City of Calgary
ELIZABETH BAILEY PRICE
RIDE ’ER, COWBOY!”
"Let ’er buck!”
Calgary, whose traditional welcome has ever been, "Hello, stranger! Light an’ eat.”
Toronto doesn’t give us a pain, although it does cramp our style in cutting street comers. We admit the "come hither” of fascinating Montreal.
We view with alarm the easternization of W innipeg, and Vancouver makes us sleepy. But, after weaving a pleasant holiday through these distinctive Canadian cities, like homing pigeons we return to our own turbulent little City of the Foothills, wholly content that we have chosen the best place in Canada to make our home.
Yes, turbulent and exhilarating is the life here, yet a haven of rest even to the Prime Minister of Canada when he comes "home,” possibly the only large city in the country where he can walk up the street in unofficial freedom with only a hearty handshake from an old friend and a "Hello R. B. How’s the world using you?” With the whole wide realm of Canada from which to choose, did not His Royal Highness, Edward, Prince of Wales, pick this district for his rural Canadian home? Here, too he relaxes in unofficial freedom, far from the battery of cameras and comer-stone ceremonies, among neighbors who scrupulously respect his desire to merge for a brief time into obscurity.
City of the Unexpected
CALGARY, too, might be called the city of the unexpected. We never know what may happen next. Indeed, much of the charm of living here lies in this fact. More than most cities, we are dominated by the forces of nature, and each season brings its own hazards and its crises.
In the middle of winter, on a very cold Sunday, over the air comes word to gas consumers that something has gone wrong at the gas plant and to "stand by” for further developments. Further warnings come every few minutes, and for an afternoon the citizens revel in the excitement of something that is menacing them.
Then there are the grand spring floods, when the Bow-
and the Elbow Rivers, like two well-known old citizens, "break out,” "go on a rampage.” do all sorts of damage and provide the most sedate Calgarians with their cherished spring thrill. These two old "pals,” exhilarated by a few cloud-bursts in the mountains, "meet up” in Calgary for this periodical “bust.”
For years the city fathers have sat in weighty council meetings, discussing ways and means of controlling these old-timers. River channels have been deepened, breastworks have been thrown up, walls built and islands cut away. Experts from everywhere have been consulted. Finally the great achievement of the four-million-dollar Glenmore dam on the Elbow River, preceded a few years by the Ghost River dam on the Bow River, was declared the last word in protection.
Came springtime in the Rockies last year. For three days it rained, with a few extra cloud-bursts in Banff for good measure. The two old pa s became restless. They began to join forces. The more it rained tire wilder grew the night.
The citizens of Calgary, long trained for these situations, arise en masse to meet them. Business and housekeeping are suspended and the whole town goes "flooding.” Those not actively engaged in resale work occupy strategic points and speculate. The oft-expressed wish that the waters will fall is the merest lip service, for deep in their hearts they
nurture the thought, “What a thrill it would be if the Glenmore dam should bust. Oh boy, what a flood!” Short of a battlefront, nothing exceeds the dramatic moments of the occasion. Aided and abetted by the radio and telephone, facts and rumors fly thick and fast. The Bow is rising with great rapidity. People are fleeing from their river-front homes. Airplanes have been commandeered to watch the Ghost River dam, forty miles away, and if anything happens, to warn the city. Anxious eyes are watching the heavens. Do not be alarmed at the sound of guns; it is the signal to open the flood gates at the Glenmore dam. Be calm if fifteen minutes later the Elbow takes a sudden rise; it is to be expected.
A great crowd motors out to the Glenmore dam at the city limits. They watch the mighty waters of the once docile little Elbow hurl themselves high into the air as they batter ruthlessly the concrete structure. They all feel the ground tremble, but the dam holds. Slowly the rivers recede, and once again the city is saved.
As in no other city in Canada, we watch the gathering of the clouds, for all carry weal or woe. There is the ominous streaky cloud that portends a devastating hail storm; the black thunder cloud that means a deluge which in a very few minutes ruins for motor traffic the all tco-prevalent dirt roads leading to the city. We watch, too, those first August nights when there are no clouds, when there is the tang of “early frost” and the wheat is “in the milk” and our gardens at the height of summer fullness and beauty.
W'e attune ourselves to the shifting of the breezes. “The north wind doth blow, and we shall have snow,” is no nursery rhyme to us; and this is sometimes followed by a three-day blizzard, our most spectacular kind, which generally is staged in the month of May. We know that when the clouds mass together in the southwestern sky in a great triumphal arch and the sun goes down in a blaze of color, it is the Chinook arch which heralds the soft, warm southwest wind; that in the space of a fewhours the thermometer may rise sixty degrees; that the snow on the streets will be running water. Again everyone will acclaim, "There’s no place like sunny Southern Alberta. ’ We have our daily dust storms during spring-cleaning time, when crop seeds are blown from the ground and the soil
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drifts, and all predict the ruin of the country.
Yet in the face of these weather vagaries, never in the memory of the oldest inhabitants has the land around Calgary, the “good earth,” failed to produce. There have been degrees of crops—abundant and sparse—but never a complete failure.
CALGARY is unique in world cities in that many of its first inhabitants are still residents, and that these pioneers lead the way as examples of courage and enterprise. Twice a year the spirit of the Old West is revived. The first is the annual “round-up” of the Southern Alberta Pioneers’ and Old-Timers’ Association in January. To be a member of this organization is a coveted honor, for one has to have been in Southern Alberta on or before December 31,1890, or be the son or daughter of one who has complied with these conditions.
These round-ups grow more popular with the passing years. Banquet toasts are reduced in length to the irreducible minimum, and governors and honorables and mayors, if allowed on the programme at all, are told in advance of this short cut to popularity. Old songs are sung by beautiful native daughters, and all join in the chorus of that favorite folk song of the West, “Remember the Red River Valley.” Every second dance is a square dance, and from “Honor yer pardners all” to “Promenade home” is stepped with a sociable enthusiasm that far outdoes the sophistication of the modem fox trot.
But best of all is the visiting; the “doyou-remember” talks.
In one comer, George C. King, one of the few surviving originals of the North West Mounted Police and the first white man to put his foot on the proposed site of Fort Calgary, is describing its founding in 1875.
“We received orders from General Sir Selby Smythe at Tail Creek, near Lacombe,” states Mr. King, “to proceed to the junction of the Bow and the Elbow Rivers and there establish a fort. Never will I forget my first sight of the Bow River Valley from the North Hill that beautiful August day. Below was the confluence of the two winding rivers, with their wooded banks, the verdant valley pastures, the wide prairies that reached to the distant blue Rockies. After the barren lands of the March of 74, after the hard winter at Fort Macleod, after the hot treeless prairies of the early part of this trip, I felt I had reached the Promised Land. I felt I never wanted to leave it. That was—let me see—fifty-seven years ago, and here I have lived ever since. There was a mix-up in the name, too. Inspector Brisbois, in charge of the detachment, gave orders to call it after himself. This order was changed and it was called Fort Calgarry, after the old home on the Island of Mull, Scot land, of our commanding officer Colonel James Macleod. The name is of Gaelic origin.”
Mrs. George Jacques, wife of Calgary’s pioneer jeweller and the first white woman to make her home on the townsite, on the west side of the Elbow River, is the centre of another group.
“Wre paid $120 for our one-roomed shack that spring of ’82,” she is saying. “It had a mud roof, one door, a window, and a mud ! floor. My furniture was a homemade bed and two benches. For a table I used my trunk, and as I didn’t have a stove I cooked outside. The only buildings in the village were the l. G. Baker store, the Roman Catholic Mission, a restaurant and our cabin. For seven months I never saw another white woman, yet I wasn’t lonely. There was too much to do. I liked it better ! those days, when we were like one big ! family, than I do now.”
“It will be fifty years next August,” tells Scotty Ormiston, retired engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway, “since I came in
on the ‘front train.' It was the ‘Company’ that made this town during the next twenty years—and we all had our chance, too. If we’d only taken Van Horne’s advice of ‘Pawn your boots and buy C. P. R. stock,’ we’d be well off today, depression and all.’’ Too soon the evening passes away, and with the “goodnights” is mingled, “Well, I’ll be seein’ you at the Stampede.”
Memories of the Old West
PEOPLE from all over the world come in July to see the famous Calgary Stampede, the second revival of the days of the Old West. The parade, which sets forth in gorgeous pageantry the early history of the prairies—the Indians, the North West Mounted Police, the settlers riding in prairie schooners. Red River carts and buckboards, and the floats of the present-day industries— is one of the finest of its kind in the world.
In the fair grounds, the section set aside for the Hudson’s Bay post, the whitewashed Mounted Police cabin, the oldtimer’s shack, these encircled with Indian tepees, is a scene realistic to the last detail of the beginning of many a W estern town.
At the old-timers’ cabin, real old-time hospitality is dispensed. There is no head table and no social precedence in arranging guests. One is likely to be seated beside a sturdy Blackfoot buck, a titled visitor from another country, a noted statesman, an original of the North West Mounted Police, a veteran missionary, or a one-time cowboy who is now a senator.
Again, reminiscences flow freely over strong cups of tea, served on oilclothcovered tables. Some recall old election stories, when more ballots were counted than there were voters in the country. Others deplore the complicated life of today compared with the old days, when all a man needed to do to get into bed was to take off his boots. Others long for the days of the open door, the open flour bin. Even if a man were away from his shack, the stranger was welcome to food and bed if he brought his own blankets and observed the unwritten law of washing his own dishes. Eut that atmosphere of friendliness, that enthusiastic welcoming attitude still lives on, say the modern Calgarians. That is what we all feel is distinctive about Calgary; the “come and make vourself at home” feeling.
“We like, too, your smartly dressed, goodlooking women, your prosperous and up-todate appearing business men,” says the Stampede visitor.
The old-timer chuckles.
‘‘The hang-over of our booms,” he explains. “We’ve had three big ones and a number of flurries, too.”
The Land Boom
CALGARY’S first boom was a land
boom, at its height from 1904 to 1910.
Some of the property that sold for $100.000
then would be a liability at $10,000 now.
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The city limits were extended four times
during this period, and city lots were staked
so far out that so the story goes - when a
prospective purchaser for both a farm and a
city lot had been driven out miles to see his
lot, he finally asked about the farm. “Oh,
we passed that on the way out,” is the
reputed reply that he heard.
Those were the days when Calgary was a city of young people, when the majority of its older citizens were in their “glorious forties.” They sent their daughters away to fashionable Eastern schools to be “finished.” A smart set was evolved, one in which the women wore Paris gowns, and pink ice cream was served on hand-painted plates. Hired girls became “maids” and a few
families perpetrated butlers. The story is told that, at a fashionable tea, one of the j guests who did not know the husband of the hostess, on being met at the door by a pompous individual in full dress, shook hands with the new butler under the impression that he was the head of the house.
This was during the decade of Calgary’s greatest growth. The Bow River bed was tunnelled to extend the water mains and hydro-electric power was established. Streets and avenues were numbered, names being discarded, and a commission form of civic government was introduced. A municipally-owned street railway was constructed. Other railroad development included the entrance of the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Canadian Northern Railways, and the building of the Canadian Pacific machine shops at Ogden, the largest in Western Canada. Natural gas was piped from Bow Island. Added to this was a great building boom of homes, churches, schools, the first public library in Alberta, and other public buildings to accommodate a population that grew from 5,(XX) to 55,000 in ten years.
Then, with the suddenness and attendant thrills of the floods and blizzards, came the oil boom of 1914, when the Dingman “Discovery Well” in Turner Valley—-now Royalite Number 1—blew into production with thirty-five barrels of naphtha a day. This oil strike was responsible for one of the wildest booms in the history of Canada. To buy qjl shares and oil leases, grocery bills went unpaid, widows used the money for their children’s education, and, at the least rumor, country folks rushed to Calgary to buy or sell oil shares.
Simultaneously with the first signs of the breaking of this boom, came that never-to: be-forgotten day, August 4, 1914, when war
was declared. It made a good alibi for our lost fortunes, and we sent away in an orgy of patriotism in that mobilized 4,500, many a heroic oil broker. And right here let the one bright spot of this boom be recorded. There was no buying on margin for the average citizens during those days, and in 1924 many of these old shares were resurrected and sold to make money for their owners.
I ITTLE INTEREST was taken in oil L after 1914, until October, 1924. when Royalite Number 4, destined to be the greatest producer of crude naphtha in the world, blew in with a production of 2,500,000 cubic feet of wet gas a day. From then on, continued production and steady development of the Turner Valley oil fields kept the Calgary Stock Exchange in the eye of the buying public, and oil speculation reached its height in 1929, when the production of the field increased from 100,000,000 cubic feet per day in the beginning of the year to 250,000,000 at the end of the year. This was responsible for a repetition of the frenzied trading of 1914. Buying on margin, heretofore known only to the professional broker, became the usual procedure. Royalite shares went to eighty times their par value, and other issues reached equally dizzy heights. Paper fortunes were pyramided.
Again Calgary demonstrated the buying power of its public. And how ! To meet the demand of the rapidly growing city of
80.000, hundreds of new homes were built, with breakfast nooks, sunrooms, tinted plumbing fixtures, electric refrigerators an’ everything. Motor companies couldn’t make deliveries fast enough. Even the “common folks” went in for landscape gardening, and the always-admired midsummer gardens of Calgary became more beautiful than ever. High-powered automobiles sped exuberant and successful business men and their families to Calgary’s near-bv playgrounds, beautiful Banff and Lake Louise, or on fishing and camping trips along the Highwood trails. Each of the four golf clubs had a waiting list. Everything was merry and bright. Then— well, the end of the story is too well known.
And now what a winter ! Calgary’s refusal to buy American money and pay an exchange premium of $300,000 to meet its maturing bonds in New York has made the city the cynosure of the eyes of the financial world. Not that Calgary is unwilling to meet her obligations. At the time of writing, the city has secured from the Dominion Government enough American gold to cover
the amount involved in the first court action of one of her creditors. The gold is ready and waiting; but it is in Calgary, not in New York. The fact that gold cannot be shipped out of the country is the business of the Dominion Government, claims Calgary, not the fault of the city.
Whether her stand is wise or foolish from the standpoint of her credit is the subject of conjecture, yet the reaction of her people is typical of her civic spirit. The citizens are behind the city officials, who are fighting the issue to the last—to the very last Canadian dollar bill.
The first gun was an appeal by Mayor “Andy” Davison to the taxpayers to advance tax money in as full a measure as possible, so that the civic services could carry on. They rallied nobly, and in two months had prepaid taxes to the extent of nearly $500,000. One public-spirited citizen offered to loan the city $100,000 provided nine others would do the same. Scrip was considered; in fact, was about ready to be issued.
There is much speculation now as to the effect of the recent financial crisis in the United States. There are those who believe that Calgary’s guardian angel, who so frequently has saved the city from floods and other catastrophes, will now rout the “money changers” by bringing the Canadian dollar up to par. In fact, it has even been hinted that it would be ‘‘Calgary luck” if the exchange may yet be to the advantage of the Canadian dollar.
Bue even the exchange excitement took second place to the by-election for the Provincial Parliament in January. Of course, it would be Calgary that was picked for the first battlefield of the new Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. It was another “crisis.” So the Grits and Tories buried their ancient political hatchets to unite upon an “Independent” candidate.
One of the outstanding characteristics of that election was the part played by women. It was a woman—a good-looking one, too— who carried the C. C. F. banner. It was a woman who made one of the most brilliant “Independent” speeches. And the finishing feminine touch was placed upon the occasion by the one and only Agnes MacPhail.
It was the first public visit of any length that Agnes MacPhail had made to Calgary. It gave everybody a good chance to "get a look at that woman.” Even in the enemy camp it was admitted that Agnes’s photographs never had done her justice. Some of the old-timers even slipped a bit from old party prejudices to express open admiration for her campaign methods. They admired that, “Ride-’er-cowboy, let-’er-buck” challenge of her attack. They liked her fearlessness in such statements as; “I’m going to say exactly what I think, and I don’t intend to let any of your Calgary papers scare me.”
Generally speaking, however, the majority of voters were not quite ready to be “nationalized.”
Never before in the city’s history was such a vote polled. Many a good Grit, uneducated to this newfangled idea of “freedom in politics” yet knowing of the erstwhile Conservative leaning of the “Independent,” swallowed his pride and prejudice to go forth and vote for his adopted candidate, comforting himself that he was “doing his bit” to save his country.
So. if you want a little excitement, come West, you gloomy Easterners, or come East, you rain-drenched Vancouverites. Spring is just around the corner. If there should be a sudden thaw in the mountains, we might dynamite the ice jam for you or release the flood gates of the Glenmore dam to save the city. Besides, it would do you a lot of good to take a little trip, to see that there is more of Canada than the old home town. It will cheer you up to stop off at this turbulent little City of the Foothills—this city where almost anything may happen— and receive the glad greeting of;
‘Hello, stranger! Light an’ eat.”