Pranks and Fun: Social Life at Old St. Stephen’s College

The history of Old St. Stephen’s College spans over a century and while the building itself is unique, it is the people have who have lived and worked here that bring out its uniqueness.[1] In its time as an educational facility, the college produced a large number of graduates who went on to become ministers, employed renowned educators and housed thousands of students. Residents participated in the traditions and customs of campus life and the building became eminent for the pranks that were carried out there. This post will look at the people of Old St. Stephen’s when it functioned as a theological college and some of the stories that illustrate the student’s social lives.

Students using the fire escape slide at St. Stephen's College, October 1940  (Courtesy of the University of Alberta Archives, UAA 72-58-0294).

Students using the fire escape slide at St. Stephen’s College, October 1940
(Courtesy of the University of Alberta Archives, UAA 72-58-0294).

Students were the majority of the building’s inhabitants: up to 150 youths were housed in the college at once and they didn’t spend all their free time studying. After the First World War, the college installed steel spiraled slides, to be used as fire escapes, at the end of each wing. During this time, the college had become a convalescent home for injured soldiers and the fires escapes were meant to evacuate patients as quickly as possible in an emergency. The fire escapes were never used for their intended purpose, but the students made use of them for their own enjoyment. Freshmen were initiated by their fellow classmates, who would dump the unlucky first years down the slides and then chase them with buckets of ice water. This custom continued into the 1970s, up until the fire escapes were removed during the renovations and replaced with ladders. In addition to the pranks and hazing that took place, there were water fights with neighboring residences that highlight the enjoyment of student life on campus. The students had a great deal of playful fun here.

Another tale is from when the Rutherford Library was being constructed in 1948. On the evening of the cornerstone-laying ceremony, the cornerstone mysteriously disappeared, only to turn up behind the college’s west wing fire escape. The stone weighed 700 pounds, and everyone presumed that engineering students were the culprits. However, in 2008, the secret was revealed in New Trail, the University of Alberta’s Alumni magazine. The escapade was actually the work of a group of agriculture students living at St. Stephen’s College. Turns out, the students borrowed a milk cart from the St. Stephen’s kitchen and attempted to haul the stone as far as 109 Street. Being heavier than anticipated, they only made it as far as St. Stephen’s College. To the student’s dismay, the stone was discovered just hours before the cornerstone-laying and the ceremony proceeded as planned.

Old St. Stephen’s College, 1971 (Historic Resources Management Branch, 71-R0001-29).  The tubed fire escapes on the wings of the building were installed in 1920.

Old St. Stephen’s College, 1971 (Historic Resources Management Branch, 71-R0001-29).
The tubed fire escapes on the wings of the building were installed in 1920.

Faculty members would also fall victim to the student’s pranks. The day after Halloween one year, John Henry Riddell, the College’s first principal, saw that his buggy was balanced unsteadily on one the building’s towers. Once again, the engineering students from the University of Alberta were thought to have assisted with this feat. Although no details could be found on who was responsible, it likely would have been worthwhile for the students to see the look on their administrator’s face. Pranks such as these were seemingly all in good fun, and as one former student states, they “built character and helped form fast friendships.”

In addition to pranks, there were Glee clubs, Students’ Council and various intramural activities for students to participate in. Physical recreation played a large role in student life at the college. Friendly sports rivalries were encouraged and the students had access to the tennis courts, a gym for basketball games and even skating parties were organized. Once the college’s ban on dances was lifted in the 1940s, students were able to attend university dances, including the well-known Sadie Hawkins Dance. Dormitory life helped to foster a communal atmosphere spirit among students and many residents have fond memories of their time spent at the college. Even the brochure for the St. Stephen’s Ladies’ College noted that “the social life [was] just delightful.”

Formal group portrait of the members of the Alberta College South Glee Club, 1912-1913 (Provincial Archives of Alberta, A16351).

Formal group portrait of the members of the Alberta College South Glee Club, 1912-1913 (Provincial Archives of Alberta, A16351).

When the building was home for the students of St. Stephen’s College, it was a place where friendships were formed, bonds between students and instructors were strengthened and fun was had. The building has seen thousands of staff and students pass through its hallways and numerous tales have been accumulated. These stories help to illustrate the liveliness of the former college and show us that it is the people who make history come alive.

What can you tell us about your time spent at Old St. Stephen’s College? Let us know your stories!

Written by: Erin Hoar, Historic Resources Management Branch Officer.

Sources:

Alberta Register of Historic Places. “Old St. Stephen’s College.” (Accessed September 10, 2014).

Designation File # 132, in the custody of the Historic Resources Management Branch.

Elson, D. J. C. “History Trails: Faith, Labour, and Dreams.” University of Alberta Alumni Association. (Accessed September 23, 2014).access

Schoeck, Ellen. I Was There: A Century of Alumni Stories about the University of Alberta, 1906-2006. Edmonton, Canada: The University of Alberta Press, 2006.

Simonson, Gayle. Ever-Widening Circles: A History of St. Stephen’s College. Edmonton, Canada: St. Stephen’s College, 2008.

The Caper.” New Trail: The University of Alberta Alumni Association, 2008, 26-28 (Accessed September 13, 2015).

University of Alberta. “University of Alberta: St. Stephen’s College.” (Accessed September 10, 2014).

[1] A note on naming: the institution was initially known as Alberta College South. ACS and Robertson College were amalgamated in 1925 and renamed the United Theological College. The name St. Stephen’s College was chosen in 1927. It became known as Old St. Stephen’s College in 1952 when a new St. Stephen’s was built directly south of the existing college.

AHRF Board goes to Drumheller

Board members of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation (AHRF) recently held their first meeting for 2015 in Drumheller. The two-day meeting kicked off late Thursday afternoon with a walking tour of downtown. Though held under frigid temperatures, the tour was led with a warm welcome from the Town’s staff.

Friday morning was dedicated to a strategic planning session at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Thanks to Fred Tyrrell, a Community Development Officer from Alberta Culture and Tourism, who served as our facilitator. Topics explored included: promoting greater appreciation for Alberta’s heritage among new Albertans; ensuring that the not-for-profit and voluntary sectors so essential to our province’s heritage facilities and sites are sustainable and strong; and developing innovative and compelling ways to share Alberta’s story.

As part of the foundation’s efforts to reach out to the local heritage stakeholders, Julia Fielding, Executive Director of the Atlas Coal Mine Historical Society came and chatted with the board about the challenges and opportunities faced by the Atlas Coal Mine, a Provincial and National Historic Site in East Coulee.

The afternoon continued with a conference call with our colleagues from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts who provided us a glimpse of how they operate. Then it was time to get up for a special treat – a behind the scenes tour led by Don Brinkman, Director of Preservation and Research of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Don showed us the intricate and exciting process of preparing fossils after being collected from the field.

Sitting from left: Matthew Wangler, Kurt Paterson, Josh Traptow, Joe Friedel, Leah Millar. Standing from left: Carina Naranjilla, Michael Dougherty, Fred Bradley, Larry Pearson, Lorne Simpson, Aimee Benoit, Laurel Halladay, Bob Gaetz, Geraldine Bidulock.

Sitting from left: Matthew Wangler, Kurt Paterson, Josh Traptow, Joe Friedel, Leah Millar.
Standing from left: Carina Naranjilla, Michael Dougherty, Fred Bradley, Larry Pearson, Lorne Simpson, Aimee Benoit, Laurel Halladay, Bob Gaetz, Geraldine Bidulock.

Saturday was another busy day, starting with presentations from the five Provincial Heritage Organizations (Alberta Genealogical Society, Alberta Museums Association, Archives Society of Alberta, Archaeological Society of Alberta and Historical Society of Alberta) that AHRF supports. This gathering provided an excellent opportunity for networking and future collaboration. The rest of the afternoon was the main board meeting where a number of general business items and applications from the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program and Alberta Main Street Program were discussed.

Those two productive days emphasized the need for strategic thinking, collaboration, engagement, and sustainability in order to preserve Alberta’s heritage.

Written by: Carina Naranjilla, Grant Program Coordinator, Alberta Historical Resources Foundation.

Turner Valley Oil and Gas Place Names – Part 2

Little Big Towns (or Big Little Towns?)

A few months back, we ran a blog post about the establishment of Alberta’s oil and gas industry at Turner Valley and the two major, and still extant, towns that developed to serve that industry – Turner Valley and Black Diamond. These two places were not the only communities that grew so suddenly and substantially with the discovery of oil in the region. In 1936, the Turner Valley Royalties Company struck oil near Longview Hill (known locally as “The Big Hill”). Oil workers again flooded to the region and numerous new communities were established. Two notable communities were given unofficial, and ironically refined, monikers – “Little Chicago” and “Little New York.”

Detail of the 1945 edition of NTS Map Sheet 82 J/09. Royalties and Longview are at the south end of the map. Although smaller than both Turner Valley and Black Diamond to the north, the two boom towns are shown as being of considerable size.   Source: Department of Mines and Resources. Map 819A, Turner Valley, West of the Fifth Meridian, Alberta. Scale 1:63,360 (1 Inch to 1 Mile), 82 J/09. Ottawa: Government of Canada, 1945. Available from Natural Resources Canada. GeoGratis http://geogratis.gc.ca/geogratis/Home?lang=en.

Detail of the 1945 edition of NTS Map Sheet 82 J/09. Royalties and Longview are at the south end of the map. Although smaller than both Turner Valley and Black Diamond to the north, the two boom towns are shown as being of considerable size.
Source: Department of Mines and Resources. Map 819A, Turner Valley, West of the Fifth Meridian, Alberta. Scale 1:63,360 (1 Inch to 1 Mile), 82 J/09. Ottawa: Government of Canada, 1945. Available from Natural Resources Canada. GeoGratis http://geogratis.gc.ca/geogratis/Home?lang=en.

Royalties (aka “Little Chicago”)

About 15 kilometres south of Turner Valley and Black Diamond along Highway 22 is the former community of Royalties. Little remains there today, but it was once a bustling community. Following the discovery of oil at the Turner Valley Royalties No. 1 well, a collection of shops and dwellings quickly grew nearby. In 1937, a post office opened at the town site and, due to the community’s proximity to and association with the nearby oil well, the post office and town site were given the name Royalties, but most of its residents and other locals did not use that name. Most of them called the community “Little Chicago.”

The precise origin of the name “Little Chicago” is not known, but there are a number of theories. One story is that the many American oil workers in the area ironically compared the frenetic activity of the little town site to the bustling mid-west American city. To further complement the comparison, a small slough near the town site became known as “Lake Michigan.” Another, and even more colourful origin story, concerns Rex Warman, the owner of the first store in the community. According to Rex’s wife Florence, her husband was known locally as “Little Al Capone” or “Little Scarface” due to a scar on his upper lip. Although, she also said that some people felt the store’s prices, marked high to cover transportation costs, were extortionist, which may have contributed to her husband’s Capone-esque nickname – Al “Scarface” Capone, being the legendary Chicago mob boss and rum-runner. It is an easy leap for the store location to become known as “Little Chicago.”

Little Chicago (Royalties), Alberta, 1940. Like Little New York (Longview) to the south, Little Chicago, or Royalties, developed quickly after the 1936 oil strike in Turner Valley. The unofficial name was likely a sarcastic reference to the frantic pace of development at the town site, or a not-so-polite reference to a local shopkeeper. (Glenbow Archives, NA-4344-30).

Little Chicago (Royalties), Alberta, 1940. Little New York (Longview) to the south and Little Chicago developed quickly after the 1936 oil strike in Turner Valley. (Glenbow Archives, NA-4344-30).

According to the local history Tales and Trails, at its height, Royalties consisted of a Hudson’s Bay store, two oil well supply depots, three trucking companies, a machine shop, three lumber yards, two garages, a furniture store, three grocery stores, many boarding houses, restaurants and a dance hall with a theatre. The boom times in Royalties did not last. As drilling tapered off, people and businesses left the community. The post office closed in 1969 and the sole remaining business, a gas station, shut down a short time later. Today, there is really nothing left on the landscape to show the existence of the community.

Longview (aka “Little New York”)

Located about 15 kilometres south of Turner Valley and Black Diamond (and four kilometres south of Royalties) is the village of Longview. Longview predates the discovery of oil and gas in the region, but the community flourished because of the oil. The name Longview came into official use when a post office of that name was opened in July 1908 in Section 25 of Township 18-2-W5. A number of possible origins for the name have been proposed. The most likely origin is that the name came about due to the location of the post office near the “Big Hill” which allowed one to see for a considerable distance, or have a “long view.” Other accounts suggest the community was named for Thomas Long, a schoolteacher who arrived in the area in 1895 and filed for a homestead on the hill.

View from the Longview Hill, November 1936. The oilfield community of Longview, or Little New York, was established near the foot of this prominent hill. (Glenbow Archives, IP-6d-3-13).

View from the Longview Hill, November 1936. The oilfield community of Longview, or Little New York, was established near the foot of this prominent hill. (Glenbow Archives, IP-6d-3-13).

Historically, the Longview area had been associated with agriculture (ranching and farming); and today it is well known for its connections to Canadian country music (Ian Tyson shout out!). However, following the 1936 oil discovery, a boom town developed in Section 20 of Township 18-2-W5, about eight miles west of the Longview post office. Like Royalties to the north, the town site was quickly flooded with rig workers, their families and a range of associated camp followers. Mud-clogged or dust-chocked streets, depending on the weather, criss-crossed the community and inexpensive and rudimentary shacks were built practically overnight for use as houses, stores, banks and other services. The level of activity was so frantic that Longview became known, probably with a great deal of tongue-in-cheek, as “Little New York.” A local history of Longview suggests that the community’s residents did not want to be upstaged by “Little Chicago” up the road and did them one better by adopting the larger American city as their unofficial namesake.

Longview, Alberta  1940-1945. The community was known as “Little New York” following a 1936 oil discovery in Turner Valley. It was likely a sarcastic reference to the frantic pace of development at the town site. (Glenbow Archives, PA-3538-2).

Longview, Alberta 1940-1945. The community was known as “Little New York” following a 1936 oil discovery in Turner Valley. It was likely a sarcastic reference to the frantic pace of development at the town site. (Glenbow Archives, PA-3538-2).

In 1937, the Longview post office moved from the hill to the town site and the community became Longview, although it continued to be referred to as “Little New York” for many years. Towards the end of the 1940s, oil boom growth had settled and with it, so did the pace of development in the area. Unlike Royalties, which essentially disappeared, Longview continued to exist as a rather sedate little hamlet. On January 1, 1964, Longview, with a population of 206 was officially made a village.

Through history, many resource communities have been given ironic, unusual and occasionally ribald names. Often these names are not the ones that end up being approved by naming authorities for use on official maps. For many of these communities and places, such as Longview and Royalties, the unofficial names continue to be used by those most familiar with the place and its history. The culture and history of a place can be read through the names on its maps, but sometimes, the names not on the maps can tell us much more.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator.

Sources and Additional Resources:

In the Light of the Flares: History of Turner Valley Oilfields, (Turner Valley: Sheep River Historical Society, 1979).

Tales and Trails: A History of Longview and Surrounding Area, (Longview: Tales and Trails History Book Society, 1973).

Not the song but the singing; not the object but its making

March 20th marked the first day of spring.

In our family, we have a tradition of celebrating the event by sitting around a special table setting and observing the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator on its way north along the ecliptic! In the Northern Hemisphere, this is known as the Spring Equinox. We call it Norooz literally translating to “new day.” We inherited this tradition from our grandparents and we try to pass it along to our children in hopes of keeping it alive for the times to come.

Haft Seen - The traditional table setting for Norooz which includes seven symbolic items starting with the letter ‘S’ or ‘Seen’ in the Persian alphabet (Photo by Alireza Farrokhi).

Haft Seen – The traditional table setting for Norooz which includes seven symbolic items starting with the letter ‘S’ or ‘Seen’ in the Persian alphabet (Photo by Alireza Farrokhi).

Similarly, we inherited a traditional doll made by our late grandmother. It is valuable to our family as it reminds us of her and the stories she shared. We make sure to keep it safe until such a time that our children are old enough to care for it.

Both Norooz and the doll are important to me; they are what I would like to preserve for the next generations; they are “my heritage.”

While the doll is cherished only in a small circle of people close to me, my family is not alone in celebrating Norooz. The festivities, which usually last 13 days, are celebrated by more than 300 million people worldwide (including three individuals in the Historic Resources Management Branch). You might see it spelled interchangeably as Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz, Nevruz or Norooz as it marks the New Year in many regions including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

The doll is an artifact, a tangible object with associative values made by people. It can be physically handed over to the next generations. Norooz, on the other hand, is a cultural practice and an example of intangible heritage.

Doll making traditions have been part of almost every culture. Dolls are more than mere playthings, often representing costumes and other cultural practices. This Doll was made by our late grandmother, demonstrating the continuation of such traditions in our family (Photo by Alireza Farrokhi).

Doll making traditions have been part of almost every culture. Dolls are more than mere playthings, often representing costumes and other cultural practices. This Doll was made by our late grandmother, demonstrating the continuation of such traditions in our family (Photo by Alireza Farrokhi).

In 2003, recognizing that cultural heritage does not end at monuments and artifacts, and to emphasize the important role that traditions, social practices, rituals, knowledge and skills have in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The Convention defines intangible cultural heritage as:

Practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills […] that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. […It] is transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity […] Intangible Cultural Heritage is traditional, contemporary and living at the same time; it is inclusive, representative and community-based.

Intangible cultural heritage is manifested in the following domains:

  • oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
  • performing arts;
  • social practices, rituals and festive events;
  • knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
  • traditional craftsmanship.

As of May 2014, the Convention has been ratified by 161 State Parties and 314 elements have been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Norooz promotes the values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families, as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and various communities. In 2009, Norooz was added to the Representative List.

Haft Seen setting

Haft Seen setting (photo taken by one of our colleagues in Calgary).

Looking out the window, I see snow is melting away; trees are waking up; the ground is breathing. I am witnessing a cosmic event. Norooz is my heritage, what is yours? Please share yours with us in the comments.

And by the way: Happy Spring, Happy Persian New Year!

Written by: Alireza Farrokhi, Head of Conservation and Construction Services, Historic Places Stewardship.

 

It’s #MuseumWeek!

Between March 23rd and 29th, museums from all over the world will join together to celebrate culture on Twitter!

#MuseumWeek began in Europe last year and 2015 will be the first time that the cultural event goes global. This event gives museums the opportunity to present their artifacts, secrets and stories to a worldwide audience, while encouraging people to snap and share photos of themselves enjoying a museum visit.

Image courtesy of museumweek2015.org.

Image courtesy of museumweek2015.org.

7 days, 7 themes, 7 hashtags is the programme focus for this year. Thematic hashtags allow museums to promote and celebrate their individual history and provide tips, while connecting with communities around the world. On Wednesday, #architectureMW will explore the architectural heritage and surroundings of museums. Friday’s theme, #familyMW, will provide advice for families or schools planning to visit a museum. This is a fantastic opportunity to gain insight into your favourite museum!

A number of Alberta museums and historic sites have signed up to participate in this online initiative including the Galt Museum, Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, Glenbow Museum, Royal Alberta Museum and Royal Tyrrell Museum. A full list of participating museums can be found here.

To find out more, refer to the #MuseumWeek website and follow them on Twitter to join the conversation!

Written by: Erin Hoar, Historic Resources Management Branch Officer.

Main Streeting in Camrose

The Main Street crew standing outside the historic Bailey Theatre

The Main Street team standing outside the historic Bailey Theatre.

The Alberta Main Street Program members met in Camrose on March 5th for the first quarterly meeting of 2015. After getting an update on the activities of each of the five Main Street communities (Camrose, Lethbridge, Old Strathcona – Edmonton, Olds and Wainwright), we were led on a walking tour of downtown Camrose by the architect and Main Street Camrose member, David Roth. The walking tour concluded with a reconnaissance of the lovingly restored historic Bailey Theatre.

After lunch we were able to connect via Skype with Charles Ketchabaw of the Tale of a Town initiative. Charles and his team are working their way across Canada collecting stories about main streets in advance of the nation’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017. The Tale of a Town ‘story-mobile’ will be visiting Alberta in 2016 and Charles is looking for communities interested in contributing to the initiative. Watch this video to learn more.

A few of the Coordinators are off to experience Main Street, America-style at the 2015 National Main Streets conference being held in Atlanta, Georgia. We look forward to hearing all about it at the next group meeting to be held in Wainwright in May.

And speaking of Main Street, we’d like to remind you that you still have until the end of March to enter Heritage Canada the National Trust’s I Love My Main Street contest.

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Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer