Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Old North Trail

The Old North Trail which ran through the foothills along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains was utilized by aboriginal groups for more than a thousand years before John Palliser and George M. Dawson noted it in their surveys of Alberta.  The trail connected the lands which eventually became Alberta and Montana.  A thorough surveyor, Dawson recorded stream crossings, wooded groves, and landmarks on his map of 1886.  The trail led to important sources of animals and plants (herbs, lodge pole pines, berry bushes) which sustained the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) nations of Piikani, Kainai and Siksika tribes.  The area is also rich in spiritual significance and oral traditions. 

While working towards her PhD in Archaeology, Lindsay Amundsen-Meyer gathered archived reports prepared by previous archaeologists which noted habitation, hunting and spiritual sites in the vicinity of the ancient travel route Dawson identified on his maps.   She and several volunteers from several branches of the Alberta Archaeological Society, including Lethbridge, hiked many miles is search of 86 sites and Dawson’s landmarks in a specific area between Longview and Claresholm.  When they found the sites she noted the Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates.  Once entered into the computer the location of the sites in relation to the Old North Trail became evident.  Including volunteers in her research was a great way for interested archaeological enthusiasts to learn about and help preserve important historic resources.

Amundsen-Meyer and her team discovered many of the sites included ancient encampments, rock alignments, and glacial erratics with petroglyphs painted onto the stone surfaces which Lindsay georeferenced.   She discovered the ancient travellers use of the Old North Trail related to spiritual sites as well as to areas rich in water, wood, plants and animals which provided food, clothing, tools and shelter.

This is just one of many stories in Lethbridge.  The Galt Museum & Archives holds many historical treasures about our community. Take some time to visit the Galt Museum’s permanent exhibit in Discovery Hall or simply visit http://www.galtmuseum.com.



Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Lethbridge’s Special Athletes

Long time volunteers like Ernie Langridge and Wendy Nelson support the Lethbridge Special Olympics program. Special Olympics Alberta strives “to enrich the lives of Albertans with an intellectual disability through sport.” 

Here in Lethbridge, a committee of dedicated individuals support special athletes like Tyler Birch and Jennifer Grimes.  Tyler and Jennifer enjoy the practice, training, and travel involved in their sports.  They value their biggest fans who are their families, friends and fellow competitors – even competitors’ families cheer them on. 

Tyler is a formidable competitor in 10-pin bowling and in 2012 held the highest score in the city – and that includes all bowlers. Tyler has also won two silver medals in the alpine skiing events in the Special Olympics in Nagano, Japan in 2005.  He was inspired to start skiing after watching his brother Logan ski.  He trained in Calgary and Drumheller until a Special Olympics program was established at Castle Mountain. Jennifer loves to compete in power lifting and her team won first place in Calgary in June 2011.  She has curled in the Special Olympics, competing in the Western Championships in 2009. Jennifer says “my mother is my hero … she has a good heart of gold.” 

The first Special Olympics were held in 1968 through the inspiration and support of Chicago Physical Education teacher (and later Illinois Supreme Court Justice) Anne McGlone Burke and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.  Shriver saw a potential in people with disabilities and decided to focus on what they “could do in sports and other activities - and not dwell on what they could not do.”  A year later the Canadian Special Olympics were held in Toronto under the guidance of Dr. Frank Hayden.  The Special Olympics were formally recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1988.

This is just one of many sports stories in Lethbridge.  The Galt Museum & Archives holds many historical treasures about people in our community. To conduct your search of the Galt Museum & Archives or Collection simply visit http://www.galtmuseum.com.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Native Prairie Plant - Chokecherry

For most of human history, we supported ourselves by hunting and gathering: we hunted wild animals and foraged for wild plants. Since no food was grown and little was stored, we are left with an impression that life was brutish and there was no respite from the daily struggle. But for those who knew where to look, nature provided in abundance.  One of Nature’s gifts used by the Blackfoot for both food and medicine was the chokecherry, Prunus virginiana.

The chokecherry is a small tree or shrub that grows up to six metres tall and is widely distributed throughout North America in ravines and open woodlands. We probably know chokecherries now for the delicious jelly or wine they make, but the Blackfoot has many uses for the entire plant.  Like saskatoons, the berries were eaten raw, mixed with other foods in soups and stews or used when making pemmican.  The bark could be boiled to create a decoction used in the treatment of dysentery. A strong, black, astringent tea was made from boiled twigs and used to relieve fever. Teas were made from the bark or roots and used to treat coughing, malaria, stomachaches, tuberculosis and intestinal worms. Such teas were also used as sedatives and appetite stimulants. The fruit were used to treat canker sores, ulcers and abscesses. Even in our own time, extracts of the berries and bark were used as a flavoring agent for cough and cold preparations. Wild cherry bark was an officially recognized pharmaceutical from 1800–1975. Chokecherry wood is very hard and has a unique property: it does not absorb water once it is dry.  It therefore makes excellent firewood in wet weather.

The Galt Museum Store has an impressive selection on books about Native Prairie plants and shrubs for any gardener to get inspired in winter.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Human Rights History in Alberta

December 10 is Human Rights Day. Ernest Manning, Alberta’s longest serving Premier’s dealing with human rights was significant.

In 1942 Alberta nativists felt it was vital to deport all Japanese Canadians. Premier Manning largely concurred. Manning believed that Japanese Canadians were loyal to Japan, with that loyalty cemented by religious beliefs. "In the majority of cases the Japanese' first allegiance, due primarily to their religious traditions, is to the Emperor of Japan, to whom they regard their tie as spiritual.” said Manning.

Opposing the Alberta nativists were the churches and the press. They condemned Manning's position as "unjust and un-Christian". The Alberta press argued that "if we had the slightest conscience at all we would release them from bondage, restore their full civic rights and recompense them for the economic loss they have suffered."

In the end economic considerations decided the fate of the B.C. Japanese in Alberta. The Japanese beet workers, who had already been credited with saving the sugar beet industry during the Second World War, were virtually the only source of beet labour in 1946. Anxious to retain their reliable Japanese labour, the southern Alberta sugar interests began exerting pressure on Manning to keep the Japanese in Alberta. In March 1946, Manning decided Alberta would take its quota of Japanese, Manning informed the sugar interests privately, if and only if British Columbia also did its part.

In The Galt Museum & online database a search for “human rights” generates the result for the manuscript of The Human Rights Act signed by Ernest Manning.  It was donated to the Galt Archives by Central School in 1971. To conduct your search of the Galt Museum & Archives or Collection simply visit www.galtmuseum.com and see what pieces of history await you!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

A Seed for All Seasons

Indian breadroot (Pediomelum esculentum) has been used on the prairies for centuries, for both food and trade, and was identified by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804. There are many different species, all native to North America (from Florida to northern Alberta).  It has lovely bluish-purple, pea-shaped flowers in June and July, densely clustered on stems that are covered with white, silky hairs. A short plant, only 10-30 cm tall, it looks like a stunted lupine. Its scientific name esculentum means edible and refers to the thick tuberous root—the feature that made this plant important to all people who lived on the plains. The root is rich in starch and sugar, and was eaten raw, roasted, sun-dried and ground into meal to mix with other foods.  When air-dried, the tubers can be stored indefinitely. Indian breadroom was probably the most important vegetable in the diets of Northern Plains tribes.

It has an interesting way of spreading its seeds:  when they are mature, the plant’s stem breaks off at ground level and blows away like tumbleweed, disbursing the seeds.  The plant vanishes until the next spring.

A location on the Blood Reserve is called Wild Turnip Hill or Turnip Butte because Indian breadroot grows very well on the sandy, well drained soil.  An area near Cowley, Alberta was known to the Blackfoot as Many Prairie Turnips. The Cree also gathered the roots, and early European travellers and settlers called it pomme de prairie or prairie potato. For a time in the early 1800s, it was cultivated experimentally in France as a substitute for potatoes.

Despite the wintery air now if an excellent time to start planting.  The Galt Museum Gift Shop offers a wide variety of seeds that will make the perfect gift for the gardeners in your life.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Artistry of Irene McCaughtery

The folk art watercolor paintings of artist Irene (née Wheeler) McCaughtery explored every facet of southern Alberta’s pioneer life. They are a glimpse into the past that tell a story. A story of the culture of the people, their dress, their activities and life in southern Alberta. Her paintings depicted that life and her stories told.

McCaughtery, was born in Hardieville in 1914 where her father was a teamster for the No.6 Mine. He later bought property located east of the old Woolco store site and the family took up residence there. Irene along with her brothers Vincent and George walked two miles to the closest school for their education at Fleetwood School. It was there in Grade 3 that Irene received a certificate for a landscape she painted which was later exhibited in the Lethbridge Fair. Irene moved to Fort MacLeod after her marriage to David McCaughtery in 1934 and she lived on a ranch for most of her life. Unable to help with ranch chores because of ill health, she spent many hours writing and painting.

The Alberta Society of Artists named her an honorary member in 1994. The following year, an honorary degree was bestowed upon her from the University of Lethbridge.

There are several Irene McCaughtery paintings in the Galt Museum. Two depicting winter scenes have been chosen for a new photo and artifact display in the Archives Reference Room on the lower floor of the Galt Museum. ”The Skating Party” painted in 1977 tells of youngsters meeting at a frozen pond for a day’s skating. “Winter Visitors” painted in 1993 tells of visitors bundled in coats and hats with a warm blanket as they drive their horse-drawn buggy to visit neighbors.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Help Recover Lethbridge’s Vimy Heroes

As mentioned in last week’s column, the Galt Museum & Archives and local author Brett Clifton are committed to helping military historian Norm Christie recover 44 Canadian heroes believed to buried in an unmarked, mass grave in France – 10 of which are members of Lethbridge’s own battalion – the 113th Lethbridge Highlanders.

The names of our lost Vimy heroes are:

  • Private Launcelot Maurice Attwood – Age 30
  • Private Earnest Earl Betts – Age 28
  • Lance Corporal George Falconer Blaik – Age 37
  • Private Cyril Arthur Gooding – Age 19
  • Private Arthur Johnson Hawkins – Age 33
  • Private Walter Harold Hooper – Age 25
  • Private Sanford Wesley Leitch – Age 23
  • Private Thomas McCandless – Age 32
  • Private George Brown Piper – Age 21
  • Private Levi George Powell – Age 43

In addition to raising awareness, lost heroes, the project is working to locate family members, photos and personal stories relating to the ten soldiers and other members of the battalion.  All volunteers working on the recovery hope that members of our community will consider supporting the ongoing fundraising efforts, which will be used for locating and clearing munitions, securing permits, renting equipment, hiring archaeologists and compensating the farmer whose land will be excavated.  When the men are found, the Department of National Defence and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will assume responsibility.

If you wish to join the effort and support this cause, please contact local partners Brett Clifton at (403) 381-1850 or the Galt Museum & Archives at info@galtmuseum.com.

Our official day of Remembrance may have already passed, but we can continue to honour these men and everyone from our community who has served by supporting this and other worthwhile veteran’s causes. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A Battalion of Our Own – The Lethbridge Highlanders a Century Later

One hundred years ago, the Lethbridge Daily Herald announced that authorization had been received by the City of Lethbridge to raise their own battalion, which would be known as the 113th Battalion Lethbridge Highlanders.  Lethbridge and area had already sent many men to the front, including two artillery batteries, with a third waiting in the wings.  The Lethbridge Highlanders would be a full battalion, nearly a thousand strong, which the citizens hoped would represent our community on the battlefields of France and Flanders.

Eleven months later, 901 officers and men, wearing the uniform of the battalion, set sail for Europe, only to have their dreams dashed when the battalion was promptly broken up as reinforcements for existing units at the front.  An astounding 175 Kilties lost their lives during the First World War, with 28 of these deaths occurring on the opening day of the iconic battle for Vimy Ridge – April 9, 1917. 

10 of the Kilties who fell on this day were buried in a mass grave, along with 34 other members of their new unit, the 16th Battalion Canadian Scottish and have been forgotten for nearly a century.  Military historian and documentary filmmaker, Norm Christie believes he has located this grave, known as CA40, and the Galt Museum and Archives is committed to raising awareness and supporting Christie’s efforts to locate our fallen heroes and give them the proper burial they have been denied for almost 100 years. 

If you are interested in more information on this endeavour, please contact local author, Brett Clifton at (403) 381-1850 or contact info@galtmuseum.com. You can also visit to the Archives department on the lower level of the Galt Museum & Archives to access photographs and documents that tell this important story.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Lethbridge Legion Hall

In this month of Remembrance we look at the 1st Legion Building which was located on 1st Avenue and 9th Street. In 1892 the Federal Government purchased the land from the Alberta Railway & Irrigation Company on which the Legion building was to be built. The architect was Thomas Fuller a Dominion of Canada architect. The purpose of the new Lethbridge Dominion Public Building was to house immigration and agriculture offices, a courthouse, and the land titles office.

Following the First World War, the veterans returned home and established the Great War Veterans Association and used the Legion building temporarily as their meeting place. Although the City of Lethbridge took over the building in 1919, the Prince of Wales gave his consent for the veterans to continue using the building during his visit to Lethbridge. They set about making improvements by painting the interior and added a bowling green and volleyball court to the landscape. Here they could meet, play cards, darts or have a meal together sharing their experiences with one another.

In 1949, an addition expanded the building which was named the Memorial Hall. Many of the veterans volunteered to help with the construction. There were two setbacks for the old building: a flood and a fire. The latter occurred in 1958 and destroyed a good portion of the building.

It wasn’t long before the Lethbridge Legion Branch - now called the General Stewart Branch – increased its membership and outgrew the premises. A move to larger headquarters took place in 1977 to the newly renovated former Loblaws store on Mayor Magrath Drive. The original Legion building was demolished in 1978. Today despite, a smaller building and a decline in Legion membership, the Legion is still a vibrant organization for military and citizens alike.

Take some time to commemorate southwestern Alberta military history in Discovery Hall permanent exhibit at the Galt Museum & Archives. Visit http://www.galtmuseum.com/visitors.htm for more information.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Musical Remembrances of Halloween Past

Halloween or All Hallows Eve celebrated on the 31st day of the 10th month has many traditions in Lethbridge. Including costumes, trick or treating games even Halloween concerts.

The Lethbridge Community Silver and Gold Bands have started their own tradition with their Halloween-themed concert beginning in 1995. On that year, the Silver Band presented its first concert Halloween concert October 28, at the El Rancho Travel Convention Centre. The venue was decorated in true Halloween fashion with black and orange streamers, black cats, spiders, and pumpkins. Selections for the evening were A Night on the Bald Mountain by M. Moussorgky; The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber; the Ghostbusters theme by Roy Parker Junior; Gallop by Aram Khachaturian; The Headless Horseman by Timothy Broege; by Harold Arlen and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukes.

The Gold Band, formed in 1987, rehearsed on Thursday evenings. One particular rehearsal fell on Halloween night in 1996. Not to miss out on the fun, all members dressed up in costume. Led by Dracula director Bob Cook, the band members, each in their own scary costumes, moved through their repertoire with concentration, and ease. They also had a good appetite for the Halloween treats and scary moments at the social following the rehearsal.

In 2000 and onward, the Halloween concerts gave way to Fall concerts. There was still a flavor of scariness in the program and to the delight of all music lovers in attendance.

Get in Halloween spirit this year at the Galt Museum & Archives’ All Hallows Eve Museum Community Evening on Friday October 30th from 4–8 pm. Admission is free. Join in the fun for this family-friendly event to get ready for Halloween!  There will be treats and hands-on activities.  This is a costume rehearsal for the big event. Go on a tour of the building and hear the ghost stories, if you dare! 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Native Prairie Plants - Prickly Pear Cactus

Is there anything more beautiful in late spring than a clump of gorgeous, soft yellow Opuntia polycantha blossoms? This plant, otherwise known as the prickly pear cactus, is a familiar sight in the dry coulees around Lethbridge. It is also widespread from northern Mexico and across the great plains of Canada and the United States.  Early Spaniards took plants from Mexico to Europe where it has now spread through southern Europe, Africa and into parts of Asia.  After blooming, the fruit of this little plant is just as well protected by spines as the plant itself.

Despite its unwelcoming exterior, the prickly pear cactus is another plant that was used in a multitude of ways by people living on the prairies.  It was a staple food source: the flat-paddle-shaped segments are similar to green beans and are high in calcium, phosphorous, antioxidants and vitamin C. The fruit was eaten fresh or could be mashed and dried to be stored for winter. It is still a common vegetable in Mexico.

The prickly pear “paddles” or nopales contain a mucilaginous liquid that had many medicinal uses including as protection from the sun or as a poultice to speed healing in open wounds.
The texture inside is a bit sticky (not unlike okra) when cooked and could be rubbed over painted designs to fix the colours. And this same sticky juice, when a freshly cut stem was placed in a container of muddy water, would clear the water of suspended particles.

Alex Johnston, in his paper for the Lethbridge Historical Society in 1987, indicated that “to treat rheumatism, the Blackfoot inserted the spines of this cactus into the flesh of the patient, then set them afire and let them burn to the surface of the skin. This treatment helped the patient to forget about his aches and pains.”  Ouch!

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Métis People in Southern Alberta

During the early fur trade in Canada, the Métis began to form a distinct cultural group.  The Métis were the children of First Nations women and European traders and their descendants.  Many lived along the Red River in southern Manitoba while others lived along the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers where trapping and farming were their main occupations.  During the summer months, the families piled their belongings into noisy Red River carts and moved out onto the prairie to hunt buffalo.  Robes and pemmican from the hunts were traded for guns and metal, ceramic, glass and fabric goods.

As the number of bison decreased in the 1860s and 1870s, smaller hunting parties began to winter in protected locales across the prairies such as the Cypress Hills where small herds of bison still survived.  The Métis built log cabins in sheltered places, close to wood, water and good grazing. 

In 1966, land owner Lawrence Kajewski helped archaeologist Jack Elliot locate the remains of the Métis cabins on Gros Ventre Creek.  A few of the cabins and several associated cache pits were studied.  Objects recovered during the excavations indicated that these cabins were used intermittently over an extended time period.  The artifacts, of both Aboriginal and the European origin, included ammunition, clay pipes, pottery, thimbles, metal pots and scraping tools made from stone.  Bones from bison, porcupine, deer, and birds indicated the variety of animals hunted for food. 

After consulting historic records, Elliott concluded that “two or more biologically related nuclear families” lived in these cabins.  According to Oblate missionary Father Lestanc Métis families lived in the Cypress Hills as early as 1868.  In 1880, NWMP Surgeon Dr. John Kittson reported that 20 families “gather there in the early fall to make their homes for the winter.” 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Stories are Unfolding Thanks to Collections Investigation

Over the past two years, history has been revitalized thanks to Alberta Museums Association (AMA) grants which enabled the Galt Museum Collections’ Department to employ a term Collections Assistant. The museum’s online database has been improved and grown thanks to the investigation of “Jane Edmundson, who came to us via the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, primarily to help us analyze our collection,” says Kevin MacLean, the Galt’s Collections Technician.

One of the artifacts Edmundson conducted new research into is a late-19th century photoengraving called ‘Blind Nydia’. Limited information was recorded at the time of donation, so Edmundson interviewed the donor John Campbell Peat, grandson of prominent early Lethbridge resident William Stafford, namesake of the major local throughfare. Peat said: “I grew up with these pictures… They were in our house [and it] was previously owned by Grandmother [Jane] Stafford, after she moved up from the ranch [in the river valley] after the flood. This print was hung on one side of the stairwell.” Further research into the artwork lead Edmundson to Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s fictional book ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’, published in 1834. The character of Nydia was a blind flower seller, caught in Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Nydia was revered as a tragic, romantic figure during the Victorian era, when interest in the destruction of the city was high (the site was unearthed and opened to tourism in the late 18th century). An enthusiastic Edmundson. “Finding new information about artifacts and the people who cherished them is endlessly interesting and really rewarding.”

Fortunately for community members in the here and now, Jane will offer behind-the-scenes insights in her presentation at the Wednesday’s at the Galt program on Wednesday, October 7 at 2pm.


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Victoria Mansion

As accommodations go in the city of Lethbridge, a 3-storey building once located on the corner of Redpath [3rd Avenue] and Cutbill [10 Street] was the ultimate in apartment houses. Built by Fred Downer in 1909, it accommodated residents for some 78 years. The building was in the style of a turn-of- the-century boarding house. It had an open porch for each of the first-floor rooms, for residents and visitors to come and rest. Each had a full basement complete with the then modern convenience of laundry. It was called the Victoria Mansion and The Lethbridge Herald billed it as: “the finest apartment building in the west”.

There were several flats of all descriptions available for rent in the rectangle-shaped building. Some had a drawing room, dining room with kitchen, two bedrooms and a bath all with a private entrance at a cost of $45.00 per month. Bachelor suites which contained a sitting room, bedroom and private bath rented for $25.00. A third type was advertised in the local Herald in June 1911 as “housekeeping flats for school teachers”. This accommodation provided a bed-sitting room with bath for monthly fee of $10.00.The occupant could cook on a hot plate stored in the cupboard above the bathtub and look out of one of seven dormer windows on the north and south sides of the building. Availability was advertised in the Lethbridge Herald and perspective renters could contact the Victoria Mansion offices for details.

One of the perks of the Victoria Mansions locale was that it was on the Municipal railway line. The blue line streetcar came east on Redpath from its starting point on 5th Street, stopped in the middle of the road possibly each block to pick up passengers and continued on its route. This was a wonderful convenience for tenants of the Victoria Mansion.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Juggling a Full Schedule

The Lowe family are all athletes.  In 2012, nine year old Jackson and seven year old Jasper were involved in gymnastics and other sports.  In the past, Tara Gemer-Lowe was a gymnast and track and field athlete. Mark Lowe participated in volleyball, fastball, and was the 1993 Canada Games champion in hammer throw.  Tara and Mark met during a university track and field training camp in Hungary so credit their marriage to involvement in sports.

Jackson was in competitive gymnastics and practiced 3 hours each Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.  In a 2012 competition Jackson placed second in vault and floor routines and seventh overall.  Jasper attended a gymnastics class on Tuesday and Thursday and could stand on his hands for six seconds.  Mark and Tara organized their own workouts to coincide with the boys classes.  One of them would go for a run while the other was home with the son who was not at practice. 

The boys were also busy with guitar lessons for Jackson and soccer league for Jasper. They both liked to read and ride their bikes.  Mark and Tara understood the need for the boys to have free time and variety in their activities to provide balance in their lives and relief from their hectic schedule.  As parents, they exposed the boys to a variety of sports and encouraged Jackson and Jasper to enjoy whatever sport they chose and to work towards the goals they set for themselves.

Not surprisingly  they chose to participate as a family in local runs.  All four participated in the Moonlight Run for five years.  Jasper completed his first race at the age of 3 and Jackson when he was 5.  Dad holds the dubious distinction of being beaten by both his sons in the Moonlight Run.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

A New Painting Sheds Light on Another

The book entitled A Legacy of Adventure and Art: The Life of Miss Edith Fanny Kirk is finished and on sale in the Galt Museum & Archives Store. The exhibit with the story of Miss Kirk’s adventures and art is open at the Galt Museum & Archives until October 12, 2015 – but the saga of research into Miss Edith Kirk’s life continues.  Just a few weeks ago a new painting came to light.  It was retrieved from a storage box and brought into the museum.

The Galt has a painting on exhibit that Miss Kirk painted for her own pleasure – she signed it For Myself.  The location of the scene is not identified but it has a West Coast quality to it.  Blue-grey ocean waters are framed by a rocky, forested shoreline and a magnificent snow capped mountain range stretches along the distant shore.

In 1908 Victoria Daily Colonist newspaper article about the area proudly stated, “painting is well represented by Miss Kirk, an English artist with South Kensington training.  Miss Kirk is not only clever with her brush and pencil, but is also a thoroughly qualified teacher with the gift of imparting her knowledge to her pupils in landscape and freehand.”

The newly discovered painting, showed a definite resemblance to the Galt’s coastal painting. Below Kirk’s signature are two lines of words.  The letters are hard to read but with a magnifying glass, focused light, and several people looking closely one is able to decipher, “Nanaimo, B.C.” in the first line.  The second line is more challenging but Galt’s team eventually made out the word “copyright.”

When Miss Kirk was unable to travel extensively, she turned to her previous paintings to relive memories of her past adventures.  The word “copyright” is an indication that she had the right to copy the painting because the original was her work. 

Literacy, Lethbridge & Libraries

September 8 is International Literacy Day. Over a century ago, Lethbridge school Principal J. McCaig said, “One of the chief means of education is reading. The public should have a place to go and high school students should have the opportunity to obtain information free.” This sentiment is part of our community’s long-standing commitment to literacy.

The forerunners to the libraries were known as “reading rooms”.  From 1885 on, reading rooms were an important social institution established to provide Lethbridgians the opportunity for relaxation through the printed word.

On April 5, 1887, the first Mayor of Lethbridge, Charles Magrath, presented books to the Treasurer of the North West Coal and Navigation Company. This gesture encouraged the employees of the Alberta Railway & Coal Co. to establish their company’s Reading Room and Library Society in 1890.

By 1910 letters to the editor, editorials, community meetings and community support for the establishment of a publicly-funded library in Lethbridge began in earnest. In 1911 City Council passed a by-law for provision of a library to be known as the Lethbridge Public Library. On August 14, 1919 Lethbridge’s first library was established and was helmed by librarians A.N. Filmer, L. McIndoe and Arthur Frayne.  In its new home on the ground floor in the YMCA at 4th Avenue and 10th Street South, 3000 reading room books donated by citizens were made available to the public.

January 23, 1922 marked the Lethbridge grand opening of one of the 125 Canadian libraries funded by millionaire Andrew Carnegie. It was built on the south boundary of Galt Gardens facing 3rd Avenue facing 6th Street South at a cost of $26,996. This building is now home to the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and will always serve as reminder to celebrate and reflect upon library history in Lethbridge. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Alberta Federation of Labour Founded in Lethbridge

Labour Day gives us pause to recall the history of labour in Alberta, and the origins of the Alberta Federation of Labour in Lethbridge.

The Galt family and several British investors began the first large scale coal extraction operation in Lethbridge in the 1880s. The company hired miners who came from countries around the world, including England, Scotland, Ireland, America, Austria, Italy, Eastern Europe, and Asia, as well as eastern Canada.

By 1906, the miners joined the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to give them a stronger voice during negotiations with the company.  When the company rejected their demands, the miners called a strike on March 9th. It lingered through the summer with tempers flaring more each month. As winter approached, local and federal governments worried about a coal famine in Alberta and Saskatchewan that would be hard on the western population, and might undermine the government’s settlement program. 

Coal to drive the railway locomotives was critically important to the economy of the country. With mediation from Deputy Minister of Labour, William Lyon Mackenzie King, the strike ended with the miners’ receiving a small wage increase. The union could hire a weighman to monitor the company’s coal weight, calculations upon which the men’s pay depended, and the labourers earned the right to collective bargaining.

Many subsequent social reforms resulted from this protracted strike. A Royal Commission recommended the establishment of a Workman’s Compensation Act in 1907. That same year, the federal Industrial Disputes Investigation Act was created, providing a model for collective bargaining laws in other provinces. The Alberta government legislated an 8-hour work day in 1909. At a 1912 convention in Lethbridge chaired by Labour Party MLA Donald McNabb, labourers and farmers joined forces to form the Alberta Federation of Labour, an organization focused on protecting working conditions and improving salaries and benefits for people in this province.

The Labour Day long weekend brings a number of changes to the Galt’s program schedule – look for the new fall Calendar of Events throughout the city, stop into the Galt to pick up a copy, or see what’s coming up at www.galtmuseum.com.




Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Stone Features on the Prairies

Several types of stone features are found on the southern Alberta plains.  Tipi rings are by far the most numerous followed, by Medicine Wheels.  Small cairns or piles of rocks delineating drive lanes for buffalo hunts may also have been associated with scared sites.  There are smaller numbers of human and animal effigy sites as well. 

Tipi rings are prairie stones used to hold down the buffalo skin covers of First Nations tipi dwellings.  These stones were left when the group moved on as indicators of habitation sites. 

Medicine Wheels are sacred sites typically built on the highest point on the landscape.  Many have a central rock pile or cairn and a circle of stones surrounding it.  Some have rock lines that radiate from the cairn.  Rocks, offerings of tobacco and other items have been added to the central cairns over the years.  Several Medicine Wheels are still being used by Niitsitapii (Blackfoot) people today.

Drive lane cairns laid out in a funnel pattern were built to direct bison herds towards a cliff or corral.  In some cases, members of the hunting tribe hid behind branches stuck into the cairns.  This was an effective hunting technique which allowed the people to kill enough buffalo to supply meat, clothing, lodge covers and tools for the group to survive the winter months.

Effigy sites are configurations of stones carefully placed to create a symbolic human figure.  The Noble Point effigy was constructed along the northern edge of Chin Coulee south of Taber.  With the land owner’s permission, it was mapped by archaeologist Shawn Bubel and members of the Lethbridge Centre chapter of the Archaeological Society of Alberta in 2009.

These stone arrangements date from fairly recent to thousands of years in age and are significant historical records.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Lethbridge Labour Changes Canada

The Galt family and several British investors began the first large scale coal extraction operation in Lethbridge in the 1880s.  The company hired miners who came from many countries around the world: England, Scotland, Ireland, America, Austria, Italy, Eastern Europe, Asia, and eastern Canada.

By 1906, the miners joined the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to give them a stronger voice when negotiating with the company.  Company officials rejected their demands so the miners called a strike on March 9th of that year.  The strike lingered through the summer with tempers flaring each month.    As winter approached local and federal government worried about a coal famine in Alberta and Saskatchewan that would be hard on the western populace and might undermine the government’s settlement program.  With mediation from Deputy Minister of Labour, William Lyon Mackenzie King, the strike ended. Miners received a small wage increase, the union could hire a weighman to monitor the company’s coal weight calculations, and the men earned the right to collective bargaining.

Legislation arising out of this protracted strike established a pattern for government action that survives to this day.  A Royal Commission recommended the establishment of a Workman’s Compensation Act in 1907.  The federal Industrial Disputes Investigation Act was created and used as a model for future labour negotiations and the Alberta government legislated an 8 hour work day in 1909.  At a 1912 convention in Lethbridge labourers and farmers joined forces to form the Alberta Federation of Labour.  Its earliest priorities were to establish safety and health regulations and to put an end to child labour. For over 100 years this voluntary organization has focused on advancing and protecting the interests of all working people and improving working conditions across the province.


Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Honouring Women of Lethbridge 7

Legacy Ridge in north Lethbridge features only names of women on streets and parks: one of few Canadian communities where this is the case. Many in the city – led by the Centennial Committee for Recognition of Women – championed the idea. Priority was given to those who were ‘first’ in an achievement and had not been recognized previously. The exhibit Honouring Women of Lethbridge at the Galt Museum & Archives last winter highlighted fifteen women. In this final installment we meet Margaret Sillers Sutherland, and give a nod to the Centennial Committee.

Margaret Sillers Sutherland was deeply involved with the community.  She was a member of the Heart Foundation and helped create the first Home & School Association in Lethbridge in the 1950s.  Although it was rare for a woman to be on a hospital board, Margaret was nominated to the Galt and Municipal Hospital Boards (1951 and 1955, respectively).  As a member of the Dr. Mewburn Chapter of the IODE, Margaret helped make necessary items for soldiers serving overseas during the Second World War. She was also involved with the establishment of the YWCA in this city in 1949. For her community efforts Margaret received many awards, including the Governor General’s Medal in 1977. 

The Centennial Committee for Recognition of Women was chaired by the late Irma Dogterom, and included members Georgia Green Fooks, Patricia Hagen, Dr. Barbara Lacey, Patricia Marshall, Joan Nobelski, and Mary Oordt. They can also be counted among the many notable women who have called Lethbridge and southern Alberta home.

Whither Girls & Women? Research by Undergraduate Historians is the featured main level hallway exhibit this summer at the Galt Museum & Archives through September 27. It showcases the research of five students who were enrolled in the Women’s History course at the University of Lethbridge in the spring of 2015. Topics include WWII recruitment propaganda in the Canadian Women's Army Corps; women and commemorative hairwork from 1865-1965; experiences of Southern Alberta nurses during the 1918 influenza epidemic; community opposition to Lethbridge’s red light district, 1880-1920; and women’s roles on the family farm in Alberta . For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Ultimate Fan

The sports fan community casts a wide net in Lethbridge. Dennis Connolly is one of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorn teams’ biggest fans.  Each hockey game finds him, wearing his Pronghorns scarf, watching from behind the home goal. Community pride and an appreciation of the players’ skills brings Dennis to the games and so much more.

Connolly takes the status of sports fan to a new level.  He not only attends the men’s and women’s games through the school term; but also promotes the idea of being a fan to students in his mathematics courses.  He posts upcoming games on the foot of assignments and exam papers.  Professor Connolly buys tickets and distributes them at no cost to his students.  He follows the players’ successes and congratulates those he meets on campus for a good goal or a great play. 

Dedicated fans often get involved as sport participants as well as watching from the bleachers.  During the summer, fall, winter and spring they develop formal (close friends sharing a game on TV) and informal (sitting in a stadium surrounded by other fans) social networks which are healthy relationships.  Following sports keeps minds and bodies active as fans follow the game play and walk up into the ‘nose bleed’ section. 

Fans add a great deal to the enthusiasm, noise and colour to Hurricanes and Bulls games and the Lethbridge Dragon Boat Festival.  They provide support for the local community through the purchase of tickets, food at the concession stand and souvenirs whether it is the university or the city of Lethbridge.  Visiting fans attending the Ford World Women’s Curling or the Alberta Summer Games in Lethbridge in 2012 also invigorate the economics of the city when they pay for accommodation and food, gas for their vehicles, and visit cultural sites and events.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Cluny Fortified Village

The Cluny Fortified Village archaeological site is situated on the north bank of the Bow River south of the village of Cluny and just down the hill from the Blackfoot Crossing Interpretive Centre.  This site is unique not only in Alberta but on the Canadian plains and is believed to have been occupied for only a short period of time around 1700 AD Aboriginal peoples from along the Missouri River in the Dakotas.

These communities built permanent villages of earth mound homes surrounded by wooden fortifications. Blackfoot people have passed down stories of visitors who built the fortified site on the banks of the Bow River and stayed the winter.  Men from this area joined the group on their return trip to the upper Missouri.

One of the archaeological finds consist of a semicircular earth trench approximately 300 metres long and 90 metres wide. The southern side of the enclosure was formed by an old channel of the Bow River. Evidence was found of poles set vertically beside the trench. Within the fortification were ten oval pits which measured between five and 6.5 metres in width and were approximately one metre deep.  Walde proposes the site was initially created as a quickly constructed protective fortification which was then modified to become a habitation site for a longer stay.

Archaeological excavations of the site have been conducted by the University of Calgary. Students working at the field school site gain firsthand experience and credits towards their degrees. Recovered archaeological material includes pottery, projectile points, stone tools, bone and shell beads.  The arrow heads are identified as Plains Side Notched which is consistent with the estimated occupation age of 1700 AD.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Honouring Women of Lethbridge

Legacy Ridge in north Lethbridge features only names of women on streets and parks. This is one of few Canadian communities where this is the case. Many citizens – led by the Centennial Committee for Recognition of Women – championed the idea in the city. Priority was given to those who were ‘first’ in an achievement and had not been recognized previously. The exhibit Honouring Women of Lethbridge at the Galt Museum & Archives last winter highlighted fifteen women, includingThyrza Burkitt and Haru Moriyama.

Thyrza Burkitt was born in Hull, England in 1884. As a young girl, she emigrated to Cardston where her father owned a store and was the magistrate. Many of her father’s clients were First Nations and this stimulated Thyrza’s lifelong interest in their culture. She began to build a personal collection of their art and handmade items from neighbouring Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), and Amskapi Pikuni (Blackfeet) tribes.  Later on in life Thyrza took up painting; studying in Los Angeles and Banff. She painted many scenes of First Nations life. She also wrote articles, plays, biographies and a dictionary of Blackfoot terms. This passion led her to write for Crucible Magazine published in Toronto from 1932-1943.

Haru Moriyama came to Canada in 1912 as a picture bride from Japan.  Japanese men working in Canada asked their parents to find a bride for them.  Photos of the bride and groom were exchanged during the negotiations.  During the Second World War, Haru’s family was relocated from their fruit farm in Mission City, British Columbia to Coalhurst. Haru and her family worked in the beet fields doing the labour intensive work of thinning, hoeing and harvesting sugar beets. After the war ended they moved to a farm in Picture Butte.  Despite all their hardships, Haru could proudly say her children became upstanding Canadian citizens. She passed away in 1985.

The Galt’s new Virtual Museum of Canada exhibit, Nikkei Tapestry: Japanese Canadians in Southern Alberta, includes more information on picture brides as well as the relocation of Japanese Canadians during WWII: www.nikkei-tapestry.ca. For more information on current happenings at the Galt, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

The First Photographers: A Picture Says a 1000 Words

As history buffs we rely on photographs not only to describe styles of buildings; but also to remember earlier historical events and people .

Lethbridge has been fortunate to have our history recorded in images by many photographers since 1885. One of the first photographers was Fred Russell (1885-1897) whose work included the events of the Northwest Rebellion. Photographer W. A. McBean had his photograph gallery in the river bottom. It was consumed by fire in 1900 and McBean suffered the loss of his photographs and equipment. Richard Crabb’s studio was on Redpath Street today’s 3rd Avenue and he photographed early Lethbridge buildings and people from 1903 to 1915. Wilbur Handford (1906-1912) did all kinds of photographic work with the latest and most improved style for the times. Arthur Rafton-Canning of the British & Colonial Photographic Company (1907-1913) was our City’s most prolific photographer. He took shots from a high vantage point and years later returned to the same point and recorded the changes. George Allison (1913-1929) was an early adopter of new techniques and used the most up-date ideas in good photography. Mrs Helen Collins (1920-1923), the only woman with a camera, was an ‘artiste in portraiture’ and enlargements in oils and watercolors. John Waddell (1920-1940) was a commercial photographer developing images from his home studio. Alex Wood (1920-1962) was well known throughout the province for his photography and picture framing.

Lethbridge’s first photographers recorded the town’s landscape and gave us a glimpse into the past and what it was like in the beginning. A photographer’s booklet is being compiled of first photographers that made contributions by documenting local architecture, landscape and people.

If anyone has information or photos regarding the photographers profiled above or listed below please e-mail Trish at Trish.Purkis@galtmuseum.com. 
George W. Allison [1913-1932]; John Waddell [1920-40]; Harry Clarke [1932-52]; Neil Webster [1964-1971]; Randy Neufeld [1978-   ]; Rick Selinger [1974-1985]; and Lorne Kemmet [1985 -2012].

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Native Prairie Plants - Saskatoon

We, today, often forget the direct dependency our forebears had on the abundant goods and services Nature provided. One jewel on the prairies, a truly multi-purpose plant, was the Saskatoon bush (Amelanchier alnifolia).

This tall shrub forms colonies in coulees and open woodlands from north central United States, across the Canadian prairies through northern Canada to Alaska. In May it produces racemes of white flowers 8-12 mm across that by early summer have matured into a sweet and juicy berry-like fruit which may be up to 10 mm in diameter.

Perhaps the most important vegetable food for the Blackfoot, and later to prairie settlers, the berries were used in great quantities in soups, stew, and meats. They were steamed, mashed and then dried in large “bricks” that could have pieces chipped off to use as need.  Meat, mixed with melted fat and saskatoon fruit (pemmican) would keep for months. The fruit was often mixed with the leaves or roots to make tea and the stems, twigs and bark were used medicinally. So important was this food that the people moved their camps to areas of high production. Manyberries in southeastern Alberta is an example of one such appropriately named location.

Beyond its use as food, the saskatoon bush offered a ready source of hard, straight-grained wood valued as material for arrows, pipe stems, basket rims and tipi closure pins.

And modern science has confirmed what earlier people instinctively knew: saskatoons are not only good tasting, but good for you, being rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. In the 1970s commercial saskatoon orchards began popping up and today it is estimated that there are between 250 and 300 commercial growers in the prairie provinces.

Can’t recognize the saskatoon bush?  The Galt Museum & Archives garden of Native Plants has labeled our plants with both common and scientific names.  We hope that as you stroll along through the Lethbridge river valley and coulees, you will recognize the plants you pass.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Paddles Up!

In the summer of 2012 the Galt Museum & Archives presented “Champions & Challenges in Sports”, an exhibition exploring the challenges and successes of local sports personalities including athletes, coaches and managers, officials, sponsors, game announcers, casual athletes, and fans. This month we present the sport of dragon boating.

When dragon boating season begins, hundreds of paddlers, steers, drummers, and coaches gear up for fun on the water. Originating in China more than 2,500 years ago, the sport has become a popular recreational activity around the world. Physiologist Dr. Donald McKenzie from UBC launched the first breast cancer survivor team in 1996 in Vancouver as a way for women to regain muscle strength and normalcy after surgery and treatments. In Lethbridge, dragon boating started with a group of women recovering from breast cancer. Before the Rotary Club purchased and donated official dragon boats, Abreast of ‘bridge and other local teams paddled in voyageur canoes.  The four local Rotary Clubs and ATB Financial then stepped forward to sponsor a festival on Henderson Lake which started in 2002.  By 2011 the local festival grew to be the largest in Alberta.

Karen Collin joined the sport as a team building activity with other City of Lethbridge employees in 2002.  A founding member of Team ID (“Impavidus Draconis” or Fearless Dragon), she paddled with the team for several years prior to becoming assistant coach. In an effort to improve the skills of local dragon boaters, Dave Hunt and Karen agreed to become Head Coaches for the Lethbridge Festival, and have since achieved accreditation. They train paddlers, drummers, and sweeps to help them improve techniques, keep them safe on the water, and help them avoid injuries. They have also assisted people to overcome fears of water and of water birds. 

Dragon boating is a sport with great camaraderie which develops through practices and expands during the festivals. Many teams in Lethbridge continue to get together year round to work out and socialize. Good luck to all the teams participating in this week’s Festival!

On July 9, a Café Galt presentation will look at how another sport, lacrosse, became tied to nationalist ambitions, and will focus on the 1920s team the Native Sons of Canada. For details, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Ancient Seeds Recovered in Southern Alberta

In the fall of 2012, the exhibit “Uncovering Secrets: Archaeology in Southern Alberta” highlighted 15 sites and features telling human and other stories found under the soils and across the landscape of the area, including the Fletcher site near Taber. 

In the early 1960s, archaeological enthusiast Armin Dyck of Coaldale discovered stone projectile points in debris piles left during construction of a water dugout near Taber. The landowners gave archaeologists permission to excavate the site in the 1960s and 1980s. Archaeological teams dug through the thin layer of topsoil and down almost two metres of sandy sediment to a deeply buried layer of clay. Two types of ancient spear points were recovered: the Alberta style, which is about 10,700 years old, and Scottsbluff style which is about 10,200 years old.

At the bottom of one excavation, archaeologist found deposits of whole and partial bison bones in clay-rich pond deposits. The clay was carefully bagged and sent to the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton. There Dr. Alwynne Beaudoin, Head Curator of Earth Sciences and Curator of Quaternary Environments (the study of the environment during the most recent geologic time period when humans existed) painstakingly extracted thousands of seeds and snail shells, as well as plant pollen, bird’s eggshell, plant, mammal, and insect remains from the clay. Testing indicated they were between 10,200 and 11,000 years old. 

Among the seeds, Beaudoin identified Bulrush (Scirpus sp.) and Cattail (Typha sp.) among many others. She compared them with modern examples from the RAM’s extensive reference collection and was able to find enough information remaining in the ancient seeds to positively identify them. This helps scientists determine the climate of past eras. 

Using a very precise and intricate photographic technique Beaudoin then created 3-dimensional images which showed extraordinary microscopic details. These photographs, along with the scientific data, will be compiled into a valuable manual of ancient plants of western Canada. 

Meanwhile, another manual of plants, the Ethnobotany Garden of Native Prairie Plants to be specific, is available at the Galt Museum. This 163-page book describes the plants in the garden, along with their uses by First Nations people. It is free for downloading and designed for double-sided printing, but can also be found at the Galt for perusal. For more information, visit www.galtmuseum.com

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Honouring Women of Lethbridge 6

Legacy Ridge in north Lethbridge features only names of women on streets and parks: one of few Canadian communities where this is the case. Many in the city – led by the Centennial Committee for Recognition of Women – championed the idea. Priority was given to those who were ‘first’ in an achievement and had not been recognized previously. The exhibit Honouring Women of Lethbridge at the Galt Museum & Archives last winter highlighted fifteen women, including Jessie Turnbull and Mary Cameron.

Jessie Turnbull came to Lethbridge from Ontario to work as a nurse at the Galt Hospital, and became superintendent of nursing until she married G. W. Robinson in 1914. Along with women from the major churches in Lethbridge, she helped found the Women’s Relief Society. This organization provided support to families in need of food, clothing and coal. The need to provide medical care to people who could not afford doctor’s fees encouraged the women to change their Society into a Nursing Mission. Social work and nursing were blended as they cared for unwed mothers, provided free nursing to the poor, and assisted with pensions for mothers and the aged.  The Mission provided invaluable social services in Lethbridge until provincial government programs started in 1955. As an extension of the Nursing Mission, Jessie spearheaded the distribution of Christmas hampers, and also sat on the Civic Club’s Board of Managers.

Mary Cameron was employed by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1914, which fought to have the sale of alcohol prohibited. Later, she was employed by the Travelers’ Aid Society; one of her responsibilities was to meet all the trains coming into Lethbridge. She would often venture out in the middle of the night to meet travellers and make sure they were settled. The Society was started in England to help protect single young women moving to cities looking for work. It would be sure they had a safe place to live and screened potential employers to ensure the situation was appropriate. From 1918-1937 in Lethbridge, Mary Cameron met new immigrants, and helped them find family or homestead, found jobs for young women, and offered accommodation to those in need.

Miss Edith Fanny Kirk also benefitted from the local chapter of the Travelers’ Aid Society when she arrived here, and met Mary Cameron. A Legacy of Adventure & Art: The Life of Miss Edith Fanny Kirk has just opened at the Galt Museum & Archives. For details on the exhibit and related book, visit www.galtmuseum.com.




Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A New Twist on an Old Store

You may have noticed the small metal sign, “Tin Tin Grocery”, above the front door at Urban Grocer on 9th Avenue South. Why is that sign there? What does it mean? It pays homage to one of the longest-running stores that was an icon of the London Road area for many years.

The building, built in 1912, has always housed grocery stores. In the beginning the entrance faced 11th Street and its address was 902-11 Street South. In the 1940s the entrance was moved to the avenue side and a new grocery opened. For the next 40 years, proprietors came and went, and façade colours and store names were changed. Names like these, which may ring a bell for some: Economy Grocery (1914-48); Perry’s Grocery (1948-59); J&N Confectionery (1959-61); Krol’s Grocery (1961-68); Elta’s Grocery (1968-73); Dan Dee’s (1978-88); Tin Tin Grocery (1988-2012), Urban Grocer (2012-present).

Tin Tin Grocery was managed by Henry Yip family from 1988 to 2012. By the 1990s, in order to compete with the larger stores and stay in business, Henry added non-food items like videos to his regular inventory of milk, bread and butter, canned foods, soft drinks, candy and chocolate bars. The threat of Sunday shopping and the upsurge of crime cut into the corner store’s profits, and he wondered how long he would be able to survive. After Henry Yip passed away in 1999, his sons Henry Junior and Fred took over the reins of the store for another 13 years with their families, before closing it in June 2012.

Today it is the Urban Grocer, a modern-style corner store which caters to the neighbourhood as the former stores once did to a range of customers from youngsters, seniors, and young families who love the tradition of the convenience the store and what it offers. The inventory ranges from staples to snack foods, fresh produce to various cuts of meat, and a variety of beverages too. A good percentage of the inventory is ordered from points in southern Alberta – Nobleford, Picture Butte, Coalhurst, Coaldale, Claresholm and is either gluten free or organic. 

Local corner and neighbourhood stores, including Urban Grocer, were featured in the exhibit “Not Just Apples and Oranges” which closed last month at the Galt, but are also included in the revised The Grocery List by Trish Purkis, available at the Galt Museum Store. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Joyce Fairbairn | Chief Morning Bird Woman

Senator Joyce Fairbairn was honoured in the 2013 exhibit Archives Exposed… From Galt Baby to Senator (guest curator Karissa Patton]. Today Fairbairn is included in the exhibit Archives Exposed… Kainai Chieftainship (guest curator IkKinaapssii, Rob First Charger], which closes June 28.

Joyce Fairbairn was born at the Galt Hospital in 1939, and raised in Lethbridge. She worked as a teen journalist at the Lethbridge Herald while attending Lethbridge Colligate Institute, writing a column titled “Teen Chatter”.  Even as a young woman Fairbairn was active in her community as a participant in local speech contests and festivals.

She graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English in 1960, followed a year later by a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. Fairbairn stayed in Ottawa and began writing for many newspapers; she became the first woman to work in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Her career on Parliament Hill continued when Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau hired Fairbairn as his Legislative Assistant in 1970. Later Fairbairn also became Prime Minister Trudeau’s Communications Coordinator.  In 1984 Fairbairn was appointed to the Senate where she worked until January 18, 2013.

After her appointment to the Senate, it quickly became clear she would not be limited to the Red Chamber. Senator Fairbairn quickly became known for attending Southern Albertan milestones, openings, celebrations, and even the occasional cake-decorating contest. Senator Fairbairn became well known throughout Southern Alberta because, as one constituent commented, “she cared enough to come”.

Through her many accomplishments Senator Fairbairn has been a great role model for young women and young Canadians, especially her devotion to her communities: the Paralympics Association, the Kainai Nation, the University of Lethbridge, the city of Lethbridge, and many others.

Senator Fairbairn was named Ksiskaníípi'ksaakii, Chief Morning Bird Woman when she was inaugurated into the Kainai Chieftainship in 1990. Other recipients in the Chieftainship who have enhanced the quality of life for the Blood Tribe and beyond include Adrienne Clarkson, Bob Tarleck, Hugh Dempsey, John G. Diefenbaker, Prince Charles of Wales and others.

Archives Exposed… Kainai Chieftainship is on display at the Galt Museum & Archives in the Servus Credit Union Learning Studio. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Blowing the Whistle

In the summer of 2012 the Galt Museum & Archives presented “Champions & Challenges in Sports”, an exhibition exploring the challenges and successes of local sports personalities. It featured athletes, coaches and managers, sponsors, game announcers, casual athletes, fans, and officials, like referee Bill Halma.

During his Junior and High School years, Bill Halma played basketball, but when he started at the University of Lethbridge in 1985, he got “roped into” refereeing and found he had a “knack for it and enjoyed it.”  He officiated for soccer and basketball; games he had played. Then Official Rick LeBaron asked him to referee a football game; Bill had never played. He spent the drive to the game with the rule book in his hand and asking questions of the three other officials in the car. His colleagues took care of him on the field and made sure he was in the right position to monitor the play.

Bill has had many mentors who provided him with the opportunity to referee all the way up to the national level in basketball. People like Keith Jorgensen, Bob Fettig, Pat Layton, Morgan Monroe and Mike Slavich. As an official Bill feels you always need to challenge yourself and keep growing. He has gone to camps, studied the rule books, and watched videos but he has found the best learning comes from making mistakes. After games, officials gather for a drink and they discuss the play.  Bill said you “have to be open to learning and accepting of criticism.”

When Bill referees basketball he has learned to stay away from the play so he doesn’t get run over.  He remains objective and non-emotional while calling a game – even when tempers flare on the court or in the bleachers.  Bill has never thrown out a fan and only rarely has he thrown out a coach.  He depends on his steady nature and a bank of humorous one-liners to help diffuse a tense situation.

Clearly, the referee or umpire is an important part of most team sports.  Impartiality, thick skin, and steady nerves are necessary skills for a whistle blower! You can meet Bill too, on the Galt’s YouTube playlist “Champions & Challenges in Sports”. Look for the link on the Galt website, www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Finding Fort Whoop-Up

In the fall of 2012, the exhibit “Uncovering Secrets: Archaeology in Southern Alberta” highlighted 15 sites and features, telling human stories found under the soils and across the landscape of the area, including the original Fort Whoop-Up. 

By the late 1800s, buffalo hides used for warm coats and strong industrial belts became the major item of trade on the western plains.  Between 1869 and 1874, there was no official Canadian presence preventing American traders from building Forts Hamilton and Whoop-Up and trading with Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) with whiskey, guns, knives, blankets, beads, and food items in exchange for the valuable robes. 

With the arrival of the North West Mounted Police in 1874, most of the whiskey traders quit the business.  From 1876 until a fire in 1888 destroyed much of the fort, the Mounties rented space to use as an outpost. 

The site of the forts was surveyed and excavated by archaeology teams in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The first team found the remains of a corner bastion, segments of original walls, as well as a stone-lined well. The second excavated a stable, storeroom, and living quarters, and recovered food-related artifacts and a wide variety of medicinal bottles used for personal alcohol consumption. A University of Lethbridge team verified the dimensions of the fort and found charred soil to confirm that the 1888 fire had occurred in the NWMP quarters. Excavations of the trade room uncovered buttons, ammunition, brass beads and tacks. Trenches were excavated to determine the outline of the palisade.

Much more of the story of Fort Whoop-Up has been lost to time, people and natural events. Time literally eats away at items made of leather, wood, and other organic materials. Most of the evidence of Fort Hamilton has been eroded by the Oldman River. Looting at the site has removed many more aspects of the historical evidence for this important site in our area.

Artifacts related to Fort Whoop-up and other archeological sites are included in the Collections at the Galt, which can be searched online at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Honouring Women of Lethbridge 5

Legacy Ridge in north Lethbridge is one of few Canadian communities featuring only names of women on streets and parks. The Centennial Committee for Recognition of Women led the championing of the idea. Priority was given to those who were ‘first’ in an achievement and had not been recognized previously. Honouring Women of Lethbridge, an exhibit at the Galt Museum & Archives last winter, highlighted fifteen of the Legacy Ridge women, including early immigrants Jane Gibb Stafford and Edith Emma Coe.

Jane Gibb Stafford was known as the ‘mother’ of the town of Coalbanks located in the river valley (below what is now Lethbridge), as she hosted popular parties for young people, including her own nine children. Jane and her husband William Stafford had emigrated from Scotland, first to Nova Scotia and then to Coalbanks. She was one of the first white women to live in the town, and the first white woman to give birth to a child in the community; the baby girl died only a few months later. Of their thirteen children, three were born in the Coalbanks area. William was employed as a manager in the Galt company coal mines around Lethbridge. He eventually turned to ranching, and he and Jane lived on their ranch in the Oldman River valley. She was known for her big heart; she once crossed an icy river to help a friend deliver her baby. 

A resident of early Lethbridge, Edith Emma Coe, was born in England in 1863. She worked as a governess in France before moving to Lethbridge with her parents in 1885. Coe became the town’s first teacher when she began classes in a coal miner’s cottage.  She married Falkland Warren, a North West Mounted Police officer in the North West Territories in 1888. Married women were not allowed to work for the school district so her marriage ended her teaching career. She moved to the Coe family farm in Iron Springs in 1906.

Another exhibit which looks back at Lethbridge’s early days is Not Just Apples and Oranges. Located in the Lower Level Gallery, it closes May 10 — a few weeks earlier than originally planned to accommodate the travelling exhibition Money, Sovereignty and Power: The Paper Currency of Revolutionary Ukraine, 1917-1920 starting May 16. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Art of Engraving

Have you looked closely at the images and decorative artwork on the money in your wallet, or the artwork on the postal stamp? The engravings used on bank notes and stamp are a beautiful form of art.  In an effort to discourage counterfeiters, artists have developed very complex and layered images. Some of Canada’s best artists have been commissioned to create designs difficult to copy. 

Counterfeiters have been busy from the time that images of any sort became saleable objects.  In Canada, the Edwin Johnson family circulated about a million dollars in counterfeit bills until the whole family was arrested in Toronto in the 1880s. Legitimate engravers developed the ingenious “guilloche”, an expensive mechanism which created looped patterns extremely difficult to duplicate by hand. Hasbro turned this technology into a popular drawing toy called Spirograph. 

A more subtle use of colour and shading made reproduction an even greater challenge for the counterfeiter.  Layers now include holograms and metallic ribbons which do not show up in a machine-made copy.  Special papers and the more recent polymer plastics were developed to counteract today’s sophisticated photocopiers. 

In 1851, Sir Sandford Fleming designed the first Canadian postage stamp, the first stamp in the world to commemorate something other than a military or royal subject.  It featured the beaver.  Other Canadians like poet E. Pauline Johnson, social activist Nellie McClung, Métis leader Louis Riel, explorers Cartier and Champlain, and hockey heroes Paul Henderson and Yvan Cournoyer have been immortalized on stamps. 

Another first, the travelling exhibition “Voices from the Engraver”, produced and circulated by the Bank of Canada in partnership with the Canadian Museum of History, has its premiere Canadian showing at the Galt Museum & Archives until May 18. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Exploring a Historic Coal Mine

In the fall of 2012, the exhibit “Uncovering Secrets: Archaeology in Southern Alberta” highlighted 15 sites and features telling human stories found under the soils and across the landscape of the area, including the town of Lille in the Crowsnest Pass. 

Archaeological sites in Alberta, known and not yet discovered, are protected by law. When land is to be disturbed by any type of development, an archaeology company must do a review of the area first.  When Shell Canada Ltd. planned a natural gas pipeline through the Crowsnest Pass, archaeologist Brian (Barney) Reeves was hired to review three potential routes for historical remains.  He found one route would severely impact the ghost town of Lille, so an alternative route was chosen. 

In 1901, a town called French Camp was established for employees who worked the nearby coal mines. Renamed Lille, the town existed until 1912.  The thriving town housed about 400 people in various types of housing and included a hotel, school, doctor’s office, 15-bed hospital, liquor store, general store, butcher shop, bakery, post office, and NWMP barracks.  The layout of the company built town placed the manager’s family home in a prominent position.  Nearby were the homes for middle managers and miners with families. These were distinct from the bachelor’s quarters on the outskirts of town. The mine operation itself involved three mines, a tipple, coke ovens and a railway line connecting to the Crowsnest Pass mainline. 

Lille had been excavated by several archeology teams in the 1970s and 80s.  Interestingly, a lot of the digging was focused on the outdoor privies located near the houses and businesses, as well as the garbage dump, as archaeologists have found that what humans discard tells a great deal about their lives.   

Artifact remnants included liniment bottles, a work boot, tin water bottle, and family items such as silk stockings, mother-of-pearl buttons, and a child’s soother and tea set. Many products were of Italian origin. Leisure activities such as hockey and music were confirmed by the discovery of harmonica parts and a skate blade. 

Speaking of skates, the exhibit “Artistry and Precision” in the main level hallway at the Galt Museum looks back at the 1990 figure skating event in the city. It closes May 10. For details on this and the archaeology, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Rail Yard

Did you know the town of Fort Macleod is older and was once larger than Lethbridge? That prior to 1900 there was not one community that was obviously the regional centre for southwestern Alberta? So what caused it all to change?

Part of the reason was that in 1905 the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) chose Lethbridge as the Divisional Point for its Crowsnest Line, moving it from Macleod to Lethbridge. This decision helped Lethbridge to become the main marketing, distribution and service centre in southwestern Alberta.

We’d like to say that the CPR made the decision because Lethbridge was the only obvious choice. But it likely had more to do with the incentives the Town of Lethbridge offered the CPR, including a 20-year tax exemption on 120 acres (48.6 ha) of land and 200,000 gallons (909,000L) of water daily at cost. In return, the CPR agreed to build a new train station, rail yards, roundhouse, machine shop and freight sheds. By 1908 the Union Train Station was constructed; the building was expanded and changed over the years.

A huge rail yard developed in Lethbridge, separating north and south Lethbridge. The yard ran from approximately where Scenic Drive is to 13th Street. The 9th Street bridge was constructed to provide access over the rail yards, and later the 13th Street subway was built as another way to get safely between the two sides of the community.

The rail yard was a major part of Lethbridge until it was moved to Kipp in the mid-1980s. The train station was converted into the Lethbridge Health Unit and places like the Park Place Mall, Chapters, and seniors’ homes were constructed on land made available from the relocation.

Later this year the Galt Museum & Archives will present the exhibition “Changing Places: Immigration & Diversity.” It will gather the stories of why, post-Second World War to very recently,  people left their home country, and how Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta have changed because of their contributions.  A number of these immigrants arrived at the local train station.
For more information on current and upcoming exhibitions, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Honouring Women of Lethbridge 4

Legacy Ridge in north Lethbridge is one of few Canadian communities featuring only names of women on streets and parks. Many in the city – led by the Centennial Committee for Recognition of Women – championed the idea. Priority was given to those who were ‘first’ in an achievement and had not been recognized previously. The exhibit Honouring Women of Lethbridge recently shown at the Galt Museum & Archives highlighted fifteen women, including Grace Dainty and Agnes Short, both important in healthcare in Lethbridge and area.

Grace Dainty was Matron of the Children’s Shelter from 1905 to 1909, and the Provincial Government declared her shelter the best in Alberta. As a registered nurse she opened a private maternity hospital in 1909 in north Lethbridge. It became a general hospital during the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, when it helped treat the influx of sick residents. Even before her hospital shut its doors in 1923, Grace Dainty served as the first public health nurse in Lethbridge, Coalhurst, Shaughnessy, and Picture Butte, until 1929.  In her will, she left funds to build a Parish Hall for the Anglican Church of St. Mary the Virgin, which was named in her honour.

Agnes Short was one of the foremothers of the public health nursing field in Lethbridge. She was the nursing supervisor of the Galt Hospital from 1939-1945, as well as head of the nursing staff of Lethbridge School District 51. On top of this, she was the Director of Nursing at the Lethbridge Health Unit from 1964 until she retired in 1982. Agnes Short was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, the Quota Club, Lethbridge Housing Authority, Keep-in-Touch Society, Horticultural Society and Lethbridge Family Services.  She won both the Woman of Distinction award from YWCA and a gold award from the Canadian Red Cross.

The last two Daytime Galt Workshops at the Galt this spring, presented in partnership with Alberta Health Services, will take place on April 8 and 15. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.



Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Native Prairie Plants – Prairie Crocus

Plants – nature’s goods and services – have had a huge influence on the course of human history, corn for food, cotton for clothing, sod for homes, spices to trade, and quinine to treat malaria. The Galt Museum & Archives Garden of Native Prairie Plants provides a small snapshot of time: plants once sought after for many different reasons, such as the Pulsatilla patens, or prairie crocus, now in bloom.

Widespread and common across prairie grasslands and in the Rockies, the soft purple flower is among the first to appear in spring. The inside of the blossoms may be purple or white. Similar in looks to the true crocus (it blooms around the same time), the prairie crocus is not a bulb; it is a long-lived perennial with a thick woody taproot. The flowers appear before the finely divided leaves develop.

The whole plant is thickly covered with silky hairs. A First Nations legend tells that the Great Spirit gave the crocus its fur coat to keep it warm during cold spring nights. Those fine hairs prevent the wind from hitting the surface of the plant; the temperature at the leaf surface can be 10° warmer than the surrounding air. As further protection, the flowering stalk is short. The flower is heliotropic, turning to face the sun through the day; the shape of the blossom concentrates the sun’s rays at the centre of the flower, further increasing the temperature. 

The Blackfoot name, Napi, or old man, refers to the gray, silky, ripe seed-heads that look like grey haired heads. These fluffy seed-heads linger into early summer. As the seeds develop the stalks grow taller, allowing the seeds to be dispersed by the wind. All parts of the plant are poisonous and some people find them irritating to the skin. The Blackfoot understood the characteristics of this plant, and made a tea from the roots to speed childbirth or to cause abortion.

Prairie crocus seeds are available at the Galt Museum Store, or young plants can be purchased from native plant nurseries. They need a sunny spot, and not too much water. Because of their taproot, they will not survive if taken from the wild. More information about the Garden and its various plants is available at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

I Want to Run

In the summer of 2012 the Galt Museum & Archives presented “Champions & Challenges in Sports”, an exhibition exploring the challenges and successes of local sports personalities including athletes, coaches and managers, officials, sponsors, game announcers, casual athletes, and fans. This month we present athlete Willy Kimosop, a long-distance runner.

Born in Kenya, Willy Kimosop was offered a scholarship to attend Lethbridge College to study and join the Kodiaks running team. He followed several other male and female Kenyan runners recruited by Cross Country Head Coach Bertil Johansson.  As a young man, Willy was inspired to run by other Kenyans who won international races. After four years of working, training and studying full time, he graduated in April 2012 and was Assistant Coach at the College for a year.

When he first arrived in Lethbridge, Willy experienced challenges with winter weather, cultural differences and the fast pace set by his academic teachers. During his first winter, Willy felt as though he was “dying” when he tried to run outdoors. He trained indoors, though this didn’t give him the challenge of the hills and rough terrain he prefers. Willy won many college competitions and continues to run in and win long distance races across Canada.

Willy values his ability to work and the sponsorships he receives here in Canada – things not readily available in Kenya. Many people depend on him, which adds a great deal of pressure that few Canadian athletes experience. He sends money earned from his job and his winnings to his extended family in Kenya, allowing several of his brothers and sisters to attend high school and college. Young people look up to him and Willy feels they “need to see someone who can give them courage, someone who can be their role model.”  This helps him focus on his dream.

In October 2015, the Galt will present the exhibition “Changing Places: Immigration & Diversity”, the stories of why people post-Second World War to very recently decided to leave their home-country, and how Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta has changed because of the contributions they make to the community. For details, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Rediscovering the Oxley Ranch

In the fall of 2012, the exhibit “Uncovering Secrets: Archaeology in Southern Alberta” highlighted 15 sites and features, telling human stories found under the soils and across the landscape of the area, including the sprawling 200,000 acre Oxley Ranch, established in 1882. 

Ranching began in southern Alberta in the 1880s after the loss of the buffalo herds, and when the Conservative government offered large inexpensive leases for land suitable for grazing.  Most early ranches were owned by European and Eastern Canadian investors who brought large herds of cattle into the area.  The primary local market was the federal government who supplied beef to Treaty No. 7 tribes and the North West Mounted Police. Once the railway reached Calgary in 1883, live animals were shipped to eastern and European markets. 

When a dam and reservoir were planned in the late 1990s for the confluence of Willow and Pine Creeks west of Stavely, an archaeological survey was made on the remains of the New Oxley Ranch on Willow Creek. Archaeologist John Brandon conducted a surface search with a metal detector, photographed remaining buildings and excavated several areas of the ranch headquarters.  Brandon also read historical accounts and interviewed the last owner of the ranch. 

The late Jim Gordon II identified buildings and shared stories of the life he and his family had on the Oxley.  John Brandon felt “the presence of an archaeological crew at the site prompted him to share these memories which perhaps would not have happened otherwise.”  He tied these resources together with descriptions from Evelyn Springett (Elliott Galt’s sister), who authored a book about her life on the ranch in the 1890s.

The archaeological excavations focused on the house, the bunkhouse, several smaller outbuildings as well as two garbage middens and an outhouse pit.  The bulk of the recovered artifacts came from the two middens. Detailed photographs of the interior and exteriors of the buildings were taken.  The luxury of a 1922 aerial photo provided valuable comparative information for the archaeological study.

On March 18, University of Lethbridge archaeology student Tara Collett presents her excavation experience at another site: Fort Vermillion I. More information about this Wednesdays at the Galt talk and “Uncovering Secrets”, including images, is available at www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Honouring Women of Lethbridge 3

Legacy Ridge in north Lethbridge is one of few Canadian communities featuring only names of women on streets and parks. Many in the city – led by the Centennial Committee for Recognition of Women – championed the idea. Priority was given to those who were ‘first’ in an achievement and had not been recognized previously. The exhibit Honouring Women of Lethbridge recently shown at the Galt Museum & Archives highlighted fifteen women, including Lettice Perry and Pearl Borgal who both led busy lives.

Though not much information has been found on Lettice Perry, we know she was born in 1849 in England and moved to Coalbanks in 1885 with her coalminer husband and four small children. Their first home, until local miners built them a wood frame home, was in a dugout carved into the base of a coulee.  Many more children were born to the Perry’s in the following years. The life of a coal miner was difficult; the work dangerous and intermittent.  Miners’ wives struggled to buy food, clothing and pay rent on the salaries their husbands received. Coal mines were often closed during summer months and miners then looked for other work which sometimes took them away from their families. 

More details are available for Pearl Borgal, who said, “Nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it” and was a shining example. Borgal set the standard for women in local sports throughout her life. She started the Lethbridge Figure Skating Club in 1948, and became the first woman sports broadcaster in Canada while working for CKXL radio in Calgary. Borgal was, among other things, president of the Officers’ Wives Club at Lethbridge during World War II, President of the Canadian Girls Rodeo Association, and President of the Ladies Organization for Civic Improvement. She established the Keep-In-Touch Society to connect elderly people through a telephone network; and helped bring the Calgary Wranglers (which evolved into the Lethbridge Hurricanes) to Lethbridge. Oh, and Borgal actively participated in the saddle club, speed skating, swimming, hockey, basketball and golf.

A new exhibit now on at the Galt focuses on members of the Kainai Chieftainship, including Joyce Fairbairn and Adrienne Clarkson. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.




Comparing Adventures

Over the past five years I have been following and finding information about Miss Edith Fanny Kirk, the art teacher and artist who explored the prairies, foothills and mountains in southern Alberta and B.C. from 1905 until she passed away in December 1953. Her journey through life involved many adventures as she was an intrepid traveller. I discovered that Miss Kirk and I shared many interests in life and this was part of my need to learn more about her.

She saved several items left to her by her mother which included things like an amethyst necklace, a calling card case and a beautifully engraved spoon from the Victorian ere. I have also cherished things given to me by my mother which includes an aquamarine necklace and many souvenirs spoons she collected.  Miss Kirk was an artist from an early age and received training from some very prestigious schools of art in the UK and France.  My training came through community classes, a college diploma in Interior Design and a Fine Arts Degree from University.

We both found painting outdoors with watercolours to be our best form of visual expression. She travelled across the UK and France attending artist colonies, for 11 summers. This meant she was staying in small hotels or hostels and tramping through the nearby country in search of places that intrigued her artistic senses. In 1905, Miss Kirk emigrated to Canada and continued her travels into isolated and sometimes very rustic places in British Columbia.  I have discovered many of her paintings that demonstrate very clearly her intimate connection to the landscapes she visited.  My travels have taken me to the American desert region, Nepal, Ghana, England and many places across Canada.  My sketch book and paints travelled with me and many paintings hang in my home or in the home of friends based on the spectacular places I visited.

Something that came as quite a surprise to me was the fact that we shared similar experiences hiking in the backcountry of the western National Parks.  For more than 20 years, I hiked and camped with the Skyline Hikers of the Canadian Rockies, an organization that provides week long trips into scenic areas of the mountains.  In 1919, at the age of 60 years, Miss Kirk joined the Alpine Club of Canada and this took her into Banff, Yoho, Glacier and Jasper Parks.  She didn't climb with the club but was a welcome member in camp and along the trail where she spent her time painting.

Her modes of travel included horse and buggies, steam trains and ships, sternwheeler lake boats, stage coaches, early cars, and city tram cars.  My travel has involved horse and buggy, diesel trains, smaller motorized boats and canoes, rugged four wheel drive trucks, small fixed wing planes, ultralights, hot air balloons, large commercial jets, private cars and motor homes.

Miss Kirk and I have seen many of the same places, approximately 100 years apart.  During my research, I visited places like Atlin, BC and York, England.  I found the spots she sat to paint in those places.  On my last day in Atlin, I hoped to paint the same lake and mountain scene Miss Kirk had but the rain and hordes of mosquitoes discouraged me.  I wondered if she would have persevered or waited for another day.

In York, I realized how much Miss Kirk was willing to adjust objects she was seeing to create a more dramatic composition on the paper in front of her.  She moved buildings and chose not to include things like multiple chimneys of the roofs of buildings, she used an impressionistic style when painting trees, dirt roads, and clouds to produce a pleasing piece of watercolour art.  I also use artistic license when I paint by simplifying the scene I wish to capture, playing with colour, and sometimes adding things to my painting that might be from a totally different location.

My journey of discovery with regard to Miss Kirk has been a wonderful adventure which has encouraged me to appreciate her courage and allowed me to understand her very adventuresome soul.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Lethbridge Music Festival

Signs of spring include flowers blooming, trees budding, and robins returning. It also signals the time for the sound of music filling the air: this year, the 85th Lethbridge & District Kiwanis Music & Speech Arts Festival takes place March 16 to 28.

The first music festival in the province was held in Cardston in 1905, with musicians and singers from both Lethbridge and Cardston participating. One of the adjudicators was James George Harper, director of the Lethbridge Conservatory of Music. Edmonton held a music festival open to musicians from all over Alberta in the spring of 1908. Eight years later in 1916, it was held in Lethbridge.

The Alberta Festival was held over a three-day period, May 23-25, at the Wesley Church on 4th Avenue South. In 1918, Calgary joined the cities of Lethbridge and Edmonton and the Provincial Festival was born. The Festival was presented alternatively in each city every third year. By 1930, the three major Alberta cities held their own festivals, replacing the province-wide one.

The Kiwanis Club of Lethbridge took over the management of the Lethbridge Festival in 1952, and continued to improve it by adding and organizing components for a smoothly-run 14 day schedule. Participant numbers rose and more disciplines were added, including bands, orchestras, creative music, strings, guitar, woodwinds, brass, percussion, hand bells, pipe organ, piano, speech, voice and choir.
A syllabus (book of festival entries) is printed every year with information on the disciplines, adjudicators chosen, and venues – from one in 1930 to five or more today. The Grand Concert, or Concert of the Stars (today known as the Festival of the Stars), highlights the winners and displays their accomplishments: to achieve a higher standard for music and musical appreciation in Alberta and nationally.

Stars of another kind – artists behind Canadian stamps and currency – are highlighted in the exhibit “Voices from the Engraver” at the Galt until May 18. A guided exhibit tour takes place at 2:00 pm on Wednesday March 4. For details, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Giving Back to the Community

In the summer of 2012, the Galt Museum & Archives developed the exhibit “Champions & Challenges in Sports”, exploring the challenges and successes of local sports personalities. They included athletes, coaches and managers, officials, sponsors, game announcers, casual athletes, and fans. This month we present one of the behind-the-scenes personalities, Knud Petersen.

Lethbridge hosts many sports tournaments, bonspiels, and games throughout the year, but none of these happen without long hours of work behind the scenes by people like Knud Petersen. Petersen and others like him dedicate themselves to helping organize small and large scale sporting events, and encourage people of all ages to start and remain active in physical activities. People gain a great deal from participation in sports, and the community thrives when they continue their involvement by giving something back to their sport.

Petersen played soccer and other sports during his youth in Denmark and, years later in Lethbridge, he started coaching and refereeing for teams his three daughters played for. Now in his late 60s, he still referees and plays soccer.  According to Petersen, his involvement keeps him young. He is an enthusiastic advocate for sports and believes sports strengthen a community by bringing people together.

Petersen has been involved with the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame for the past several years.  The Hall of Fame annually recognizes people who have achieved a high level of success in their sport. Athletes, teams and builders are honoured during a special ceremony celebrating their contributions to the local sports scene.

In 1990, Lethbridge hosted Sun Life Skate Canada International – a community effort involving some 600 volunteers, along with businesses and organizations. 26,000 people attended the many events, and a thousand fans lined up on the last day to get autographs. The figure skating competition returns to Lethbridge this fall.

Meanwhile, the exhibit “Artistry and Precision”, now up in the main level hallway at the Galt Museum, looks back at the 1990 figure skating event in the city. For details, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Last Great Battle

In the fall of 2012, the exhibit “Uncovering Secrets: Archaeology in Southern Alberta” highlighted 15 sites and features, telling human stories found under the soils and across the landscape of the area. The last major inter-tribal battle in Canada is one such story. It took place in southern Alberta on October 25, 1870. 

The Cree and Blackfoot had been long time enemies when a large force of Cree, with Saulteaux and Assiniboine allies, decided to raid the Blackfoot. The Cree party of 600-800 warriors attacked a small camp on the east side of the Belly (Oldman) River, a short distance upstream from the confluence with the St. Mary River.

Unknown to the Cree, however, hundreds of Piikani from the United States had fled to the area following the Baker Massacre in Montana.  These warriors quickly joined the battle and pushed the Cree east, up onto the flats (now West Lethbridge).  The battle continued in a long coulee sloping down towards the east (just north of Whoop-Up Drive). 

The Cree used old Hudson’s Bay Company trade muskets and bows and arrows as weapons.  The Blackfoot had surplus American Civil War repeating rifles and handguns. Blackfoot warriors drove the Cree into full retreat towards the river. As the Cree tried to cross, Blackfoot warriors shot and killed hundreds. 

Over 100 years later, local archaeological enthusiasts explored the coulees and found evidence of the battle. Metal detectors were used to find potential sites for probes. Within 8 mm of the surface they found Henry, Winchester and Spencer cartridges, along with lead and iron balls from muskets, confirming the oral stories about the types of guns both parties used. A few articles of copper and brass clothing decorations were also found, as well as long metal spear projectiles. In 1974, several cairns were still visible, erected shortly after the battle to mark the places where Blackfoot warriors had died. None remain today.

On March 18, University of Lethbridge archaeology student Tara Collett presents her excavation experience at Fort Vermillion I. More information about this program and “Uncovering Secrets”, including images, is available at www.galtmuseum.com.