Friday, February 26, 2016

Peace River's African Canadian Heritage

In today's multicultural society, we sometimes forget that our community, and Canada, has not always been as diverse or welcoming as it is now. February in Canada is Black History Month, and gives us a chance to reflect on the contributions African Canadians have made to Canadian culture, society, economics, and politics just to name a few. Alberta's Black heritage began in the mid-19th century with the migration of escaping Black slaves from the southern United States, and those that were free, but looking to escape the segregated life of the U.S. In moving to Canada they were able to be there own person, but many still faced discrimination and racism.

Dan Kelly and his family moved to the Peace Country in the 1920s, although it is possible they came to the Prairies between 1907 and 1911 with the wave of Black American settlers fleeing segregation. Nevertheless, he and his family, at one time, lived in a house one can see standing amongst the trees adjacent to what is now the Belle Petroleum Centre.

Kelly hauled the honey wagon around Peace River – an essential service in those days. He, too, was called “Nigger Dan” or “Nigger Kelly”. Many children of early Peace River will remember careening wildly down a steep incline, which takes off from 98 Street and 94 Ave., known locally as “Nigger Hill”, near the current Peace Country Co-op.

The Kelly daughters were well- known in town for their singing talents. It was in pursuit of honing these talents that led him and his family to live in Toronto. Dave and Johanna Steedsman bought the Kelly's house in 1937.

PRMA1979.1015.002 - Peace River School photograph. The Black girls in the photograph are thought to be the daughters of Mr. & Mrs. Dan Kelly. They were: Elizabeth, Emma & Stella.

Kelly, eventually returned to Peace River, alone. He lived for a time with Mrs. Magrum who was raising her family on her own at the time. As Lois Stranaghan recalls "At that time, everyone was poor - some more, some less - one cannot be critical of how people made their way." It is believed that a child was born from this relationship. Some sources say that Dan died of a heart attack but there are no confirmations of this.

The Museum would appreciate receiving more information and recollections about the Dan Kelly family and contemporary Black Canadian stories and experiences in Peace River.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Peace River’s warehouse district spurs railway line

Sources: North from Edmonton, The Northern Alberta Railways, Keith Hansen, MA; Peace River Remembers; Oxford Dictionary)
PRMA2008.056.004 - view of the warehouse district from the river
c. 1920s.

In the early years of Peace River, there was an area of town on the east side of the river referred to as the Warehouse District in which many businesses and industry resided close to the Peace River – convenient to river transportation.

In the original plan of April 7, 1921, corrected April 30, 1952, as seen in Keith Hansen’s North From Edmonton, The Northern Alberta Railways, there are at least 13 businesses south of the railway bridge. Among them: Palace Transfer, Midland and Pacific Grain Corp. Ltd.(2), Dominion Fruit Ltd., Alberta Pool Elevators, Canadian Propane,  J. H. Ashdowne Hardware Co. Ltd., BA Oil Co. Ltd., Consolidated Fruit Ltd., Hudson’s Bay Co., Ogilvie Flour Mill Co. Ltd., Horne and Pitfield, and Marshall Wells Warehouse.

Let’s look into the history of Palace Transfer. In October of 1928, Tony Tretick arrived in Peace River from Saskatchewan to buy Palace Transfer, a dray business, which used a low truck or horse-drawn cart to deliver freight – barrels, heavy equipment and such. At the time, he had two drays with teams of horses for each. The company’s warehouse was near the railway bridge on the east side of the tracks.
Tony sold Palace Transfer in 1941 and started a new trucking business – Tony’s Truck Service, which hauled freight for many years to Keg River, Hay Lakes and Fort Vermilion. He only hauled in winter, as the trails were impossibly impassable in the summer. The Peace River – Fort Vermilion trip took three days at the best of times. Needing summer work, Tony started farming at Fort Vermilion in 1947 and sold the trucking business to the Stranaghan brothers in 1967.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Vintage Bottles at the Peace River Museum!

By Laura Love
“Every empty bottle is filled with stories…” – Anonymous

Vintage bottles from the 19th and 20th century have intrigued people due to their shapes, colours, and historical uses, from Corkers to Shear Tops. The museum has acquired nearly 60 antique bottles, along with rather interesting stories associated with them.

This collection of bottles was found in the ground behind the Peace River broadcasting or CKYL building (9807-100 Ave) by a construction crew in the fall of 2015. Judging by the varied bottles found at this location, it must have been an early refuse site. But everyone knows that saying, ‘one man’s garbage…’ Well, we have had a chance to clean them off, and uncover (through many layers of earth) the stories, or at least the former life that some of these bottles may have had while they were in use.

Unfortunately the disposing of glass that way at that time was a precursor to how we dispose of glass today. For many, the recycling of glass is no longer ‘financially viable,’ therefore glass containers are increasingly disposed of in landfills. In the 1950s and 1960s, crushed glass was recycled in the form of stucco cladding on homes. Throughout Peace River you can see this early method of crushed glass-stucco.

Recycling glass can be fun, an old bottle with a sprig of flowers can brighten up a space, a window sill, or beautiful addition to a kitchen table. Therefore, to promote the recycling of glass and glass products, the museum will be selling these vintage bottles as a small fundraiser – you too can own a piece of Peace River history!!
Small bottles are $2.00, and the large bottles are $5.00. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Artists of the Month-February-Beyond the Heart Clubhouse

This month’s artists are members of the Beyond the Heart Clubhouse. The Clubhouse offers a community-based, complimentary approach that  “offers people with mental health illnesses, hope and opportunities to achieve their full potential ” (Beyond the Heart Clubhouse Newsletter,Vol.1, Issue 1, 2015).

Challenging the stigma surrounding issues of mental health is considered by the Clubhouse members and staff to be an ongoing campaign. Identifying with mental illness can be as close as someone who is your brother, co-worker or friend who manages their lives with this diagnosis. Stigma can manifest itself in difficulty finding housing, entering higher education, obtaining insurance and receiving fair  treatment in the criminal justice or child welfare systems.

Documented research suggests that engaging in a creative process can provide a powerful outlet for things that are hard to talk about. Already, a growing number of medical practitioners endorse creative expression for its therapeutic impact on managing the physical and mental conditions associated with anxiety, social isolation and loneliness. Struggling with self-doubt and self-blame can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness but for some, the creative arts gives voice to those feelings which can then begin a journey of healing and create a positive sense of self, health and well-being.

View the creative expressions from the Beyond the Heart Clubhouse this month and while you are visiting, take in a new exhibit in the Peace River Gallery co-developed with Project Peace, a school-based program aimed at improving student success by developing emotional intelligence which is based on creating self-awareness and empathy for others. The exhibit “Peace of Mind” takes a retrospective look at the history of mental health practices and attitudes in Alberta and offers visitors hands-on stations to playfully practice mindfulness and intention.