Sunday, 6 July 2014

History Yahhoooooo: Question Round-Up

Not a fan of my stampede puns, or the dude riding him.
Howdy! It's that time's the Calgary Stampede! I like the music and the food mostly, but I also like the whole imagined west thing going on, and seeing the seniors in my community line up for another pancake breakfast with real happiness in their eyes!

In honour of the Stampede, I'm roping in some history questions asked by people about my hometown to me in recent weeks. First, the most obvious one:

When men wore real moustaches
Q: How old is the Calgary Stampede and how did it start?

The stampede celebrated it's 100th anniversary in 2012. The origin story of the stampede is pretty chill: no Michael Bay robots or epic battle scenes. Calgary was the host for the Dominion Exhibition in 1908. Government funds supported the construction of an exhibits building, the roofed grandstand, the livestock exhibits building and several barns. A local rancher, Guy Weadick, decided that these great building were perfect for a on-going rodeo. He approached four rich guys - Pat Burns, George Lane, A.E Cross and A.J. Maclean - and got financial backing to start the first “Frontier Days and Cowboy Championship Contest”in 1912. Because of World War I, the rodeo was not held again until 1919. It was called the Victory Stampede in honour of the end of World War I.

Q: My English teacher said Calgary’s nickname was ‘Cowtown’. Why is it called cowtown?

A: The name ‘Cowtown’ is because of Calgary’s ranching history. In the early days, Calgary was the centre of a large ranching community. These ranches were beef producers who had hundreds of cows that they raised. Also, there were a lot of cowboys that worked the ranches. They drove the cattle, meaning they moved them from place to place to eat the grass. Many communities today in Calgary were originally ranches, such as Midnapore and Ranchlands. However, Cowtown is an old nickname and not used very often. I'm very thankful for that because the stockyards were moved about 20 years ago out of town. You have no idea how bad they smelt.

Q: When was the LRT (Light Rail Transit) or C-train system built in Calgary?

A: Calgary was growing and the number of people using the bus system was growing. A study done by the City of Calgary in 1967 recommended a two-line train system. But it was put off due to cost until 1975 when the plans were drawn for the C-train. The first station and line opened in 1981. It needed to be done for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, and it was. To my horror, some of the first train cars from back then are still running. Did I mention the old ones have no air conditioning?

Q: Why does Calgary have so many oil companies?

Where's my pancakes?
A: Huge reserves of oil were found in southern Alberta in 1947. Many new oil companies decided to make their main office in Calgary as it was the biggest city in the area. People moved from all over Canada and the world to work in the oil industry because there was more money and opportunities. Companies like Imperial Oil moved their head offices to Calgary in the 1990s because the city was so large and close to the oil and gas reserves and industry. Since then, the oil and gas companies make up for all the money they rip off the province by hosting pancake breakfasts, because nothing makes a Canadian forget what's wrong with the world than a free piece of fried dough.

Q: When did Calgary get a hockey team, the Calgary Flames?

A: The team was actually founded in Atlanta, Georgia, USA in 1972. The team struggled there to gain supporters, and the owner wanted to sell the team. The team was bought by Canadian businessman Nelson Skalbaniawere. The city and local businesses made it appealing to the new owners to move to Calgary as they were going to have a new arena built for the, the Saddledome. Their original logo - seen here - was ditched for basically the same thing, just a C instead.

Q: Someone told me that you don’t have to go outside in the winter if you work downtown Calgary because of the Plus 15 (+15) system. What is that?

A: The Plus 15 system is a series of bridges or skywalks that connect buildings in the downtown area 15 feet above street level. In the late 1960s, city planner Harold Hanen designed a system where people could access all the other buildings but avoid the cold wind and winter of Calgary. Opened first in 1970, it is now 16 kilometres long, and has currently 59 bridges.

I wasn't kidding when I said it was a shed.
 Q: What is the oldest building in Calgary

A tiny, rundown shed — part of the Hudson's Bay fur trading post — is Calgary's oldest building but a lack of funding and time are working against its preservation. The Hunt House was built in 1876 on the east side of the Elbow River, using logs floated down the waterway. It served as a cabin home to an official with the Hudson's Bay Company. It currently sits behind Fort Calgary's Deane House restaurant in the southeast neighbourhood of Inglewood. William Hunt lived in the house until the mid-'70s when he willed the property to the city. His beautiful garden also still remains. Since then, it has sat untouched as a storage shed until this year, when the Fort Calgary historical society has begun a major restoration.

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