SAIT: Fostering Entrepreneurs Since 1916

This October, Calgary's Southern Alberta Institute of Technology celebrates its 100 anniversary of fostering our city's entrepreneurial spirit. Most people think of Calgary as a corporate headquarters city when, in fact, 95% of Calgary’s businesses have fewer than 50 employees. On a per capita basis, Calgary is home to more small businesses than any other Canadian city (source: Calgary Economic Development). 

George Mansfield Holmes epitomizes Calgary’s early independent business culture — and how SAIT has helped strengthen that culture for 100 years. Holmes graduated from the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (PITA, as SAIT was known between 1916 and 1960) as an electrician in 1926 and was immediately hired by the small local firm Lambert and Leak Electric, where he was responsible for the installation of Lambert's Day-Nite Signs across the city. In 1953, he opened his own business — an appliance parts and service shop which flourished until he retired in 1974. 

Today, SAIT delivers business education to more than 3,800 students in degree and diploma programs, and to 10,000 registrants in our professional and leadership programs. But even before SAIT’s School of Business was officially formed, the Institute boasted a very active business education program focused on providing Calgary’s growing business community with the talent it needed to thrive.

Like any good business, planning for PITA began with market research. In Rosalie Pedersen’s 1991 history of the Institute called Technically, An Experiment, she notes, “To help determine exactly what to teach, representatives of school boards, manufacturers and Calgary businessmen met and prospective students were surveyed. Stationary engineers wanted evening classes; Mr. Short of CPR’s Ogden shops wanted arithmetic, basic mathematics and mechanical drawing and design; Mr. Glover of the Cockshutt Plow Company requested courses in business methods.”

SAIT's juxtaposition of the old and new architecture fosters leading edge thinking.

Fostering Entrepreneurs

The late Senator Patrick Burns is one of the best early examples of Calgary’s entrepreneurial spirit. Burns spent the summer of 1878 chopping wood for a neighbour to earn enough money to travel west, only to discover the neighbour didn’t have enough cash to pay his $100 bill. Instead, he gave Burns two oxen. Burns, realizing the value of each ox was $70, doubled his profit by slaughtering them and selling their meat and by-products for $140.

Arriving in Calgary in 1890, Burns established his first major slaughterhouse, followed by a packing house in 1898. He eventually evolved his business into Burns Foods, Western Canada’s largest meat packing company. Burns revolutionized the slaughterhouse industry by emphasizing the utilization of by-products, such as hide for leather, fats for soap, bone for bone meal, and hair for brushes.

His leadership in fostering Calgary as a vibrant business centre was recognized in the mid-1960s, when SAIT named a major new facility in his honour. It was a time of expansion throughout Calgary. Business was booming and the oil industry’s demand for people with business education was skyrocketing. The opening of the Senator Burns Building in 1966 enabled SAIT to expand as well as create a home for the Business Education Department.

The new department introduced a new Business Administration diploma because, as outlined in the 1966 Academic Calendar, “A manager in business, from the foreman or supervisor to the top administrator, must have a thorough knowledge of basic business principles ... there is a very real need for both men and women to have a sound background of basic business skills.”

That same year, Barry Lammle graduated from SAIT’s Merchandising program. At the age of 12, he bought a lawn mower and mowed lawns all over the neighbourhood. Later he enrolled at SAIT and, after graduating, started working at The Bay. After two years, he became disgruntled and wanted to get out and make some money. Having saved $1,800, he asked his mother to co-sign for a $5,000 loan so he could open a little shop on 1st Street SW — just a half block south of The Bay. Today he owns Lammle’s Western Wear & Tack, one of the largest stores of its kind in North America.

Like Burns, Lammle developed his entrepreneurial spirit early in life and later became a community leader inspiring others to pursue their dreams.

Building a bold future.

Preserving the past.

Adapting to Business Community Needs

By 1994, a Labour Market Study prepared for Alberta Advanced Education and Career Development found computer skills the number one employee training need. The next year, SAIT opened the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Business Technology Centre, a “one-of-a-kind business training facility … for the latest Business and Industry computer software applications,” according to a SAIT press release.  Today, SAIT is not only a leader in offering computer training, but a leader in pioneering online education programs locally and internationally.

On the flipside, one of SAIT’s most innovative partnerships revolves around face-to-face teaching. It started in 1995, when we partnered with the Canadian Professional Accountants (Alberta Chapter) to convert their online study program to a SAIT classroom program. Unique in Canada, it nearly doubled the pass rate of students seeking professional accounting designation, and it continues to evolve.

One of SAIT new study halls...

Adapting to economic change

Calgary’s economy has evolved significantly over the past 100 years, from agriculture and ranching to oil and gas. Today’s marketplace is a global marketplace, and Calgary is a major inland port supporting a growing transportation and logistics industry. SAIT’s business education has also adapted to meet the changing needs of business.

One example is the Supply Chain Management program SAIT has developed on behalf of the Supply Chain Management Association. Courses relate directly to skills needed for purchasing, manufacturing, dispatching, shipping and receiving, transportation, inventory management, warehousing and procurement employment — all vital to giving consumers access to the goods and services Canadians rely on every day.

Heritage Hall is full of wonderful murals above doorways.  

Next Generation

For Becky Salmond (BASCM ’16), enrolling in the SAIT School of Business diploma program was a result of her early career positions as Marketing Coordinator for food distributer Planet Foods and Order Manager for Flextronics.  This work experience not only helped her realized she would need a formal business education to help advance her career,  but also sparked her interest in supply chain management.

Salmond says SAIT’s competitive advantage over other schools is “the small class sizes, which means you get individual attention from your instructors and develop close relationships with your peers. The focus on group work, which can be challenging, also reflects the current business trend of working in teams.” When asked, “Was there a instructor who was instrumental in your career decision?” Salmond quickly responds:  “I could probably take up the entire issue of LINK; however, if I had to choose one influencer, it was a professor who never actually taught me a formal class. Dr. Vicky Roy was the coach of the Business Case Competition for the two years I competed with the team. She was incredibly dedicated to our team, and personally coached me about supply chain management.

“Her guidance, experience and knowledge helped us win the Gold Medal at the 2016 Vanier College BDC Case Challenge. Dr. Roy has enabled me to choose the right career path for me,” Salmond says.

Salmond is continuing her studies this fall in the Bachelor of Business Administration — Supply Chain Management program, one of four new majors added to SAIT’s BBA in 2015. When asked to describe SAIT’s School of Business in three words, she immediately says: "innovative; practical; supportive.”

Last Word

Too often I hear Calgary has no history, yet everywhere I go I am reminded that our city is full of history.  I can't imagine a Calgary without SAIT.

Editor's Note: An edited version of this blog was published in the Fall 2016 edition of LINK SAIT's Alumni magazine.  

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Calgary: Old Bridges Get No Respect

Regular readers of the Everyday Tourist blog will know that I love bridges. This past summer I have developed an appreciation for two of Calgary’s older pedestrian bridges that don’t get the respect they deserve.

The Edworthy Bridge (whoops Boothman) has a unique design with huge holes that over a great place to view the Bow River. 

Bridge with big holes?

Even if you are a long-time Calgarian, I bet you have never heard of the Harry Boothman Bridge. I hadn’t until I researched on the bridge that connects Parkdale with Edworthy Park, which I had always heard of as the Edworthy Bridge. Logical.

The Boothman Bridge has a wonderful sense of passage created by the middle circle that frames the bridge's entrance.  The top circle frames Calgary's wonderful celestial blue sky. 

Calgarians from all walks of life use the Boothman bridge. 

It turns out it is named after a Calgary Park Supervisor and was built in 1976, but that is where the information ends.  I checked with the City of Calgary and they have no information on Boothman, the cost of the bridge or who designed it. The Glenbow archives has a photo but no other information on the bridge. Amazing!

Every time I visited the bridge this year it was packed with people (I must confess, my visits were mostly on weekends). In fact, it seemed busier than either the Peace Bridge (between Prince’s Island and Sunnyside) or the King Bridge (between East Village and St. Patrick’s Island). 

On the southside the bridge lands at a huge picnic area that is busy even in early spring. This photo was take April 3, 2016. 

However, I was told by the City that is not true - Peace Bridge gets about 4,500 trips per day in the summer, King gets 2,200 and Boothman 1,600. 

I can’t help but wonder what the public’s response was to the bridge in the ‘70s as it was a key link in the early development of Calgary’s Bow River pathways system.  Was there a controversy over the cost and design?  I highly doubt there was an international design competition.  I wonder what people thought of the concrete bridge’s design with the big holes.  I guess we will never know?

On the north side the bridge lands at a popular cafe and a sunny spot for buskers.  

Editor's Note:

After this blog was published Everyday Tourist loyal reader B. Lester wrote to say: 

The designers of the Boothman Bridge were Simpson Lester Goodrich; my old firm. We also designed the Carburn Park  pedestrian bridge (still my favorite; have a good look the next time you are in the area of Deerfoot and Southland Drive); the Crowchild Trail pedestrian bridge at McMahan Stadium (the vibrations caused by the crowds of football fans are always a subject of some awe as the crowds pass over before and after every game); and the Deerfoot Trail pedestrian Bridge near Fox Hollow.
The challenge for pedestrian bridge designers in the "old" days was to create an interesting landmark on a very tight budget. City administrators in those days were willing to consider interesting designs, but only if they cost no more than a bare bones solution. Our view was that crossing a bridge should be an "event" in itself and we struggled to come up with solutions which would create identifiable landmarks without spending additional public dollars.

I wrote back and asked for more in formation on the rationale for the design and cost and quickly received the following info.


The Boothman bridge was designed back in the '70's in the days of peace, love, and rock 'n roll. It was the fledgling days of the back to the earth movement with geodesic domes and round bird's eye windows. The holes in the bridge were reflective of that movement.
The principal designer was my partner Mike Simpson who, although an engineer, had strong ties to the environmental design movement (a founding partner of the Synergy West environmental consulting firm), to the Alpine Club of Canada, and was responsible for a number of increasingly "out-there" home designs in the following thirty years.
Mike is the visionary responsible for the Sacred Garden at St. Mary's church in Cochrane and for the Himat project, a sculpture created to raise funds to assist small villages in Nepal. He is a very unique individual and I was fortunate to work side by side with him for 25 years.
I have no records of the costs of the Boothman bridge though I would hazard a guess at around $300,000. Six years later, I recall having multiple discussions with the city to justify the $1,000,000 cost for Carburn bridge. (Probably equivalent to $10 million in today's dollars?)

John Hextall Bridge

Again, I bet you are scratching your head saying, “Where the heck is that bridge?”  Perhaps you know it better as the old Shouldice Bridge that you can see from the Trans Canada Highway as you pass from Montgomery to Bowness.

The Hextall Bridge was constructed in 1910 by local businessman John Hextall who sought to create an idyllic garden suburb west of Montgomery called Bowness. In 1911, Hextall negotiated with the City of Calgary take over the bridge plus two islands that would become Bowness Park, in exchange for an extension of the Calgary street railway system connecting Calgary with Bowness via the bridge. 

However, only a small number of houses and a golf course were constructed before the economic bust of 1913 halted most construction until after World War I. However, Bowness Park became an immensely popular leisure area – it was the St. Patrick’s and Prince’s Island parks of the early 20th century.  Park crowds of up to 4,000 people were common on Sundays in the mid 20s, huge given the city’s population being only about 60,000. 

The Hextall Bridge, the gateway to Bowness, continued as a street railway bridge until 1950 when it was turned over to vehicular traffic.  However, it was too narrow for cars plus a sidewalk so in 1985 the City approved a new four-lane concrete bridge, turning the Hextall Bridge into a pedestrian/cyclist bridge and incorporating into Calgary’s vision for a world-class, citywide pathway system.

The design, known as the Pratt through-truss system, is a type of truss with parallel chords, all vertical members in compression, all diagonal members in tension with the diagonals slant toward the center.

The components were manufactured in eastern Canada and shipped to the site for assembly. Ironically, this is similar to the Peace and King Bridges, which were also constructed elsewhere and assembled in Calgary.

Hextall Bridge's criss-cross trusses are a lovely example of the industrial sense of design of the early 20th century. 

Why Shouldice Bridge?

In 1906, James Shouldice purchased 470 acres of farmland about 8 kilometers west of the City of Calgary in a community then known as Bowmont. In 1910, Shouldice donated 43-hectars of river valley to the City of Calgary with the understanding that the land would be used as a park and that the streetcar would run to end of his property.  In 1911, the city created Shouldice Park, which has since become one of Calgary’s premier outdoor athletic parks. In 1952, Fred Shouldice, son of James made a financial gift to the City to build a swimming pool on the site. 

The bridge has colourful flowers at each entrance and huge planter boxes in the middel of the bridge.  Cyclist and pedestrians share the space with ease. 

No Respect

Personally, I think the Hextall Bridge is Calgary’s prettiest pedestrian bridge with its huge flower boxes and lovely criss-cross ironwork. But I doubt I will get many Calgarians to agree with me.

When I asked the City if they had any pedestrian/cyclist counts for the bridge they said they have never done counts for this bridge.  I wonder why?

The patina of the wood and steel (with exposed rivets) contrasts with the highly polished sleek look of Calgary's modern pedestrian bridges. 

Last Word

It is eerily how similar the stories of Bowness and Shouldice Parks are to what is currently happening in Calgary:

  • The idyllic visions of new master-planned suburban communities on the edge of the city.
  • The boom and bust of the 1910s. 
  • The donation of land and money to create parks and new recreation facilities by private citizens.

While all the social media chatter these days is about the Peace and George C. King bridge, it is important to remember that Calgary has been building bridges to connect communities to each other and to public spaces for over 100 years. 

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Eight Avenue Place raising the bar on Stampede decorations

Last year at Stampede time I wrote a blog titled “Stampede 2015: Have we lost that luv’n feeling?” in which I criticized downtown business for the lack of Stampede decorations.  This year we flanuered downtown on the first Saturday of Stampede and again found that once you get off Stephen Avenue, you’d be hard pressed tell that Stampede is happening.  However, there was one big (and nice!) exception - the lobby of Eighth Avenue Place (EAP).

The Highlander Wine Saloon looks ready for tenants to play some poker at lunch hour.

We had gone there to show our friends the iconic Canadian paintings that are perfectly displayed in the elevator lobbies at street level and beautiful Jack Shadbolt painting in the entrance off 8th Avenue SW.

However, not only did we enjoy the paintings but also the wonderful “western town” vignettes that would make Heritage Park and the Glenbow proud.  We were all amazed at the number of vignettes and their detail – clearly, careful thought and attention had gone into their creation.

I quickly emailed Gord Menzies, General Manager of EAP to learn more.

The Jack Shadbolt painting in the EAP lobby is a perhaps the best place in downtown to meet friends or colleagues. 

In addition to the vignettes are two video projectors subtlety showing horses grazing in a pasture in the Foothills.  It is very surreal to have these movie-size images in the lobby of a skyscraper in the middle of downtown.  It creates the feeling you are in contemporary art gallery. 

Menzies says:

“The Stampede interactive sets have been an evolving element of EAP since we first launched them almost five years ago.  The designs have been a collaborative effort between myself, team members like my Assistant Property Manager Amanda Verge and Bill and Heather Tuffs of Alliance Entertainment who actually build, house and erect the structures. 

 The initial concept was simply to create a backdrop for the Stampede celebrations and transform our lobbies into the old west…but they rapidly adopted an interactive flavour, not just for tenants but also for visitors to the complex, who love to step into the sets for pictures and fun.  Alliance has done a great job bringing our visions to life.

We have created a sheriff’s office, hotel, saloon, photo studio, livery, stable and dance hall, barbershop, mine and - there are also plans for a theatre and stage for live entertainment. The idea is to create new vignettes each year so we can rotate them every year to keep the lobby feeling lively and new each Stampede. 

We thought wouldn't it be great to get a hair cut and shave for 10 cents. Turns out you can during Stampede at EAP.

It use to be called a "Kodak Moment" today it would be "A Smart Phone Moment." 

 I’d say we’ve raised the bar for the city…you won’t find any painted windows at Eighth Avenue Place.  We have also joined forces with some of our Platinum Partners - London Barber’s, Spindrift Photography and Health Span Corporate Massage - to bring them to life, offering free straight razor shaves, vintage photos and massages on certain days.”

Where did the idea come from?

 Menzies says, “Growing up, I remember some great western TV shows (Gunsmoke, Ponderosa) and films (Shane, True Grit, The Magnificent Seven) that seeded my ideas for the project. I expect them to continue to evolve and embody some further elements specific to Canadiana – perhaps a train station platform, a fur trader canoe or an RCMP post.  We need to get David Thompson and Alexander MacKenzie in there somewhere and perhaps something aboriginal to connect to the annual tipi display on the exterior.”

Everyone is encouraged to interact with the vignettes have fun and take photos. 

The Young Guns of EAP?

The ladies of EAP?

Last Word

Menzies is not one to rest on his laurels.  “I’m very big on props and have challenged Bill and Heather to get us things that can be touched, felt or worn.  I want people to be able to step into these snapshots of their heritage and feel it resonate.  As always, Eighth Avenue Place isn’t just a place of business; it’s an experience.”

I would have to agree with Menzies. There is no Calgary office building that is more dramatic in design and has more programming than EAP. 

Kudos to him and his team for daring to be different!

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Flaneuring Calgary's Stampede Poster Parade

One of the oldest Calgary Stampede traditions is the creation of the Stampede Poster.  It began with the very first Stampede in 1912 when Guy Wedick invited iconic Western artist Charlie Russell to provide the artwork for the first poster. Since then, the Stampede poster tradition has evolved significantly from one of advertising all of the Stampede events to becoming a collectors' item.

Calgary Stampede's first poster. Note the first Stampede took place in early September. 

Calgary Stampede's first poster. Note the first Stampede took place in early September. 

If you are interested in starting a collection, Aquila Books’ website lists a 1945 poster for sale at $650 US and a 1961 poster for $525 US.   In addition, they have a large selection of Stampede posters from the ‘70s to the present.

If you are interested, you can see all of the posters on the Calgary Stampede website, or see them paraded in the +15 concourse connecting the BMO Centre to the Saddledome – expect for 1922, 1926 and 1930 which they have been unable to find for their collection. 

(Backstory: The Stampede didn’t develop an archive until 1999 which meant they had to source all of the posters from other collectors.  If you have one of the missing posters or know someone who might, the Stampede would love to talk to you.)

Link: Stampede Parade of Posters

Calgary Stampede Poster 1913
Calgary Stampede Poster 1914
Starting in 1923 the poster format became long and narrow - almost ticket-like.

Starting in 1923 the poster format became long and narrow - almost ticket-like.

Flanuering Fun 

For something different to do at Stampede this year, why not flaneur the posters with family and friends. It is sure to bring back memories.  You will discover lots of fun facts, like what years the 3 Stooges or Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were the feature entertainment.  It is fun to see how the admission to the Stampede has changed and discover some intriguing statements like “ Wheat And Meat Will Help Win The War.”

It is also enlightening to see how graphic design has changed over the past 100+ years in typography, colour, paper and printing quality.  The early posters are very busy, full of information with a matte finish, while the modern posters feature a large glossy image with just the name and dates.  It is also interesting to see how the people of the First Nations were featured on many of the early posters, while modern posters focus on the cowboy and his horse.  

In 2007, the Calgary Stampede began commissioning an original artwork for the poster as a means of supporting Western artists and elevated the status of the posters as a work of art in its own right.

Calgary Stampede Poster 1954

Often the Calgary Stampede posters included images and information about other things for tourists to see and do.

Poster History 101

The history of posters, which begins with the invention of lithography in 1798, is a very interesting one. It wasn’t until 1891, that Toulouse-Lautrec’s extraordinary Moulin Rouge posters elevated the status of the poster to fine art and started a poster craze.  The early Stampede posters have much in common with the late 19th early 20th century European Poster culture. At that time, French posters focused on the café and cabaret culture, Italian ones on opera and fashion and Spanish ones on bullfight and festivals, so it is not surprising Calgary’s early poster culture reflects its largest festival and Western heritage and hospitality.

Link: A Brief History of the Poster

Last Word

The concourse area where the posters are displayed is available to visit free anytime of the year, (many of us have passed by rushing too and from the LRT Station to the Saddledome). Bonus: At Stampede time the concourse provides panoramic views of the Stampede grounds with all its colour and pageantry. 

Calgary Stampede Parade of Posters

View of Calgary Stampede from the +15 Concourse.

Calgary's Chinatown Postcards

Chinatowns are fun places to flaneur in any city. Recently, I found myself near Calgary's Chinatown on a sunny spring afternoon with some time to wander so thought I'd check it out. 

I am sad to report it was like a ghost town - no street vitality, shops were empty (many vacant) and many of the building were looking very tired.  For example The Opulence Centre, with HSBC as its anchor, should be an embarrassment for both the bank and the building owner. 

Calgary's Chinatown lacks the hustle and bustle, clutter and chatter that is commonly associated with a healthy chinatown.  

Below are photos of Calgary's Chinatown - the good, the bad and the ugly!

Racy dolls found in Dragon City Mall shop window.

Flickering spring sun on Chinatown's Golden Happiness Plaza and Bakery. 

Archway to Chinese Seniors Centre provides a wonderful vista of the Centre Street Bridge and its iconic lions. 

Chinatown's bilingual culture. 

Chinatown's street vitality includes cars parked on the sidewalk, while street parking spots sit empty and only seniors on the sidewalks.  

One of Chinatown's many lions, with office tower looming in the background. It looks angry!

This fun dragon cut-out that can be found on the railing of Chinatown shop is just one of the many urban surprises. 

Another dragon adorns the entrance to the indoor Dragon City Mall. 

Another fun urban surprise. 

Next to the Bow River, this fish wall is yet another surprise.  

Dragon City Mall has been empty every time in have visited for over a decade. 

Who knew Calgary's Chinatown has a street art alley? 

A Chinatown alley waiting for a couple of murals? 

Super Hero Window in Dragon City Mall.

Colourful Chinatown retail display. 

Chinese chess or xiangqi is basically a board game fought between two armies each with sixteen pieces. This one was found in a window in upper floor of Dragon City Mall. 

Chinese chess or xiangqi is basically a board game fought between two armies each with sixteen pieces. This one was found in a window in upper floor of Dragon City Mall. 

Chinese Cultural Centre with downtown office towers looming in the background

Last Word 

It would be a shame to lose Calgary's Chinatown as it has been part of our downtown for over 100 years and has the potential to add so much charm and character next to our central business district.  

It should also be a vibrant fun urban playground, not only for those living in Chinatown but all of Calgary's City Centre residents. 

Learn more about Calgary's Chinatown: Link to Calgary's Chinatown History 

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Lover's Lane, St. George's Island, Calgary

"Hello,  I was looking up St. Georges park Calgary as I have a book of old postcards that belonged to my maternal Grandfather Alexander Herd.  One postcard as follows was addressed to him at Glidehurst, Alberta postmarked August 30 1909 and was dated/written on August 29 1909. The writer appears to be Edna his sister-in-law.  

She writes in the card that the picture is of Calgary's lovers lane and comments that they do not have one like that in Strathcona (Edmonton).  

The card it titled A Driveway. St. Georges Island Calgary.  Very interesting to visit the past in this way and read the correspondence between my Grandfather and his friends and family during the early 1900s.

Have a great day.  From John Dahl Ottawa (formerly of Calgary 1992 to 2001)."

Lover's Lane in St. George's Island, Calgary, 1909

Lover's Lane postcard

Out of the blue, I received the above email on Saturday March 19, 2016.  I quickly emailed back saying "thank you" and that I would love to see more images of Calgary from the book of old postcards.  Soon a flurry of emails started to pop up on my computer, laptop and iPhone.  

Realizing that I hit the motherlode, I asked John if he would allow me to share with Everyday Tourist readers not only the postcard images, but also the stories on the back.  I am thrilled that he agreed.  

Early 20th Century Calgary Postcards 

Bow River

First Street looking West Calgary

Hard to believe the General Hospital was built with nothing around it.  A bit like South Health Campus when it was first being built. 

Perhaps we should rethink the idea of a Street Car along Stephen Avenue aka 8th Avenue

St. George's Bridge

C.P.R. Garden, located on 9th Avenue east of Calgary Tower

Holy Cross Hospital

Mission Hill

Prince's Island

Downtown Flour Mill

Top: Provincial Normal School, later became McDougall School and then the McDougall Centre. Bottom: Fire Hall #1  still exists at the corner of Centre Street and 6th Avenue.    

Top: Provincial Normal School, later became McDougall School and then the McDougall Centre. Bottom: Fire Hall #1  still exists at the corner of Centre Street and 6th Avenue.


These treeless Mt. Royal mansions look strikingly similar to 21st century estate homes in Calgary's new communities.  

Collegiate Institute

Collegiate Institute

Victoria Park 

Presbyterian Church

Back of the postcard package

Postcards vs Tweets

It was amusing to read the correspondence on the back of the postcards. It was like a modern day twitter conversation.  I love that they are called "Private Post Card." How can a post card be private?

I was also surprised to learn that 100 years ago postcards weren't just used by tourist on vacation, but were a way of communicating with family and friends on a regular basis.

Today our communication is instantaneous and often several times a day.  

Oh how our world has changed!

Last Word 

Hi Richard , here is a picture of my Grandfather the recipient of the cards and his Sister Annie who wrote many of them (not the ones from Calgary). This is a picture of them in front of my Grandfathers home in Edmonton when Annie was visiting.  The house is still there and I have many fond memories of times spent at my Grandparents home.  The picture is out of focus as it is a picture of a picture

Hi Richard , here is a picture of my Grandfather the recipient of the cards and his Sister Annie who wrote many of them (not the ones from Calgary). This is a picture of them in front of my Grandfathers home in Edmonton when Annie was visiting.  The house is still there and I have many fond memories of times spent at my Grandparents home.  The picture is out of focus as it is a picture of a picture

Calgary's Mewata Village, Siksika Trail & Makhabn River?

Editor’s Note: Regular visitors to the Everyday Tourist website will know we are keen to celebrate Calgary’s unique history and sense of place within the context of the larger world we share.  We love to do pieces on Calgary’s history and pleased to publish guest editorials from time to time that provide a fresh perspective on our city.  Recently, the idea of being more creative with our street names has struck a cord with our readers, with two submissions for guest blogs.

Celebrating the history of the First Nations 

It may be because I spent two summers living on the prairie north of Rosemary, Alberta. We lived in a 20-foot trailer and my job in the summer of 1975 was to break up 960-acres of prairie sod. I went over every inch of this land three times with my Massey Fergusson tractor and 22-foot cultivator. The following year, we planted our first crop of wheat and canola and irrigated it with water from the creek.

I could smell the sage and sweet grass growing along the Matsawin Creek, which flowed through our land. The deer visited in the morning and the evening. The coyotes could sometimes be seen during the day but most often heard at night. I watched the eagles hunt for rabbits and gophers. Occasionally, a skittish herd of antelope would warily circle our property. The wind was ever present as was a great big sky.

Reconnecting & Celebrating The Past

It didn’t occur to me until much later that my experience of prairie was similar to those who hunted on this land hundreds or even thousands of years earlier. I was living in the territory of the Siksika people, whose reserve is now 40 miles to the west. I never thought about the previous owners at the time. We were farmers intent on getting our land ready for our crops.

Fast-forward to today and I feel a strong need to reconnect not only to the recent past, but the ancient one of the First Nations. I want to honour their wisdom, their vigour and their stewardship of this land.

It has taken me awhile to appreciate the importance of our relationship with the First Nations people who lived here long before we came along to lay claim to the land and shape it to suit our purposes.

I recently attended the screening of “Elder in the Making” ( This is a moving documentary about a Chinese newcomer to Canada, Chris Hsiung, and a young Blackfoot man, Cowboy SmithX, and it tells the history of the land occupied by the Blackfoot tribes of Southern Alberta.

As a Chinese immigrant, the filmmaker had no knowledge of the people who lived on this land for thousands of year. Hsiung did note we use various First Nation names for our highways, but he didn't know the history or significance of these names. I doubt he is alone in this. For a long time, Calgary has named our major thoroughfares using the English names of famous Aboriginal leaders such as Crowfoot or the First Nation's name like Sarcee, even though T’suu Tina’ is the proper term.

Weasel Calf (name given to him by settlers) and his wife.

Better Process

The City of Calgary has recently proposed a revision of its naming policy. If approved, the policy will require aboriginal names to be used on all freeways and expressways constructed in Calgary. While a change in policy is welcomed, I suggest that further discussion is needed. There may be occasions when a non-Aboriginal name is preferred for an expressway (e.g. Memorial Drive).  We may wish to honour someone whose name and reputation stands the test of time (e.g. Peter Lougheed).  

We need to include First Nations elders in the naming and blessing of expressways or “trails”. A participatory approach has been adopted throughout New Zealand resulting in the extensive use of Maori place names. Honouring First Nations people with appropriate names for places and “trails” might lead to other efforts to include and honour the Treaty 7 peoples and the special places where they lived, worked, and played.   

The policy should also allow for the renaming of existing expressways. For example, Blackfoot Trail could add “Siksika Trail,” or simply become Siksika Trail.  Sarcee Trail could become "T’suu Tina Trail".   

Bow River (Makhabn River) looking west with Prince's Island and Eau Claire lumber mill in the distance.  This photo is from the current exhibition at the Lougheed House. 

Better Context

Maybe we can do better by providing the appropriate First Nations name to a particular place. Do we begin to use the Siksika word “Makhabn also spelt Manachban” which means “river where bow reeds grow” as an alternative name for the Bow River (it is kinda of dumb to have both a Bow and Elbow River)?  Mokintsis is the First Nation name for the Elbow River, it means, “elbow” and is based on the sharp elbow-like turn it makes at Stampede Park before entering the Makahabn River (whoops) Bow River. 

The confluence of the Bow and the Elbow Rivers might be called Ako-katssinn (Siksika for a place where all come to camp) to celebrate its earliest human occupation alongside the historic Fort Calgary site. Ako-katssinn would be a great name for the new pedestrian bridge at the confluence.

We already use some First Nation language, but not in the right context. For example Mewata Armoury serves a military use, yet “mewata” means “to be happy, pleasant place or be joyful.” Similarly, “paskapoo” means blindman and I am not sure what that has to do with sandstone and “shaganappi” means “raw hide” which makes no sense to how we use it today.

Last word

The fact we have retained the term “trails” rather than using the term freeways or numbered highways for our major roads (as is the case for most cities), is exactly what I am talking about.  It may seem like a small token of appreciation for the past, but it is part of what makes Calgary unique and proper names can bring new context and vitality to a place. 

Maybe we could start by renaming West Village, Mewata Village – who wouldn’t want to live work and play in “a happy, pleasant, joyful place?” 

A few days after this blog was posted I found this tweet announcing the City of Edmonton has renamed one of its streets using an authentic Enoch Cree Nation name.  This is what I am talking about 

About Lawrence Braul

Lawrence currently works as the CEO of Trinity Place Foundation of Alberta. He was born and raised in Calgary. He believes the old adage, "You can take the boy out of the prairie, but you can't take the prairie out of the boy."

If you like this blog, you might like:

University District: What's In a Name?

Calgary: Naming Challenge

Calgary: The History Capital of Canada?


Poem: Naming The Streets of Calgary

"Naming the Streets of Calgary" is simply a lament that we have failed to lend substance to 'place' by ascribing only numbers to our pathways...a monumental failure in my mind." Gord Menzies


I follow her on a Monday meandering

through the Cold Garden under blue sky

damning and cursing the grid work of 1904

watching the numbers fall from street signs

clattering over the curbs as she passes

streets and avenues dropping numbers

and demanding words of remembrance

she almost prances as she speaks them

Brown Bottle Lane, Riverwalk Avenue

Prairie Wind and Magpie Streets

Dancing Horse Drive, she touches

street signs as she passes and I

follow, writing them all down, some

just rediscovered and given life again

as she peels up the asphalt, touches earth

her fingers finding letters 'midst the stone

her lips finding adjectives, in shadow

and river spray wanderings, knowing

we cannot sink our roots into numbers

only names can make these places ours

in Gaelic and Siksika and English

Alainn Street, Ki'somma Avenue

our pathways come to life and rise

I determine not to kiss her on 6th Avenue,

but take her by the slender waist

on Winter Rose Lane, and the moment,

is planted like a flag in the pressing of lips,

and fixed as a star among our names

By Gordon R. Menzies, 2016

Menzies' Backstory 

Since coming to Calgary five years ago I've always found the numbering system somewhat unsettling from the perspective of both my literary and historical the seed of the poem has been present for some time.  The loss of historical perspective and aboriginal consideration in light of current societal pressures of various kinds impacts the heritage of everyone laying down roots here.  

For example, I have heard Carseland repeatedly referred to as "Car's Land" whereas the origin is Auld (Old) Scots - 'carse' is a fertile river land.  Calgary itself is of Gaelic origin, though its meaning is debated.  I chose one of them 'cold garden' for the poem.  The intended name, of course, would only be known to James MacLeod, who may or may not have had a solid mastery of the language.  

The etymology remains uncertain today.  In any case, the naming of things is unique to our species and of incredible historical and cultural importance, though admittedly only in our hearts and minds...the earth knows its own names and what we assign is ultimately only of true importance to our various peoples.  

Menzies' Last Word:

Although numbers do have the capacity to become iconic, memorable or impactful, e.g. 9/11, Area 51, Prisoner 24601, 1984, etc., the truest of powers resides in words.  We name things - our children, our homes, our lands, our weapons - to give them strength and identity.  

We should not be living in binary code, we need the warmth and sense of place that comes with written language.

In Calgary's Garrison Woods, the developer Canada Lands Corporation has used authentic military names that celebrate the land being home to a Canadian Armed Forces Based for many years.