Boondoggles, Bonanzas, and Other Alberta Stories
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In his most recent best-seller, Scoundrels and Scallywags, Brian Brennan introduced us to Albertans who dared to be different. Now, in Boondoggles, Bonanzas, and Other Alberta Stories Brennan turns his sights to erstwhile events, both good and bad, that have engaged the attention of Albertans over the years. Brennan roams across the sweep of Alberta history, retelling a wide range of stories for a new generation. From front-page news items (the Frank Slide and Leduc oil discovery) to lesser-known events (the Lonely Bachelors of "Dinosaur Valley" and the Rainmaker of Medicine Hat), Brennan chronicles some of the fantastic boondoggles and bonanzas that have helped forge the Alberta story.
Always entertaining and often surprising, Boondoggles, Bonanzas, and Other Alberta Stories—Brennan's fifth book—celebrates the ups and downs, successes and scams of Canada's most vibrant and independent province.
Many of the settlers took the board’s advice and looked at the irrigation option as a less risky alternative. The farmers of the Medicine Hat region, however, were located miles away from the established irrigation districts of southern Alberta and they decided to give the miracle worker a chance. They counted themselves fortunate when the man they called “Professor” Hatfield agreed to come to Medicine Hat in 1921, with a promise to “drench” the region with rain between 1 May and 1 August. Hatfield had been in the rainmaking business for seventeen years when he came to the aid of the drought-stricken farmers of Medicine Hat.
Hunter worked for three years as a junior clerk in Royalite’s Calgary office and then was transferred to Turner Valley to do double duty as a clerk and truck driver. In 1927, when he was twenty, Hunter got his first job as a roughneck (drilling crew labourer) and married a young Calgary woman, Edwina Grant, whose pet name was Dean. They began their married life in an uninsulated tarpaper shack in a shantytown called Poverty Flats, on the outskirts of Turner Valley. Dean joked afterward that many of their subsequent homes were just as modest.
You’re on the outside looking in. I have had discussions with company officials, and you don’t have a clue about the other side of this. ” This was an apparent reference to a luncheon meeting Osterman had a couple of months previously with Cormie and some of his vice-presidents. Principal’s executives had always enjoyed a friendly relationship with Alberta politicians. Over the years, Cormie and his associates had often sought relief from what they perceived as unreasonable demands from hostile public servants, and they had repeatedly warned that the province’s entire financial services industry would be endangered if the Principal companies were hurt.
They cooked pancakes outside city hall. They paraded through the streets, on horses, in cars, and in trucks, with Toronto mayor Buck McCallum leading the parade on horseback. They even rode a horse through the lobby of the Royal York. Or so the story goes. At least three people were rumoured to have done so—Herron, Mackay, and footballer Strode. While the Calgarians brought colour, energy, and excitement to parts of downtown Toronto, most Torontonians were not aware that anything unusual was going on.
This view of the Frank Slide as a natural disaster prevailed until 1979 when a member of the Crowsnest Pass Historical Society, James R. Kerr, released some private correspondence written in 1915 by the federal mines inspector, William Pearce. In a letter to a friend, the inspector alleged that efforts by the mine owners to promote their property in Europe as a low-cost coal producer, coupled with their reckless exploitation of the coal seam in the mountain, had set the stage for disaster. Inspector Pearce noted that the Frank mine had been the first coal operation established on the Alberta side of the Crowsnest Pass, and that it ran for just two years before the slide occurred.