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.