Above: Sexsmith curling ladies in 1928 posed with brooms, rocks, and a trophy. Skip Mrs. Brown (left), ?, Mrs. Ellsworth Foy (holding cup), and ? presumably outside the Sexsmith Curling Rink.
Not everyone is ready to wrap themselves up in their snuggly blankets and hunker down on the couch to binge watch their favourite TV shows when the temperature drops. Even on the coldest day, joggers, dog-walkers, students and workers brave the chill to do what they need to get doing.
It was no different in the early days of the South Peace. Daily chores had to be done, deliveries had to be made, railways and roads needed to be built. Winter work was balanced by winter fun. South Peace residents were quick to organize sports teams and winter carnivals to help them make most the most of the northern weather.
The ice cutters. Two men loosen blocks with hand saws while one man pulls blocks out with ice pick and two men load blocks in truck prior to delivery.
Brave the winter weather and make your way to the library tonight for the presentation, “Winter Fun, Winter Work,” by Archivist Josephine Sallis from the South Peace Regional Archives. The presentation starts at 6:30 pm.
Featured Photograph: First Wedding in McQueen Presbyterian, 1918 (SPRA 1986.24.1)
Love is in the air. This weekend, hundreds of brides-to-be from around the South Peace flocked to Entrec Centre for the “Ultimate Wedding Show.” The annual event brings together local wedding vendors and engaged couples, looking to make the most of their big day. Here at the South Peace Regional Archives, we are preparing for wedding season in our own way – by composing the latest issue of Telling Our Stories!
The March issue of Telling Our Stories will reflect on weddings and wedding traditions throughout the history of the South Peace. The Archives is currently seeking photographs or stories from weddings in the McQueen Presbyterian Church, preserved in the Grande Prairie Museum Heritage Village. The McQueen Presbyterian was the first Protestant Church to be erected in Grande Prairie. It was founded by Rev. Alexander Forbes in 1911 and served until 1925. Gertrude (Trudy) Bezanson and Herb Mattinson were the first couple to wed in the McQueen Presbyterian Church on June 18, 1919. Gertrude later reminisced that “the wedding was the talk of the town for years” (DHT, 20 June 1986).
The McQueen Presbyterian Church continues to serve as a wedding venue in its current location in the Grande Prairie Museum’s Heritage Village. Each year, approximately 8 couples say their “I do”s in the historic Church during the months of June, July, August & September. We would like to hear from couples who married in the McQueen Presbyterian Church – at any time during its history! Your stories and photographs could add to a long history of joyous nuptials in this historic Church. If your photograph(s) are chosen for our March issue, you will receive a complimentary one-year subscription to Telling Our Stories for you or a friend.
Contact Director@SouthPeaceArchives.org for further information.
The Archives recently received a research inquiry seeking information on a wooden token produced by Weyerhaeuser. The researcher had previously received two possible explanations for the origin of the token and was seeking evidence that would substantiate either claim. One source indicated that the token was produced by Weyerhauser during the 1995 Canada Winter Games in Grande Prairie and redeemed in its sponsored tent on site for a hot chocolate. However, another source indicated that the token was issued in Yellowknife. NWT for a “Canada Games.” With permission of the researcher, Archives staff turned to our Facebook followers for more information.
We shared an image of the wood token on our Facebook page to tremendous success. Over 7700 people saw, commented, or liked the post. Many of our Facebook followers joined in the mystery by tagging their friends or speculating on the token’s possible use. Perhaps it was used as a gambling token at a staff holiday party? Maybe it was used as a drink token at a community barbecue? In less than a day, Weyerhaeuser employee Noreen Schultz had confirmed the token’s origin: she had ordered the tokens from local promotional company, GP Promotional. They were distributed in exchange for hot chocolate during the 1995 Canada Winter Games. Another former Weyerhaeuser employee, Linda Everton Pearson, shared a photograph of the commemorative mug that the hot chocolate came in. The mystery was solved!
Photograph: Last month, Archives staff prepared a holiday brunch for our volunteers to show our appreciation. Volunteers enjoyed a ‘Christmas morning’, including brunch, games, and presents.
As the Archives moves forward into a new year, we would like to thank the dedicated team of volunteers who continue to aid our organization. In 2017, South Peace Regional Archives volunteers contributed over 2000 hours of their time to collecting, preserving, and sharing the history of our area. Our volunteers are critical to the success of the Archives; without their help, many of our special events and projects simply would not be possible. We truly appreciate the hard work of each and every one of our volunteers- thank you!
Flipping through past issues of Grande Prairie newspapers, you can see the importance of community celebrations. There are announcements for and descriptions of any number of dances, school entertainments, pageants, concerts… even programmes for special radio concerts were published in the weekly papers. This 1926 entertainment included songs, recitations, and skits, and of course no Christmas entertainment would be complete without the appearance of Santa Claus himself.
Photograph: Christmas concert at Beaverlodge School, 1925 (SPRA 362.02.12.22)
HOLIDAY CLOSURE: The South Peace Regional Archives will be closed December 23rd – January 1st to allow our staff and volunteers the opportunity to spend the holidays with their families. We will reopen on January 2nd.
Last week, the Archives received a very special delivery from Oslo, Norway: a copy of Edvard Hoem’s Liv Andre Har Levd. This historical novel, published by Oktober Publisher, includes a reproduction of 1955 County of Grande Prairie map from our collections. The publisher generously provided a copy of the book for the Archives’ reference library.
Liv Andre Har Levd is the fourth and final installment of a Norwegian series that chronicles the lives of an immigrant family who struggle to make a new life for themselves in Western Canada. The book launched to positive reviews and received a second printing merely two weeks after initial publication. As of Friday, 15 December 2017, Edvard Hoem’s novel has reached 2nd place on the publisher’s bestsellers list. (19 December 2017 update: Liv Andre Har Levd is currently the bestselling novel in Norway)
The book provides an interesting example of the widespread reach of materials from our local collections. Among the sea of unrecognizable Norwegian, we spied the occasional (perhaps untranslatable) English words, names, and phrases: “Alberta Pool Elevator,” “Grand Trunk Railway,” “middle of nowhere,” “Red Cross Hospital,” “homesteaders,” etc. The endpaper of the book includes a portion of the County of Grande Prairie map and provides an authentic supplement to the personal histories within its narrative.
The 1955 County of Grande Prairie map was compiled by R.B. Bowen, the secretary-treasurer of the County of Grande Prairie No. 1. The map records the landowners, schools, and road locations from the area. It is bordered by the Smokey River to the East and the Wapiti River to the South. The original document is displayed in the Reading Room of the South Peace Regional Archives, where it is often consulted by researchers wishing to locate family-owned property.
Photograph: Hanukkah play in a Hebrew Kindergarten, Calgary, Alberta 1954
From the Collections of Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People
When I was asked to write this blog about Hanukkah for the SPRA blog, I was excited to see what local information I could find. Being new to the position of Archives Technician, this project gave me the opportunity to look at all the search tools available through the SPRA website.
Hanukkah or Chanukah means “dedication”. It is a Jewish observance that remembers the Jewish people’s struggle for religious freedom. Hanukkah is an eight-day wintertime “festival of lights” that is celebrated from the 25th day of the month of Kislev to the 2nd of Tevet in the Jewish calendar, which begins on December 12 and continues through December 20 this year. The menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum that holds nine flames, is lit nightly during the holiday. The ninth holder, called the shamash (helper or servant), is for a candle used to light the eight other candles and/or to be used as an extra light. Hanukkah observers sing special prayers and consume traditional foods that are fried in oil, representing the holy oil in the temple.
I quickly realized that there is a lack of historical documentation, articles, and information about the Jewish community in the South Peace area. Jewish communities were/are predominantly found in Edmonton and Calgary. In my research, the Jewish Archives and Historical Society of Edmonton and Northern Alberta (JAHSENA) holds the most public information recounting Jewish settlement in northern Alberta. If you, someone you know, or an organization you are involved in have photographs, documentation, or any information regarding the Jewish community in the past and present in the South Peace region, The Archives would be very interested in hearing from you.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the South Peace Regional Archives…
Among their regular duties, the Archives staff have been busy preparing for the holiday season. This year, the Archives is highlighting our collections through several seasonal displays and projects. Archives Technician Donna crafted a display of homemade Christmas cards which has supplemented the Grande Prairie Museum’s educational programming. Last week, Archives staff and volunteers prepared a festive booth for the Christmas Farmer’s Market featuring local history books, led by former Executive Director Mary. Meanwhile, Donna and Archivist Josephine have been curating a new display of photographs and paper artifacts which highlight “Winter Work and Winter Fun” in the South Peace Area. Finally, the entire Archives staff began a new office tradition this month: trimming the Christmas trees. The Archives tree Christmas feature reproductions of winter photographs, cards, and postcards from our collections. The largest tree is currently on display in the entrance to the Grande Prairie Museum displays while the smaller two trees decorate the Archives.
The Archives’ Christmas trees and both displays will be showcased at the Community Christmas this Saturday (1-4pm) at the Grande Prairie Museum. Archivist Josephine will be on location to share stories from Christmas past. We hope to see you there!
Amazon, Etsy, and a host of other online marketplaces have given a different meaning to the concept of “shopping at home.” On weekends such as this, when streets and parking lots are at least ankle-deep in snow, online shopping from the comfort of one’s couch becomes even more appealing.
Still, there is something delightful about browsing through the local shops in search of the perfect gift – flipping through books, fingering a selection of scarves and shawls, choosing a Lego set, art supplies, or new pajamas. And according to this excerpt from the 1930 Grande Prairie Herald, a little planning ahead can make it a pleasant excursion.