Sunday 10 December 2023

Once Upon a Christmas Ramble 2023

 Yesterday, Saturday Dec 9 2023, we had a wonderful Flâneury (ramble) through Calgary's Heritage Park during their annual "Once Upon a Christmas" event.


We were able to attend for free courtesy of the members of the Heritage Park Telegraph Club who kindly donated their volunteer passes.  

We were joined by members of the Alberta World Wars Living History Association and spent the gorgeous winter day soaking up the old time Christmas atmosphere.

Then during then evening we attended the Airdrie Festival of Lights "Victorian Skating Party" as guests of the Nose Creek Valley Museum. The unseasonably warm weather prevented any skating due to lack of ice, but the previous days snowfall made it a magical night.

We even managed to do a passable job of singing Victorian Christmas Carols for the attendees.Thank you to everyone who joined us and the organizers who make these events so special.

More pictures of our rambles are below the break.
There are tons more on our Facebook and Instagram pages

Have an enjoyable Festive Season!
The Victorian Society of Alberta.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

December Book Tuesday

Tis the Season...

For Ghost Stories?!?

Here is a collection of Victorian Ghost stories to read around the tree this festive season.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott et al
Edited by Tara Moore.

The first-ever collection of Victorian Christmas ghost stories, culled from rare 19th-century periodicals

During the Victorian era, it became traditional for publishers of newspapers and magazines to print ghost stories during the Christmas season for chilling winter reading by the fireside or candlelight. Now for the first time thirteen of these tales are collected here, including a wide range of stories from a diverse group of authors, some well-known, others anonymous or forgotten. Readers whose only previous experience with Victorian Christmas ghost stories has been Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" will be surprised and delighted at the astonishing variety of ghostly tales in this volume.

"In the sickly light I saw it lying on the bed, with its grim head on the pillow. A man? Or a corpse arisen from its unhallowed grave, and awaiting the demon that animated it?" - John Berwick Harwood, "Horror: A True Tale"

"Suddenly I aroused with a start and as ghostly a thrill of horror as ever I remember to have felt in my life. Something -- what, I knew not -- seemed near, something nameless, but unutterably awful." - Ada Buisson, "The Ghost's Summons"

"There was no longer any question what she was, or any thought of her being a living being. Upon a face which wore the fixed features of a corpse were imprinted the traces of the vilest and most hideous passions which had animated her while she lived." - Walter Scott, "The Tapestried Chamber"


Friday 17 November 2023

November Fashion Friday

This month as winter starts to bite we have something for the Gentlemen.
From the awesome Prior Attire on YouTube.

Stay Warm
The Victorian Society of Alberta

Saturday 11 November 2023

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day...


Lest we forget.

Photo by Neil Zeller

It is important to note that today as we remember those who sacrificed themselves in service to Empire and in response to the commands of their Kings and countries, that we must also remember that ALL the men and women who participated in WWI were "Victorians" and those who served in WWII were mostly "Edwardians".

These two titanic conflicts changed the worlds of these people in unimaginable ways. For the world of neither the Victorians nor the Edwardians, as we tend to study and re-create it, remained when the smoke and dust settled.

Not only did hundreds of thousands of them die, but the very cultural structures in which they had grown up were swept away.

In 1914 a farmer in Western Canada, a fisherman on the Coasts, a labourer in the factories of Eastern Canada, or a miner in the far north, went when their King called because that was what one did.
105 years ago when the guns fell silent at 11:00 am on November 11th, 1918, they did not know that everything had changed forever but they hoped that at least war was done with.

Alas their children found that was not true.

There are none alive now who remember the world of WWI and very few indeed that remember WWII.
We owe it to them that WE remember, we also owe their World, the Victorian and Edwardian World we celebrate, that it not be forgotten either.

Lest we forget.
God Save the King!


Wednesday 8 November 2023

Indigenous Veterans Day

 Each November 8th we celebrate and honour the contributions of our Indigenous brothers and Sisters to Canadian's war efforts.

This year's entry comes courtesy of the Lethbridge Historical Society's Facebook page.

The Victorian Society of Alberta.

Indigenous Veterans Day, 2023

Each November 8 is Indigenous Veterans Day, which is marked each year to honour the important contributions of Indigenous Peoples in service to Canada. It is part of Veterans Week that leads up to Remembrance Day.

There are many incredible Indigenous veterans from across southern Alberta and this year we highlight Maisstooina (Joe Crow Chief) who, with his brother Nick King, served in the First World War. Their older brother, Bumblebee, tried to enlist but was not accepted into the military.

Maisstooina’s attestation papers note that he was born in 1894 and worked as a labourer prior to enlisting. He enlisted on 15 July 1916 at Macleod, at the age of 22. He enlisted with the 91st battalion and served overseas in the 50th battalion. While overseas, Maisstooina served at many important First World War battles, including Vimy Ridge, and was wounded on 9 September 1918. He was discharged 6 June 1919.

These are the basic facts which can be discovered in his First World War personnel records – just the bare facts.

Fortunately, in 2020, Elder Charlie Crow Chief, Maisstooina’s son, was interviewed by Tim Kalinowski of the Lethbridge Herald (article ran 7 November 2020, Lethbridge Herald).

This interview provides much more detailed information about Maisstooina’s service, including that the two brothers made a pledge to each other prior to enlisting.

“The two men went to a local Sundance together in their white buckskins. On that day in 1916, Joe rode into the Sundance on a white horse and his brother, Nick, on a black horse. The two men vowed to each other when they returned after the war one day they would go to another Sundance, and this time Nick would ride the white horse and Joe the black.” This they did in 1920.

The article also provides details of Maaisstooina’s time in combat:

“One of these night raids almost cost Joe his life when his squadron came under attack from enemy mustard gas shells. Joe was the only survivor. He had lung problems for the rest of his life as a result of this 10month, prolonged exposure on the Western Front to various gas attacks.” (7 Nov 2020)

As well as of his bravery and actions at Vimy Ridge. His “was one of the first in his battalion to make it over the top. His backpack was shredded from constant fire and the heel of his boot had been shot off by the time he got there, but nonetheless Joe and his sergeant managed to get around and in behind the German defences.”

“The sergeant and my dad went right up to the barricade behind the snipers, and when my dad got on top he did the (Blackfoot) War Cry, and the Germans dropped their weapons.’”

As with so many veterans, Maaisstooina had difficulty speaking about his time in combat and would often tell his grandchildren that “he just took care of the horses.”

“When Joe returned to Canada he simply abandoned his unit in Medicine Hat and later became a farmer.”

Maaisstooina passed away on 27 July 1976. Nick King passed away in June 1957.

The photograph shows local Indigenous soldiers in the First World War.

Photo: L-R back row: George Coming Singer; Joe Crow Chief; Dave Mills; George Strangling Wolf; Mike Foxhead (Siksika).
L-R front row: Nick King; Harold Chief Moon; Sergeant Major Bryan; Joe Mountain Horse; Mike Mountain Horse.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

November Book Tuesday

This month's great review comes from VSA member Marian Gibbard!

The Victorian Society of Alberta

The Butchering Art:
Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

by Lindsey Fitzharris

Published:    2017
Time Period: 1850-1875 

To fully appreciate modern medicine, it is helpful to have some understanding of historical conditions.  The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris will, without a doubt, leave you with a deeper regard for the current system, no matter what its flaws may be.

The book follows a young medical student, Joseph Lister, through his developing career as a surgeon in England and Scotland at a time when neither anaesthetics nor antiseptics were well known. The reader is introduced to the bloody and brutal realities of the Victorian operating theatre where a patient's odds of surviving surgery were low, and the odds of surviving the recovery wards were even lower.

Simultaneously fascinating and horrifying, this is not a book for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The sights, sounds and smells of Joseph Lister’s world are, not infrequently, deeply disturbing and the author does not hesitate to acquaint the reader with uncomfortable realities. Even so, a sense of compassion and empathy is apparent - the author is a clinical observer, unflinchingly describing horrific injuries and their treatments, but always aware of the underlying humanity of the patient and never crossing over into becoming merely a voyeur, revelling in the blood and gore.

I would recommend this book, but with caution - not everyone will appreciate the somewhat gruesome subject matter.  I think this book will leave anyone with a deeper appreciation for the good parts of the modern medical system, and a feeling of deep relief that things could be so much worse.

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Happy Halloween!

On this spooky day we have a fascinating article from the Blog of Heritage Park in Calgary about the history of Halloween in the West.
A vintage halloween postcard featuring an illustration of a young boy running away from a jack o' lantern

The history of Halloween in Western Canada goes back to the influx of norther European settlers in the 1800s. And many Halloween traditions we take for granted first appeared here, in fact the very first recorded use of the term 'Trick or Treat" is in a 1927 newspaper article from Blackie Alberta!





Well worth checking out.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

From Tricks to Treats: Western Canadian Contributions to Halloween

Two vintage halloween postcards. One featuring a witch under a full moon with bats flying around. The other featuring an illustration of a dancing jack o' lantern and candle

In the mid-1800s, a wave of Irish and Scottish immigrants settled in North America. Shortly thereafter, references to a bewitching October celebration, now known as Halloween, began appearing in the historical record. Canadians, particularly, have embraced the ghostly holiday ever since. Arguably, it was cities in the Western provinces that established the quintessential Halloween traditions we delight in today. In fact, Albertans specifically could be responsible for transforming Halloween from a night of trickery to a night of treats!  

When first observed in Canada, All Hallows Eve was often characterized as a time of mischief and pranks. So much so that Halloween was also called ‘Cabbage Night’ or ‘Cabbage-Stump Night’ as it was common to throw cabbage stalks around your neighbourhood. Other Halloween high-jinks included breaking windows, stealing front gates off fences, and throwing flour onto passersby. This tomfoolery caused a lot of folks to fear Halloween night so much that they sent postcards reminding their loved ones to be wary in October.  

Beginning in the Canadian West, however, that fear slowly began to be eclipsed by Halloween fun! The first recorded case of children dressing up for Halloween in North America was reported in British Columbia on November 2nd, 1898. The local newspaper, the Vancouver Daily World, recounted that:  

“The young people of Vancouver have inaugurated an innovation in the manner of celebrating Hallowe’en night. It is that of paying friendly visits to the residences while disguised. The habit, if properly followed out and observed, is a harmless one. Everywhere they were warmly received and hospitably treated.” 

Continuing to innovate in the following century, the phrase ‘Trick or Treat’ is actually a Canadian-ism. According to etymologist Barry Popik, the oldest recorded use of the full phrase ‘Trick or Treat’ was printed in Blackie, Alberta, a small hamlet only 65 kilometers from Heritage Park! It comes from a 1927 edition of the local newspaper and reads:  

“Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun… The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word ‘trick or treat’ to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.”

Continued at Heritage Park's Blog.