Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Depression Era Comic strips in the Lethbridge Herald

The tradition of reading the Sunday morning ‘funnies’ still brings laughter to people all over Canada every week, and perhaps an antidote to the news of the day.

The comic strip “Bringing Up Father” by George McManus brought laughter into the homes of Lethbridge Herald readers during some of the most dismal years in recent history: the Great Depression. The comic featured the social blunders and misadventures of an upper middle-class family, with the grumpy and mischievous father, Jiggs, the main character, alongside his wife Maggie and their daughter Nora. The plot usually began with Jiggs getting caught in a lie and Maggie throwing a rolling pin or dishes at him.

“Bringing Up Father” explored familiar but mundane conflicts that many upper-middle class families and couples would have experienced. The themes during the 1930s, however, rarely referenced economic plight, not to mention the global Great Depression – especially in 1931 and 1932, the two worst years of the Great Depression in Canada. During this time, unemployment rates in the country never dropped below twelve percent. The people of Lethbridge were caught up in the Depression along with the rest of Canada.

The local population averaged 13,500 persons during the Depression years. There were about 1,000 unemployed persons on relief in Lethbridge by June 3, 1931; reaching as high as 2,043 in 1934. Delegations of unemployed appeared constantly before city council looking for assistance. Single men were housed in barns at the Exhibition Grounds; representatives of the Unemployed Association complained they were fed only one meal a day (later raised to two meals a day).

Although the “Bringing Up Father” comic seemed to ignore the Great Depression, by doing so McManus allowed readers to temporarily escape from the very real hardships. You can view “Bringing Up Father” comic strips at the Lethbridge Herald online database or stop into the Archives at the Galt where you can ask to see them. Examples from 1930 and 1938 are also included on the Galt blog at www.galtmuseum.blogspot.ca; look for the March 20, 2013 entry.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Schwartz Agencies Files

Whenever possible, the Galt Museum & Archives creates project employment opportunities with the help of grants, which benefit young people looking for work experience in museums and archives. In 2012, grants from the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta, as well as the Archives Society of Alberta, made it possible for the Schwartz Agencies Files in the archives to be prepared for public use.

Henry Schwartz was a Hungarian immigrant who got his start in business as a land agent for the railway. In 1927 he co-founded the Colonist’s Service Association. By the end of the depression Henry was the sole owner and it was re-named Schwartz Agencies. The agency helped people looking to move to Canada with transportation and proper documentation, a place to live and a place to work. Henry would act as an agent, often corresponding with government officials in English for clients who only wrote in Hungarian.

Around World War II Schwartz Agencies primarily assisted Central Europeans destined for the sugar beet fields. From 1939-1946, non-military travel was suspended between Europe and Canada. Even after travel resumed, the post-war situation in Europe made getting the proper documents difficult. Project researcher Jennifer Vanderfluit found applications and pre-WWII passports from the Soviet Zones of Germany and Austria, as well as Hungary, including one submitted by her uncle’s father requesting that his wife and children join him in Canada.

Researchers will find the immigration files invaluable when searching for information on family members (especially those from central Europe) who immigrated to southern Alberta from the late 1920s to the 1960s. There is also material that can help you research your house if it was built in the 1960s by one of several builders associated with the Schwartz family. Other documents in the Agencies files include a brochure and manual for an indoor charcoal barbeque, the entire set of blueprints for the College Mall Theatre, and a set of resumes where the female applicants listed their height, weight, hair and eye colour.

The Archives can be researched from the comfort of home – follow the links at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Shopper’s World Mall

Another Christmas has come and gone.  In the days leading up this important event for many families, many people strode the aisles of malls and big box complexes.

The very first mall built in Lethbridge was Shopper’s World on the east side of Mayor Magrath Drive between 3rd and 5th Avenues was built in 1954. Local contractor and developer Art Batty was quoted in the Lethbridge Herald as saying “the 1954 development marked the first of its kind in suburban shopping malls for the city”.

On the northeast side corner was Glendale Bowl, a 1956 addition. The anchor store was Town and Country Foods (1955–56), then the Dominion Store (1956-1971). Walking south along the sidewalk  were La Kay’s Ladies and Children’s Wear, Tambyn’s Drugstore Limited, The Bank of Nova Scotia, Enso’s Barber Shop, The Frontier Shop, Fairfax Jewellery Store, Jones-Brown Rugs, Halifax Gift Shop, Parsons Hardware, the Gas Hopper, a branch of Green’s Shoes, Julia’s Tailor Shop and, at the south end, an A &W drive-in.

In the 1970s changes happened to the Shopper’s World. The walkway was enclosed, the food centre was demolished in 1971 and replaced with the Holiday Inn Hotel. The name of the mall was changed to reflect the importance of the business as lodging. In 1978 the mall adjacent to the hotel was sold to Vancouver businessmen and the hotel name was changed to Lethbridge Inn. A decade later the same men bought the entire complex and renamed it Sandman Inn Plaza.

Amidst all these shopping opportunities of yesterday and today, there is still the opportunity to create hand-made treasures. The Galt Museum & Archives is reprising the Top Five family Programs of 2016. Drop in anytime from 1–4pm from January 03 to January 07. Adults are to attend with Children. Registration is not required and includes access to the Kids Celebrate! exhibit. Admission fees apply.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Riverside Grocery in the River Valley

Favourite grocers in Lethbridge neighbourhoods and suburbs come and go, and once upon a time in local history, there was even a grocery store in the river valley.

As far back as one can recall there have been people living in the river valley. The first inhabitants were First Nations, then coal miners and, eventually, employees of Riverside Grocery.

From the 1930s to 1950s, a small community of residents built or moved into abandoned shacks along the dirt road that became known as Riverside Drive. The number of residents warranted a grocery store.

The Riverside Grocery was strategically placed in a grove of trees at the crossroads of the Riverside Drive and the road leading to the river. The store provided neighbours with a more convenient place to do their weekly shopping so they didn’t have to venture up the coulee hill to town.

Riverside Grocery was owned and operated by John Delmark and his wife Mary. John was born in Austria and came to Lethbridge by way of Ontario in 1900. Mary [Hrusecki] Delmark was born in 1899 in Lethbridge, raised and educated here.

The couple married in 1916 and moved to the river valley. John used his experience as a warehouseman for Campbell, Wilson and Horne wholesale groceries and provisions on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 4th Street to open his own store. He left the running of the store in his wife’s capable hands while he continued his work as a clerk and later a truck driver for local businesses.

The flood of June 1953 damaged or destroyed homes along Riverside Drive and drastic action was taken to relocate residents to the safety of the coulee top. The Delmarks moved the store to Hardieville where Mary continued her role as proprietor of the Riverside Grocery (later named Delmarks) until 1966 when the couple retired. 

In January 2015, Trish Purkis’s revised “The Grocery List” will be published, which features corner and neighbourhood stores such as Riverside Grocery, and more recent ones too. A related exhibit, “Not Just Apples and Oranges”, will be shown at the Galt Museum & Archives starting mid-February. For more information about the Galt, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Girls in the Band

Today’s Lethbridge Community Band has several things in common with its early counterparts. They were formed because of a desire for a band, they wear uniforms, have an executive, perform at many civic concerts, and they have both female and male players.

But it wasn’t so in the early bands of Lethbridge. These earlier band members, who were self-taught, community-minded, and played at all events in all kinds of weather, were all male. The Victorian age was a male-dominated era in business, cultural and civil matters. Women stayed in the home looking after the household and children. If they had musical talent, it was kept within the home, playing for the family or at church services, or as a member of a church choir.

All this changed in 1909 when the Citizen’s Band was at its peak and the notion of allowing women to play was addressed. The ladies of Lethbridge sought out Citizens Band Director James George Harper and proposed the idea. He was enthusiastic and, at a meeting held in the Lethbridge Music Conservatory, he outlined the workings and objectives: all that was required was they had to have some knowledge of music. Lessons and rehearsals soon followed and the Ladies Citizen’s Band was born.

Some 40 years later, the Lethbridge Boys Band changed its name in 1951 to the Junior Band to accommodate the entrance of girls within the ranks. Today, community bands carry on the tradition of co-ed groups: talented individuals whose sole purpose is to make music, for the love of music.

A 1917 mahogany Willis Player piano was selected for “Treasures & Curiosities: The Sequel” by a community member who, as a preschooler, would sit with her cousin at a player piano and pretend they were playing for their grandmother. The exhibit closes January 11. For more information, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Enduring Service of the High Level Bridge

The opening of southern Alberta to mining, ranching and farming was heavily dependent on railway transportation to get the coal, beef and grains to market. Many immigrants looking for work and a new place to live, arrived by train, bringing along their household belongings, farm implements, and a determination to succeed.

In the late 1800s, parts of the CPR line between Lethbridge and Macleod were becoming unstable so a new metal bridge over the Oldman River valley was planned. Engineer Blair Ripley, who also designed the spiral tunnel railway at Field in British Columbia, created the design.

The High Level Bridge and new track, also known as the Lethbridge Viaduct, completed in 1909, shortened the route between Macleod and Lethbridge by 5.26 miles (8.47 km) and removed an elevation gain and loss of 401.5 feet (122.4 meters). Fuel savings and reduction of stress on the train engines and cars over the next 105 years would be substantial. Noteably, the Titanic, built between 1909 and 1911, did not survive its 1912 maiden voyage. The High Level Bridge not only survived, but today safely carries 20% more weight than the original engineers planned.

Construction of the bridge involved huge quantities of steel, concrete and paint, almost 1,400,000 rivets and two years labour for 100 men. It is just over one mile (1.6 km) long and is 307’ (93.5 m) above the valley floor at its greatest height.

The bridge cost $1,334,525 to build. Early on the afternoon of June 22, 1909, the last span was put in place, and later that day a series of flatcars carrying 100 men and women dressed in their finest clothes crossed the bridge.

This bridge is a valuable part of the national rail system. CPR service vehicles are regularly seen on the bridge as employees monitor, repair and maintain the structure, tracks, and ties. In 2005, the construction of this imposing structure was recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) as a National Historic Event.  “The Mighty Bridge”– a 2009 Galt exhibit – celebrated its centennial.

A remarkably detailed model of the High Level Bridge construction, built and donated by Robert Gardner between 1990 and 1994, is on display in the Discovery Hall at the Galt. For more information about current programs and exhibits, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Lady of Lourdes Grotto

Since 2008 we have partnered with Lethbridge living Magazine on the ‘What is it?' feature. Each issue includes a photo of an unidentified artifact (or, in 2010-2011, an archival photo) from our holdings, and people can submit their guess online to win a museum pass. The April 2011 photo showed the Dedication ceremony for the Lady of Lourdes Grotto on October 23, 1955. Four correct entries were received. It turns out the randomly selected winner, Tony Bouw, was involved with the building of the grotto, and he provided this background:

“Lourdes Farm was owned and operated by the "Brothers of Lourdes" from Holland (an organization and form of clergy belonging to the Roman Catholic Church), where they own and operate mental institutions, orphanages, and do other charitable work.

“In 1954 they purchased/owned a farm (Lourdes Farm) about 2 KM east of "Steward Siding" along highway #4. About 5 brothers arrived from Holland shortly after. The plan was to develop an orphanage on the farm. My parents were employed on the farm and they also lived there. The Grotto, or Shrine as it was known, was built by the Brothers in 1955, and modelled after the Shrine of Lourdes in France.

“It was very simple in construction, the framework consisted of 2X4 lumber nailed together in all directions, pieces of lumber sticking out would represent outcroppings of rock. The wooden frame was then draped with burlap dipped in a concrete slurry. A statue of the Virgin Mary was placed in an opening near the centre and top. The ground level centre had an indentation containing a small altar and candle racks. A few benches with kneelers were located in front of the shrine and pilgrims could attend anytime, to worship and light candles. I can remember several religious ceremonies including an outdoor mass with many people attending. I am surprised for its durability as it was in remarkable good condition when it was torn down in about 2006.”

To see the photo yourself, search for “grotto” in the online archives database at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

An Old Sport Still Popular Today

Deny it all you will, we are inevitably heading into winter again and those involved in winter sports are looking forward to renewing their activities.  Curling, a sport which attracts people of all ages, has captured enthusiasts from the very beginning of this community and many small towns in southwestern Alberta. 

Curling was created by hardy Scots who could pick up a heavy stone and hurl it across the natural ice of a lake or river with some accuracy and style. One team member – the skip – called the shots and threw the critical last stones. Three other players threw their two stones towards the skip’s broom, alternating with the opposing team.  Using broad kitchen corn brooms, they brushed hard in an effort to keep their team mate’s stone moving and on the right track. Curling was already being played in Scotland in the early 1500s.

As early as 1887, Lethbridge had a curling club, and men played their games on the natural ice of nearby sloughs. The city’s first curling rink, complete with electric lighting, was constructed in 1895. It wasn’t until 1916 that the Ladies Curling Club was created. League play and bonspiels (weekend or week-long tournaments) were dependent on good cold weather; Chinook winds softened the ice and often made it disappear altogether.

The coloured rings, or house, at the end of each sheet of ice were first created by Jack Patey, a clever Lethbridge curler. Patey found it easier to paint the rings with broad solid colours rather than narrow black outlines. This practice is still used today.

Curling is a social sport with no referees to enforce the rules. Team members shake the hand of their opponents before and after every game.  Although the stones, rinks, brooms and clothing have all changed, the game is played today as it was 100 years ago.

Hundreds of photos of people involved in league and bonspiel curling, as well as a large number of curling-related artifacts are housed at the Galt Museum & Archives. You can browse the online Collections and Archives databases to see these: follow the links at www.galtmuseum.com.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Lethbridge Detention Camp

As 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War, two exhibits at the Galt Museum & Archives examine the impact of the war on the homefront, and the contributions of people in Lethbridge and area.

The first of these, Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (1914-1915)displayed May 8-September 29, 1914, looked at the beginnings of the war and its impact on the community and its citizens. Stories included initial response and mobilization efforts, Lethbridge's militia history, the spread of patriotism and the rise of xenophobia, recruitment, and the life of Lethbridge's most well known soldier: General J.S. Stewart.

We are sharing this exhibit research by guest curator Brett Clifton here; the first installment War Fever Strikes Lethbridge, then The Early Days of War, and now Lethbridge Detention Camp:

Exhibition Pavilion Buildings, 1912-1916. From a souvenir folder of
18 colourized postcards of Lethbridge, 10.1 cm x 15 cm each.
Galt Archives 19891067000-015

As we look back on history, it is hard for us to imagine a time when the Canadian Government could arbitrarily brand their own citizens as enemies and find a means by which to detain them for long periods of time.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened in Lethbridge and other communities across the nation, beginning just hours after Canada's declaration of war in August 1914.

On 11 September 1914, barely a month after Canada entered the war, the Lethbridge Daily Herald announced that the only military prison in Alberta was to be established at the Lethbridge Exhibition Grounds.  The poultry barn where the prisoners were to be held was renovated and barbed wire was installed to keep the 'enemy' safely contained.
Initially, the enemy was defined as individuals of German, Austrian, Hungarian or Turkish descent who belonged to reserve units in their homelands, however, this was soon expanded to include anyone with an ethnic sounding name that was 'acting suspiciously.'  Citizens were encouraged to report any 'suspicious behaviour' to the police for investigation - and report they did.
Accusations abounded ranging from possession of banned books to the sabotage of threshing machines necessary for the production of local crops.  In an attempt to escape the atmosphere of suspicion, many of these potential 'enemy aliens' tried to make their way to the American border as the United States was neutral and not involved in the conflict.  If caught, potential 'enemy aliens' were promptly arrested and returned to Lethbridge for detention.

The 'enemy aliens' had also been cut off from their families in Europe, as they could not send or receive any mail to or from home.  Some would try to get the mail through to Sweetgrass, Montana, but once again, if they were discovered, the consequences would be severe.
At its peak in mid-1915, the Lethbridge Detention Camp held 300 prisoners and employed 60 guards. In the fall of 1916, the Lethbridge camp was closed, primarily because the city was located too close to the American border, which provided incentive for detainees to attempt to escape.

The next installment will look at the Brigadier-General John Smith Stewart. The second exhibit Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (Local Contributions), begins October 11 and closes February 8, 2015. 


Guest Curator Brett Clifton was born and raised in Lethbridge, attending local schools as well as the University of Lethbridge. Graduating in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education, he now teaches Grade 7 and 8 Social Studies at G.S. Lakie Middle School. He has published two books documenting the lives and service of local men commemorated on our cenotaph, and is contributing a section on Lethbridge's war time experiences for an Alberta centennial publication coming out this year.  

Please note: The Archives does not have any images of the First World War detention camp at Lethbridge. Do you and would you share them? If so, please call 403-329-7302 | 1-866-320-3898 or send a message to archives@galtmuseum.com

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

In the Arena

Mention the word arena, and it is likely to evoke memories of long hours spent at hockey or skating practice, or perhaps of the first circus performance you ever attended. The Lethbridge Arena, built in 1922 had the distinction of being the first indoor rink in Lethbridge. It had homemade ice for memorable hockey teams such as the Lethbridge Maple Leafs (1936-1949), Lethbridge Native Sons (1946-1948), and The Sugar Kings (1966-1973).

The old wooden structure was located on the corner property of 12th Street A and 2 Avenue South, and had both natural and artificial ice during its history. Individuals owned the arena through the 1930s and 1940s. The City took over operations in 1959, and eventually purchased it in 1963.

Major renovations took place in 1965 and included a new front, concessions, washrooms, and paint job. Concrete bleachers, dressing rooms, and updated concessions were also added. Its seating capacity of 2400 could accommodate other events such as the Ice Follies, wrestling matches, dances, stage shows, carnivals and the Legion Band Festival.

Unfortunately, what had been home to sports in Lethbridge for 49 years was gone in 90 minutes after a fire broke out March 13, 1972. A hockey game between the Sugar Kings and the Edmonton Maple Leafs was in the 3rd period when the alarm sounded — the players and the 1800 fans who were watching the game were able to exit the building in an orderly fashion.

Following the fire, the arena was not rebuilt but other sports facilities filled the gap, including the existing Civic Centre on 6 Avenue South (built in 1950) and Adams Ice Centre in north Lethbridge (1960), followed by the Sportsplex (now Enmax Centre) in 1974, the Henderson Arena of circa 1975, and the Nicholas Sheran Arena in west Lethbridge, in 1985.

A Maple Leafs hockey sweater from 1950, donated to the Galt Museum & Archives in 1991 by Don McLean on behalf of the Maple Leaf members, is currently on display in “Treasures & Curiosities: The Sequel” until January 11. It was selected by Garrett McAlister, a young volunteer at the Galt, who “chose this hockey jersey because I play hockey and it is a cool jersey.” For more information, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Early Days of War

As 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War, two exhibits at the Galt Museum & Archives will examine the impact of the war on the homefront, and the contributions of people in Lethbridge and area.

The first of these, Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (1914-1915)—on display until September 29—examines the beginnings of the war and its impact on the community and its citizens. Stories include initial response and mobilization efforts, Lethbridge's militia history, the spread of patriotism and the rise of xenophobia, recruitment, and the life of Lethbridge's most well known soldier: General J.S. Stewart.

We are sharing exhibit research by guest curator Brett Clifton here on the blog: the first installment looked at War Fever Strikes Lethbridge. This is The Early Days of War:

August 3, 1914 Lethbridge Daily Herald cover
Although patriotic sentiment was abundant in Lethbridge during the early days of the Great War, the social and economic climate of the city also played a significant role in the events that unfolded during the fall of 1914.

 Recruitment was not a problem, as the excited young men of Southwest Alberta lined up to take the few coveted spots available in the newly formed Canadian Expeditionary Force.  British reservists collected their families and returned home to rejoin their pre-war units, while an initial draft of twenty-five men from the local militia unit were sent to Valcartier, Quebec for training.

Galt Archives P19831018000

It was widely believed that the war would be over by Christmas and these young men did not want to miss out on the big adventure.

Galt Archives 20131017002

Since Lethbridge was in the midst of a severe economic downturn, the declaration of war brought a renewed hope for economic prosperity through lucrative military contracts and new employment opportunities.

Not everyone in the city was celebrating the news of war.  There was a silent, apprehensive group of immigrants, mostly those of Central and Eastern European descent for whom the future was uncertain.

The enthusiastic war supporters built a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism, which also served to dehumanize their former friends, neighbours and co-workers, who were now considered the enemy.

The next installment will look at the Lethbridge Detention Camp. The second exhibit Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (Local Contributions), runs OCT 11-FEB 8.15.

Guest Curator Brett Clifton was born and raised in Lethbridge, attending local schools as well as the University of Lethbridge. Graduating in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education, he now teaches Grade 7 and 8 Social Studies at G.S. Lakie Middle School. He has published two books documenting the lives and service of local men commemorated on our cenotaph, and is contributing a section on Lethbridge's war time experiences for an Alberta centennial publication coming out this year.  

Galt Archives
19831018000: The first contingent of Lethbridge volunteers left the city on August 18, 1914 bound for Valcartier, Quebec. The group included 25 members of the 25th Independent Battery, more than 50 British reservists, and a handful of other locals hoping to get on with one of the infantry battalions.
20131017002: On August 27, 1914 a second group of 100 eager volunteers boarded the train for the trip to Valcartier, Quebec. A large number of these men would serve together in Calgary's 10th Battalion, which was part of the first division and fought in the early battles in France and Flanders.
20141015: George Bathgate is believed to be the first Lethbridge man to enlist for service in the Great War. He travelled to Valcartier, Quebec with the first contingent from the 25th Independent Battery and served as driver on the lead gun team.
Galt Archives
19841009002: Lieutenant C.R. Magrath Godwin was given command of the first contingent of Lethbridge volunteers to leave the city. He served overseas with the 2nd battery Canadian Field Artillery and was killed in action in Belgium on April 4, 1916.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Sweet Smell of Baking

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, here’s a trip down memory lane for you! Imagine walking into your grandmother’s kitchen and smelling something homemade baking in the oven. Was it a pie filled with rhubarb, Saskatoon berries, apples or a cream filling topped with meringue? Perhaps it was homemade bread or a batch of your favourite cookies.

Pies, bread and cookies were a very popular desserts in the past because households usually had all the ingredients in the pantry. Simple pastries were made with lard and wheat flour. Sugar could be added if it was in the cupboard, but in lean times or times of rationing during the wars, the quantity available was limited. One favourite old pastry recipes also calls for an egg, vinegar and baking powder. Fillings for pies were often from the garden or coulee, or easy to make as a corn starch pudding.  Perhaps you helped pick the berries or roll out the pastry!

Making bread was another regular weekly job in many homes. Yeast, sugar or honey, whole wheat flour, warmed milk, salt and butter were mixed together and set in a warm place in the kitchen to rise.  The smell of baking bread often drew family members into the house so they could slice into the warm loaf and enjoy it with butter and jam.  Cinnamon buns baked with a filling of butter, brown sugar and, of course, cinnamon, were special treats and often didn’t last long enough to be topped with icing.

Cookies were usually baked in large batches as they quickly disappeared from the cookie jar.  Oatmeal, gingersnap, raisin, shortbread and sugar cookies were regularly baked on Saturday mornings.  Chocolate chips didn’t become a staple in the kitchen until the 1940s, when Nestlé introduced them.

While chocolate chips are not on the menu, the Galt’s weekly family program, Saturdays at 1:00, does include the making of apple crisp, Spam Masubi, and pickles, among other history-related topics.  Or come take another trip down memory lane with the newest exhibit “Treasures & Curiosities: The Sequel”. For more information, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

War Fever Strikes Lethbridge

As 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War, two exhibits at the Galt Museum & Archives will examine the impact of the war on the homefront, and the contributions of people in Lethbridge and area.

The first of these, Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (1914-1915)—currently on display until September 29—examines the beginnings of the war and its impact on the community and its citizens. Stories include initial response and mobilization efforts, Lethbridge's militia history, the spread of patriotism and the rise of xenophobia, recruitment, and the life of Lethbridge's most well known soldier: General J.S. Stewart.

Over the next five weeks we will share this exhibit research by guest curator Brett Clifton here on the blog, starting with War Fever Strikes Lethbridge.

August 1, 1914 Lethbridge Daily Herald cover

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a young Serbian nationalist. A world away, the nearly 9,000 people who lived in the little prairie city of Lethbridge had no idea that this single act was about to touch off a series of events that would lead to the brutal conflict known as the Great War.

The Dominion of Canada officially joined when the British Empire declared war on Germany and its allies on August 4, 1914.  Since the majority of the citizens of Lethbridge claimed to be of British descent, there was little question as to the direction public opinion would take.

The much anticipated declaration of war lead to an outpouring of patriotism in communities across Canada.  War fever struck Lethbridge immediately, as frenzied citizens crowded around the offices of the Lethbridge Daily Herald.  The local paper reported that news of the war declaration was announced by megaphone to the eagerly awaiting crowds, who responded by cheering wildly and throwing their hats into the air.
Galt Archives 19891049200

Galt Archives 19752201394
In the hours that followed, the newspaper received continual updates by wire and telephone, publishing several special editions, which were quickly snapped up by the crowds in the street.  The Starland Theatre was packed with excited citizens who raised loud cheers as each new bulletin was flashed across the screen.

Later, the throngs of citizens outside the Herald office marched with flags, gathering at the bandstand, where members of the Citizens' Band had assembled to entertain the happy crowd with a wide array of patriotic music interspersed with fireworks, rockets and a water hose display offered by the Lethbridge Fire Department.

Galt Archives 19760220030

Galt Archives 19861078012
Mayor W.D.L. Hardie voiced the sentiments of the majority of those gathered in a rousing speech, proclaiming:
Ladies and gentlemen and fellow subjects of the British Empire, you are assembled now at the most momentous event in the history of the British Empire, to which it is our proud privilege to belong.  The war has been thrust on us, we have not sought it.  But now it has come we are ready and I know that every citizen of the City of Lethbridge is ready to do his duty at any sacrifice to himself.  The German Kaiser has been going around for some time with a chip on his shoulder and the time has come for us to knock that chip off.  The Kaiser has been seeking trouble and has now started something, and I tell you, citizens of Lethbridge, that by the time the trouble is over, there will be no Kaiser and we will have put the "Dutchman" where he belongs.
The next installment will look at The Early Days of War. The second exhibit, Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (Local Contributions), runs OCT 11-FEB 8.15.

Guest Curator Brett Clifton was born and raised in Lethbridge, attending local schools as well as the University of Lethbridge. Graduating in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education, he now teaches Grade 7 and 8 Social Studies at G.S. Lakie Middle School. He has published two books documenting the lives and service of local men commemorated on our cenotaph, and is contributing a section on Lethbridge's war time experiences for an Alberta centennial publication coming out this year.  

19891049200: The Lethbridge Daily Herald Offices at 323 - 6 Street S, August 1914. In the days before television, radio and the internet, newspapers were the primary resource of public information.

1975220139: The printing room at the Herald worked overtime during the early days of the First World War. In addition to the regular daily issue, several special editions were printed during the first weeks of August 1914, bringing news directly from the telegraph wires to the citizens of Lethbridge.
19760220030: As war fever swept into Lethbridge on August 4, 1914, members of the Citizens' Band gathered at Galt Gardens to entertain the growing crowd. The band played stirring renditions of popular favourites, like "The Maple Leaf Forever", "God Save the King", and "Rule Britannia".
19861078012: Hardie served as Mayor of Lethbridge throughout the Great War and was an active supporter of the war effort. His own son, W.E.G. Hardie, joined hundreds of other local men in enlisting for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Any Old Coulee Will Do

Regular users of the coulee pathway systems have noticed debris appearing out of the soil, especially after rainy seasons. Local lore has it that various areas in the coulees were used as dumping grounds.

Over one hundred years ago, paid individuals known as “scavengers” roamed about the city and picked up garbage from homes and businesses and disposed it in the nearest coulee. These areas were called rubbish coulees, nuisance coulee or nuisance grounds, or simply the City Dump. One of the most prominent places to dump garbage was at the south end of the brewery, today the entrance to the river valley from 3rd Avenue.

The first city scavenger was hired in 1908. In 1909, a person collecting “night soil” was paid $25 each week. In the 1920s, the city contracted out refuse pickup under the supervision of the Public Works Department. Daily pick up was scheduled for commercial areas, and weekly pickup for residential areas. They continued to dump the collection in the nuisance ground west of the city, using the open dumping method. This method had its drawbacks. It smelled bad, bred diseases, and was an eye sore.

After the Second World War and on into the 1950s, sanitation landfills made their appearance. The new method was now three-fold – dumping, covering, and burying. A new proposed site was around 2nd Avenue A. North from #3 Highway, Still located in the coulees. The ‘North Hill Road” which ran along the bottom of the coulee from 5th Street North to Highway #3 was to be closed and the landfill site would be located there.

After 100 years, garbage and waste material disposal has greatly improved, and local recycling initiatives lessen the amount of refuse in the landfill. The present landfill site located north of 28th Street North was opened in 1983.

Scavengers of the animal kind can be seen year-round in the coulees and the skies surrounding the Galt Museum & Archives – the Viewing Gallery is a great spotting place in all kinds of weather; enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and bring a friend! For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Beginnings & Endings of Miss Edith Fanny Kirk

Edith Fanny Kirk began her life in July 16, 1858 in the residence attached to the Crookes Endowed School where her father was the head master (the residence is to the right of the main building, it has a large chimney on the near side). Crookes is now a suburb of the city of Sheffield.  I went to see the area in June 2014 while on a research trip to England.  The current owners of the buildings, St. Thomas Church, generously allowed me to have a brief look inside the school and the residence.  

I stood in the main room of the three room home.  One of the two other rooms was very likely her parent's bedroom and so the room in which Edith was born.  The residence had a yard surrounded by a stone fence in which she and her brother John could play.  After all the years of research getting know Edith through newspaper articles, historical records and her art, it was humbling to actually stand in her first home.

I also visited what is now called Sheffield Cathedral where baby Edith was baptised.  This is located in central Sheffield and is a very impressive High Anglican church. http://www.sheffieldcathedral.org/news/gallery-around-the-cathedral.php
Edith's mother died when she was only 3 years old and her father moved the family to Altrincham shortly after their loss.  There he remarried to Elizabeth Gresty and a half brother was added to the family unit.

Edith Kirk trained as an artist from an early age and travelled through the United Kingdom and France to paint watercolour land and streetscapes. When she was 46 years old, she emigrated to Canada and lived in several places in British Columbia from 1905 to 1913 where she taught art and continued to create her own art.  After a year's visit back in England, Kirk returned to the east coast of Canada where she spent a couple of years before moving to Lethbridge, Alberta.

In Lethbridge, she was well known for her art and her dedication to teaching young people.  She settled in Lethbridge but didn't stop travelling and having more adventures.  At the age of 60, she joined the Alpine Club of Canada and spent weeks in camps in the National Parks where the spectacular scenery was reflected in her watercolours.  Miss Kirk, as everyone knew her, lived until she was 95 years old.  She died December 30, 1953 and was buried in Mountain View cemetery.

In July this year, just days before her birthday, I visited her last resting place and found her small white headstone nestled at the roots of a line of spruce trees.  Knowing her love of nature and her skill at painting trees I found this to be a perfect place for her to be.  For me, it was like coming full circle in her life.

But my task in learning about Miss Kirk continues as I am still searching to fill in a few gaps in her travels and as I plan an exhibit about her life and write a book about her travels, her art and her teaching. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Virtue Diary

The centenary of the start of the First World War is being commemorated this week, and it is appropriate to highlight a related archival holding: the 1918 Virtue Diary.

During the First World War, a young local lawyer, Abner Gladstone Virtue, became an officer in the 61st Battery Canadian Field Artillery, established on April 3, 1916 in Lethbridge. Overseas he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and received the Military Cross for keeping up with the need for ammunition during a tense onslaught. He wrote almost daily in a little German-made diary while on duty in 1918.

Virtue was a devoted writer, usually only writing little fragments of script, capturing the essence of his day in only a few words.  “Took 1,700 shells up to the guns today.” “Ugh.”  “Got notice going on leave. Slept in a real bed for the first time in a year.”  “Wordy war between Steele and Maj. Greene, the latter winning.” 

Soon after his return from active duty A.G. Virtue got married and resumed his career in law in Lethbridge.  He was among the first members named to the board of directors of the YMCA, and was instrumental in establishing the Lethbridge Municipal Hospital. Virtue passed away August 3, 1960 at age 69 following a lengthy illness. He was head and senior partner in the firm of Virtue, Russell, Morgan and Virtue at the time of his death.

In March 2013, the Galt acquired A.G. Virtue’s WWI diary. It had somehow become part of a private Canadian military collection. The collector’s son sold it to The Command Post of Militaria & Antiques in Victoria, British Columbia following his father’s death. The Command Post then put it up for sale on eBay, and it was brought to the attention of the Galt Archivist, who placed a successful bid. 

To get a first-hand glimpse into the war experience, stop in to the Archives to have a look at the diary – it has been transcribed by a volunteer for easier reading. The Archives is open Monday-Friday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, and until 9:00 pm Thursdays. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Concerts in the Park

A typical summer’s night will see families or individuals strolling the paths and walkways of any city park –no doubt swatting away pesky mosquitoes! Occasionally they’ll stop and greet an acquaintance or sit on the grass to take in a band concert. In the early days of Lethbridge it was a way for everyone to leave their work behind and enjoy the crisp sounds of a brass band. Today it is a means of celebrating a special event bringing the community together for a common purpose.

The Lethbridge Colliery Band, founded in 1889, consisted of miners, as well as other mine and Canadian Pacific Railway employees. They played a selection of new and popular tunes and marches of that era in the “Square”, now known as Galt Gardens. The music was heard from the bandstand located on the west side of the public park.

The Lethbridge Citizen’s Band played weekly concerts in the Square from1906-1918, in a new and improved glassed-in circular bandstand.  The band, numbering 30 members, played  old favorites such as Sousa marches; “By the Beautiful Sea”; “The Maple Leaf Forever”; “Irish Washerwoman”; “The Sky Boat Song”, any Strauss waltz, and Elgar’s “Pomp & Circumstance March #1”. This band was the first to hold evening concerts with the help of electric lights strung inside the bandstand.

The City Band of the 1920s, the Lethbridge Junior and Kiwanis Bands from the 1940s-1970s, and the present Lethbridge Community Band have all performed open-air concerts. On Victoria Day, or Canada Day since 1967, they would assemble in Galt Gardens and, in later years, in Henderson Lake Park and Indian Battle Park with a repertoire of marches, ballads, novelty and other rousing numbers.

This August and September, music will be part of several community festivities at the Galt, including the August 19 Scenic Plaza Whoop-Up Days BBQ on the South Patio with music provided by Pyramid Entertainment, and the September 29 Harvest Festival with Shaela Miller and Pete Watson. For more information, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Soap and Hope

In the early 1900s cosmetic companies began to understand the power of advertising to sell customers their mass produced products.  Advertising of beauty products from skin cleansers and hair products to nail polish and eye shadow often reflected social attitudes of the times. Locally, the Lethbridge Herald carried numerous ads which promoted beauty products to their local readers.

Early advertisement focused on the scientific effectiveness of products. By the 1920s, the majority of advertisers shifted to using emotion to encourage self improvement through the use of cosmetics.

The importance of first impressions, the need for romance, and celebrity endorsements all figured into the ‘spin’ marketing companies put into their advertisements.  They presented the idea that a good first impression by those who used beauty products led to romance; this was supported by the approval of attractive Hollywood stars. 

Towards the end of the 1930s, the advertisements focused on ‘hope’.  In most cases, the ‘hope’ was for a young woman to find romance and attract and keep a husband. Being a wife and mother was what society expected of women, though many men didn’t feel they could support a family during the uncertain years of the Depression. 

The glamorous Hollywood star was presented as an ideal way to look, a person to copy.  Their endorsements were used regularly in newspaper, radio and magazine ads.  This sales approach continues today with famous stars selling hair colour and body lotion on television and in magazines.  Advertising still focuses on the notion of attractiveness and presents an ideal by which women and men can define themselves. 

The new exhibit “Soap and Hope”, located in the main level hallway at the Galt, includes 20th century artifacts such as a nail and hair care kit used by music director Anne Campbell, and a plastic hairbrush used by author Joy Kogwawa’s mother Lois Nakayama on her children, archival photos, reproductions of Lethbridge Herald ads, and more. It is on display until October 13, 2014. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Real-life Spider-man

We'd like to share with you a rare archival photo of a real-life spider-man...

real-life spider-man
Trick photography: young man with four hands (*IN STUDIO), 26 April 1948
Galt Museum & Archives, 20121093149
This is one of 54 archival photos we have posted in the album “Fort Macleod’s Anonymous” on Flickr the Commons. Most are shot in Fort Macleod, Alberta in the late 1940s. The donor of the photos purchased them at a garage sale in Pincher Creek. Who are these people? What are they doing? Who were the photographers? What are these places and buildings? Please share your knowledge and help us reclaim your community’s history!

Please tell us as much as you can about the people and places by emailing the Archives at archives@galtmuseum.com, leaving a comment on Flickr or right here on this blog. Please tell us where your knowledge comes from – personal memories, local history research, or grandpa’s tips.
* The CAPITALIZED text in the descriptions was copied from the envelopes in which the negatives were found.
Thank you!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

150 years ago

One hundred and fifty years ago, three meetings leading to the union of provinces to form the country of Canada were held.  Two significant conferences in Charlottetown (September 1 – 9, 1864) and Quebec (October 10 – 27, 1864) led to a third, and final, London conference.  The declaration of the British North American Act, Confederation, and partial autonomy from Britain for the united provinces followed these meetings.

During this time, the American Civil War was raging, Britain was trying to relieve itself of colonial responsibilities, and Upper and Lower Canadas were often in deadlock.  It was in this atmosphere the conferences were held.

In September 1864, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island were meeting to discuss a maritime union when the delegates from Canada arrived in Charlottetown. Half of the cabinet from Upper and Lower Canada arrived by steamer to discuss a union of all of British North America.  While John A. MacDonald outlined a plan for a strong central government and preservation of provincial identities, Alexander Tilloch Galt outlined the financial arrangements.

Alexander Tilloch Galt was an influential politician of his time.  In 1858, he had presented to the indifferent British parliament on a federation scheme.  Galt went on to participate in all three conferences leading to the confederation.  He assisted in organizing the new country’s administration, and became the first finance minister in the first Cabinet.

The second conference, the Quebec conference, started at 11:00 am on October 10, 1864 in the St. Louise Hotel (where the Chateau Frontenac stands now) in Quebec City. Seventeen days later, a total of 72 resolutions were completed and ready to be sent to the provincial legislatures and to the London conference.  One conference representative, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, described the agreements as not imposed from others but the work of ourselves.

Local festivities are being planned for 2017 – see facebook.com/celebrate2017 for more information. For more information about the Galt Museum & Archives – named for Sir Alexander Galt, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Ancient Giants

There is a special place in southwestern Alberta where evidence of ancient animals is found, including bones and tracks of mammoth, camel, early horse, ancient bison, caribou, predatory cats, and muskoxen. Man-made lithics, or stone points and scrapers, have been found with animal bones, suggesting that humans hunted these animals. The site produced the first bones of ancient North American camel and horse associated with human activity.

Camel bones were found with marks indicating the meat was cut off the bone.  The bones of the first horses that lived in North America were found in large numbers. This valley was a prime watering hole which attracted the large animals and hunters who preyed on them for food, hides and tools.  Bones from this site radiocarbon dated at over 11,000 years Before Present (BP). Historic metal trade items were also uncovered, indicating thousands of years of human use. 

Bones buried for thousands of years are very fragile and must be stabilized before complete removal from the site. A jacket of burlap and plaster is applied to the find and allowed to dry before extraction. In a laboratory, the jacket is removed carefully and slowly the bones re-emerge. Plaster casts were used by local archaeology enthusiast Shayne Tolman and a group of Cardston high school students. They captured the impressions of mammoth and camel tracks left by animals walking in soft mud long ago, before the wind could erase them.

Many other sites of the same age have also been found. The partial skeleton of a giant male bison (Bison occidentalis Lucas) was excavated by geologists L. A. Bayrock and J. F. Jones in 1957.  The distance between the tips of the horn cores was an impressive 762 mm, or 30 inches. Again, a stone tool was found with the bones.

The recent special exhibit “Uncovering Secrets: Archaeology in southern Alberta” highlighted the first of these finds, as well as others dating to a more recent time period, including the coal mining town of Lille in the Crowsnest Pass, and Fort Whoop-Up.  Learn more about the history of southwestern Alberta in the Galt’s Discovery Hall exhibits, and take in “Woven in Time: Celebrating 65 Years with Lethbridge Weavers” on through September 1. Details at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Revisiting the Blackfoot Shirts

A partnership with many Niitsitapii (Blackfoot) people, a curator and conservator from the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England and a researcher from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland brought five Blackfoot men’s shirts from Oxford back to Blackfoot Territory in 2010.  The shirts travelled to the Glenbow Museum in Calgary and then to the Galt Museum & Archives, where over 500 Blackfoot people saw, touched and studied them for four weeks before they went on exhibit for the general public. 

UK project staff listened to stories and watched as Blackfoot students, teachers, Ceremonialists, Elders and artists prayed with and examined the 160-year old shirts. They also interviewed people from the Siksika (east of Calgary), Piikani (Brocket area), Kainai (west of Lethbridge), and Amskapii Piikani (Montana) Reserves.  The information gathered from Blackfoot people has been compiled into a publication to be launched in 2014.

Earlier this year, the shirts were exhibited at the Pitt Rivers Museum with photographs and quotes from Blackfoot people who had seen them in Canada.  The significance of the shirts’ visit to Alberta was clearly expressed in the words of Blackfeet Darnell Rides at the Door who said: “… to be able to see things like these shirts gives you just one more ounce of pride, and dignity”. Marvin Smith, Piikani: “… it helps to remind me who I am”, and Alison Frank-Tailfeathers from Kainai: “projects like this, are just one step closer to our keeping our culture alive.”  Preservation of ceremonies, language, quillwork and identity were described eloquently by others.

The learning also extended to international museum staff who met with Blackfoot and Canadian colleagues at a 2011 conference in Oxford, to better understand the value of projects such as the Blackfoot Shirts, where information from original communities enriches the work museums do.

Curator Wendy Aitkens leads a behind-the-scenes Collections Tour with a focus on Niitsitapii artifacts on June 18 at 2:00 pm, as part of the Galt Museum & Archives twice-monthly series Wednesdays at the Galt. More information is available at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Asparagus Farm

Many who have grown up in Lethbridge remember asparagus (Asparagus ofiicinalis), that succulent, edible perennial herb. There were three local sites where this herb was grown: in the river valley (stalks can still be seen intermingling with the various grasses); near the Coutts Highway (exact location not known), and at the east end of 10th Avenue South, close to the Exhibition Park grandstand.

Marty’s Asparagus Farm was a familiar fixture for many years. In the early days, prairie and fields dominated the landscape. It was a 1½ mile walk from the town centre to Henderson Park. To get to the farm, one walked a little further to the southwest corner of the fairgrounds to view the asparagus blowing in the Lethbridge wind.

Louis Marty was the first owner of the farm. He settled in the city in 1932 and worked for Fraches Brothers Flower Shop, at 504 – 3 Avenue South, in a variety of capacities. Their greenhouses were located at 2014 -6 Avenue A North. Marty stayed with Fraches until 1957 when he began building his farm. His home address was listed as being “Henderson Park” or the “south side of Henderson Park”. In the early 1950s, the house numbers changed as the area grew and the Marty residence became 3909 – 10 Avenue South. Louis retired two years later in 1959.

The asparagus farm continued under proprietorship of Art Vadnais who remained in residence until the early 1970s. Asparagus was sold directly from the farm and many people took advantage of the opportunity to get the herb fresh. In 1973 the farm was redeveloped to make way for new housing development and new owners took up residence in the asparagus area. Asparagus is now obtained from any grocery store and prepared to one’s liking. Have you tried asparagus on toast?

While asparagus does not grow in the public gardens at the Galt Museum, there are plenty of other plants to discover here and throughout the region. Wildflowers in Waterton are always stunning at this time of year. The Galt’s Get Outta Town Waterton Wildflower Bus Tour heads out on Saturday, June 19, with gardener Lyndon Penner and traditional Métis guide Brenda Holder leading tours at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Details at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Celebrating 65 years with Lethbridge Weavers

Since 1951, when weaving became a popular activity in the Lethbridge Handicraft Guild, members practiced their art, taught others how to weave, and shared their pieces with the public through shows and sales. Initially, 16 box looms were purchased from Eaton’s for everyone to use. In 1954, Guild members saved labels from soup cans and when they turned their labels in to the Campbell Company they received $165 to purchase a floor loom. Today, the Guild owns many looms of varying sizes.

The Lethbridge Guild has always operated as a cooperative: all the looms are owned by the Guild and are set up with a common warp (the long threads on the loom) for all members to use. Guild members work together to plan group projects such as a Friendship bed coverlet, tea towels and place mats. Members use traditional fibres such as cotton, linen and wool, but they also experiment with yarns made from yak, dog and possum hair. They even use ribbons, zippers and VHS tapes to create imaginative works of art.

In the early 2000s, Guild members asked City Council for permission to develop an official tartan for Lethbridge. Months of weaving samples, choosing the perfect pattern, and getting Council approval resulted in a spectacular tartan which was unique in the world, and is officially certified by the Scottish Tartan Society.

The tradition continues. Knowledgeable local weavers have taught adults and children the art of weaving, spinning, and dying. Master weavers from outside Lethbridge have been brought in to expand the techniques and styles of Guild members. In 2005, the Guild received international recognition from Interweave Press when it won the Fiberhearts Award for its unique mentorship program. The $500 received with the award allowed novice weavers to learn from experienced weavers.

The Galt Museum & Archives and Lethbridge Handicraft Guild of Weavers have partnered over the past year to develop the exhibit Woven in Time: Celebrating 65 Years with Lethbridge Weavers. It is open to the public June 7 to September 1, 2014 at the Galt. On June 8, a 2:00 pm talk on the history of weaving in Lethbridge, by long-time Guild member Frances Schultz, will be followed by the official exhibit opening. Details at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

International Museums Day – May 18

May 18th, International Museum Day, celebrates the changing role museums play in the development of society. Museums started as cabinets of curiosities. In the Renaissance, collection cabinets were a way of managing and increasing knowledge. Before the late 18th century, collections were not intended for the general public, but for the gentlemanly scholar. In 1786, around the public’s fascination with mastodon bones, the Peale Museum in the U.S. was established as one of the first public museums. In 1841, P.T Barnum blended artifacts and materials from around the world for his museum; his intent was to create a personal experience of exoticism and wonder. After a fire in his building, Barnum took his museum on the road.  Following the French revolution, many private collections became public and sites for civic education. Exhibitions moved out of museums into grand displays such as the Great International Exposition of 1851, held at the Crystal Palace in London. There was a flourishing of museums partnering with government to participate in education of the new mass public. As the 19th century started, wealthy patrons of new American commercial centres cultivated great art museums and civic pride. These museums were less dependent on admission revenues and more dependent on their sponsors, focusing on collecting, the study of the collection, and the growing professionalization of staff, not on the paying public. There was dramatic growth museum numbers in the 20th century, and they became filled with local community treasures. In the 1960s and 70s, North American museums discovered  ‘blockbusters’ such as DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, or the King Tut exhibition with record-breaking attendance. Today’s museums are in the public’s service, responding to what they see and hear in their community.  They preserve and share the heritage of humanity for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment. This International Museums Day, why not plan a visit to your local museum. If you haven’t had a chance to see the “Arts of China: Glimpses of an Ancient Civiliation” exhibit at the Galt, on loan from the Royal Ontario Museum, please note the final day is Victoria Day, May 19.  For more information, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Halls of Learning

Public and separate schools have cemented their place in the history of Lethbridge. What has become of the old building[s]? Here are a few schools with new purposes.
  • Bailey School, first located on 16 Street North between 5 and 5A Avenues, was used for about a year. From 1909-1917 a variety of other groups rented the school. The Miner’s Library bought the property in 1917 and moved it to 13 Street North between 7 and 8 Avenues. 
  • Courtland School on the corner of 6 Avenue and 4 Street South was used until the Central School on 9 Street South was constructed. The building was moved to the new grounds; George McKillop’s physical education classes used it so not disturb the other classes in session. The Lethbridge Golf and Country Club bought the old school in 1933, moving it to the river valley for use as its clubhouse until the 1980s. 
  • George McKillop School on 22 Street North between 4 and 5 Avenues was opened in 1957 and used as a primary and elementary school until 1982. Following a re-designation, the building became the G. McKillop Curriculum and Teachers Resource Centre. In 2006 it was the elementary portion of the Immanuel Christian School. 
  • St Basil’s School on 12 B Street North was in operation as a learning centre from 1914-2003 and is now the administration office for the Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Separate School Board. 
  • Allan Watson School on 6 Avenue South was an elementary school from 1951-1985. It is now the home of the French public school L’École La Vérendrye and community centre La Cité des Prairies. 
  • Hamilton Junior High School on 15 Street South is now Allan Watson High School, a trades oriented school, and also houses Lethbridge Public School Board offices. 
Until the end of June the halls of the Galt Museum & Archives will sound with voices of local and area students on field trips. More information about current and upcoming programs, events and exhibits is at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Once Upon a Time There Was Land

In the fall of 2012, a 3rd year English major at University of Lethbridge volunteered in the Archives to conduct research and write about it in contributions to the Galt Museum blog. Steffi Reynolds’ first blog post on October 12 was about an occurrence on May 1, 1912, as reported in the Lethbridge Herald of that day, which changed the lay of the land in southern Alberta.

Canada had been advertising for 20 years worldwide to attract settlers to this ‘most progressive of colonies’. But the time of free farms was running out; it was Alberta’s last great land rush.

On May 1st, 1912, hundreds of people gathered in Lethbridge to file for a homestead in “The Lease Country” – a 90,000 acre tract of land between the Milk River and U.S. border, previously sub-leased by the McIntyre Ranching Company. Most came for the land, but many came simply to watch.

As it turned out, this assembled crowd of onlookers left a little disappointed. Not because of a lack of success for the landless; over 300 people, including two women, were given plots that day. The disappointment stemmed from boredom.

Canada had previously employed the line method for land leases: getting in line and waiting. This had potential for mishap, like budging and fistfights. Lethbridge authorities made it their mission to avoid the chaos and violence involved in the customary land rush. They allotted each person a square of the sidewalk, numbered with chalk. The result was a day that passed with no incidents; “neither jostling nor dispute”.

It is hard imagine a time when land was so available it was free to those who wanted it. This last great land rush in Alberta, anti-climactic in its sensibility, was called “humane, sanitary, and in every way acceptable”.

To find out more about land rushes (and so many other things), a visit to the archives at the Galt is a must. Look for details at www.galtmuseum.com.

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Roads That Lead To…

Have you ever wondered about the roads that lead into, out of or around Lethbridge? How did they get named? Some are old, some new and some have wound their way into the pages of history. Join us on the road to…

  • The 6-Mile Coulee Road/ Southeast Entrance Road was at one time the main road into the city from the south and was in use by the 1920s. The narrow, unimproved road ran atop the old railway grade and was also referred to as the Sunshine Trail or Coutts Road. It was called the Airport Road in 1939 and renamed Mayor Magrath Drive in 1947. 
  • The Jail Road was once the main road into Lethbridge from the east. 
  • The Laundry Hill Road now joins 6th Avenue to Whoop Up Drive. The Lethbridge Laundry was located at 6th Avenue and 4th Street South, hence the name. It was the first route to and from the river valley. 
  • Brewery Hill Road is the western approach to the city. It wound south under the High Level Bridge, up the slight hill pass the Lethbridge Brewery and Gardens to 1st Street South. 
  • Henderson Lake Road was there when the Henderson Park was constructed in 1911. When housing development in the area increased in the 1950s, the “Park Drive” roadway became North Parkside Drive. 
  • Macleod Trail Road ran north and south atop the coulee where the Lethbridge Lodge parking lot is today. The road ran in front of the Galt Hospital (now the Galt Museum & Archives). 
  • Galt Street or 2nd Street is now called Scenic Drive. 
  • North Hill Road once ran along the bottom of the coulee adjacent to 5th Street North. It was closed to make way for the new landfill site. 
As long as the roads aren’t closed for construction, marathons or other temporary reasons, you can find your way to the Galt Museum & Archives – open year-round. More information about the Galt is at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Cherish an Antique Day

April 9 is Cherish an Antique Day, a day to reflect on beautiful things made when craftsmanship was important, functional things used for everyday activities, and to think of those heirlooms you pass from generation to generation. It is also a day to celebrate those people who continue to keep this tradition alive by creating objects with artistry and quality.

For the “Treasures & Curiosities: The Sequel” exhibit this fall, various people will choose objects from the collection they wish to have displayed. With each choice they must explain why they chose that object.

What would you pick? Maybe go for the gross factor and choose Dr. (General) Stewart’s dental chair (he was the highest-ranking officer from Lethbridge during WWI and our second permanent dentist). Don’t you wonder what happened in that chair?

There are two mayors’ chairs in the collection, one used by Mayor Hatch (he introduced the streetcar system, the start of LA Transit) and the other by Mayor Hardie (he changed our voting laws and was mayor when Staffordville was annexed). Each was an interesting character in his own right.

There are chairs from schools, a stenographer’s chair, one from the Warden’s office of the Lethbridge Provincial Jail, and another from the office of Galt No. 8 mine.  Not as fancy as the mayor’s chairs but they may trigger a meaningful memory or emotion.

What will people pick? You’ll have to wait ‘til the fall to find out, but for now, on April 9, think about what you have tucked away for safe-keeping and think about sharing the objects and their stories with your children and grandchildren. Take a moment this week to think about what you buy – is it something you can imagine giving to your grandchildren?

For more information about donating items to the Galt Museum & Archives, contact Kevin MacLean in Collections or Andrew Chernevych in Archives. Additional details can be found at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Travels, Art and Teaching of Miss Edith Fanny Kirk

Miss Edith Fanny Kirk was a well known member of the local art community from the late 1910s until she passed away in 1953. The story of her life involves a disrupted family, years of art training, travel in Britain and France and emigration to Canada.

Edith Kirk was born near Sheffield, England in July 1858. Her mother died when she was three years old. Her family moved to Manchester where her father remarried in 1866. She could not get along with her stepmother so, to alleviate the tension at home, was enrolled in art school. In 1888, she received accreditation as an art teacher.

In April 1905, at the age of 46, Edith Kirk sailed from Liverpool to Halifax. She spent her first winter in Canada just south of the 60th parallel in the gold mining town of Atlin, BC, working as a nurse’s helper in a mission hospital. In 1911 Miss Kirk was a public school teacher in Empire Valley, west of 100 Mile House in BC.

Edith Kirk also lived in Vancouver, Kelowna, and St. John, NB. She attended several Alpine Club of Canada camps, not as a climber but as an artist. She returned to England for a year in 1914-1915 but chose to return to Canada. Then, in 1918, Miss Kirk arrived in Lethbridge where she continued to paint, and taught many young people how to paint and draw.

We are currently developing an exhibit and publication about Miss Kirk and are looking for information, photographs and paintings that will help tell more of her story. Her watercolour paintings were signed E. F. Kirk. If you have anything related to Miss Kirk please contact Curator Wendy Aitkens at wendy.aitkens@galtmuseum.com.

Current exhibits at the Galt are “Arts of China”, “The Literal Truth”, “Treasure Maps”, and “Archives exposed… 100 years of Activism”. Look for details at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

How One Question Became a Collection and an Exhibit

I love history and I love books. So it was wonderful to be able to curate an exhibit that brought those two concepts together. On March 1 we opened a new exhibit at the Galt called The Literal Truth. 

This exhibit showcases fiction books set in southwestern Alberta. Years back I came across an article in the Lethbridge Herald that stated that the 1st ever book set in Lethbridge had just been published. So I wondered: how many fiction books are set in southwestern Alberta?

I posed that question to people at the Lethbridge Public Library, to friends and family, to strangers (yes, I was that person). I asked people to submit names on Facebook and Twitter. I scanned articles and boosk on the history of literature in Alberta. I ordered in books from far and wide -- the furthest coming from Scotland. Slowly my collection of books grews.

Then at an exhibit planning meeting I raised the idea that the books might make a fun exhibit. And for some strange reason the rest of the staff agreed.

But with 60+ books, how to arrange? This was only going to be a hallway exhibit and needed to be relatively small and compact. I was incredibly fortunate to have the assistance last summer of Kimberly, a summer student in education programs. She went through every book and made a list of quotes about southern Alberta from each book.

I was then able to take all of these quotes and when I reviewed them I realized there were a few large themes -- the landscape itself, the Crowsnest Pass (the one area of SW Alberta where the MOST books are set), Lethbridge, wind (you knew it had to show up) and the Mounted Police (a perennial favourite among writers though the portrayal has certainly changed over the years).

The cases are set up around those themes. Thanks Brad for putting it all together and making it look great.

I still haven't answered the question of how many books are set in southwestern Alberta. I keep finding or am told about even more books. And then, of course, people are continuing to write books set in this area.

In fact, one thing I would most like to come from this exhibit is that it inspires people to write more books, comics, stories focused on our area. We have put up a "Story Starter" on our website where you can submit stories or beginnings of stories if you choose. http://www.galtmuseum.com/exhibits-alsoshowing.htm

I would also like to encourage people to read some of these books set in this area. There is a brochure that gives you a list of books (or a bookmark with the children's books on it). You can also have a set and flip through some of the books. You can also see a list of the books on our Flickr page. It's your chance to try judging a book by its cover. http://www.flickr.com/photos/galtmuseum/

One of my favourite things in the exhibit is we have a magnetic board up and some interactives. You can move them around and tell your own story. So here's to The Literal Truth and southwestern Alberta in literature.