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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…”

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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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Former Torrington citizens create new Gopher video for Torrington Gopher Hole Museum

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2020 has been a good year for the Torrington Gopher Hole Museum.

With the opening of the museum last week and a successful town fund raising event to benefit a local couple who had a house fire in early July, the community has been a hotbed of community spirit.

“I originally recorded the Gopher Song a long time ago,” said composer/musician Dennis Oster who now lives in Red Deer.  “Earlier this year, I got a call from Laural Kurta, who works with the museum now and she said she was having the original cassette restored.  I offered to re-record the song and it took 3 takes to get the song right.”

Former Torrington citizen and area historian, Tim Lasiuta, worked with Oster to create a video to celebrate the world famous museum was pleased to be part of the tribute.

“My family lived across the street for many years and I an honored to be part of the community, after all of these years,” said Lasiuta.  “There is no official count, but I suspect that close to 200,000 people have been to the small attraction, something that no-one ever would have expected.”

July 24 marked the OFFICIAL world release of the Gopher song and video.

Long live Clem the Gopher!

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Honored Cree Chief Joachim Fromhold Passes Away

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Joe Fromhold at Ellis Bird Farm

Joachim Fromhold 1947-2020

Chief Joachim Fromhold of the Asini Wachi Nehiyawak has joined the Great Circle in the sky.

Joachim, aka Joe, was born January 15, 1947 to Mina and Willi Fromhold in Germany.

His lineage can be traced to 1650 (Cree Chief Sisip Pimotew), and Chief Louis Joseph Piche in addition to the Carolingian Dynasty (Europe).  He also counts Chief Bob Tail and his descendants as part of his ancestry.

Moving to Canada, his family spent time in Calgary before moving to a farm near Buffalo Lake and Sounding Creek in 1960.  He graduated from Mirror High School in 1967 and had been accepted into Harvard but chose to work with the CIBC and aboriginal groups in northern Alberta.  Through Joe, the first loans to aboriginal groups were granted in High Level prior to his resignation from the bank.

Always a businessman and hard worker, Joe built coffins (age 13), started a dairy herd while in grade 12 and bought into a trucking company, all by the time he graduated High School.  Around the same time, he established the first newspaper north of Peace River which was, and still is, the only newspaper to have been privately aboriginally owned and operated.  Fromhold also founded the first Alberta Youth Safe House dealing principally with aboriginal youth without government funding.

While in Peace River country, he began to actively gather data on aboriginal culture and history, a pursuit which he continued throughout his life.  He also helped establish the Metis Association of Alberta in northwestern Alberta.

His formal education in archaeology started in 1970 with classes at the University of Calgary and continued until 1973 with further education from Universities, Museums, Cultural and Business organizations continuing throughout his life.

Several cultural and historical organizations were born out of Fromhold’s desire to preserve history.  Archon Consulting Ltd, The Cultural Awareness Program, A.V.C., Buffalo Head Cultural Survival Camp, the Old Fort Museum, The Indian Legends Museum, The Vermillion Lodge Museum, the Mirror Business Center and Museum and the Mountain Cree Asini Wachi Nehiyawak Band in 1996.

Numerous other business ventures established by Fromhold included The Inner I Coffee House, Subway Coffee House, Paintball Warrior, Fromhold Security, Sports Rent, Old Fort Hotel, The Antiques Advertiser, The Red Deer Antique Mall & Collectibles and Rocky Mountain Outfitters.

Fromhold was instrumental in establishing the written aboriginal history in western Canada and beyond.  Through his genealogical research, published in various books and magazines, he formalized the presence and lineage of the Cree people, thereby paving the way for many legal challenges, many of which are still ongoing.

Active in the archaeology community, Fromhold has catalogued and identified important aboriginal sites in Alberta.  Among his discoveries is the presence of the Moundbuilders in Central Alberta on the Battle River, The Donalda Buffalo Pound, Medicine Hills Survey of significant sites and the discovery of the the existence of the Ice-Free Corridor, the existence of the North Trail and the Colville Trail, the proving of pre-Columbian cross-mountain trade, proving aboriginal occupancy and land use in the mountains, and demonstrating that various lithic sources were to be found in Alberta. In the theoretical field he established the methodology for reconstruction of prehistoric populations and developed the first Census data for prehistoric Alberta.

His influence and involvement in Northern Alberta was substantial, both in education and cultural preservation.

On graduating from the M.A. program in Anthropology he took a position at the Alberta Vocational Center in Lac La Biche (now Portage College) to develop a Native Arts and Crafts/Native Studies program there and at A.V.C. Grouard. These were the Grandfather Programs for all subsequent cultural programs in Alberta. In my position I was also an advisor to the development of the University of Lethbridge Native Studies program and liaison with the Saskatchewan Indian Colleges, and as a resource person to various aboriginal communities in eastern Alberta. Family ties existed with Beaver Lake Cree Nation, and he married Irene Mountain, daughter of Chief Lawrence Mountain and descendant of Chiefs PESEW and
Bobtail (Piche) and Big Bear.

While at Lac La Biche he collaborated with Christine Daniels to found the White Braid Dancers, served as Pow-Wow Director for 5 years and for 4 years as the first aboriginal President of the Lac La Biche Lions Club. During that time he also re-introduced the Pow-wow to Beaver Lake Cree Nation and Cultural Days to Heart Lake First Nation and were involved in the development of the Saddle Lake Multi-Cultural Days.

At this time he founded the Mountain Peoples Cultural Society to sponsor cultural events and two dance groups. With his wife we also established the first Wilderness Cultural Camp in Alberta.

In 1985 he took a position with Alberta Advanced Education as Program Head of the Opportunity Corps Program, a second-chance training program, in northwestern Alberta. At the time the program consisted of one pre-trades training campus, it being part of his duties to develop a second campus to the point where it could be turned into a community college. The campuses were to serve 16 aboriginal and 4 non-aboriginal communities. Through internal training programs they developed highly skilled office personnel who began to take over and effectively and efficiently manage the office administration of a $15,000,000 (2010 dollars) operation and through another similar program operated several cafeterias in several communities.

Over the next few  years the position became responsible for delivery and supervision of all programs delivered by Advanced Education, including Apprenticeship and Transitional Housing. In 1988 the campuses were re-classified as a college and a satellite campus.

In this time he was also involved in the development of the High Level and District Friendship Center, the High Level and District Museum and the Fort Vermilion Museum. We also initiated annual pow-wows at High Level and Fort Vermilion and developed a touring dance troupe that traveled to regional schools and sponsored annual Native Fashion Shows based on the family collection.

Fromhold began the work to convert his research into digital format for his world class native history website, http://inewhistory.com/ , an effort which continued to his passing.

With the death of his wife Irene in 1994 he relocated to central Alberta to concentrate on raising his children and developing the databank. Over the years they had taken in nephews and nieces to give them a stable home environment, and he now adopted two others who were in danger of becoming street kids in Edmonton; they returned to school and eventually continued on to college and university.
In 1996 the Mountain Peoples Cultural Society converted to becoming a Traditional Band, and Joe was delegated by the family to represent the interests of descendants of Lawrence and Leo Mountain. Descendants of two other brothers also consolidated, the four bands forming a common council.

Fromhold and the Band proposed to the City of Edmonton and investment of  $20 million in a transition to employment and housing program for the homeless and disadvantaged in Edmonton in 2006.

Through the efforts of Fromhold in 2008, the  Mountain Cree Band (Asini Wachi Nehiyawak) became a member of the Jasper National Park Aboriginal Forum advisory group, as a successor group representing the interests of the now-dispersed Bobtail Band. Independent of the Advisory group, he offered to participate financially in the development of a Nations of Jasper Cultural Interpretive Center. Participation in Jasper continues to this day with the Pow wow and placement of aboriginals in park positions.

Fromhold’s books on aboriginal history in Alberta started in 2010 through Lulu.com.  To date there are more than 40 books available, ranging from the Moundbuilders, to a history of the Red Deer/Central Alberta area dating back 13,000 years to genealogies for specific bands.  Prior to his passing, Fromhold had planned as many as 20 more.

In 2011, he was awarded the Canada Heritage Minister’s Award for Leadership Excellence.

He was honored in 2012 with an Honoring Ceremony by members of the incipient re-structuring Edmonton Stragglers Band in appreciation of the guidance given to the members in pursuit of their history and interests.


He was a founding member of the Alberta Association of Consulting Archaeologists and in 2017 was the founder for the Association of First Nations Archaeologists and Historians.

The Asini Wachi Nehiyawak purchased and renovated a former bunk house in Mirror, creating a museum, antique store and rooms for short term stays in the community.  Along with the commercial aspects, all records of the Mountain Cree were available for research.  Presently, a constitutional challenge is outstanding on the property.

Fromhold was involved with Enoch Cree Nation in legal action to settle outstanding land claims and to protect historic burials in the Rossdale Burial Area of Edmonton, a dispute dating back nearly a decade.  The efforts to protect native heritage and cultural sites continues to this day.

Other ongoing efforts include working with Lacombe to develop a cultural centre, preservation of Mound Builder sites, site preservation in Red Deer (multiple), and relationships with Transalta, TC Energy and various energy companies. Many other discoveries and historic sites are waiting to be protected by future generations due to his passion and knowledge.

Fromhold, throughout his career, attracted many gifted associates and was once tasked with guiding Richard Leakey on a tour of Alberta.  While the two archaeologists shared many observations, Leakey pointed out to Joachim numerous sites that exhibited evidence of human occupation, some dating back 100,000 years in Central Alberta!

In conversation with Joe, his skills as an archaeologist were continually developing.  He noted that ‘over the last few years, I have now learned to recognize flint knap sites,’ adding that like camp sites, every few miles on old trail, he could locate them.  He lamented not knowing that that as a young researcher, realizing that he had passed over thousands in his career.  During a Red Deer connector survey, he discovered a knap site that was possibly (likely) evidence of a campsite for David Thompson during his exploration of Central Alberta.

He started the Mountain Cree News in the late 1990s, and the monthly newsletter continues to this day.

The legacy he leaves behind is one of people: people he inspired to take an interest in their history, people he inspired to better themselves, and people he impowered to make our society into one that recognizes the value of the history of our country and early inhabitants.

Joe leaves behind children Dustin, Odin, Jennifer, mother Mina and many others he mentored into a better life.

Rest well warrior.

This article was originally published on August 5th, 2020.

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