Did You Ever Hear the Blues? The Music, Film and Influence of Big Miller

JC-1980-Cover
Big Miller on the cover of the August 1980 edition of the Edmonton Jazzette. That shirt is due for a comeback. Photo provided by the Yardbird Suite.

Generally speaking, the ol’ City of Champs hasn’t been known as an international hub of art and culture as say, Montreal, New York City or Los Angeles. Artists of all stripes – musicians, dancers, visual artists – tend to get their feet wet in Edmonton then head off for the greener pastures of large international centres of creativity. So to hear stories of popular artists choosing to do the opposite and actually move to Edmonton to pursue creative endeavours (in the 1970s no less!), well, that’s something worth exploring.

Jazz music has a long history in Edmonton; incredible venues like the Yardbird Suite are recognized as important institutions in the city and former events, like the Jazz City Festival are recognized for their historical role in promoting the genre in the city and province. This week is the 2018 Edmonton International Jazz Festival. Since 2006 this festival has brought some of the world’s finest jazz musicians and acts to Alberta and has promoted local musicians at an internationally recognized venue. This week’s blog post is about one of those unique Edmonton transplants, one that may not be as well-known as jazz contemporaries Tommy Banks and PJ Perry, but one who certainly deserves to be recognized in the same ranks – the great trombonist and Kansas City Blues singer Clarence Horatius “Big” Miller. Read more

The Arrival of the Hutterites in Alberta

Thank you to guest writers Simon Evans and Peter Peller for this interesting and informative post about Hutterite arrival in Alberta. This blog was drawn from an article originally published in Alberta History Magazine titled “The Hutterites Come to Alberta” (Alberta History, Vol. 63, No. 4, (Autumn 2015), 11-19).

One hundred years ago, during the early spring of 1918, Paul Stahl and a small group of Hutterite leaders were scouring the country north of Calgary looking for land. After several disappointments, they found a splendid parcel of land along the tiny Rosebud River and purchased nearly 4000 acres from the Calgary Colonization Company. Some men stayed to build barns and residences for the rest of the community. Later, the main group left South Dakota on a special train to join them. There were almost 100 people of all ages, scores of horses, wagons, milk cows, 40 sows, and all kinds of farm machinery and household items onboard. They crossed into the Dominion of Canada at the Emerson Port of Entry and proceeded on the Canadian Pacific Railway to Strathmore. Here, they unpacked their belongings, hitched up the horses and moved by wagon to the new colony site along the Rosebud River, a trek of about 25 miles. After a week of traveling, the refugees finally reached their new home.

The Hutterites are a German speaking religious group with 400 years of history. They are Anabaptists and originated in the Austrian Tyrol during the Reformation in the 16th century. The characteristic that separates them from similar groups like the Amish and the Mennonites is that they live communally. Each family has its own apartment, but meals are prepared in a central kitchen and eaten together. They hold “all things common,” as did the early Christian church described in the Acts of the Apostles. Hutterites own few personal possessions and are not paid wages for their hard work. In exchange, the colony looks after them from birth to death. Read more

Papa’s Babies: The Brook Family and the First World War

Thank you to our guest author Ashley Henrickson for this interesting post. Ashley is a M.A. student at the University of Lethbridge and the Museum Educator at the Galt Museum and Archives. Her research examines the experiences of young people living in the Canadian Prairies whose fathers or brothers served overseas during the First World War. Ashley received the Roger Soderstrom Scholarship in 2017. The funds from this scholarship allowed her to visit archives across Alberta and present her research at “Children, Youth, and War,” a symposium hosted by the University of Georgia.

A never-ending cycle of children, chores, and neighbors cut through Isabelle Brook’s home, constantly interrupting the letters she wrote at her kitchen table. Isabelle apologized for her “jumbled up” proses as she paused to prepare dinner, answer the door, or tend to her busy children: “Alice is here wiggling around like a little eel, so I must quit”; “Gordon is wakening up I must go”; “Glen’s upset the ink over the table cloth now.” The constant movement suggests that life for Isabelle and her five children may have been lonely without their father, but it was not dull.

The hundreds of “jumbled up” letters that Isabelle wrote from her kitchen table in Craigmyle, Alberta, are a valuable and vibrant record of Alberta’s past. She sent these letters to her forty-five-year-old husband, Sidney Brook, who served on the Western Front with the Canadian Expeditionary Force from 1916-1918. In response Sidney sent hundreds of letters to his family, which were preserved alongside Isabelle’s by their descendants and then donated to the Glenbow Archives. The Brook’s collection is especially valuable because very few letters sent from families living in Alberta to soldiers serving overseas have survived to the modern day. This is because soldiers, like Sidney, were constantly moving across the Western Front and had to carry all their personal belongings with them. This forced them to destroy all but a few precious letters that they could fit in their pocket.

Letter from Sidney Brook to his wife Isabelle, January 7, 1917 (from the Brook family fonds, Glenbow Museum and Archives, http://www.glenbow.org/collections/search/findingAids/archhtm/brook.cfm).

Read more

Ice Age Fossils and Industry

The Quaternary Palaeontology program at the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) works with stakeholders in the sand & gravel industry to recover and preserve the Ice Age fossil record of the province. As the source of thousands of the fossil specimens housed in our collections, the sand & gravel industry provides the basis for significant scientific collections, research, outreach, and exhibits. The working relationship of the RAM and the sand & gravel industry originates in the late 1980s and 1990s, when museum staff began active efforts to engage companies and their staff, most notably in gravel pits in the Edmonton area. Those efforts manifested in a number of formal (e.g., regulatory processes) and less formal ways (highlighted here), all with the intent of maximizing the recovery of fossil remains while minimizing impacts to industry.

Ice Age horse metapodials (foot bones) from Edmonton-area gravel pits. These are in the collections at the Royal Alberta Museum.

Engaging Industry

Shortly after arriving at the Royal Alberta Museum in 2008, I set up a meeting with Lafarge, a company with considerable sand & gravel interests. My intent was to rekindle the working relationship with Lafarge that was established by my predecessor at the museum. As a naïve scientist, I anticipated a low-key conversation regarding fossils in gravel pits. I walked into a meeting with seven people from Lafarge, including legal, and I quickly realized that from the company’s Read more

Newton’s Lilacs: Edmonton’s Hermitage, 1876-1900

In a remote corner of north east Edmonton, bounded by Clareview Road and 129th Avenue, is a small unmarked parcel of land commanding a dramatic view of the North Saskatchewan River valley. Only faint ground depressions and a small interpretive marker betray the fact that this is the location of Canon William Newton’s Hermitage and the birthplace of the Anglican Church in what would become the Province of Alberta.

“The Hermitage” by Ella May Walker, City of Edmonton Archives, EAA-1-27.

William Newton was born in 1828 at Halstead, Essex, England into a family of weavers. Having obtained an education through the help of wealthy benefactors, he trained for the Unitarian Church, served as a Congregationalist minister and published two books of sermons. In 1870 he immigrated to Canada and was ordained into the Anglican Church by Bishop A.N. Bethune of Toronto. He spent four years at Rosseau and Howard Township in Ontario before being accepted by Bishop John McLean of Saskatchewan as a missionary with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel at Fort Edmonton. Read more

Alberta Museums Association: Championing Alberta’s Museums

The Alberta Museums Assocation, founded in 1971, is a non-profit society whose mission is to lead, facilitate, and support museums in their vital role with communities. The Museums Association now has more than 200 Institutional and 250 Individual Members among its membership. The Association is one of five provincial heritage organizations that receive annual funding from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. May 18th is International Museums Day, a day to raise awareness of the importance of museums. Be sure to visit one of your local Alberta museums to celebrate!

Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, Drumheller Valley. Photo Credit: Erika Price @erykahprice

Museums are invaluable resources and contributors to communities; they educate, they engage, they convene, they inspire, they question, and they evolve. The Alberta Museums Association (AMA) champions the value of museums to stakeholders across the province and beyond, and works to ensure that museums create dynamic connections with their communities. We also offer a variety of programs and services, including:

  • Professional development opportunities, including our Annual Conference, Certificate in Museum Studies, and other specialized learning events to increase the professionalization of the sector;
  • Allocation of funding to museums and museum professionals to facilitate the completion of innovative work throughout the province, and;
  • Administration of the Recognized Museum Program to help museums fulfill their public trust responsibilities and ensure their succession for the future.

These programs are extensively used and have proven valuable to members as they reinvent themselves and solidify their roles as connected, creative hubs in their communities. Read more

Kirkness House: Two Edmonton Pioneers

Thank you to Melanie Moore (Board Member of the Highlands Historical Society in Edmonton) for sharing this important piece of history. 

There is an old house in the Virginia Park neighbourhood of Edmonton, on 73rd Street and Ada Boulevard. Now empty, it has seen better years. The shingles are coming off, the paint old and faded, the yard overgrown. When asked about the house, neighbours knew little of its story.

Kirkness House, Edmonton, 2018 (photograph by Melanie Moore).

Having recently explored the history of my own 100 year old home in Edmonton, I decided to find out more. James Kirkness, and his wife Sarah Steinhauer, built the house in 1909. Prior to that, he and Sarah lived in an adjacent log cabin where they raised their children. The City of Edmonton Archives has a painted-over photograph of James in front of the 1870s log cabin with the new 1909 house behind. Likely James had the painting commissioned, put it in an ornate frame, and hung it proudly in his new home. Read more