Union Cemetery – Calgary: Part Four

I know, I know.  I can just imagine you looking at the blog post title, throwing up your arms in despair and saying, “She’s talking about graves. Again!’  But this is the last time, I promise. At least from Union Cemetery. (I still have to take the tours of Burnsland and St Mary’s cemeteries.)

VIEWAlthough not all of the people buried in Union Cemetery have grave markers, they all have a story. As a writer, here are a few of the stories I learned on the cemetery tour which – while not about the great and the good – really piqued my interest.

The first I found really touching – because I pass by this place every day when I walk my dog – was the story of a young engaged couple who were killed on the corner of Prospect Ave and 10th Street SW. Apparently he went to pick up his fiancée, who lived in a rooming house on Prospect Ave, to go for a walk one day. Mount Royal is – not surprisingly given its name – on a hill. When they were caught in a thunderstorm, a bolt of lightning ended their lives. Their grave is unmarked and their story leaves me with so many unanswered questions. What were their names? Where did they come from? What ages were they? What were their dreams? How soon did they plan to marry? What were their occupations? Such a tragic loss.

SMITHI love the story of Jimmy Smith who emigrated to Calgary from China. Determined to become ‘Canadian’, he dressed in western clothes and was known only by his ‘English’ name. A cook at the Grand Hotel in Calgary, he died of TB but left $1,500 to go towards the building of Calgary’s first hospital, the Calgary General Hospital. His marker was provided by both the Nurses Union of Alberta and the Chinese Community of Calgary. What was his ‘real Chinese name?’ someone on the tour asked. A couple who spoke Chinese looked at the  Chinese characters and smiled.  ‘Jimmy Smith,’ they  replied.

I’ve talked about Peter Prince – a lumber merchant from Quebec – before in my blog. His house can be found at Heritage Park and his office still serves as a restaurant – 1886 Cafe – in Eau Claire. After Prince’s first wife Marguerite died of diabetes (he is buried alongside her in St Mary’s Cemetery) he married three more times. Hmmm, I can hear you thinking. Sounds a bit dodgy. But remember, those were different times. You could not have a single woman in your home unless you were married to her. He married Emma – who had been a invalid for some time – who died in 1902. His third wife, Rosa, died of cancer in 1907. Emily, his fourth wife, outlived him by 19 years. Her grave is unmarked, but she is buried with Rosa and Emily in Union Cemetery.

There are so many other graves and so many stories: Sam Livingstone who brought fruit trees to Alberta and fed the NWMP through their first hard winter in Calgary; Maude Riley, who made a pact with God after she almost died in childbirth, brought in laws to protect children and is commemorated by Riley Park; Fred Collings, a runner for the telegraph office, who died when he and another boy were cleaning their revolvers. Thinking the chambers empty, they fought a ‘duel’.

What a rich and colourful tapestry.

TREEI learned other things about the symbols to be found in graveyards. We know that children are often represented by lambs or little shoes, but a grave marked by a tree stump also represents a life cut short.

What about an anchor? – The symbol of faith.

Or what about this grave? Given the name and lack of dates… what story does it conceal?



Calgary Pathways – Elbow River Pathway

Staying with the urban parks theme from last week’s posting…with over 900 km of bike/walking paths in Calgary, it’s very easy to get out and enjoy the fresh air and some lovely scenery. Today my daughter and I took an hour to explore just a fraction of the Elbow River Pathway, which is only a mile or so from the city centre. Although it was a warm day, 23C, there was a lot of cloud cover which is unusual in Calgary which is famous for its big blue skies.

Map   view 1

We started from the south end of River Park and headed towards the Glenmore Reservoir. If you’re not familiar with Calgary, you might not know that the city experienced a devastating flood in June 2013. Although this year the river is at a very low-level, if you look towards the left hand side of the photo above, you can get an idea of how much erosion the flooding caused.

woods   take a seat

We made our way past woodland to our right and the river valley to our left, stopping for a while for a bite of lunch.

Corrsing the dam dam 2

Then it was out across the Glenmore Dam. The first photo is taken from the dam itself. In the second you can see the dam in the distance as we crossed over Glenmore Trail, one of Calgary’s main thoroughfares. Fortunately the roar of the traffic didn’t last long as within minutes we were back in the peace and quiet of the pathway.

rowan path  from rocky

We ended our walk just outside the Rockyview Hospital which has the most wonderful views across the reservoir. (On a clear day you can see the peaks of the Rockies in the distance.) Had we walked a little farther, we could have reached Heritage Park which I’ve talked about in a previous post, but we were short of time, so we headed back towards River Park again.

In total, our walk took us just over an hour  – including stopping for lunch –  and there were times it was hard to believe we were so close to downtown.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Calgary’s pathways, please click on this link. Calgary is a gorgeous city and we’re so fortunate to have so much open green space within the city boundaries. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, consider taking an hour to pull on a pair of walking shoes and explore some of our amazing trails.




There’s a feeling… Part Two

It’s absolutely bucketing with rain here in Calgary today, but when the weather is dry, one of my favourite places to visit – and a ‘must’ if you’re visiting the city in summer – is Heritage Park. When we moved to Calgary I worked as a docent in the Park telling schoolchildren tales of the pioneer days. It was a wonderful way to learn and experience the history of this land. I even had the good fortune to meet the daughter of an early pioneer.  She was in her 80s at the time, and she and her family had moved to Alberta in the early part of the century from Chicago.  Her father had gone on ahead to build a house for the family who followed on several weeks later.  When they arrived, she recalled her mother just sat in the wagon for hours and sobbed.  They’d left a house with beautiful furniture and stained glass windows to live in a ‘soddie’, similar to the one in the photo below. Those early pioneers certainly had grit.

SoddieThere is so much to do and see here that you really need to spend the whole day in the park.  And there is something for everyone; original houses filled with history and stories, train and steam boats rides, an old fashioned fairground and lots of shops selling everything from little nick-nacks to gingerbread men and old fashioned candies.

Sweet shop

Another absolute city gem – which most Calgarians aren’t even aware of – is the Cantos Music Foundation. Situated in a red brick downtown office building, it holds a treasure house of keyboard instruments, some dating back almost 400 years.

Cinema organ

The picture above is only part of an old 1920s cinema organ. In the early days of silent films, the organist wasn’t just responsible for providing the musical accompaniment, but also for creating the necessary sound effects, and that’s what you can see lining the wall behind the organ. Absolutely fascinating.


The museum offers everything from harpsichords to the latest electronic keyboards. Sitting amongst all these beauties is the simple white upright piano on which Elton John wrote ‘Your Song’. On his last tour through Calgary he made a special visit to the museum to play on it once more.

As I said, an absolute treasure house for anyone interested in music.