They’ve made our town their town now. And how do they like it? Fan—jist fan
OUT IN MARLBORO COUNTRY, in Calgary, Alberta, in The Petroleum Club, which recently underwent a $350,000 renovation, conversations start like this: "Hi thur. How are yew?”
"Fan. Jist fan. How are yew?"
Yanks, oilmen, from down in the southwest where the big money gushes out of the ground, and they are not there, they are here, in Calgary, drinking gin fizzes at The Petroleum Club. And they are all . . . jist fan.
Cosmopolitan, the Hearst women's magazine that has become the man-hungriest women's magazine in the U.S.A.. discovered Calgary this year and went slightly hysterical over the romantic-marital pros-
pects in an article called The Wild Canadian West: “ ‘We sank another well last week . . . gotta celebrate.’ This from a smooth-faced young Texan . . .” “He doesn’t always ride a horse, and neither will you ...”
“Let yourself be drawn, as the visiting American girl, into his group ...”
“Head for the Calgary Stampede, girl —you’ll never know until you’ve given it a try ...”
“ . . . one of the thousands of oilmen who recently moved to oil-booming Alberta from Texas and Oklahoma ...”
There are, reportedly, about 30.000 Americans in Calgary, mostly oilmen and their families. The oilmen are junior executives and men with specialize
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“Never been in a place that’s given me such a zest for life”
sense here than anywhere I’ve ever been. I’ve never encountered much resentment on either side. The thing is, Alberta is very strong for free enterprise. And your laws are much the same as ours. It makes for easy adjustment.”
But not, of course, for everyone. Clem Blakeslee, a blind sociologist from Kansas who is on the faculty of the University of Calgary, has made a name for himself by attacking, in lectures, in speeches, on his own radio show and in the newspapers, nearly every facet of the Alberta establishment. Blakeslee, a self-confessed rebel and rabble-rouser, has whomped up more anti-American sentiment than any 100 Americans in Calgary. He has also picked up a lot of support and is at least indirectly responsible for some reforms in the Calgary school system.
“People keep telling me that I'm a subversive American here to destroy all the traditional standards of morality in Alberta,” Blakeslee says, warming up. “I assure them that they are absolutely right.”
As he sees it, Canada suffers from “a strangling, choking conservatism and smugness so that the rest of the world thinks it is dull and insipid.” As for Alberta, “it is the sort of rigid, authoritarian, stratified setup that oldline Southerners and Right-wing conservative Americans appreciate. Everyone else finds it fairly intolerable. Americans find Canadians standoffish, cliquey, obsequious to authority, and dull.
“Canadians bitch in their petty, ncgativistic, always uninformed way about the States. Meanwhile, the States is gobbling you up. Ninety percent of the oil industry in Alberta is foreign-owned, mostly U. S. One third of the faculty at the university is American. Of course the turnover is tremendous — this is a bush-league place.
“The government — this is the most flagrantly dictatorial government I’ve ever seen with the exception of Alabama and places like that. I deplore it. I am committed to aiding the destruction of Social Credit — they'll be dead in five years. The educational system here — it is absolutely lousy and rotten. The teachers are underpaid. undertrained, the auxiliary services arc pathetic, the system is classridden. Calgary keeps kidding itself that this is some kind of Nirvana when it's closer to hell. The whole bloody population had better wake up.
“As an American, I came here with the impression that this part of Canada was liberal and progressive. I couldn’t believe my eyes. 1 thought I was nuts. I thought I must be misinterpreting everything. I kept trying to learn. Finally I realized the whole stinking mess was no delusion ...”
Surprising nobody. B1 a k e s 1 c e's charges have resulted in a succession of enormous flaps. Canadians and Americans have been after his scalp ever since he arrived in Calgary two years ago. Dr. H. S. Armstrong, president of the University of Calgary, says Blakeslee “has some good ideas, but can’t get them across because he an-
tagonizes too many people. I keep having to fight people off on his behalf. A lot of his fellow Americans on the faculty resent him fiercely. They were very concerned when he started breaking out in the fall of 1964. They took him aside and tried to give him the facts of life. They reasoned with him. so I'm told. Clem ob-
viously hasn't followed their advice.”
But Blakeslee is having the time of his life. “I've never been in a place that has given me such a zest for life, such a challenge,” he says. “I'll probably make Canada my home. I sec no reason why I won't become a Canadian citizen."
Not all the Americans in Calgary
are oilmen and academics. Jack Long is an architect, from Washington, DC. who moved up in 1960 “because of the newness of the country, the access to the Rockies and the professional potential.” His first job was to design a $250,000 home for oilman-rancher Lowell Williamson and his wife Dorothy. one of the singing McGuire Sisters. But that was hardly representative of his early and lean years in Calgary, he says — he happens to be related to Williamson. Now he has
“The Canadian heritage would be okay—but not the English”
found a Canadian partner and business is good. Calgary, he feels, is going to be a great city “as soon as the people here leave their cow-town consciousness behind them.” It’s a good place to live, even now. “The air is clean, the water isn’t crummy like it is back east.” Long likes to float down the Bow River with his family
on a rubber raft. They float right through town, Long pointing out examples of good and bad architecture.
He has been toying with the idea of becoming a Canadian. “I don’t plan to ever move back to the States,” he says. “But it’s a hard thing to let go of your citizenship. If I could adopt the Canadian heritage it would
be okay. But the English — I have no affinity for the English tradition. have no desire to toast the Queen. What I would like is to be the first citizen of North America. I can’t place much importance on nationalism.” Historically, few Americans in southern Alberta have been impressed by the U. S.-Canadian border, except as
a means of evading U. S. laws. The first American settlers, from 1869 to 1874, traded firewater to Canadian Indians. After the international boundary was surveyed and the Mounties arrived, some of the whisky traders stayed on and reformed. D. W. Davis, an American who once was second in command of “Fort Whoop Up,” a whisky house near Lethbridge, managed to became Alberta’s first MP.
In 1887, 41 Mormons led by Charles Ora Card fled Utah and a U. S. crackdown on polygamy. Besides a surplus of wives, the Mormons brought advanced irrigation techniques and a knowledge of sugar beets to southern Alberta. The church itself eventually banned polygamy, but Mormons kept coming. So did Hutterites, who formed about 60 farm colonies, and pioneers from North and South Dakota. Minnesota and Nebraska, who settled on the CPR’s enormous land grants. An incalculable number of Canadians in and around Calgary, many of them active in the cattle and grain industries, are descendants of these early settlers, few of whom bothered to take out Canadian citizenship.
Estimates of the actual number of Americans in Alberta fluctuate wildly, from about 12,000 (based on the 1961 census) to 80,000 (an estimate of the U. S. consul-general). Both the consul-general’s office and Calgary’s tourist bureau estimate that there are from 30,000 to 37,000 Yanks in the city itself, including descendants of American immigrants with claims to U. S. citizenship.
The effect on Calgary of all this immigration, intermarriage, business and social integration is a heartily bubbling melting pot. A native Calgarian has said, “I look out of my window and see eight of my neighbors sitting on their lawns. I’ve known them all my life but I couldn’t tell you which are Americans and which Canadian. They’re all alike; they just belong in this place.”
And, although it’s impossible to document, the presence of so many upper-middle-class and high-income Americans in Calgary has given the place a veneer of wealth and luxury. Not sophistication, though. In The Petroleum Club the oilmen wear black silk suits, but their conversations start like this:
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