Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Tribute to Senator Joyce Fairbairn

On August 23 we first learned via that Lethbridge Senator Joyce Fairbairn was diagnosed with Alzheimer's dementia and would be taking a leave of absence from her duties.

Our subsequent message on received 25 likes in very short order. Then came this tribute from former Lethbridge Mayor Bob Tarleck, who gave us permission to share it, in which he describes how Senator Fairbairn was instrumental in creating an expanded community gathering place for the Galt Museum & Archives:

"In the flood of tributes to my good friend, Senator Joyce Fairbairn, there is one important contribution to southern Alberta that might have been overlooked. I am referring to her pivotal role in securing funding for the major expansion of the Galt Museum in Lethbridge, which was officially opened on May 6, 2006.

While everyone in southern Alberta is aware of Senator Fairbairn’s commitment to literacy and culture, not everyone is aware that without her passionate persistence the funding for this project would probably not have been put in place. This is the unlikely story.

When Senator Fairbairn learned that federal funding had been allocated for the performing arts centre in Medicine Hat, she immediately began a campaign to secure a funding commitment for the Galt Museum and Archives addition and renovation project in her home town.

In fairness to the federal bureaucrats, there was a reasonable explanation for the Medicine Hat project receiving priority over the Galt. Whereas the Medicine Hat project had received a prior funding guarantee from the Government of Alberta, the Galt project had received no such assurance. In fact, Lethbridge was subsequently advised that its request for cultural funding from the Province of Alberta was denied.

But if any officials in Ottawa thought Senator Fairbairn would allow the fine print in a federal policy to get in the way of a project she thought important to her community, they were dead wrong. Just how she accomplished this is a secret hidden in some dark corner of Parliament, but she did secure the funding commitment. With the federal part of the funding agreement in place, then Lethbridge East MLA Clint Dunford renewed his efforts to secure the needed provincial funding. That he was ultimately successful was in large part because Senator Fairbairn had already secured the federal funding commitment.

Given Senator Fairbairn’s long and distinguished record of service to southern Alberta and to Canada, it is not surprising some people have suggested there should be some permanent recognition for her. In my mind we already have it. It is called the Galt Museum and Archives."

Robert (Bob) Tarleck, Immediate Past Mayor, City of Lethbridge
August 28, 2012

TOP: 100 Anniversary celebration of Galt Hospital building, 2010. Visible L-R: Senator Joyce Fairbairn, Galt Museum & Archives Board of Directors Chair Chris Epplett, Mayor Bob Tarleck

Friday, 24 August 2012

Why Museum School Trips Matter

A friend and I were at Montana's having supper last night. We were both thoroughly checking our bill when the waitress came back (she had forgot to charge me for a lemonade and my conscience wouldn't allow that so we were seeing if anything else was wrong).
The waitress seemed to find it a bit odd that we were so concerned about the bill. To explain why we were so analyzing our bills, I said we were critical thinkers because of our jobs. She asked me what I did and I said historian.
That's when she said "oh, yes, you work at the Galt. I went there years back and you did a talk on the Holocaust. You said that no one knew all of the reasons behind the Holocaust [or something like that]."
She further said that (as a teenager at that time) she thought, "of course we know what it was. They were just bad, mean people" and she determined right then that she was going to become a lawyer and work for the United Nations.
She then very proudly told us that she is now in law school. She contributed that moment during an education program at the Galt in discussion with me to her decision regarding her career path.
I am SO glad that I had the opportunity to meet her and hear that story. Some people may wonder why museums put so much effort into their education programs. Some critics are looking for immediate impact -- are these visits contributing to increased museum attendance and, more importantly to many of the critics, to increased revenue? How, they ask, can 90 minutes at a museum have any impact?
The reality is that we rarely see an immediate impact of these visits. In fact, the effect may not be visible for decades.
But isn't the important thing to remember that a visit to a museum during an education program may change a life? Even if we don't always know how?
Note:  This is the Galt exhibit that started it all:

Friday, 17 August 2012

Diamond City, Royal View and four depressions in the river bottom

It's funny how connected things sometimes are.

Diamond City. Galt Archives 19730023014
A few months ago a friend who lives in Diamond City had a bit of a puzzle for me. She asked me about the steamboats that used to travel on the river and whether or not they had ever docked at Diamond City. Down by the river at Diamond City were four square depressions that, according to a neighbour, had been the steamboat dock for Diamond City. My friend wanted to know if that's what they really were. 

Diamond City, 1905-1980 postcard. Galt Archives 19841061000
I thought about it for a while. Certainly steamboats did travel along the Oldman River (or the Belly River as it was known then). When the Galts realized the railroad was going from Medicine Hat to Calgary rather than through Lethbridge, they had to think of a way to get their coal from Lethbridge (or Coalbanks) to Medicine Hat. Their idea? Steamboats down the river. Three boats were made. The Alberta and Baroness were steamboats while the Minnow was a barge. Unfortunately the river was only navigable for a short season and proved an unreliable way of transporting coal. So the Galt company instead built its own narrow gauge railway from Lethbridge to Medicine Hat (actually Dunmore) in 1885.

Steamboat on the Belly River. Galt Archives 19760238103
This was not the end of river travel. There are a few reports of boats on the river until approximately 1907 though very little comes of it.

So certainly there had been docks in Lethbridge but at Diamond City? The timing didn't seem right to me. Diamond City came along after river travel was proven unreliable. It had to be something else.

Then it hit me what those depressions really were. They were the docks/supports for the ferry. People forget how incredibly importants ferries were in the development of southern Alberta. There was a ferry that ran in Lethbridge across what is now Whoop Up Drive. There was another ferry that ran from Diamond City across to what was then the coal mining community of Royal View. People did not want to take the time or effort to go miles around on the highway bridge and it was simpler to go across. (There were also several suspension, walking bridges but that's a subject for another time.) When my friend went back to take a closer look the old roads down the coulees to the ferry were also still visible.

So the ferry went from Diamond City to where? To Royal View, of course.

Well, as luck would have it I've been spending quite a bit of time on Royal View history this year, with the new cemetery development. When I was putting together an information package on Royal View for artists working on ideas for the Royal View Memorial Cemtery art project/main gates, I took the opportunity to learn more about the ferry and the connections between Diamond City and Royal View. And then just last night I had a wonderful conversation with a gentleman whose family ran the ferry and whose parents were married in Royal View.

Miners in front of Royal View Mine. Galt Archives 20021054000
 While it was neat to see how all of these strings of the story came together, it also makes me realize that while buildings may be gone for those with a keen eye and a questioning mind, there are all sorts of clues out there that reveal pieces of the past.

Friday, 10 August 2012

A hockey playing canoeist and Cow men from the South

A random assortment of headlines from the 10 August 1912 Lethbridge Daily Herald.

Mr. Monk says Post Office Contract Will Be Awarded
-- the post office would soon be under construction

Raymond May Have a Beet Palace
-- this would be their exhibit for the Dry Farming Congress taking place in Lethbridge in October

Fine Crops on the Demonstration Farm

Bruce Ridpath a Visitor in the City -- Famous Hockey Player and Canoeist -- to Give Performance at Lake
-- put on a demonstration of his canoeing abilities at Henderson Lake

Alberta Leads in Automobiles -- In Comparison to Population Other Provinces are in the Rear
-- there were 3000 cars or one for every 124 persons; followed by Manitoba, BC and then Saskatchewan; PEI only province that prohibited use of automobiles on highways or in public places in 1912

Big Hay Crop at Cardston

Old Timer Dead -- Exhibit at Lethbridge -- Raymond Locals
-- these were 3 separate stories but you had to read the article to understand that

Cow Men From South

-- easiest for this one to just include the article which is below
'When the old "round-up" of cow punchers and cattle wrestlers hits the trail for Calgary about the last day
of this month, to be there when the Stampede is put onby the Big Four during the first week in September,
they will have with them some celebrities whose names are history in the cattle business in the country between Red Deer'and the Boundary, and even across the Boundary. It will be a modern galaxy of famous old-timers. But they are not going to Calgary just to see what's doing. They are taking along a couple of performers who have had many a wild journey on the "'hurricane deck of the wildest broncs that ever felt the pull of the rope. Jim Austin, of Cardston fame will be there, and he has boarded the best of them. Up in the High River country, where critters of the Bar U are legion, there is a puncher styling himself Mike Herman. Mike is fancy with the rope, and can ride too on occasion. He'll be there. So will RayKnight, the dictator of the Knight outfit. He has taken part in roping contestsin this country when sugar beets were an unknown quantity, and for roping and tying, he set a mark which few of the best men can eoual. This trio will represent the south, and they will be heard from before the big stampede is broken up.