Thursday, 24 November 2011

Lethbridge's Potato Tragedy

This is the story of how a potato got a man arrested in Lethbridge in 1914.

"A Potato Tragedy

Arthur Doe and Charlie Van Marion of the Lethbridge Hotel staff were out in the yard the other day in connection with their work and got into trouble. There was a potato lying on the ground,and picking it up Doe threw it with the intention of making the garbage can but instead he threw it crashing through a window of the city offices. When he was what he had done, Doe skipped into the house and left Van to be caught by a policeman who happened to be in the offices at the time in connection with his pay cheque. He saw Van and without investigation had him charged with breaking the window by throwing a 'dangerous missile.' The case came up in court this morning and the police said that Van Marion threw the potato. Asked by the court if he had any explanation of his conduct, Van Marion said he had. He wasn't guilty. 'The man who threw the potato is standing over there,' said Van, pointing at Doe. This rather confused the policeman, and on Does admitting that he was the candidate for the pitcher's mound next summer, the information was changed, the word "dangerous' struck out, and Doe fined with costs, $5.25 in all. He now wants to know how much it would cost to throw a cabbage through the window."

Maybe I found the story funny because I've been spending a bit of time lately with potatoes -- well, Mr. Potato Head, to be exact. If you haven't had a chance yet to see the 1952 Mr. Potato Head in our feature Toys and Games Exhibit, you should. It's not often that you get to see a Mr. Potato Head smoking a pipe, or with legs, or learn how to make a potato head out of a pepper...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Be Your Community’s Somebody

"Somebody" should do something about it.

This statement used to completely frustrate me. Who is this magical "somebody?" Who are "they" that we keep expecting will come in, do the hard work and solve the problem? Why don't people stop complaining, step up and do the work themselves?

Then I realized this statement is often a call for help. There are a lot of people out there who care, who want to preserve and protect history, who want to make their community better. But they usually do not have a clue what to do to achieve these goals. Because of this lack of knowledge, they are subjected to relying on some vague, hopeful "somebody."

So I thought I would jot down a couple of ideas of how you could get more involved. I'm sure you can think of many more.

Volunteer at a museum or historical site. Your time and dedication can make a world of difference for a lot of organizations. And, yes, everyone is incredibly busy but many organizations have programs where families can volunteer together. Or you can do something from home. Give what time you can.

Recognize that you are likely the keeper of some incredible history. Whether it's your family history or memorabilia or something you have that showcases the history of our community and province, chances are you are responsible for taking care of something that is part of our shared, irreplacable history. Take it upon yourself to ensure that it is well stored and well take care of. Speak to your local museum or archives and find out the best way to ensure its longevity. Document your family history. Identify your photographs. And, if the time comes when you can no longer care for these items, speak to a museum, archives, or other organization about whether or not the best long term place for your items is in such a institution. Museums and archives cannot and should not accept everything but whenever you're in doubt about whether it should go there, talk to them and find out. Once something is destroyed or thrown in the dump, it can never be replaced.

Join a historical society, museum, heritage group or related organization and add your voice. See what advocacy can be done. Write letters. Speak to your politicians. Sign pledges. Don't be a voice in the wilderness wondering what can and should be done -- help make a concerted effort to show that heritage issues have a loud, active, concerned voice represented by many people in our community. Rather than fighting each battle on our own, let's do it as a group and really make something happen.

Start a blog or other message board in your community and share information on social media about the heritage issues and share these issues with as many people as possible. All too often, there are a few people who know what's going on and a large group of people who would like to help but haven't been told or invited. The more we talk and share, the more that can be done. Offer real solutions. If you are good at sharing information, contact a local group and offer to help them with social media or publicity. Help get the message out.

If you're fortunate enough to have the money, donate to support your favourite causes and help the work get achieved.

There are already many, many incredible people in your communities and across the province working, volunteering and donating to keep our history safe. But we can always use more help. Let's all be the "somebody" who does something for our communities and province.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Little Man

"There is in this country a curious fellow, with baggy knees, who has the faculty of meeting you everywhere you turn. He never has his name in the papers except for the birth and death notices, he is seldom more than a jump ahead of the sheriff, he has done nothing notable. And yet he is the greatest man in the nation. This is your neighbor, your corner grocer, your friend when you need one. The chances are he drove to town for a doctor when you were born; he'll be one of your pall-bearers when you die. As long as you live you will not be separated from him.

I give you the most plotted against, the most known and the least understood character in the land, the mighty atom who, in his millions and in his mercy, holds human society together."

This is a quote from the book Little Man (published 1942), written by G. Herbert Sallans. The novel won the Ryeron Press Award for best Canadian novel (prize $500). The book dealt with the experiences of George Battle, the representative of the 'little man' or 'everyman,' in the time following the First World War and into the Second World War.

The author, G. Herbert Sallans, served in Lethbridge's original 39th Field Battery in the First World War, and was among the first draft of reinforcements to serve with the unit in France.

Sallans states (in the voice of George Battle, the protagonist) that it is the 'little man' who is the only one who can stand up and win the war.

"For all the known things of his life were massed now to help him in that distant, uncharted frontier. There stood his Little Man, transfigured, supreme and sublime, who will win the war -- the only man strong enough to win it."

I have not yet been able to track down a copy of the book (though I would love to) but even this little bit of information that I was able to find reminds me yet again of our incredible debt owed to people on Remembrance Day (and throughout the year).

Thank you to all of the Veterans for their sevice to us and our country.

Thanks for their families who carried on throughout the war.

Thank you to the coal miners and farmers, many of whom wished to serve but often weren't permitted to because they were deemed indispensable labour.

Thank you to the nurses who served.

Thank you to all who sacrificed, worked and fought for us in so many ways.

And an eternal thank you to those who didn't make it back home.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Who wants to write a novel?

November is usually a bit of a slow month for me compared to October and December.

October is all about Flashlight Cemetery Tours and Haunted Hospital Tours. In October I get to spend several late evenings in the cemetery regaling people with strange stories of Lethbridge past. We run several of our Downtown Lethbridge Treasure Hunt programs and school cemetery programs in October hoping to catch the last of the good weather before winter comes.

December is about our Christmas program where hundreds of kids come and participate in Christmas activities. Many of our volunteers are busy right now wrapping doll bodies in anticipation.

But what about November? Well, I have an idea. November is National Novel Writing Month. Participants are challenged to write 50,000 words of a new novel. Who's with me?

I think, though, I'll have to change it a little. I have several writing projects on the go and my goal is to write at least 50,000 words between them.

So I make it my pledge before the end of November to have the Cemetery as an Educational Resource book done and available to the public. To finalize (after how many years?) the grade 5 Immigrant Voices Archives kit. To research and get together the last of the reported haunted places I'm researching. To have available to the public (in anticipation of museum visits with your family during the holidays) the brochure and booklet on How to Visit Museums with Children and Families. To check off all related To Do List items from my list.

Now, you'll just all have to check back in December and see how it went. And if you're on board to write your own novel (or some similar project), be sure to let me know. And also sign-in with the official National Novel Writing Months web-site. Can't wait to see what comes out of a creative, ambitious month ahead.

A Special Exhibit about Local Sports

Next summer, when the world celebrates sports in London, England during the Summer Olympics and Lethbridge hosts the Alberta Summer Games, the Galt Museum & Archives will explore sports through a special in-house exhibit and a series of programs.

Sports has been an integral part of society since ancient times. The Olympics in Greece are thought to have started as far back as 776 BCE and the Mayan people played the first team sport over 3,500 years ago. Blackfoot people in this area played games that focused on learning and improving survival skills such as archery and running.

Early settlers enjoyed sports as a break from the hard work of surviving on the open prairie. Community gatherings almost always included games that pitted individuals or teams against one another. Mounted Police and ranchers played polo and cricket, games coming out of British traditions. Baseball, a mixture of many older games, eventually replaced cricket as a favourite. Horse and foot races, boxing, wrestling, pitching horseshoes and children's games such as the potatoe sack and three legged races meant the whole family could participate. Winter sports like sledding, speed skating and hockey developed from a wide variety of countries and were formalized in the late 1800s.

When we think of sports we often focus on athletes but many other people work in and/or enjoy sports. Coaches and managers, trainers and therapists, sponsors, Zamboni drivers and grass keepers, family members, sports equipment suppliers, skate sharpeners, and, of course, the fan are all critical to the success of athletes. Sports in Lethbridge has produced many heroes from all of these catagories in the past and currently.

Many things influence sports today that have changed the nature of the games from events like spontaneous shinny ball games. Things like players' high wages, television coverage, expensive tickets, performance enhancing drugs, subjective judging, serious injuries such as concussion and high profile sponsorships have altered how we look at and participate in sports. It will be interesting to explore the stories surrounding sports and sports heroes in the upcoming exhibit and the associated programs. If you have any ideas you feel would enhance the exhibit please contact me as I would love to hear what is important to you in the realm of local sports.