‘Marilyn Monroe Nearly Drowned,’ read the headline, tucked away in the entertainment pages of the Calgary Herald for August 14th, 1953. Monroe was on location in Jasper National Park for the filming of the 20th Century Fox blockbuster western, River of No Return, when she slipped and fell in the icy waters of the Maligne River. Although pulled to safety by her co-star Robert Mitchum – and a dozen other crew members who quickly rushed to her rescue – she suffered a badly sprained ankle.
The cast and crew had caused quite a stir when they first arrived in the tiny mountain town of Jasper on the 25th of July. Two thousand people, more than the population of the town itself, were on hand to greet the train when it arrived from Vancouver. Director Otto Preminger, when first arriving on location, made a complete circle, shook his head and said, “I guess it doesn’t really matter where I point the camera. We are absolutely surrounded by scenery.”
1953 wasn’t Hollywood’s first foray into using the Mountain Parks as a cinematic backdrop; filmmakers already had a long love affair with Banff and Jasper dating back to the 1920’s with one of the earliest movies being Cameron of the Royal Mounted, filmed in Banff and released in December of 1921. The film was produced by Canadian Ernest Shipman. A prolific filmmaker of his day, Shipman produced 12 movies between 1919 and 1922. It was at this time however that large Hollywood interests, supported by the U.S. State Department, began exerting control over foreign markets, vertically integrating the production, distribution and exhibition of films, effectively putting independent filmmakers out of business and ending a successful decade of domestic film making in Canada. Read more →
In Alberta, autumn is the perfect mix of sun-soaked days and brisk star-filled nights. Our trees are coloured all sorts of stunning shades of sunburst, heralding the changing seasons. As the winds snatch away the golden foliage, only bare lonely branches are left swaying eerily in their place, it’s the perfect time for telling tales of ghosts and spooky places. From haunted hotels to spooky schoolhouses, Alberta has a rich history rife with ghostly tales. It’s no wonder we love to share local tales of the paranormal.
Here’s our top 5 list of the spookiest heritage sites:
1. The McKay Avenue School: Built between 1904 and 1905, the McKay Avenue School is an early twentieth-century, three-story building situated in the heart of Edmonton’s Downtown district. The building has a red-brick façade with sandstone trim, round arches over the windows, and imposing columns flanking the main entrance. The building hosted the inaugural session of the Alberta Legislative Assembly. It’s also connected to early educational institutions in Edmonton and is an example of stately Richardson Romanesque architectural style.
The school is now home to the Edmonton Public Schools Archive and Museum run by the Edmonton Public School Board. Tales abound of possible paranormal activity in the building including objects mysteriously moving around, water taps found running, and lights being turned off and on by Read more →
Visitors to this year’s Raymond Stampede got to learn more about the fascinating history of the event with the installation of the latest Alberta Historical Resources Foundation heritage marker. The marker details the history of the event – the first of its kind held in Alberta – dating back to 1902, when prominent rancher Raymond Knight decided to organize a skills competition for local cowboys and ranch hands. The success of the Raymond Stampede inspired the organization of similar events across Alberta, with a growing range of events and prizes that attracted more and more competitors. Held in dozens of communities across the province each year, rodeos have long been significant cultural events in Alberta that strongly reflect its great agricultural heritage.
The marker was installed on June 25, 2015 at the site of the Stampede in Raymond Knight Memorial Park. The Town of Raymond applied for the development of the heritage marker through the Alberta Heritage Markers Program. The program was established in 1955 to promote greater awareness of the historic people, places, events, and themes that have defined the character of our province. The program brings Alberta’s dynamic history alive through heritage markers placed at roadside pullouts, within parks, and in other community locales.
Written by: Allan Rowe, Historic Places Research Officer
Board members of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation (AHRF) recently held their first meeting for 2015 in Drumheller. The two-day meeting kicked off late Thursday afternoon with a walking tour of downtown. Though held under frigid temperatures, the tour was led with a warm welcome from the Town’s staff.
Friday morning was dedicated to a strategic planning session at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Thanks to Fred Tyrrell, a Community Development Officer from Alberta Culture and Tourism, who served as our facilitator. Topics explored included: promoting greater appreciation for Alberta’s heritage among new Albertans; ensuring that the not-for-profit and voluntary sectors so essential to our province’s heritage facilities and sites are sustainable and strong; and developing innovative and compelling ways to share Alberta’s story.
As part of the foundation’s efforts to reach out to the local heritage stakeholders, Julia Fielding, Executive Director of the Atlas Coal Mine Historical Society came and chatted with the board about the challenges and opportunities faced by the Atlas Coal Mine, a Provincial and National Historic Site in East Coulee.
The afternoon continued with a conference call with our colleagues from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts who provided us a glimpse of how they operate. Then it was time to get up for a special treat – a behind the scenes tour led by Don Brinkman, Director of Preservation and Research of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Don showed us the intricate and exciting process of preparing fossils after being collected from the field.
In our family, we have a tradition of celebrating the event by sitting around a special table setting and observing the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator on its way north along the ecliptic! In the Northern Hemisphere, this is known as the Spring Equinox. We call it Norooz literally translating to “new day.” We inherited this tradition from our grandparents and we try to pass it along to our children in hopes of keeping it alive for the times to come.
Similarly, we inherited a traditional doll made by our late grandmother. It is valuable to our family as it reminds us of her and the stories she shared. We make sure to keep it safe until such a time that our children are old enough to care for it.
Both Norooz and the doll are important to me; they are what I would like to preserve for the next generations; they are “my heritage.”
While the doll is cherished only in a small circle of people close to me, my family is not alone in celebrating Norooz. The festivities, which usually last 13 days, are celebrated by more than 300 million people worldwide (including three individuals in the Historic Resources Management Branch). You might see it spelled interchangeably as Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz, Nevruz or Norooz as it marks the New Year in many regions including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
The doll is an artifact, a tangible object with associative values made by people. It can be physically handed over to the next generations. Norooz, on the other hand, is a cultural practice and an example of intangible heritage.
In 2003, recognizing that cultural heritage does not end at monuments and artifacts, and to emphasize the important role that traditions, social practices, rituals, knowledge and skills have in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The Convention defines intangible cultural heritage as:
Practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills […] that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. […It] is transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity […] Intangible Cultural Heritage is traditional, contemporary and living at the same time; it is inclusive, representative and community-based.
Intangible cultural heritage is manifested in the following domains:
oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
social practices, rituals and festive events;
knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
Norooz promotes the values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families, as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and various communities. In 2009, Norooz was added to the Representative List.
Looking out the window, I see snow is melting away; trees are waking up; the ground is breathing. I am witnessing a cosmic event. Norooz is my heritage, what is yours? Please share yours with us in the comments.
And by the way: Happy Spring, Happy Persian New Year!
Written by: Alireza Farrokhi, Head of Conservation and Construction Services, Historic Places Stewardship.
“What is the matter with the Calgary Irishmen?” asked a frustrated correspondent to the Calgary Herald in March 1916. The writer, who identified themself as ‘F. Fitzsimmons,’ was complaining about the city’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for St. Patrick’s Day, with no public events planned to celebrate the day. Fitzsimmons conceded that people were likely distracted by the war effort, but lamented that Calgary’s leading Irish citizens had gotten “cold feet” and failed to plan any celebrations. “If all Irishmen were like the Calgary bunch” closed the writer, then “‘God Save Ireland.’”
The language used by Fitzsimmons in this letter is highly suggestive. By stating that Calgary’s Irish leaders had gotten ‘cold feet,’ he/she was implying that they lacked the courage to publicly celebrate their ethnic heritage. Further, ‘God Save Ireland’ was an explicitly nationalist slogan, associated with the last words of three Irish revolutionaries executed by the British in 1867. In short, Fitzsimmons was calling for an open celebration of Irish identity that did not shy away from nationalist politics. What Fitzsimmons saw as a simple issue, however, was much more complex for the majority of Irish people in Calgary and across Alberta. The often turbulent politics of the Irish homeland, and the campaign for Irish autonomy from Britain, raised difficult questions about what it meant to be Irish in Canada in the early twentieth century. Did public expressions of Irish identity automatically imply support for Irish nationalist politics, or could the two issues be separated? Could a person support Irish nationalism and still affirm loyalty to Canada and, by extension, the British Empire? What was the best way to frame St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in such a way as to affirm devotion to both the Irish homeland and Canada? The stakes of these questions were heightened after 1914, as supporters of Irish nationalism were accused of threatening British imperial unity during a time of war, and again after Easter 1916, when Irish nationalists launched an uprising against British rule in Ireland.
The uneasy relationship between Irish politics, identity and citizenship are reflected in the history of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in early twentieth century Alberta. The general picture that emerges is of an Irish population that celebrated its ethnic heritage in ways that emphasized loyalty to Ireland, Canada and the British Empire. At particular times, such as the Great War (1914-18), this balancing act proved to be too difficult, and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations largely disappeared from public view. With the emergence of Ireland as an independent state in the early 1920s, Alberta’s Irish once again organized into associations dedicated to celebrating Irish heritage and St .Patrick’s Day soon emerged as an important event in the province.
The population boom of the early 1900s set the stage for significant St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in both Edmonton and Calgary. The 1916 census enumerated 58,068 Irish people in Alberta, of whom approximately 63% were Canadian-born descendants of Irish immigrants; 25% were American-born descendants of Irish immigrants; and 12% were direct immigrants from Ireland (most of whom had arrived in Canada between 1905 and 1914). The diverse origins of the province’s Irish population were reflected in the decorations chosen for the 1908 St. Patrick’s Day banquet at St. Mary’s Hall in Calgary – the platform was decorated with Union Jacks and American flags, over which hung a silk banner with the phrase “Erin go Bragh” (‘Ireland forever’). Toasts were delivered to ‘The King,’ ‘Canada,’ ‘Alberta,’ ‘The United States’ and ‘Ireland’s Future,’ and the event closed with a rousing rendition of “God Save the King,” leaving little doubt that the guests’ vision of ‘Ireland’s Future’ involved its continued association with the British Empire.
Similar scenes played out in Edmonton, where St. Patrick’s Day events were organized by the highly successful Edmonton Irish Association (EIA). Founded in 1909, the EIA grew to approximately three hundred members by 1911. While primarily a cultural and literary organization, the EIA also sponsored a number of sports teams, including the Irish Canadian Amateur Athletic Association, the Hibernian Football Club and the Irish Canadian Baseball Club. A 1911 profile in the Edmonton Capital stressed that the EIA was “non-political and non-sectarian in character,” and had “from the outset avoided the controversial.” This emphasis echoed the celebrations in Calgary, and indeed reflected a broader pattern across the Prairie West, where explicitly non-political and non-sectarian Irish associations emerged in the early 1900s.
With the worsening Home Rule crisis in Ireland in 1913-1914, it became increasingly difficult for Alberta’s Irish to continue to celebrate their ethnic heritage in an explicitly non-political way. In April 1914, for example, the Edmonton Capital advertised a meeting for those interested in forming an “Imperial British-Irish Association,” suggesting that some of the city’s Irish were no longer satisfied with the Edmonton Irish Association. The outbreak of World War One added another layer of complexity, as the British government put Ireland’s political future on hold for the duration of the war. By the end of 1914, the Edmonton Irish Association had dissolved. Similarly, there is no evidence of any Irish fraternal or benevolent societies in Calgary during the war years. Despite the non-political and non-sectarian nature of pre-war St. Patrick’s Day events, there appears to have been little appetite for Irish organization and celebration during the Great War or the subsequent Irish War of Independence (1919-21). The one exception is a short lived organization called the Irish Glee Club, which emerged in Calgary in 1919 to organize small concerts on St. Patrick’s Day. These events, however, were on a considerably smaller scale than those held prior to World War One.
With the end of the Irish War of Independence and the emergence of the Irish Free State in 1922, the province’s Irish citizens once again organized to publicly celebrate Ireland’s patron saint. Potentially awkward questions about how to reconcile devotion to Ireland and loyalty to Canada and/or Britain faded, as Alberta’s Irish honoured both Irish independence and service to Canada during the Great War. At the 1924 St. Patrick’s Day banquet, for example, the St. Patrick’s Society of Calgary celebrated Irish independence, but placed equal if not greater emphasis on Irish service, “loyalty and allegiance” to Canada during the Great War. The evening’s keynote speaker refused to take a political stance on the divisive civil war in Ireland, commenting only that “the Irish had settled the matter for themselves,” and that whether it had been settled “rightly or wrongly” was irrelevant to him as a Canadian. In place of politics, the new St. Patrick’s Society focused on the celebration of Irish folk culture, arts and crafts. A similar situation emerged in Edmonton, with the founding of the new St. Patrick’s Society of Edmonton in 1927. Like its Calgary counterpart, the society emphasized culture and avoided politics – a safely depoliticized way to honour Ireland. By the mid-1920s, Alberta’s Irish had found a comfortable balance between celebrating their Irish heritage and their contributions to Canadian growth and development.
The history of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Alberta thus yields significant insight into the province’s early Irish community. St. Patrick’s Day events represented an important point of intersection between the ethnic community and the rest of the population. It was a holiday intimately associated with Ireland, but widely observed by mainstream society – as such, it offered Irish organizations the opportunity to represent their heritage and their community’s values to a wide and receptive audience. The nature of those celebrations (or the absence of any organized events) is a reflection of what image Irish community leaders wanted to project to the larger population. At times, the tense situation in Ireland complicated those efforts and made it difficult for Alberta’s Irish to publicly embrace and celebrate their ethnic heritage. By the 1920s, such concerns had faded and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations flourished once again.
Written by: Allan Rowe, Historic Places Research Officer.
Cronin, Mike, and Daryl Adair. The Wearing of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. London & New York: Routledge, 2001.
My story begins in the spring of 2013, when I received a phone call from Hugh Dempsey. He, writing an article for Alberta History, hoped to learn the whereabouts of a rock, a particular rock … a missing rock.
Why did he call me? If you could see my house, my yard, my desk, my office and the view outside my window, you might understand. I work at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, and live in a landscape surrounded by rocks of all shapes and sizes. Some follow me. Many, found hither and yon, have fallen into my pockets and been liberated within my office. Others have invaded my home. There, a glacial erratic—it’s a 4,000 kg boulder—anchors my living room to the rocky edge of Rock Creek, a tributary of the Crowsnest River.
I laughed when Hugh told me the story behind the article he was writing. Why? The tale was too unbelievable to be true. But amid its far-fetched elements, there were many profoundly compelling components and juicy aspects of alluring intrigue. I was mesmerized. Within seconds, I was hooked.
If you wish to read the full article, you’ll find it in the summer, 2013 edition of Alberta History. Look for “Count di Castiglione in the West.” Here’s a synopsis:
In 1863, Count Henri Verasis di Castiglione was sent by the King of Italy to explore North America and bring back exotic specimens for a zoo. The Royal Italian Expedition, after traversing the Porcupine Hills, camped at the mouth of Rock Creek near the stream’s confluence with the Crowsnest River. There, not far from Lundbreck Falls, Castiglione and Major Ezeo di Vecchi climbed a nearby ridge and carved their names, the date, and some other information on a slab of sandstone (two feet wide by two and a half feet long).
This was the sandstone slab sought by Dempsey.
Dempsey, following the captivating story of Castiglione, had been trailing the Italian count for more than 40 years. He knew that in 1941, three Smith brothers from Lundbreck had found the inscribed sandstone slab. (Back in 1956 a local writer—and a former neighbor of mine—had heard the story and got the Smith “boys” to take her to the rock. She could read the names and date, but was puzzled over the inscription, which had weathered. No one from the local scene seemed to know more).
Armed with Dempsey’s insights and a picture of the missing rock, I contacted numerous people in an attempt to see if anyone knew of the Smith boys. I also tried to determine if the local writer—who is no longer living—had left insightful notes. I spent hours looking at rocks while exploring the ridges near the mouth of Rock Creek, but struck out on all counts. Castiglione’s inscribed rock seemed to have vanished.
Then I hit pay dirt. It happened when I stopped to talk with an elderly landowner, a man living in close proximity to the missing rock’s described resting place. He told me he’d found the rock years ago and, believing it to be a tombstone, taken it home. Later, regretting his actions, he returned the rock to the place where he’d found it … on a south-facing hillside amid scattered limber pines.
Years passed until one day, in the early 1980s, employees from the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge were granted permission from the landowner to excavate limber pines from the same sandstone ridge. When the landowner, returning to examine the site of the tree excavations, looked for the inscribed “tombstone,” he discovered it was gone. (This observation was made roughly three decades ago).
Fast-forward to 2013. I, curious, contacted the Japanese Gardens to see if I could learn more. I received a response indicating that the missing rock couldn’t possibly be in the Japanese Gardens because their rocks had been collected from an area farther west.
I wrote back indicating that, while I knew the bulk of the Japanese Gardens rocks had come from other locations, it seemed likely this particular rock, unusual due to its inscription, could have been collected at the time the Rock Creek limber pines were excavated.
I haven’t found time to visit the Japanese Gardens to see if I might learn more, but I’m mindful that a good sleuth leaves no stone unturned.
The Japanese Gardens are beautiful and well worth a visit. Perhaps, too, the gardens are the key to an elusive sandstone mystery?
My thought: The answer is out there …
Written by: Monica Field, Manager of the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre.
Alberta Culture and Tourism is responsible for the examination, preservation and protection of Alberta’s historic resources on behalf of the people of Alberta as mandated by the Historical Resources Act. The Listing of Historic Resources (Listing) is an important tool used in this work. The Listing identifies lands that contain, or have high potential to contain, historic resources such as archaeological, palaeontological, historic or aboriginal traditional use sites. The Listing is also a useful tool for developers, their agents and other regulatory bodies to help determine before development if a proposed project may affect historic resources.
The Listing is reviewed and updated twice a year by Alberta Culture and Tourism’s Historic Resources Management Branch (HRMB). The Listing does not include all lands that may contain historic resources. As previously unknown historic resources are discovered, their locations are added to the Listing. The locations of historic resources that have suffered substantial degradation due to human activities or natural forces may be removed from the Listing.
Each land parcel included in the Listing has been assigned a Historic Resource Value (HRV) ranging from 1 to 5. The highest level of significance, HRV 1, is given to lands that have been designated under the Historical Resources Act as a Provincial Historic Resource. HRV 1 is also used to identify World Heritage Sites and lands owned by Alberta Culture and Tourism for historic resource protection. Other HRVs are defined as follows:
HRV 2: designated as a Municipal Historic Resource or Registered Historic Resource under the Historical Resources Act.
HRV 3: contains a known and significant historic resource that is of great significance and will require avoidance or assessment.
HRV 4: contains a historic resource that may require avoidance or assessment.
HRV 5: has high potential to contain a historic resource.
Each entry in the Listing also includes a letter notation that describes the primary historic resource category of concern, as follows:
h: historic period
A parcel of land may be assigned HRVs from more than one category if different types of historic resources have been recorded on or in the vicinity of the property.
Due to their inherently fragile nature, historic resources are susceptible to the effects of time and damage caused by modern activities. Any proposals to develop lands included on the Listing are assessed by the HRMB for their potential to affect the resource. The assessment is comprehensive. For example, any activity for a parcel listed as a “p” (for palaeontological resources) may also be assessed for potential archaeological sites. The staff of the HRMB work together to evaluate what effect the proposed development or activity may have on any historical resources in the area.
The Listing of Historic Resources is employed, in conjunction with other information resources, to ensure that the opportunity for enhancing that knowledge is not lost under the pressures of development. For more information on the Listing of Historic Resources, please see our website.
Written by: Pauline Bodevin, Regulatory Approvals Coordinator