This Week in Western Canadian History
December 12 - December 18
December
17
1822

Peter Fidler, fur-trader, explorer and cartographer, died at Fort Dauphin [Manitoba] on December 17, 1822. Fidler joined the Hudson's Bay Company as a labourer in 1788. He had received some formal education, and soon learned surveying and astronomy. Fidler was highly respected for his abilities as a cartographer, and several of his maps were sent back to London and used as the basis for future explorations by the Company. Fidler kept detailed journals and diaries at the posts at which he served, and his notebooks provide a valuable record of life at the early fur-trade posts.

December
12
1883

Canadian Pacific Railway crews digging for water struck natural gas at Langevin, Alberta (west of present-day Medicine Hat). When lit, the flame from the gas lit up the surrounding country, and because of the danger of fire the drilling crews had to stop working at night.

December
14
1905

Doctors in southern Alberta demanded that the provincial government control the amount of pollution (specifically human waste) that was contaminating Alberta's rivers. They claimed that the regular outbreaks of typhoid experienced by most communities were attributable to the filthy water. Local media and the public were not convinced and argued that almost all rivers and streams in Alberta were glacial in origin, and that the temperature and speed of the water inhibited the growth of disease-bearing organisms.

December
14
1911

Commercial travellers' associations across North America united to curtail the practice of tipping staff in hotels and restaurants. In Calgary, however, some travelling salesmen were concerned about the effect that such a ban would have on the service they received. Several of them suggested that the demeanor of service staff was sullen enough and wondered what depths it would sink to without the ameliorating influence of the prospective tip. The gratuity system was claimed to be the only protection the public had against a waiter.

December
12
1916

Father Lacombe, 1884 Known to the Blackfoot as "Man of Good Heart," Father Albert Lacombe died in the early morning of December 12, 1916, at the Lacombe Home in Midnapore, Alberta. Lacombe was born in St. Suplice, Quebec, in 1827. As a young boy he knew that he wanted to serve as a missionary to the native peoples of Canada's west. After ordination he was sent to Fort Garry and in 1852 to Fort Edmonton. He lived among the Cree for many years, and in 1881 went further south to live among the Blackfoot. In the early 1880s, as the first surveyors for the Canadian Pacific Railway made their way across the prairie, Lacombe negotiated a sometimes uneasy truce between the Blackfoot and the railway workers. In recognition of his efforts at keeping the peace, on August 10, 1883, Lacombe was elected president of the Canadian Pacific Railway for one hour and given a life-long pass to travel by the railroad. Lacombe continued his work with the native peoples of southern Alberta and served as priest at St. Mary's Parish in the new settlement of Calgary. In 1909, he founded the Lacombe Home for the orphaned, aged, and indigent, and it was there that he died.

December
17
1918

A farmer in central Alberta committed suicide after his wife refused to live with him and fled to the United States. The farmer had secured a homestead in a rural district and advertised for a wife to join him. A young woman from Eastern Europe responded to his advertisement and the couple was married. After a few days of hard physical labour, living in a primitive shack with no running water or electricity, and only a wood stove for cooking and heat, the young wife fled. The despondent farmer hanged himself, but because of the isolation of his homestead, his body wasn't discovered for several weeks.

December
14
1921

Skating on Elbow RiverCalgary's public school board faced heavy criticism for forbidding children to skate on school ice rinks on Sundays. Doctors and parents pointed out that skating was good exercise, and if children weren't permitted to use the rinks they would simply skate on the river -- a more dangerous alternative. School board officials maintained that children wouldn't learn appropriate respect for the Lord's Day if the board permitted noisy games on school rinks on Sunday.

December
14
1929

After years of negotiation, Alberta Premier Brownlee signed an agreement with the federal government that awarded control of Alberta's natural resources to the province. (Unlike other Canadian provinces, the prairie provinces did not receive control over their resources when they entered Confederation.) The agreement meant that Alberta finally gained jurisdiction over, and revenues from, land, water, oil and other resources.

December
18
1937

The head instructor for the provincial domestic service training courses suggested that the demands of maids in Toronto were excessive, and recommended that young Calgary women be more conciliatory in their relations with their employers. The Toronto women had compiled a list of Ten Commandments for Mistresses which included a demand for one whole day and two half days off each week. If such were granted, said Mrs. Lewis, the profession would soon be over-crowded, since most office-workers received only Saturday afternoons and Sundays. "A half day a week and every other Sunday, as well as such time in the evening as is convenient to her employers, is as much as a girl can expect," declared Mrs. Lewis. The Toronto maids also expected $30 per month plus room and board, but Mrs. Lewis noted that girls in Calgary could not expect anything like that amount.

December
17
1939

Instructors in Lethbridge, Alberta On December 17, 1939, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan agreement was signed. The agreement between Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand made Canada the centre of a programme to instruct Allied airmen during the Second World War. The training for pilots, navigators, wireless operators and gunners was conducted by instructors from the Royal Canadian Air Force at 107 schools and 184 ancillary units across Canada.

December
18
1946

Four German prisoners of war were hanged at the Lethbridge Provincial Jail for the murder of a fellow prisoner at the Medicine Hat prisoner of war camp in September, 1944. The victim, Cpl. Karl Lehmann, was the suspected leader of a Communist conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi leadership in the camp. The four Germans were offended that they were to be executed in the company of a convicted child-murderer and requested that they be executed by firing squad as befitted their rank and their crime. When their request was refused, three of the soldiers tried unsuccessfully to cheat the hangman by slashing their wrists.

December
14
1947

Christmas Card Calgary homeowners and the city Parks Department were maintaining nighttime vigils over their landscaping as the annual Yuletide raids on evergreen trees began. The latest victim was Currie Barracks, where eight Christmas trees went over the wall. Juvenile delinquents were blamed.

December
15
1953

On a visit to the Calgary office of Trans-Canada Air Lines, the company's chief engineer indicated that while sending a rocket to the moon might be technically possible by the end of the century, such an endeavour would never make sense from an economic perspective and therefore was unlikely to happen. He based his opinions on the difficulties that his company was experiencing in developing a jet plane that would be economic for passenger traffic -- a technological improvement he believed would take at least another five years to accomplish.

December
12
1968

The debate about toy guns and war games heated up as shoppers headed into stores for Christmas gifts. Stores had generally stocked fewer war toys and relegated those that they had to a back corner. This still wasn’t enough for one mother, who wanted all the guns and other violent toys taken off the shelves and burned. Other shoppers made a distinction between cowboy guns, which they saw as harmless, and other war toys. Some believed the anti-toy-gun campaign was a waste of time, and that there wasn’t any evidence to connect playing with toy guns as a child with violent behaviour as an adult. A local psychiatrist confirmed that, although it seemed only common sense that there should be a connection, the research simply hadn’t been done and there wasn’t enough information to reach a conclusion.

December
12
1977

Police in Edmonton were finding their jobs more difficult as burglars became “smarter” and harder to catch. Some were taking advantage of modern technology, as in one case where the criminals breaking in through an air vent had two-way radios so that their confederates could warn them of anyone approaching. And because of movies and television, “everyone”, including the bad guys, knew about fingerprints and wore gloves so that they could not be identified afterwards.

December
12
1977

Alarmed by the danger of permanent hearing damage to students, school boards around the province were attempting to regulate the volume of music at school dances. Studies indicated that the noise level of rock bands performing at the dances frequently was measured above 100 decibels and sometimes as high as 115. A commercial jet reached decibel levels of 120 during take-off. While Labour Board employment regulations mandated that workers could only be exposed to 115 decibels for a maximum of seven minutes, students were spending hours at dances in the confined environments of school cafeterias and gymnasiums.



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