On behalf of RETROactive, happy holidays to everyone out there. Whether you’re a new subscriber or have been a follower for years, we want to thank you all for your continued support. We’ll be back in mid-January with even more blog posts about Alberta’s unique history!
Written by: Sara King (Provincial Archives of Alberta) and Jared Majeski (Historic Resources Management Branch)
It was a magical time in Edmonton in 1980. One area code, the Rat Hole, liver and onions at the Silk Hat on Jasper Ave. It was also a time with enchanted headphones and a young, open-collared Bruce Bowie.
Harriet’s Magic Hats was an educational program for children created by ACCESS TV, which primarily explored different careers as a girl named Susan travelled around with the assistance of her Aunt Harriet’s collection of mystical headgear. In addition to being an example of local programming in Alberta, the episode is a time capsule of technology and popular culture of the time it was made.
In this episode, Susan mysteriously transports into the booth at 630 CHED, right in the middle of a broadcast from legendary announcer Bruce Bowie. From there, Bowie shows young Susan the radio ropes, from programming commercials to the station’s automated system for playing records.
This episode concludes with a jaunty montage of various Edmontonians biking, lounging, paddling and dancing along to the radio. Heck, even the bears and elephants are listening!
Sharon Alexander, the actress who played Susan in the Harriet’s Magic Hat series, would go on to do a ton of voice acting, as well as appear in episodes of The X-Files, Da Vinci’s Inquest, The Outer Limits and Cold Squad.
ACCESS TV was the designated educational broadcaster in Alberta, created by the Alberta Educational Communications Corporation (AECC), an arms length corporation of the Government of Alberta. From its founding in 1973 until its privatization in 1995, it would produce, broadcast, and distribute television-based multimedia, in partnership with Alberta Education and the province’s universities and colleges.
The Provincial Archives of Alberta has a collection of 1506 video cassettes, 1071 video reels, 2220 audio reels, 731 audio cassettes, and 240 16 mm film reels in our ACCESS TV fonds (PR3368) as well as 1198 films and other government records transferred to the archives when ACCESS was a government body. But not all of them are quite as magical as this one.
Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series on the history of human relationships with trees in Alberta. If you missed part one, read it now.
Written by: Todd Kristensen, Archaeological Survey of Alberta
Development of Alberta’s Forestry Industry
From 1900 to 1910, population growth and steady local demand for lumber meant that most settlements had commercial sawmills. Because of the way that timber berths were leased to operators, most sawmills were small and portable. Some operators harvested in the summer and moved their timber using rivers, flumes (a series of wooden chutes that filled with water and carried logs), splash dams (a temporary wooden dam that held back water that would then be released in a surge to carry logs), and log drives along big rivers that brought wood to riverside mills or to rail yards in river valleys. But winter was generally the ideal time to log because wood could be moved by horses and sleds. Portable sawmills would move machinery on skis to temporary camps in western and northern Alberta. The seasonal nature was perfect for struggling families because farmers could work the fields in warm seasons and cut timber for mills in the winters.
Alberta’s forestry industry was younger than in British Columbia and neighbouring states to the south, many of which had various gold rushes that required commercial sawmills in the 1800s. It was fairly common for Alberta farmers to log in B.C. during winters in the early 1900s and many Alberta ranches provided B.C. logging operations with horses. A good-sized sawmill in B.C. or Alberta could employ several hundred men and up to 60 horses over the winter.
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series on the history of human relationships with trees in Alberta. Next week’s post will discuss the development of the forestry industry, modern research and the Heritage Art Series.
Written by: Todd Kristensen, Archaeological Survey of Alberta
People in Alberta have relied on trees since these woody plants colonized our ice-scraped province around 11,000 years ago. Millions of collective hours were spent by people gathering and chopping wood for warmth and cooking, but our relationship with trees runs much deeper than heat. People in Alberta have relied on them to build tools, homes, and transportation networks, and our forestry industry continues to shape the province.
What Trees Grow Here and Why?
Much of the prairies are too hot and dry for forests, but most of central and northern Alberta have ideal temperatures and moisture levels for trees: over 60% of the province is covered by forests. While our precipitation helps trees grow, Alberta is dry enough (over long enough periods in the summers) to be fire-prone. Most natural forests here rarely exist for more than 100 years before a fire re-starts the growth of a series of plant communities (called ‘succession’). Our ‘pyrogenic’ forests are younger and typically smaller than neighbours to the west where heavier rains and different soils produce massive old growth forests that often exceed 600 years old.
Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer
Alberta’s newest Provincial Historic Resource is the Mile 58 Forestry Cabin in the Willmore Wilderness Park. Now the most remotely located designated resource in the province, the cabin tells an interesting and important story about the protection of Alberta’s forests and the forest rangers that sheltered in cabins like this while riding the trails in our province’s forests.
The Dominion Forestry Branch
The story of the Mile 58 Forestry Cabin begins in Ottawa, with the establishment of the Dominion Forestry Branch in 1899. The Dominion Forestry Branch, a sister service to the Dominion Parks Branch (now Parks Canada Agency), was established to manage forest resources on Crown lands. By 1911, a number of protected forest reserves had been created in Alberta, including the Athabasca Forest Reserve north of Jasper.
However, stone tools are only a very small part of the archaeological record— at well-preserved sites, artifacts made of plant and animal fibers make up the majority. These items are called perishable artifacts because they decay quickly, often long before any archaeologist stumbles upon them. Alberta’s climate is not conducive to the preservation of perishable artifacts, but their presence can be inferred through other means. We can look to ethnographic collections of items made by First Nations that were traded or sold to settlers, and we can look to the technologies many Indigenous people use to this day. One such technology that was, and still is, widely important across the Canadian Subarctic is birch bark basketry.
In 1935, the chapel unveiled within St. Steven’s College displayed plaques commemorating the war service and sacrifices of its brave associates. Dated to 1923, the first plaque honoured 19 Ministers and 61 Probationers who served during the Great War, as well as eight who “bravely fell”. A separate plaque commemorated “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory” eight students of Robertson College “who fell on the field of Honour” during the war. One individual plaque was also dedicated in memory of Harold G. Riddle of Robertson College who died at St. Omer, France in 1916 and proclaimed Virtute Praeclarus (“Brilliance with Courage”) in his memory.