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Culture

Bing and Ol’ Medicine Hat

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4 minute read

Reynolds, Crosby and Astaire

It seems that Medicine Hat was hit with movie gold not once, but twice since the 1940s.  There is, of course, the well documented case of the Monty Python skit ( https://www.todayville.com/monty-python-and-medicine-hat/ ) but also another well known and higher profile mention of this Alberta city….

Bing Crosby was an American entertainer who was well known world-wide for his crooning and his entertaining films and his USO tours with his friends and co-workers over during WWII and subsequent conflicts.

Among his many memorable films, “Holiday Inn,” was released in 1942 with great success for not only one of the first releases of ‘White Christmas,’ which won an Oscar for best music but also the pairing of Fred Astaire and Crosby in a delightful love triangle film set in a ski resort.  The film was reprised in the classic ‘White Christmas,’ that included Rosemary Cluny and song and dance legend Danny Kaye in 1954.

‘Holiday Inn,’ starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds centred around Fred Hardy, a laid back composer who buys an Inn to put on Broadway style shows on special days so his life is not so hectic.  Sadly, Fred Astaire, Ted Hanover, has a history of stealing dance partners and falls in love with them.  Hardy discovers Linda Mason (Reynolds) and much to the chagrin of Hardy, Hanover winds up at one of his holiday specials and finds her, falls in love with her and the rest of the film follows Hardy’s efforts to keep Mason away from Hanover.

During the film, a couple of great moments occur, one with Astaire, apparently very drunk, dancing with Mason for the delight of the gathered crowd.  The dance choreography is amazing, just as Astaire was an amazing performer and teacher.

However, Medicine Hat comes full front and centre when Hanover is expected to come hunting for Mason and Hardy askes his driver to take the long way home so she cannot be stolen by Hanover.

Hardy hands his driver $10, and utters the now famous dialogue…

“For that kinda of money you oughta be able to go by way o’ Medicine Hat!

Of course, the ploy is successful, and she is angry with Hardy that she could not refuse Hanover, but in the end, love wins and show biz rules the Inn.

This may seem like a random entry into the film but it may have been planned or more likely an improv by Crosby who had a predilection for pheasant hunting in the area just as Humphrey Bogart liked moose hunting in Cabri, Saskatchewan!

The story behind the story is that Brooks at one time was the BEST pheasant hunting area in North America and along with Bob Hope, the pair hunted in the area in the 1940s.  An old timer recalled seeing Crosby and Clark Gable in the Cecil Hotel during hunting season!

Is there evidence that Crosby was in the Hat?

Only old hotel records could ever say, and the Cecil Hotel has been stilled forever…

In the meanwhile, “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas…”

Tim Lasiuta is a Red Deer writer, entrepreneur and communicator. He has interests in history and the future for our country.

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Alberta

How the Railroads Shaped Red Deer

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A crowd gathered at the Red Deer train station to provide a sendoff for members of “C” Squadron of the 12th Canadian Mounted Rifles Regiment. Heading off to join WWI in May 1915. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. P2603

Rivers, creeks and streams have shaped the land for eons, slowly carving away earth to reveal the terrain we know today. Much of the same can be said for the impact and influence that railways had in shaping the size and shape and even the very location of what is now the City of Red Deer. 

Prior to the construction of the Calgary and Edmonton railway, which started heading north from Calgary in 1890, what we now recognize as the bustling city of Red Deer was unbroken and forested land. The nearest significant settlement was the crossing for the C&E Trail of the Red Deer River, very close to where the historic Fort Normandeau replica stands today. 

Small town of Red Deer from along the Calgary and Edmonton Railway line looking north circa 1900. The Arlington Hotel and the CPR station can be seen. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. P4410

 

Above left: The Canadian Northern Railway excavating grade along the side of North Hill of Red Deer, AB in 1911. Using the steam shovel Bucyrus and trains. Photo P782. Above right: Workers building the Canadian National Railway trestle bridge at Burbank siding near Red Deer, AB, 1924. P7028. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

Reverend Leonard Gaetz whose land formed the townsite for Red Deer. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. P2706

Navigating how to handle crossing the Red Deer River would be a significant challenge for construction of the railway route. Initially, the route was planned to take the tried-and-true path that had served animals, first nations people and fur traders for centuries, past the Red Deer River settlement. Yet just as the mighty river powerfully shaped the contours and dimensions of the land, the future site of Red Deer would be singlehandedly determined by Reverend Leonard Gaetz.

Rev. Gaetz offered James Ross, President of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway company,  land from his personal farmlands for the river crossing and the townsite for Red Deer.  Ross accepted and history was forever shaped by the decision, as what is now home to more than 100,000 people grew steadily outward starting at the C&E Railway train station. 

A steam engine pulling a passenger train, likely near Penhold, AB, sometime between 1938 and 1944. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. Photo P3595.

The rails finally reached the Red Deer area in November of 1890 and trains soon began running south to Calgary. By 1891, the Calgary and Edmonton railway was completed north to Strathcona. Alberta gained one of its most vital transportation corridors and the province would thrive from this ribbon of steel rails.

CPR Station in 1910

Over time, the C&E railyards grew and expanded to accommodate the demand for moving more and more commodities like grain, coal, lumber and business and household items along with passengers. Those passengers were the pioneer settlers who would make Red Deer the commercial hub that it remains to this day.

Alberta-Pacific Elevator Co. Ltd. No. 67 elevator and feed mill, circa 1910. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives Photo P3884.

For nearly 100 years, the downtown was intimately connected with the railway in the form of hotels built to welcome travelers, grain elevators, warehouses, factories and the facilities required to service the locomotives and equipment that operated the trains. Tracks and spurs dominated the downtown area, especially after the advent of the Alberta Central Railway and the arrival of the Canadian Northern Western Railway (later absorbed into Canadian National railways).

Left: Aerial view of downtown and the railyards in1938. Note old CPR bridge over the Red Deer River along with the old CNR bridge that was demolished in 1941. P2228 Centre: CPR Track at south end of Red Deer, circa 1904 or 1905. P8060 Right: CPR depot water tower and round house in 1912. P3907. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

 

Left: CPR downtown railyards in 1983. Photo S490. Right: Southbound morning Chinook train at the CPR station in the summer of 1939. P13391. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

By the 1980s, the ever-present tracks and downtown railyard were seen as an industrial blight in the heart of the city that the railway created so funding was sought and plans were made to relocate the now Canadian Pacific rails from their historical home to a new modern yard northwest of the city. 

This was actually the second relocation of tracks from downtown as the Canadian National railway tracks were removed in 1960 which permitted the development along 47th Avenue south of the Red Deer River.

This massive project opened up the Riverlands district downtown to new developments which included condominiums, grocery stores, restaurants and professional buildings. Taylor Drive was built following the old rail line corridor and removal of the tracks in Lower Fairview meant residents wouldn’t hear the rumble of trains in their community anymore. 

Just as the waters gradually shaped the places we know now, the railways definitely forged Red Deer into the vibrant economic hub of central Alberta that it remains today. 

The 45th Street overpass across the CPR tracks. This was demolished in 1992. Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives. Photo S8479.

We hope you enjoyed this story about our local history.  Click here to read more history stories on Todayville.

Visit the City of Red Deer Archives to browse through the written, photographic and audio history of Red Deer. Read about the city and surrounding community and learn about the people who make Red Deer special.

My name is Ken Meintzer.  I’m a storyteller with a love of aviation and local history. In the 1990’s I hosted a popular kids series in Alberta called Toon Crew.

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Arts

“Winter Escape” Family Day Celebration will go on for 2 weeks!

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Submitted by Red Deer MAG (Museum and Art Gallery)

Extending Family Day: MAG to participate in 14-day cultural challenge

The Winter Escape Family Day Challenge arrives in Red Deer on February 13

Nine cultural organizations in the Red Deer Community are collaborating to create a Family Day celebration, Winter Escape/Escapade Hivernale, comprised of various activities, both outdoors and virtual, that participants can complete anytime between Feb. 13 and Feb. 27.  Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, local arts and cultural organizations are still finding ways to celebrate one of the most popular holidays: Family Day. Register yourself or a team at www.winterescapereddeer.ca  starting February 5th.

“We are trying to make the Winter Escape Challenge as family friendly, senior friendly, and accessible as possible,” says Lynn LeCorre, Education Coordinator at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery (MAG). “We want people to explore culture and heritage in Red Deer, and recent circumstances have pushed us to think of new ways to make that happen.”

Challenge activities are designed to allow for safe social distancing while bringing participants together. Work individually or with a team to answer trivia questions and complete photo and video challenges. Activities include snapping a selfie in front of some of Red Deer’s murals, learning simple powwow dance moves, and the MAG Virtual escape room. Teams can register online and join in on the challenge for free, and completion of challenges will allow participants to earn entries into a draw to win one of three gift baskets – one per team category. This event is offered in partnership by the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame & Museum, Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta, Norwegian Laft Hus, Red Deer Aboriginal Dance Troupe, Red Deer Arts Council, Red Deer Cultural Heritage Society, Red Deer Public Library, Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery (MAG), and Sunnybrook Farm Museum. In times of uncertainty, these organizations are excited to help bring culture to the people of Red Deer.

The Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery works to be Central Alberta’s leading establishment for the research, collection and presentation of visual art and material culture that is related to this region. The MAG is a vibrant and inclusive gathering place for our community and its exhibitions and programs promote the enjoyment of art, culture and the history of Central Alberta.

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