Latest Posts

  • Oct 15 - The Empress of Ireland - This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland. Her legacy in Canadian immigration lives on
  • Oct 7 - World War I Remembered - Calgary Public Library is offering some great programs to commemorate the start of WWI
  • Sep 30 - The Cecil Hotel - The Cecil Hotel is in the news again and its not looking good for the old fella
  • Sep 23 - Fall is the Season for Heritage Programs - There are a lot of very cool heritage events taking place over the next few weeks
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The Annual Calgary Bull Sale

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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The Exhibition Grounds, site of the 1902 Bull Sale, ca 1908

Postcards from the Past, PC 271

The annual Calgary Bull Sale was held for the 113th time last week at the Stampede Grounds. That makes it the longest running consignment bull sale on the planet. It began as part of the annual meeting of the Territorial Pure Bred Cattle Breeders Association, with the aim of providing the “small farmers to obtain pure bred stock as reasonably as the large rancher had been able to do by buying carload lots. “ Because of the size of the Territories and the cost of transporting less than a carload of animals, small farmers were limited in their access to breeding stock outside of their immediate neighbourhood. For many it was cheaper to buy stock from the East, but these animals weren’t necessarily the best for the climate out here. To level the field for the smaller producer, the stock was transported free of charge. The sale took place on the Friday of the annual meeting at R.C. Thomas’s Frontier Stables. According to the newspaper report, the bidding started slowly, but the bull Lord Kitchener turned the tide with a starting bid of fifty dollars which quickly went to one hundred. W.R. Hull paid $250 for a two-year old. Apparently the cows went much cheaper, being, as they were, “a little off colour.”

The sale was not just to benefit the small producers. Improving cattle herds on the prairies was a benefit to all producers. The cattle on the land at the time were descendants of the Texas longhorn, which was a tough breed, but not as well suited as the British breeds such as Herefords and Angus to our colder winters. Plus, as any steak connoisseur can tell you, they are better eatin’.

This year the average price of a Hereford bull was nearly $5000. The record price paid for a bull, one which has yet to be broken, was set at the 1981 sale when a Grand Champion Hereford bull from B and H Hereford Farm sold for $280,000. That’s a lot more than Lord Kitchener got at the first sale. The numbers from the sales tell a story, and it’s not always a happy one. Going through the excellent history of the Bull Sale by JoAnne Jones Hole, one cannot help but notice that although prices seem to remain steady, the number of animals at the sale has dwindled. In 2000 there were 572 bulls sold, in the last sale, 208. There is still optimism in the industry and the Annual Bull Sale still continues to draw buyers from both sides of the border, a testament to the quality of the Alberta herds and the early efforts of the Territorial Pure Bred Cattle Breeders Association to build them. Let's hope this optimism continues. Alberta beef is still the best!

We have the book Calgary Bull Sale 1901-2000 by JoAnn Jones Hole as well as several catalogues from the 1950s in our Local History Collection. These are just a small part of the collection of materials about the history of the ranching and the cattle industry in Southern Alberta. Drop in for a visit.

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Dipping Cattle near Medicine Hat, NWT ca 1902

Postcards from the Past, PC 103

Upcoming Heritage Programs in Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Baintunnur Mosque Calgary

Baitunnur Mosque, Calgary

Courtesty the Baitunnur Mosque

Heritage Matters: Designing the Baitunnur Mosque in Calgary with Architect Manu Chugh

The Calgary Heritage Authority invites you to the first Heritage Matters of 2013, featuring Architect Manu Chugh. Learn about the design of the Baitunnur Mosque in Northeast Calgary. This event is being held at the Central Library on the south side of the main floor on February 22 at 5:30. There is no charge but we’d like you to register for the program.

Chinook Country Historical Society monthly program: The History of the Calgary Local Council of Women with noted author Marjorie Norris

The Calgary Local Council of Women was an important lobby group, tackling social and political issues at the beginning of the 20th century, a time when women were starting to assert their political power. Ms Norris will also talk about the role of nursing sisters in the First World War. It is a free program and will be held in the Burnswest Theatre at Fort Calgary on February 26 at 7:30 pm. You can find a more detailed description as well as see the upcoming programs at the Chinook Country website.

Research the History of Your House

In preparation for the next round of Century Homes displays we will be offering Research the History of Your House on March 9 at 10:30 on the 4th floor of the Central Library. We will be joined by our colleagues from the City Archives and the Glenbow Museum Library. Our presentation will present resources from all three institutions to help you uncover the history of your house, whether a hundred years old or younger. This will be great for Century Homes participants but also for anyone who is interested in the history of their house, the people who lived in it or their community. This was a very popular program last year, so register early.

Historical Gardens of Calgary

Following our presentation on March 9 we will be hosting Janet Melrose, Calgary’s Cottage Gardener, who will present a slide show and information about the Historical Gardens of Calgary. This program begins at 1 and will be held in Meeting Room 1 on the lower level of the Central Library. This program is filling up fast, so register soon.

Planning with Heritage in Mind

The Federation of Calgary Communities and The City of Calgary have collaborated to present “Planning With Heritage in Mind ", part of their “Partners In Planning" courses. These free workshops educate community members and the public about the planning process. This program will talk cover Heritage Planning. The Municipal Development Plan and the Calgary Heritage Strategy present a new vision where the City works with a range of stakeholders including communities to build a culture of preservation. It will include an introduction to the preservation principles of “identification, protection and management” which will be illustrated with local case studies. The program takes place on March 16, from 9:00am to 12:00pm at the Thorncliffe/Greenview Community Association: 5600 Centre Street North. Please register for this program at the Federation of Calgary Communities website.


In May 4 and 5 we will have another series of Jane’s Walks – more on that in the future, but check out The Calgary Foundation website if you’d like more information or to volunteer to be a leader.

Also, starting June 2 and running until October 27 (Saturday or Sunday, 2 pm) the cemetery tours of Union, Burnsland and St. Mary’s start up again. For more information check the 2013 Parks Program Guide.

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CPR Station Gardens, Calgary, ca 1915?

Postcards from the Past, PC 256

Thanks to Bob van Wegen for the information. If you have a heritage related program you would like us to include in our blog postings, please contact me via the comments section below.

Century Homes Database Launched!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Century Home

One of the beautiful residences in the Century Homes database

Photograph courtesy James McMenamin,

Have you ever wandered past an old house and wondered when it was built, who used to live there, and what stories it contains? I know I do this all the time and, because I work in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library, I have resources at my fingertips that allow me to do a little house genealogy in my spare time. But today, we have launched a new database that will make information about the Century Homes in our city available online to anyone who cares to look.

If you read this blog regularly you will have read about the Century Homes Project. Most recently I posted that Century Homes had won a Governor General’s History Award for Community Programming. It was, and still is, a great initiative that got people involved in documenting their own century homes and sharing that information on signs posted in their yards. As part of the legacy of Century Homes (and because we don’t like to lose any information at all about the history of our beautiful city) Calgary Public Library is hosting the database that was created using the photographs and documentation that were created. It was launched this morning at City Hall and boy, are we chuffed. (You can see the Mayor's presentation to the proud Century Homes folks here) We’ve been working away at transcribing and uploading and doing all the things that are involved in getting a major project like this off the ground and we are delighted with the results. As of today we have all the photographs loaded and have about 100 of the yard signs transcribed. We will continue with the transcription until we have every bit of information in the database and accessible to everyone.

We invite you to have a look at this newest addition to our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. If you are interested in having your century home included in the 2013 tour (and in our database), check out the Century Homes website.

Bob Edwards

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Eye Opener June 15 1907

Cartoon from The Eye Opener, depicting editor Bob Edwards

Saturday June 15, 1907 p1

The Calgary Public Library Foundation is hosting the 37th annual Bob Edwards Award Gala this week at the Fairmont Palliser. This year’s winner is Mary Walsh who is best known for her own brand of journalism in This Hour has 22 Minutes. The Gala will raise funds for the Calgary Public Library Foundation.

Bob Edwards, for those of you who may not have heard of him, was the publisher of the newspaper The Eye-Opener, in various incarnations and locations, from 1902 until 1922. The newspaper was published in High River, Calgary, Port Arthur, Winnipeg and Calgary, again, on a fairly erratic schedule. It was unlike any other newspaper in town. Alan Fotheringham, in his introduction to Irresponsible Freaks, Highball Guzzlers & Unabashed Grafters: A Bob Edwards Chrestomathy says that The Eye-Opener “frightened the bejeezus out of Calgary….It could – and did- make or break politicians.” Edwards pulled no punches. The publisher of the Calgary Daily News, Daniel McGillicuddy, called Edwards “a ruffian, a moral leper” and “a skunk…” He also promised to prove that Bob was “a libeler, a character thief, a coward, a liar, a drunkard, a dope dealer and a degenerate.” Only the drunkard part could probably have been proven; Edwards’ relationship with alcohol was well known. If The Eye-Opener wasn’t published for a few weeks, Edwards would publish an apology saying he had been under the weather with “let us say, a very bad cold”

Though his politics were right-leaning, he would savage politicians no matter what their political stripe. His weapon was satire and he had a deadly sense of humour. For example, in the thick of the debate of which Alberta city would become the new province’s capital, Edwards, seeing that the cards were stacked against Calgary, wrote this imagined scenario, reportedly taken from the Edmonton Bulletin:

Dr. Lafferty yesterday became the first lieutenant-governor of the new province of Alberta. Edmonton was en fete. It was her first gala day since the hanging of King at the fort.

Lafferty was in great form. Every eye was bent on that weird figure as he was driven amid wild huzzahs to the scene of his inauguration, escorted by a body guard of influential real estate sharks. The tepees and shacks on either side of Main Street were tastefully decorated with bunting and streamers… while the goats on the roofs of the Irish quarter shook their shaggy beards in sympathy with the occasion.

The new lieutenant-governor ever and anon stood up in his carriage and raised his hat, smiling fatuously and wagging his head, at which hundreds and hundreds of partially Seagramized citizens raised their voices in enthusiastic acclaim…The sound of cannons issued from every billiard hall, and the screams from the neighboring asylum gave the scene a characteristic local tone. (The Eye-Opener, March 18, 1905, p1)

Edwards, along with his ability to puncture the most inflated ego, also had a soft spot for those at the other end of society. He weighed in on such topics as the inadequate wages paid by Eaton’s to their female employees, the plight of the other “working girls” and the working poor. He was an excellent journalist who was quoted by publications across the country and in the US. There are some wonderful collections of his work: Irresponsible Freaks mentioned above, and The Wit and Wisdom of Bob Edwards edited by Hugh Dempsey. Eye-Opener Bob by Grant MacEwan tells the story of Edwards’ life and career and there is an excellent short bio in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography which is accessible through the Calgary Public Library E-library. But to really appreciated Bob Edwards, you have to read his newspaper. The Eye Opener is available on microfilm in the Local History room at the Central Library. It is also available online at the Our Future Our Past website.

Bob Edwards' Residence, photographed just before demolition in 1968

919 4th Avenue SW

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0564

AJ0564

Awesome Heritage!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

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On Friday we will be launching our third annual One Book One Calgary. This year’s book is The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha. There is going to be a lot of exciting programming associated with this celebration, starting with the launch itself – Calgary’s Poet Laureate, Kris Demeanor will be on hand as will a number of other prominent Calgarians who will tell us what they find awesome about this great city. Click here to find out more.

Another of the programs, and one that I am particularly looking forward to, will be with Calgary’s Historian Laureate, Harry Sanders (who is pretty awesome). He will be regaling us with awesome things from Calgary’s past. You can find out more and register for this program here. It will be at the Memorial Park Library (which is also awesome)

As my contribution to the “awesome” parade, I thought I would list the heritage buildings that I find awesome (and I’ll stop using that word now) This is only a very small part of my list, this is a blog, after all, and I’m sure I’d lose you all about number 40, so here is my much abbreviated list of some a-word heritage structures in Calgary.

The Cecil Hotel – it may seem weird that this hotel, which has recently been in the papers as a prime candidate for demolition due to its unsavory past, would make my list, but there is something about this building that I love and I would hate to see gone. It is one of the few remaining hotels of its period and although many call it an eyesore, it does have its own charm. For me, the Cecil represents the working class roots of Calgary, especially the East End of Calgary.

The Calgary Public Building – built in 1931, this edifice includes the only manned elevator in the city. It is a wonderfully elegant concrete structure which retains much of its original exterior detail . In its adaptation to modern use, it stands as an example of how heritage buildings can be made useful and efficient.Post Office

The Craftsman houses along 17th Avenue SW. I love the Craftsman style of house. There is a block just east of the Richmond Road turnoff that has several original Craftsman style homes still standing. I know this isn’t exactly a heritage site, but I smile whenever I drive past them.

The Burns Building – this was the building that got me interested in my city’s heritage. I was oblivious to all of the beautiful old buildings in the city until the Burns Building attacked Mayor Sykes and nearly sealed its own fate. That we were able to save it was a triumph and a symbol of what can be done when citizens raise their voices.

The CNR Building/St. Mary’s Parish Hall, beside St. Mary’s School. This building was derelict when I was attending St. Mary’s. We occasionally (don’t tell anyone) would sneak in and have a look around. It was a beautiful building, even in its dotage. It was also the scene of the most memorable event of my high school years. Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor filmed a part of the movie “Silver Streak” in the old building. It stood in for an abandoned railway station somewhere near Kansas. Sadly, the interior was gutted by fire in 1985 but it was brought back to life in 1987 when it became the home of the Alberta Ballet.CNR STation

These are just a very few of the heritage structures I find “awesome” (sorry) in this city. (And I didn’t mention the Glenmore Dam once) What is your most favourite heritage site?

The Next Heritage Challenge: Mid-Century Buildings

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Eighth Avenue looking east from First Street West

PC 216

When I look at some of the pictures in the Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, which is comprised of pictures of buildings that were threatened in the 50s and 60s by urban renewal and other development schemes, I sometimes ask myself, “What were they thinking when they tore that down?” Many of the buildings that were lost were outstanding examples of their period, such as the Burns Mansion, most of the hotels on 9th Avenue, the CPR station and huge numbers of homes. There were people, such as Alison Jackson, who were concerned and did their best to protect those buildings and, thanks to them, not everything was lost.

Now we’re starting the same process with some of our mid-century buildings. I know that I have a hard time thinking of heritage when I look at a building that was new when I was a child and sometimes, not always but particularly when confronted with anything “avocado” coloured, I have to say, “Eeeeuw!” Prejudices aside, if we don’t start looking at these buildings with an eye to the future, the next generations will look at the surviving pictures and say “What we’re they thinking?” Two buildings have recently been in the news, both of them mid-century and both under threat: The Barron Building and the Shaarey Tzedec Synagogue.

We’ve already lost Earnest Manning High School, the Number 5 Fire Hall is at risk, the Barron Building’s future is up in the air and a demolition permit has been issued for the Shaarey Tzedec Synagogue. There is a lot of mid-century architecture in this city; we had one of our infamous booms during the 50s and 60s. Many of these are reaching the end of their lifespans and are will be looked at with a view to redevelopment. We need to be aware, before we start tearing things down willy-nilly, that what we look at today as an outmoded, electrically challenged nuisance, may one day be considered an outstanding example of the architecture of the time.

If you are interested in finding out about modernist architecture in Calgary there are a number of very good resources. Two books in our collection, both in Local History and in the regular collection are Calgary Modern 1947-1967 and Suburban Modern: Postwar Dreams in Calgary.

There is also a wonderful collection of photos at the Canadian Architectural Archives in the Calgary Civic Trust fonds.

And for those of you interested in the history of the Barron family and the building that bears their name, Irena Karshenbaum will be giving a presentation during our Heritage Weekend (October 19th and 20th) on the Barron’s and the importance of the Barron building as an anchor to the oil industry in Calgary. Find out more about our Heritage Weekend!

Barron Building CHAB

Barron Building

Courtesy Calgary Heritage Advisory Board

Heritage Weekend is Just Around the Corner

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Lake View Heights, Proposed Community, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 925

Have you signed up for our Heritage Weekend programs yet? Better get on it – you wouldn’t want to miss any of these great programs.

We start the weekend with Heritage Matters on Friday night. We will hear about the fabulously successful Century Homes project and follow the quest of one homeowner to discover his homes’ past.

Right after that, pop up to the Dutton Theatre to hear about one of Calgary’s aviation heroes, Freddie McCall (for whom McCall Field was named). Shirlee Smith Matheson and Freddie McCall Jr. will be speaking and the Aero Space museum (a partner in this presentation) will have artifacts and art on display. You don’t have to register for this one – just drop in.

Next day starts with Irena Karshenbaum presenting The Oil Barrons, a talk about the Barron family and their remarkable contribution to Calgary. I’ve heard Irena speak and can say from experience that this will be a great presentation.

Then at noon, there is a Communities Heritage Roundtable about Canadian Heritage in our Midst. A panel of experts will talk about sites of national significance right here in Calgary.

At 1 o’clock we will hear from Stephanie White about Unbuilt Calgary. This will be an intriguing presentation as we hear about a century’s worth of plans for Calgary development, some of which never made it off the drawing board, some which may one day come to fruition (boating reach ‘round City Hall, anyone?)

At 2, we are going to be regaled with Stories of Calgary. Some of my favourite historian-storytellers are going to be on hand to tell us stories of Calgary’s past and the intriguing people who made up this great city. Hugh Dempsey, Harry Sanders, Max Foran, Nancy Townshend and Brian Brennan – all brilliant storytellers, will keep us entertained, and probably teach us a thing or two.

Last, but not least, we will have a Meet and Greet with representatives of some of Calgary’s heritage organizations. These are the folks who work behind the scenes to support and protect heritage in Calgary. Come and mingle with some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met – it’s going to be grand.

To find out more information and to register, follow this link.

I hope to see you there.

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Calgary Municipal Airport, McCall Field, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 70-18

Upcoming Heritage Events

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Fall is here, I’m pretty sure. The way we tell it is autumn at the library is by the re-emergence of programs. Not that there was any shortage of interesting stuff going on in the summer. We had our very successful Century Homes presentation and, of course, a great Historic Calgary Week, just to name a few. But it's fall when things really start to happen.

First on the list will be a presentation using Ancestry Library Edition to get some relevant information about your family. In spite of what the ads say, it isn’t as simple as typing in grandpa’s name. Ancestry is a large and powerful tool for genealogy research, but its size and scope can make it challenging to use. We will present an introduction to Ancestry LE as well as do some hands on searching. This will take place on September 21 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. It is a drop-in program so you don’t need to register in advance, but bring your library card as you will need it to access Ancestry LE. I am sorry to announce that due to the fire on the 3rd floor of the Central Library, the Ancestry program has had to be cancelled. We will try to reschedule.

In October, we are going to be hosting our annual Heritage Weekend and, I must say, they just keep getting better and better. One of the highlights will be a program about Freddie McCall, one of Canada’s legendary aviators. That takes place on the Friday night, October 19 at 7:00 p.m. in the John Dutton Theatre. This will allow you to come to the Heritage Matters program, which also happens on Friday night, at 5:30 p.m. This program will be about the remarkably successful Century Homes project, a grassroots movement to recognize and record the history of Calgary’s heritage homes.

Saturday will be packed with programs, including a meet and greet with members of various heritage organizations, a Heritage Roundtable on the various heritage sites right here in the city, a look at “unbuilt” Calgary, what the city might have looked like, if various plans and schemes had been realized. There will also be a wonderful program involving some of our very best storytellers, Hugh Dempsey, Harry Sanders, Nancy Townshend, Max Foran and our very own writer-in-residence Brian Brennan, all of whom will tell stories of Calgary’s colourful past. I am really looking forward to this weekend. Check out the list in our program guide, in paper at all library branches and online.

And we are not the only game in town. There will be a Sandstone School bus tour offered by the Calgary Heritage Initiative (more information TBA) and then, of course, DO YYC Naked on September 29 and 30, a Doors Open initiative that will take participants behind the scenes at some of Calgary’s coolest venues (you can see the sites included here.

So, there will be no shortage of things to do “heritage-wise” in Calgary this fall. I will keep you posted as more comes along. Enjoy!

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.

Historic Calgary Week 2012

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

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St. Mary's Cathedral (designed by Maxwell Bates)

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 2510

Historic Calgary week starts on July 27 and runs to August 6. The theme for this year is Culture, Commerce, Community - Connect and there are over sixty events taking place. As usual, the Calgary Public Library Community Heritage and Family History department will be presenting a program as part of this week. On Thursday August 2 at 2:00 p.m. we will be presenting “Ancestors and Their Attics 2.0 – The Century Homes Edition.” This program explores just how much information you can uncover starting with just a postcard, some first names and a lot of snooping. The early version was very popular and we have continued our pursuit of the family and found even more interesting information about them and their house.

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601 and 603 15 Avenue SW (603 was the home of Freddie McCall in 1908)

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 7520

 

There are lots of other fascinating programs on offer. Just a few of the ones I’m looking forward to are “In the Lougheed Neigbourhood: Calgary’s Great Modern Artist, Maxwell Bates” with Nancy Townshend on July 20, “What’s Under Calgary” with Cory Gross on July 31, and “Reader’s Legacy” on August 3. I would also like to see the City Hall Tour, the Freddie McCall program, the War of 1812, and there are also all the Century Homes to visit – and the Lion Awards on August 1. I am going to have to quit work just so I can take in all of the great offerings. You can see for yourself the wide variety of events that are going on during Historic Calgary Week by visiting the Chinook Country Historical Society website. Hope to see you at one (or all) of them.

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Central Memorial Park (one of William Reader's accomplishments)

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 25-10

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