Christmas in Calgary always seems to remind me of how harsh it was to live on the Prairies a hundred+ years ago. Winters here are brutal, the distance between towns is great and isolating, and with the government’s push to encourage immigration, places like Calgary were a smorgasbord of conflicting cultures.
A trip to Heritage Park is a window into this past and a reminder of a different world where teachers could lose their job for not putting on a good Christmas concert and where things that we take for granted (like Christmas trees) were non-existent.
We have our own family footprint in Calgary… a very small one… but a footprint nonetheless. One of my relations is Elizabeth McKenna from the South Shore in Nova Scotia. She married Stanley Coops and moved to Alberta in 1911 under Clifford Sifton’s immigration policy.
They started in Calgary and later moved to the Nightingale Colony between Calgary and Strathmore. For years the couple ran the local store and Sunday school until Stanley retired and the two moved back to Calgary. When Stanley passed away, Elizabeth returned to Nova Scotia and married again.