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In the News: 10 Fascinating Clips from Banff’s History

June 5, 2015


By Tera Swanson

Start clicking around in the Encyclopedia of Banff History and you’ll quickly get lost in a sea of fascinating clips and images that cover the intriguing history of Banff National Park. Mostly chronicled from the Crag and Canyon and any materials available in the public domain, the Encyclopedia provides a window into our heritage, reminds us of pivotal moments in the development of this region, and highlights fascinating snapshots of a bygone era. Here are ten such moments we’ve handpicked from the lot.

Ski jumper at Mt. Norquay. At one point, Banff locals were concerned about the impact that stretching the TransCanada further West would have on the Banff ski industry.

Ski jumper at Mt. Norquay. At one point, Banff locals were concerned about the impact that stretching the TransCanada further West would have on the Banff ski industry. See #9.

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June 5, 1915 /

“Alpine Club Might Close – A.O. Wheeler Says Unless the Wild Bears Are Driven From the Park the Club Will Have No Other Option” – After a black bear visited the Club House on Upper Springs Road, which “all but frightened the house keeper into sickness” and damaged the interior of the building, the Alpine Club of Canada president insisted that “unless the park government destroy these bears at large, I will have no other option but to close the club house.” (Read more in Zoo)

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July 31, 1915 /

“The second escape from the internment camp at Castle occurred last Thursday… This is the second to go inside ten days. There must be a screw loose somewhere in the present system of the camp… while no one in Banff is worrying a great deal over these escaping Austrians, yet the possible might happen, where the camp would go in a body and it is hard to say what four or five hundred desperate men might do.” (Read more in Banff’s Enemy Alien Internees)

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August 28, 1915 /

“New Auto Road in Progress – Road Between Castle and Lake Louise is Fast Underway” – A representative from the Crag and Canyon visits the camp, and notes “the amount of work already done is an eye-opener, considering that this labor is only costing 25 cents a day per man, and will save the government thousands of dollars.” (Read more in Banff’s Enemy Alien Internees)

The often forgotten history of internment in Banff is well documented in the Encyclopedia.

The often forgotten history of internment in Banff is well documented in the Encyclopedia.

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September 8, 1917 /

Op-ed “Reflections” – “To the tourist who visited Banff say twenty years ago, the Banff of today would seem a different spot – a different world. Then to the resident every tourist was known, even to his habits, his peculiarities, his place of abode, and his family history. Now the average tourist passes through our gates and no one knows of his coming or going, and he may be here today and gone tomorrow without arousing any local interest whatsoever… Those of us who were here in the early days and who know Banff in its natural restfulness, the change which has come about, seems almost a sacrilege…. Then Banff had not become commercialized. Today it has… We cannot help but pity those who never knew the old-time town with its sweetness and natural beauty.” (Read more in Tourists)

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July 20, 1918 /

Op-ed following Women’s Suffrage in Alberta – “To get away from the Park Superintendent for one week. Everybody is kicking and scratching these days – and the dear little ladies are not immune from the contagion that is spreading itself. You can see them kick, and slap and scratch right out in the open just like a man, but some of the more modest will steal into a store to look at your goods while they indulge in a real hearty slap and scratch at their nether parts or modern regions. Having secured the right to vote, they now consider they are quite within their rights to do everything a man may do – they may discard their queer etcetras and don breeches if they like; they may ride astride, swim in scanty attire, kick, scratch, smoke, and swear if they like. And they are doing these things these days because the mosquitos make them do it.…” (Read more in Suffrage)

Banff Avenue in the early days.

Banff Avenue in the early days.

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October 32, 1937 /

“Joe Smith Vacates Silver City” –  At the age of 94, Joseph Smith, who offered the last human connection to what was the boom town of Silver City, finally vacated the town which had been abandoned in the mid 1880s. “On Monday night all that remained connecting the clearing  at the foot of Castle Mountain with the “bubble” city which in its heyday is reputed to have had 3,000 residents, were two rickety storehouses and a weathered cabin.” (Read more in Silver City)

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April 18, 1952 /

Op-ed – A junior practice ski slope to be built at the foot of Sulphur is considered by this editor to be essential for Banff’s development into a major ski centre, with full development of ski talent in local Banff children. “Old world skiers point out that in outstanding ski centres in Europe, there are always slopes close enough to enable visitors and local inhabitants alike to slip out from their homes or hotels for an hour or two’s skiing any time of the day.” (Read more in Skiing)

Silver City existed at the base of Castle Mountain from 1882 to 1886.

Silver City existed at the base of Castle Mountain from 1882 to 1886.

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February 12, 1958 /

“Brilliant Aurora ‘Reserved’ for Banff” – “Even Aurora Borealis treats Banff with special favor. Our town’s scenic setting was rendered even more spectacular Monday night when a brilliant reddish glow outlined Mount Norquay against the northern sky…. Oldtimers could not recall a similar show here. The color almost made it seem as though there was a huge fire behind Norquay and more than one resident could have been pardoned for thinking an ICBM was on the loose… We have been trying – so far without success – to think of a way in which arrangements could be made to incorporate such display in future Banff Winter Carnivals.” (Read more in Mother Nature)

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September 16, 1959 /

“Action Needed” – “Few will deny there is a definite trend away from Banff insofar as skiing is concerned. Construction of the new Trans-Canada Highway has hastened the flow of skiers westward to Lake Louise and Bow Summit and when the Rogers Pass section is completed, the flow will be increased as skiers head through to Revelstoke. Here in Banff we can sit back and wring our hands about this state of affairs, but that won’t do much to alter it. Clearly, we have to get busy and improve conditions hereabouts if we are to capture and hold our share of the “skiers’ market”. (Read more in Skiing)

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April 5, 1967 /

“Fiery End for a Great Old Hotel” – The Mount Royal Hotel, still a landmark hotel on Banff Avenue, was once brought to ashes in one of the town’s biggest fires. As the article mentions, at one point it was feared that the whole block would succumb to flames. (Read more in Fires & the Fire Brigade)

Mt. Royal Hotel in Banff Up in Flames

3. Use below TeaserWhether she’s booting down trail runs, trekking up peaks or travelling the globe, Tera Swanson is never content idling for long. Pairing this with her love for writing came as natural as her Bow Valley backyard.

The views and opinions expressed in the articles on are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editor, the editorial team or the publishers.

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