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What I Learned from Dave Obee

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

CPL 103 15 01

Students at the Central Library, ca 1914

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures, CPL 103-15-01

I was as happy as a pig eating rhubarb on Saturday — I was at a genealogy conference given by the Alberta Family Histories Society featuring the Canadian genealogy guru, Dave Obee. Dave is the author of a large number of reference works relating to Canadian genealogical records, including Destination Canada, and Counting Canada, as well as a bunch of great guides to things like directories, voters’ lists, and citizenship indexes. In addition he is the proprietor of the best (in my opinion) website for Canadian genealogy research, CanGenealogy. Dave is also a library supporter, and has written the history of library service in British Columbia, The Library Book. In his other life, he is also a working journalist so his insights into the study of people (which, really, genealogy is at its heart) are particularly valuable.

So, the most important thing I learned from my day-long participation in this genealogy conference is not about a particular kind of record or a really snazzy website to check. No, the most important lesson that I took away from Dave’s lectures, was that we have a duty to our ancestors to tell their stories. We have to look beyond the census and vital statistics and research the time and the place of our people who went before. For this we use the secondary sources such as local histories, general histories, ephemera, maps and any other number of cool, non-traditional sources (like those found in our Local History Collection). I was delighted to hear this affirmation of my own belief from someone whose work I admire. I, too, believe genealogy is not just the process of collecting names and dates. The true value of genealogy lies in the history of the people and the building of their story.

This is the approach we have been taking with the Lest We Forget project. The students we visit take documents, facts, and statistics and turn them into a life story. Perhaps they may even be interested in looking beyond their soldier, to the families left behind. This is certainly a more challenging assignment, but it is one that has immeasurable value in the understanding and the remembrance of those who went before.

So, this is the most important thing I learned from Dave Obee, but it wasn’t the only thing so in my next posting, I will mention some of the other great tips I gleaned from my day with the expert.

Calgary's French Connection

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 652

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Calgary, dated 1909

Postcards from the Past, PC 652

When we think of Canada’s French Canadian population we rarely think of our city. Did you know that it was a French speaking person who welcomed the North West Mounted Police when they arrived at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers in 1875? Father Doucet, an Oblate, in the area to minister to the First Nations tribes who called this area home, had already established a mission at the site. The Mounties thought the area would be ideal for their fort and so asked the missionaries to move further up the Elbow. The area where they finally established their mission, Notre Dame de la Paix, eventually became Rouleaville, Calgary’s first French community.

The presence of the mission attracted other Catholic development including a hospital, cathedral, convent and schools. St. Mary’s school, started in a log cabin in 1885, is still in operation, albeit in a newer building. The settlement attracted other Francophones including Metis who were employed as the 19th century equivalent of truck drivers, moving freight in and out of Fort Benton. Father Lacombe, the visionary behind this community, sought official status for the area of land the Oblate fathers were occupying and was ceded the rights to two quarter sections. This furthered the development of the area and soon French speaking businessmen and professionals were building their mansions in the area. The earliest of these were the Rouleau brothers, Charles and Edward. (aj 1142) Charles’ lovely mansion is gone, demolished in 1939 to make way for the Athlone Apartments, but Edward’s house was moved to a spot behind the old St. Mary’s Parish Hall (now Alberta Ballet) and still stands.

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Dr. Edward Rouleau Residence, 114 18 Avenue SW, ca 1972

Moved to vacant lot behind the Alberta Ballet building (141 18 Avenue SW)

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1142

The existence of a French community in Calgary is unknown to many of us. La Bureau de Visibilite de Calgary and La Societe Franco-Canadienne de Calgary sponsor Les Rendez-vous de la Francophonie throughout the month of March. On the 22nd of the month, these organizations along with the Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association and the Calgary Public Library are presenting, in English, “Rouleauville – Calgary’s French Connection” at the John Dutton Theatre of the Central Library at 2:00. Admission is free. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about an important part of Calgary’s early history. See you there.

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Sacred Heart Convent, built 1893

Postcards from the Past, PC 136

Upcoming Genealogy Events

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

Dave Obee is coming to town! The Alberta Family Histories Society is bringing Dave Obee to Calgary for a day-long event covering many aspects of Canadian genealogical research. He will be talking about using the internet for research, finding information on our immigrant ancestors, how to squeeze the last drop of information from the census and Canadians in World War I. Dave Obee is a very big name in Canadian genealogy circles and has written a number of books that I use nearly every day. This is going to be a great seminar and it is dirt cheap - $35 if you register before March 1, $45 if you register after. Check out information on the Alberta Family Histories Society website. I am so looking forward to this – I hope to see you there.

Closer to home, we will be offering our Genealogy for Beginners program at the Fish Creek Library on February 22 at 7 PM. This is the perfect opportunity to find out how to start that family history project. For more information and to register click here.

Also remember our Family History Coaching sessions on the last Saturday of the month from 10 to noon until June 28. We meet on the 4th floor of the Central Library and we can help you one-on-one with your genealogical research. This is a drop in program, so no registration is required.

In the genealogy vein, but not exactly a genealogy program, is the lecture series being put on at the Military Museums to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. A series of lectures will be run over the next three months including Dr. John Ferris, talking about the outbreak of World War I, Rob Alexander sharing his grandfather’s account of the Dieppe Raid and the invasion of Italy from his diaries, and Lindsey Sharman introducing Forging a Nation: Canada Goes to War, the newest exhibit in the Founder’s Gallery at the Museum. For more information visit their website.

Sarcee Camp

192nd Battalion, Sarcee Camp Calgary, 1916

Postcards from the Past, PC 965

If you are a teacher looking for an interesting way to engage your high-school students in the life of a World War I soldier, contact me about presenting our Lest We Forget program. We bring the service records of local soldiers and each student can use these documents to create a story or a tribute to the soldier. This has been a very successful program, leading students to a deeper understanding of the meaning and impact of war in the lives of our ancestors. If you’re interested, contact me.

Tonight is the Heritage Trades Roundtable at Rideau Park School. We will be listening to presentations about Beautiful Brick. For more information and to register visit their site.

 

If you have an upcoming genealogy event you would like us to mention, please feel free to post a comment below.

Beautiful Brick: The Heritage Trades Roundtable

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Parkdale house, developed by Alfred McKay and built with Crandell Pressed Brick

Century Homes Photographs, CH 2012-008

The second Heritage Trades Round Table is set to go on January 28. This one is particularly apropos given the decision recently taken by the CBE to demolish the lovely old Elbow Park School, as it is on the subject of beautiful brick.

Calgary has long been known as the "Sandstone City" due to the number of nearby sandstone quarries. Many people are unaware, however, that we had a good number of brickworks in the vicinity as well. The area around Cochrane had the silty hard clay that was great for making bricks and much of the production of the three brickyards operating there in the early 20th century was shipped to Calgary. Calgary had its own brickyards as well; the earliest of these being Peel’s brickyard which opened in 1886 in the area of what is now Roxboro. “Gravity” Watson’s yard was established in 1893 near the Edworthy Ranch in the Shaganappi area. This became known as Brickburn. The company was later sold to Edward Crandell, whose beautiful brick home still stands in Patterson Heights and is perhaps better known as the house where Stu Hart lived and trained his wrestlers.

Another entrepreneur who got into the brick business and whose imposing home still stands was William Nimmons. He started a small brickyard on the site of his quarry in the Bankview area. The quarry at Glenbow also had brickworks on the site. There were also small brickworks, run by home builders who provided bricks for their own construction. William Kempling was one such. His operation was located between Centre St. and 4 St. E.

If you are a brick aficionado and would like to learn more about the history of brick production and construction in Calgary, you need to come to the next Heritage Roundtable. You will meet some of the people who make the preservation and maintenance of the buildings and features we love possible. The evening will include:

•Historic brick production & industry in Alberta — Malcolm Sissons, president, I-XL Industries Ltd., a 4th generation family business founded in 1912 as the Redcliff Pressed Brick Co.

•Current brick masonry trade, traditional methods — Neil Puype, principal of a heritage building consulting company and 5th generation brick and stone mason

•Early brickyards & building with brick in Calgary — Marilyn Williams, Heritage Roundtables steering committee

This is going to be great, talking ‘bout brick in the Sandstone City, so join us. The event takes place Rideau Park School gymnasium, 829 Rideau Road SW and starts at 7:00 pm (doors will open at 6:30 pm). It is open to the public and free of charge. To register, click here.

 

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Mewata Armouries, entrance to the Drill Hall, ca 1965

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 88-05

The Value of Old Buildings

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Elbow Park School

Elbow Park School

From the Elbow Park School Website

Elbow Park School is in the news again. The CBE is meeting to discuss what will be done with the school – should it be torn down and replaced or restored? Schools often present challenges for the people who want to save old buildings. They are large and occupy vast tracts of land, often in very desirable neighbourhoods. The people who hold Elbow Park’s fate in their hands are facing a real dilemma. Yes, a new school would have all the bells and whistles, enough plug ins for all the electronics (I work in an older building myself and understand this challenge especially), a better gym, and all the amenities that new buildings offer, but they will also lose a character building, in a sense they will lose the history of their school. The neighbourhood, which is one of the oldest in the city, will lose more of its defining characteristics, the characteristics that make it such a wonderful place to live.

So what, you might say. This is a pointless discussion. An old building is an old building and the best way to deal with it is to replace it. That it is flood damaged is the perfect opportunity to look to the future and build something “better.” This is at the heart of much of what we do in the heritage community. What is the value of an old building? Is there more than monetary value to consider when we decide their fate? Is newer necessarily better?

There are lots of arguments to support both points of view. Reusing old buildings adds character to cities – remember when Mordecai Richler famously stated that Calgary would be a helluva city once it was uncrated? We’ve come a long way from there. We value our heritage and realize that preserving our old buildings gives a sense of the history to a city, something that we lose every time we knock one of them down. Old school buildings are especially important in the history of place. “Schools were once thought of as important civic landmarks built to last a century. They represented community investments that inspired civic pride and participation in public life," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There is an excellent study on the fate of historic neighbourhood schools by the Trust called “Why Johnny Can’t Walk to School: Historic Neighborhood Schools in the Age of Sprawl.”

There is also the practical value of restoration. It is a far greener option than dumping demolition rubble into a landfill. Restoration allows for the removal of any nasty stuff like asbestos and allows for a general buff-up. If Jane Jacobs is correct that new ideas require old buildings, sending our kids to school in a historic building could open the way for who knows what kind of engagement. If you don’t want your kids to go to school in an old building, then perhaps we should reconsider the value of Ivy League schools, or Oxford or Cambridge. Part of what makes the experience there so valuable is the history behind them, represented, not in the least, by their wonderful historic buildings.

I hope we get to keep that beautiful school. It would be a shame to lose another one.

PC 1998

St. Mary's School

Postcards from the Past, PC 1998

Xmas Gifts for the History Buff on Your List

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Concrete Centenarian

There is nothing like a blizzard to get me started thinking about Christmas shopping. In particular, how much I don’t want to be out shopping in weather like this. So, with that in mind I thought I would pull together a little list of books and some other suggestions for gifts for the history lover in our lives.

This was a really good publishing year for local history. Many of our favourite historians released books that would be great presents not just for local history buffs, but for family or friends who don’t know our city, but should.

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Development Derailed: Calgary and the CPR, 1962-1964by Max Foran. In June of 1962, the Canadian Pacific Railway announced a proposal to redevelop part of its reserved land in the heart of downtown Calgary. In an effort to bolster its waning revenues and to redefine its urban presence, the CPR proposed a multimillion dollar development project that included retail, office, and convention facilities, along with a major transportation centre.

The Flood of 2013: A Summer of Angry Rivers in Southern Alberta by the Calgary Herald; foreword by Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The Flood of 2013 chronicles an unforgettable summer of angry rivers, unprecedented flooding and undeniable human spirit. This gift is a “double give” as a portion of proceeds from the sale will go to the Calgary Foundation’s Flood Rebuilding fund.

Calgary LRT Walks: South Stations and Northwest Stations by David Peyto (available from Peyto Lake Books. One of the best ways to learn more about Calgary, to appreciate and enjoy the city, is on foot. Calgary LRT Walks describes many walks from LRT stations and include information on routes, buses, bathrooms and eateries.

River throws a tantrum by Rona Altrows; illustrated by Sarah-Joy Geddes is about one boy’s perception of the flood and evacuation. It was published by Pages Bookstore and read at one of their story times by Mayor Nenshi.

Concrete Centenarian: The Life and Death of Calgary’s Canadian Government Elevator by Scott Jolliffe looks at the history and demolition of the old Government elevator in Ogden. It is richly illustrated with the author’s photographs. Concrete Centenarian is available at many of the bookstores mentioned below. It is also available directly from the Calgary Heritage Authority for $30. For the CHA, email elevatorbookinfo@gmail.com

Marion Nicoll: Silence and Alchemy by Ann Davis, Elizabeth Herbert, Jennifer Salahub. Marion Nicoll is a widely acknowledged founder of Alberta art and certainly one of a dedicated few that brought abstraction into practice in the province. Her life and career is a story of determination, of dedication to her vision regardless of professional or personal challenges. She was the first female instructor hired by the school that is now ACAD.

Unbuilt Calgary: A History of the City That Might Have Been by Stephanie White. There have always been great plans afoot for Calgary. Stephanie White looks at some of the plans and what they would have meant for the city.

Wild Horses, Wild Wolves: Legends at risk at the foot of the Canadian Rockies by Maureen Enns. Ghost River Wilderness Area, located along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta, is one of only three provincially designated wilderness areas in the province. It is in this beautiful, threatened and geographically remote area that Maureen Enns, a well-known artist, author, educator and conservationist, has come to discover an incredible world inhabited by wild horses, one of the region’s most elusive and iconic creatures.

Any one of these titles would make a great gift. Many of these books can be purchased at Chapters/Indigo but also check our local booksellers such as the Glenbow Museum Shop, Pages on Kensington, Shelf Life Books and Owl’s Nest.

Do you have a suggestion for a great local history book to give as a present? Please put your title in the comments and we'll add it to our list.

Building Curiosity

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

James McMenamin

'Building Curiosity'

The Calgary Education Centre

by James McMenamin

The preservation of our built heritage involves many people and many partnerships. We are very lucky, here at the Calgary Public Library, to have many good friends and partners in our work to collect and make available material that furthers the cause of heritage preservation in the city.

One of our partners to this end is the Calgary Heritage Authority. We are proud to join with them in launching a new collection of photographs intended to create a visual record of the buildings and landscapes included in the City of Calgary’s Inventory of Evaluated Historic Sites.

 

Photo by James McMenamin

Eamon's Camp by James McMenamin

City of Calgary Heritage Inventory Collection, ECP JM 018

These photographs are an important part of the historic resource documentation process. They will be readily available to all interested researchers and will give them access to detailed building information that might otherwise be lost, particularly if the building has been demolished. The initial collection is by photographers James McMenamin and Michael Knudsen. It offers a detailed look at three important buildings in Calgary’s history: The Harvey Block, The Barron Building and Eamon’s Bungalow Camp.

 

Harvey Block

Harvey Block by Michael Knudsen

City of Calgary Heritage Inventory Collection

 

James McMenamin is also exhibiting at the Kasian Gallery at the University of Calgary. The exhibition ‘Building Curiousity’ is a visual record of a very unique space, the brutalist Calgary Education Centre. It includes interior and exterior views and the ideas generated by MoDA Architecture, Nyhoff Architecture and SPECTACLE for the reuse of the building. The research work of Lindsay Horan, Leanne Junnila and Phil Wilson will also be displayed.

'Building Curiosity' also features photographs of other spaces that were ripe for reinvigoration. A public reception will be held on Friday November 22 from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at the Kasian Gallery, which is located in the Faculty of Environmental Design, room 2145 of the Professional Faculties Building on the University of Calgary campus.

History and Kids: Have a Blast with the Past

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 620

Stoney (Nakoda) Children on a Travois, 1922

Postcards from the Past, PC 620

Part of our Heritage Weekend this year is a program for young people at the Nose Hill Library on Sunday October 27 from 12 to 3 p.m. We have folks coming in from Heritage Park, Fort Calgary, Military Museums, Archaeological Society of Alberta Calgary Centre, the 78th Fraser Highlanders, Lougheed House, the Aerospace Museum, and the History Wrangler. There will be lots of stuff to see and do and it’s a great way to get our young people enthused about our history.

Getting young people interested in history can be somewhat challenging, although I find when we do school tours there are always a few students who think that a one hundred year old business directory is “sick” (for us oldsters, that means really cool) or who think the old maps are “killer” (also means good). I even had one young man tell his friend that, no, history wasn’t boring, it was “awesome”!

So, in many cases the interest is there, but sometimes isn’t tapped until they can get their hands on a buffalo skull, or an artifact from a museum, or until they hear the stories of the everyday people who made this province. That is what we are going to do at the Family Heritage Fair. So if you have a budding historian in your life or even if you’d just like to take the kids to see what’s neat at the library, pop in on Sunday and have a blast with the past.

 

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Children's Story Hour at the Library, 1912

Calgary Public Library Archives: Our Story in Pictures, 103-15-01

More Heritage Weekend — Commerce and Sports

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 954

Looking to the North East from the top of the Grain Exchange Building, ca 1910

Postcards from the Past PC 954

Our annual Heritage Weekend kicks off on Friday October 25 at 5:30 p.m. with Heritage Matters: Calgary’s Commercial Heritage. Author and photographer Steve Speer will present images from his book Building on the Bow: Landmarks in Calgary Commercial Real Estate. The images in the book are the culmination of a year’s work documenting Calgary’s changing architectural landscape. With Calgary being a city that grows in fits and starts, many old buildings are changed or lost and many new buildings rise. Sometimes it happens so fast, we don’t even notice. Building on the Bow provides an important record of the city’s commercial properties both old and new. I’m going to be there with bells on.

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Hockey Player (Alex Griesak) 1908

Postcards from the Past, PC 1596

The very next day, we have another program lined up that promises to be just as entertaining: an examination of Calgary’s Sports Heritage with Honoured Members from the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. This is an aspect of life in Calgary that we haven’t covered before and I am really looking forward to hearing this presentation. We have always been a sporting community; the Mounties played polo nearly as soon as they got here and, with our balmy Chinook winters, we even had baseball games played in January (with commentators noting that the balmy breeze kept the spectators from getting too hot!) There is a long heritage of sporting excellence in Calgary and we will be celebrating it at 11 a.m. on Saturday October 26.

Find out more about the programs by following this link. You can register for the Heritage Week programs in person, online or by telephone at 403-260-2620. It runs from Friday October 25 to Sunday October 27. This is our big heritage blow-out so we have packed the weekend with great presentations and events for the whole family. Come on down and have a blast with the past.

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Football Team (perhaps Calgary Collegiate Institute) 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 1131

Calgary's Aviation History

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1122

The Airport, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Postcards from the Past, PC 1122

In my last blog post I wrote about the Bay Building in downtown Calgary. It is an iconic building and its importance to the life of the city cannot be overstated. But what I found out while I was researching it was that it played many roles in the lives of Calgarians beyond just that of a place to buy stuff. One of the most interesting uses I read about was the RCAF No. 4 Training Command post on the top floor. The command centre for the west of Canada from Vancouver to Regina, 300 people staffed this post. They stayed there until the No. 4 Command was merged with the No. 2 Command and the staff and equipment were shipped to Winnipeg late in 1944.

The first manned flight Calgarians actually saw was a hot-air balloon stunt at the Calgary Agricultural and Industrial Fair in 1906. ‘Professor’ Williams (apparently all hot-air balloonists called themselves professor) parachuted from a trapeze hanging from his hot-air balloon and landed in the Elbow River. This stunt did not seem to make much of an impression on the jaded citizens of Calgary. While I can give details of the winners and their prizes from every variety of livestock, and the winners of all the horse races, there is only passing mention of the balloonist. Maybe the Morning Albertan journalist was right, that “a Calgary crowd is a quiet crowd…[that] takes its pleasure without boisterousness” (until someone blocks their view of the finish line).

A dirigible was the highlight of the 1908 Exhibition, making flights around the grounds twice a day. It’s first flight was a bit of a disappointment as the pilot, Jack Dallas, couldn’t yet maneuver the ship in high winds and it was off course for most of its maiden voyage. It calmed down later in the week, but eventually a windstorm caused the dirigible to hit a mooring tower and burst into flames. Hydrogen does that.

Planes were often part of the grandstand show at the Calgary Exhibitions. Howard Le Van, a very young pilot, flew his plane (another Strobel machine) at the Exhibition until it crashed into a fence when it caught a strut in a gopher hole. Been there!

Katherine Stinson, one of the first female pilots, made several visits to the Calgary Exhibition, performing stunts and even making western Canada’s first airmail flight, taking off from a flat spot near Stanley Jones School in Renfrew to take mail to Edmonton. This area would become Calgary’s first municipal airport, and would have the first illuminated runway in the country. The hangar built by Rutledge Air Services, still stands and currently houses the Boys and Girls Club.

Calgarians continued to be fascinated with flight. The flat lands surrounding the city were perfect for pilots to launch their homemade planes. And they did so with a passion. The papers are filled with accounts of flight attempts. Some were successful, such as an attempt by two teenaged boys, Earle Young and Alf Lauder, to build a glider powered by a motorcycle engine which eventually got off the ground with the help of a tow from Dad’s Buick.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to aviation history in Calgary. To find out more you can join us at our annual Heritage Weekend to take in the new documentary Wings of Change presented by Doug Wilson. This excellent documentary celebrates history of aviation in Calgary from the first flights at the beginning of the 20th century to the newest developments at YYC. This will take place, as I mentioned, during our Heritage Weekend on October 25 to 27. The film will be screened on October 25 at noon in the John Dutton Theatre at the Central Library. You can register online, in person, or by telephone (403-260-2620). Check out the other Heritage Weekend programs while you’re at it. We’ve got some great stuff.

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Calgary--As seen from an Aeroplane, ca 1924

Postcards from the Past, PC 699

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