This Week in Western Canadian History
January 16 - January 22
January
17
1888

Big Bear, leader of a band of Plains Cree and the last of the major Plains leaders to accept Treaty #6, died on January 17, 1888. In 1885, Big Bear (then 60) was convicted of treason for his role in the Riel Rebellion. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment, but on the recommendation of the prison doctor he was released after two years due to his failing health. Big Bear returned to the Little Pine Reserve in Saskatchewan to find his wife gone and his band scattered. With nowhere else to go, Big Bear remained on the reserve where, broken in health and spirit, he died.

January
21
1908

Prominent members of the local Liberal and Conservative parties were united in describing their support of a proposal to abolish the federal Senate. The motion was made in the House of Commons during a heated debate on how to make the Senate more useful and more responsible to the people of Canada. Although local politicians acknowledged that there was widespread and long-standing dissatisfaction with the Senate, most felt it would be more appropriate to appoint a commission to study the issue and recommend changes to the existing structure.

January
20
1917

Calgary's Medical Health Officer, Dr. C.S. Mahood, alerted city residents to an epidemic of a new strain of influenza. On January 20, 1917, an official warning was issued advising Calgarians to avoid kissing. It also recommended that contact with other people should be at arm's length.

January
16
1920

Local Americans expressed disappointment that their country was not to be represented at the inaugural meeting of the League of Nations in Paris, France. The United States did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles which ended the First World War and which created the League, and so was not able to take a seat at the council table. In fact, during the twenty years of the League's existence, the United States never did officially participate.

January
17
1921

A sudden blanket of snow and daytime temperatures that hovered around -25 C were the ideal conditions for Calgary's first Winter Festival. The week featured demonstrations of winter sports including curling, speed skating, and dog sled races. An anticipated highlight was the ski jumping event. A scaffold was constructed on top of the grandstand at the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede grounds. It was estimated that skiers would approach speeds of 85 miles an hour down the steep incline. Concern was expressed that the landing path took contestants too close to the open river, but fortunately the cold spell caused a thick layer of ice to form.

January
17
1924

The Milch Cow Cartoon At their annual meeting in Edmonton, Alberta, members of the United Farmers of Alberta overwhelmingly defeated a motion that would see British Columbia and the three prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba secede from the rest of Canada. Those in favour of the motion argued that it was clear that the government in Ottawa had no understanding of or sympathy for farmers in the west. Those opposed to the motion appealed to members to maintain the integrity of the Dominion and not dissolve like the Balkan states. Although most members were dissatisfied with the current situation, it was agreed to pursue cooperation and negotiation with the government, rather than dissolution.

January
19
1925

Local automobile dealers petitioned the provincial government to improve Alberta's roads to permit year round driving. The petition noted that over 80 percent of the approximately 45,000 cars in the province went into storage at the first sign of snow, and were not taken out of the garage until spring. While roads within Edmonton and Calgary were generally kept clear, the province claimed the cost to maintain rural roads was too great. The dealers pointed out the economic loss to automobile owners who could not use their vehicles for business, the cost of storing a vehicle, and the loss to mechanics and repairmen who endured a six-month slack period. The dealers also suggested that it was unfair of the province to insist that vehicles be licensed for a 12-month period when they could only be driven for half that time.

January
22
1931

City police in Winnipeg were ordered to stop dumping confiscated bootleg liquor into the city sewer system. Officials from the city's water department complained that hundreds of dead fish were found floating in the river the day after the police dumped the liquor.

January
18
1938

A fund raising event was held to raise money to purchase toys for the orphaned victims of war and to purchase cigarettes, socks, and playing cards to send to "the boys over there." The "boys" were the approximately 30 Calgary members of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, and the "there" was Spain, where the Battalion was fighting for the government during the Spanish Civil War. The local women's committee of the Friends of the Battalion hosted a showing of Dr. Norman Bethune's film on the conflict.

January
18
1942

A 50-pound lion cub named Cleopatra wandered away during her evening airing and was not seen for two days. The young lioness was staying in a private home until she was big enough to go to the Calgary Zoo. Her owner was fearful that a panicked citizen or police officer would shoot the young animal, but late on January 18th, Cleo scratched at the door and asked to be let in. She was hungry and wanted to be petted, but was otherwise unhurt.

January
22
1949

Plane on merry-go-round Known for many years as McCall Field, Calgary's international airport commemorates Fred R. McCall, aviation pioneer, First World War flying ace, and member of the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame. McCall was born in Vernon, B.C., in 1898. In 1916, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the military, but in 1918 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. Before his combat duty was over, McCall had shot down 37 enemy planes and two reconnaissance balloons. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the Military Cross and Bar, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war, McCall purchased two aircraft and joined the circuit of western Canadian fairs, flying two stunt shows a day and taking people for rides between shows. In 1919 he made a memorable emergency landing on top of one of the merry-go-round rides at the Calgary Stampede. To raise money for a new plane, McCall tried selling pieces of the wrecked machine to sightseers for 25 cents a fragment. By 1921, McCall had earned Commercial Pilot's License #5. During the Second World War, McCall served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a squadron leader at several air training stations across Canada. Fred McCall died at his home in Calgary on January 22, 1949, and was buried with full military honours.

January
19
1953

Thousands of Calgarians sat glued before their television screens as Lucy Ricardo gave birth to a son in one of the most-watched episodes of a television program ever broadcast. The "I Love Lucy" show integrated the real-life pregnancy of its star, Lucille Ball, into the storyline - a controversial departure from the usual practice of ignoring the situation or replacing the character. Millions of viewers around the world watched as Lucy's on-screen pregnancy developed and celebrated the actual birth of Lucille Ball's son on January 19, 1953.

January
19
1965

A Calgary alderman requested a review of the policy covering the open hours of the city’s indoor skating rinks after a playoff game had to be moved to another community. A minor hockey team from Edmonton was forced to travel south of the city to find a rink that would allow them to play on Sunday morning. Calgary’s policy was that indoor skating rinks would not open until noon and this regularly created scheduling difficulties for tournament organisers.

January
22
1965

A delegation from the National Council of Women asked Prime Minister Lester Pearson to consider changes in the criminal code to permit the dissemination of birth control information. The women wanted to have the code amended so that authorised public health agencies and medical practitioners would be permitted to provide information on various methods of contraception. Despite what they described as an excellent meeting, the Prime Minister indicated that Canada was not yet ready to allow free access to the information.

January
16
1973

Farmers in the Hairy Hill district of Alberta (125 km northeast of Edmonton) decided to stop growing hemp because they were losing too many crops to thieves. The farmers, many of Ukrainian origin, grew the hemp for salad oil, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police suggested that it was stolen to be processed into marijuana. Many of the farmers were shocked when they reported the theft to police only to find that growing the hemp was illegal. The police let the farmers off with a warning, but advised that they would prosecute a second offence.

January
17
1973

Two employees of a small manufacturing company in Edmonton were suspended for refusing to cut their hair to conform with new company regulations that required hair to be no longer than collar length in the back. The suspension resulted in a wild-cat strike by other employees who refused to return to the job until the company agreed to re-hire the two young men.

January
16
1990

Crowds gathered at railroad stations and crossings to protest and mourn as The Canadian began its final run across the country. Via Rail (the crown corporation responsible for passenger traffic) had cancelled the historic and popular southern route in order to save over $1 billion in federal subsidies. In Calgary, approximately one hundred people, some in tears, gathered at the Canadian Pacific station in an emotional tribute to over a century of passenger service.



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