the city to pay $7,000 for the bridge, what it had cost them to build it. The city refused to pay even $5000. This back and forth went on between the city and the bridge company from 1908 to 1912 when the city finally agreed to buy the bridge for $300. Three years later, the structure would be washed out by one of our regular floods. What was left was sold to the provincial Department of Highways (for $200 more than the city paid the bridge company for it.) Construction had already begun on the new bridge that we all know and love. It was completed in 1916, again, with much controversy surrounding its design and the cost. Some things never change.

 

Centre Street Bridge Lion AJ

Eamon's Bungalow Camp

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Eamon

Eamon's Bungalow Camp, 10220 Crowchild Tr. NW

From "Discover Historic Calgary"

We had a great time at the Heritage Matters program on Thursday night. Our mayor gave a talk about the importance of heritage and then answered questions from the audience. What was most interesting was the mayor’s perspective on what heritage means. We have tended, in the past, to view heritage as a concern of those with the leisure to contemplate the value of 100 year old, sandstone edifices. What Mayor Nenshi suggested is that Calgary’s heritage is a much broader concept, concerning all Calgarians in their infinite variety and looking at all places with a view to their value, not just as architectural monuments, but as signifiers of the history of the people of this city.

Two sites were mentioned that have garnered some press in the last little while, Eamon’s Bungalow Camp and the Barron Building. I have written a blog on the Barron Building, which is an example of a site which has significance beyond its structure. Eamon’s Camp is one of those sites which to many of us, who grew up in the middle part of the last century, seem merely “old fashioned” as they were once a common sight. There was a Royalite station in the neighbourhood I grew up in that looked much the same. These are the buildings that are most at risk – they are a part of my childhood, how can they be heritage?! But Eamon’s is one of the last examples still standing of the mid-century commercial architecture that was once ubiquitous. The city owns the site it is on and needs to build a C-Train station and parking there. While the sign is going to be preserved, many have expressed concern about the building itself. Because of citizen concern, plans for the site may be revisited.

The story of Roy Eamon and his “one –stop tourist service centre” is fascinating. Eamon was an entrepreneur of the real Calgary type – he had businesses galore and an ability to bounce back from disaster. It is rumoured that he made and lost several fortunes. But for many years, his drive-in, service station, motel was the place to stop on the way to Banff. You could buy gas, eat lunch (in the restaurant or in the car from a tray hooked to the window – does anyone remember that?) and have your car washed all at the same place. It was a beacon to travelers until the new Trans-Canada highway came through. If you’re interested in Eamon’s you can find a very detailed history on the City of Calgary database “Discover Historic Calgary”. It has also been discussed on the Calgary Heritage Initiative website as well as in the Calgary Herald (which you can read through Newspaper Direct Press Display in our e-library - under Newspapers and Magazines)

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