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Sylvan’s Famous Boathouse- A Look Back to the Twenties


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It’s excellent lake weather and hopefully you’ll get a chance to spend a day or two out strolling the sidewalks and beaches of Sylvan Lake.  One of the many historic markers located along Lakeshore Drive includes this 1928 photograph of Mr. J.P. Simpson’s boathouse.  He built this boathouse adjacent to the new Women’s Institute (W.I.) Pier.  Besides housing boats, canoes, outboard motors and bathing suits for rent, it held a concession booth which sold snacks.  The boats rented for 50 cents the first hour, 25 cents for any additional hours, or two dollars per day.  A  yearly chore for the owners was painting the fifty boats kept there.  In 1979, the building was dismantled and hauled away.

Some additional history for your Todayville readers – the faithful workers of the Women’s Institute of Sylvan Lake (W.I.), who were the main backbone of the committee who brought about the construction of the new pier at the Lake, were favored with a charming afternoon on Thursday, and a large crowd of visitors, at the opening of the pier. Hon. R.B. Bennett, K.C., leader of the Conservative Party, motored from Calgary with Dr. McNabb, who owns “Rusticana”, one of the finest cottages on the lake front, right near the pier. Mr. Bennett was the speaker of the day and opened the pier with impressive style. Luncheon was served at 1:30 p.m at the Dingwall Hotel. Mr. A.M. Steele, chairman of the pier committee, presided. At this right sat the guest of honor, Mr. Bennett, and on Mr. Bennett’s right, sat Mrs. Dingwall, president of the W.I.  Around the table were gathered the following: Rev. Dingle, Mrs. E. Bardwell, Mr. Thomas, Miss Graham, Alfred Speakman, M.P., Mrs. McNabb, Mrs. C. Falkner, Mrs. Steele, Dr. McNabb, Mrs. W.E. Payne, G.W. Smith, M.P.P., Mr. Payne, Mrs. Miller, Mr. McCaskill, Mr. Bardwell, Mr. F.L. Appleton and Chief MacDonald of Condor.  The serving was nicely carried out by a bevy of summer-gowned lassies, marshalled by Mrs. McCrimmon, Sylvan Lake, and Mrs. Lindsay, Red Deer. During the progress of the luncheon, music on the bagpipes was played by Chief MacDonald.

The ladies of the W.I. marched to the lakeshore for the proceedings of the afternoon. The ceremonies began in front of the rustic arch which forms the entrance of the new pier at 4:35 p.m., with Mr. Steele acting as Master of Ceremonies. Mr. W.E. Payne, K.C., introduced Mr. Bennett in felicitous terms, speaking of his honorable record as an Albertan and a Canadian. Mr. Steele extended to Mr. Bennett the thanks of the Women’s Institute and Miss Graham, the secretary-treasurer, presented Mrs. Dingwall with a bouquet of handsome carnations in recognition of her most valuable service in helping forward the pier project.

Mr. Bennett got a rousing reception on rising to speak. He said he really felt quite overcome by the welcome extended by the Lake people. “You are a small community, but it is from smaller communities that we look for supplies of our manhood and womanhood,” he said. The new pier erected by the cooperative efforts of the ladies of the W.I., he characterized as a very fine piece of public service. He hoped that in years to come the ladies who had done so well would feel justly recompensed for their efforts. Mr. Bennett wanted the younger ones to fully realize what a great country Canada was. He mentioned his recent tour of the province of Quebec, where he visited French settlements that had been there since 1660, and the English settlements that were 150 years old. A great country it was.  Alberta was a wonderful province. Last year, the farmers, their wives and sons and daughters had produced $365,000,000 of new wealth. Less than 700,000 people had done this, while the total of all the mines produced in Canada last year was around $250,000,000. Mr. Bennett, in stirring, captivating tones, asked the young people within the sound of his voice if they were going to do something to make this a grander country for the generation that would follow.  The question was, what are we going to give the country that has done so much for us?  “You good people that have borne the heat and the toil of the day, my hope is that in your declining years you may find a great peace and happiness.”

Before Mr. Bennett cut the ribbons of the pier entrance, there were two short addresses eulogistic of the honored guest given by Mr. Speakman and Mr. McCaskill, and a promenade of the pier, led by the pipes, was made.  The ticket selling, the floral decorations, the publicity, the water sports, all were handled by energetic committees. – Adapted from The Red Deer Advocate, July 19, 1928.

Postscript – the W.I. Pier was put to good use by countless thousands of sightseers of all ages, swimmers, sunbathers, canoeists, boaters, fishermen and seagulls for an enjoyable 25 years. By 1953, the foot traffic and the elements had taken their toll; the pier was no longer considered safe; the structure was dismantled.

“Reflections of Sylvan Lake”, pp. 89-90.

For more information about the Sylvan Lake and District Archives, CLICK HERE.

Sylvan Lake & District Archives,  5012  – 48 Avenue,  Lower Level, Municipal Government Building

Sylvan Lake, AB  T4S 1G6

403-887-1185 x262

Send us an email: [email protected]

President Todayville Inc., Honorary Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Director Canadian Forces Liaison Council (Alberta) musician, photographer, former VP/GM CTV Edmonton.

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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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Stand Together Against Bullying – Pink Shirt Day 2021

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021 is the 14th annual Pink Shirt Day, a globally recognized movement to end bullying in all its forms and encourage the growth of a global community built on acceptance and support regardless of sex, age, background, gender identity, sexual orientation or cultural differences. 

Pink Shirt Day originated in 2007 in the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia, in a local story that captured national – and eventually international – attention, when a new 9th grade student walked in on the first day of school wearing a pink polo shirt. 

Travis Price and David Shepherd are the two young men responsible for unintentionally launching the global pink shirt movement. According to Price and Shepherd, a group of students were physically and verbally bullying the young man for wearing pink to school. As senior students, Price and Shepherd saw the situation as an opportunity to set an example and take a stand against bullying in their school.
That night the two went and purchased 75 pink tank tops and released a call on social media (MSN messenger at the time) encouraging their fellow students to show up at school the next day wearing pink. According to Price, in a school of roughly 1000 students, “700 to 850 kids showed up wearing pink. It was incredible.” 


Since 2007, the movement has gained exponential traction and is now recognized in communities all around the world as individuals come together in an international display of solidarity against the devastating impacts of bullying.
The global movement to end bullying has led to the creation of countless local, national and internationally available resources, but there is still a long way to go.

Bullying Canada identifies 4 distinct types of bullying: verbal, physical, social and cyber. Short term and long term effects of bullying vary based on each situation, and can lead to damaging and dangerous outcomes for victims, friends, bystanders and countless others. While commonly associated with children and young adults in school, bullying impacts individuals of all ages and backgrounds in many areas of life, including the workplace.
Statistics released by Safe Canada revealed that 47% of Canadian parents have at least one child that has experienced bullying, while approximately 33% of the population experienced bullying as a child, and 33% of teenagers reported being bullied recently. Furthermore, around 40% of Canadians reportedly experience bullying in the workplace on a weekly basis.

If you, or someone you know is struggling with bullying, reaching out is the first step. You are not alone, and help is available. Extensive networks of resources exist in Alberta and across Canada to provide support, aid and solutions for those experiencing bullying. 

For support from Bullying Canada, call (877) 352-4497, or email [email protected]

The Alberta 24-hour Bullying Helpline can be reached at 1-888-456-2323, or the online Bullying Helpline Chat can be accessed here.

For more resources on how to identify a bullying situation, get help, or help someone in need, visit

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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