Post Calgary: Station No. 1

Hello fire history fans! I’m Shannon Quigley, a museum assistant at the Firefighters Museum of Calgary. This summer I’ll be going around Calgary taking pictures of postcards from the museum’s collection in front of buildings as they stand today. I’ve seen this done before and thought it would be a great way to add some context. I’ll also throw some photographs from the museum’s archives into the mix.

There’s no better place to start than with Station No. 1, which served as Calgary’s Fire Headquarters from 1912 – 1973. When the fire department (and its trucks!) outgrew the early 20th century structure, Station No. 1 moved a block north and Fire Headquarters relocated to Station No. 16 in the southeast. But the old Station No. 1 still stands at the corner of 1 St & 6 Ave S.E

You’ll notice that I’m wearing some pretty colourful gloves (note to self: wear white gloves next time!). To keep it real I brought the actual postcards to photograph on site and wore gloves to prevent natural oils on my hands from damaging the artefacts.

#1 Firehall Motor Apparatus, circa 1917-1918. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection. (94-01-1132) . Calgary’s Fire Department was the first in Western Canada to use motorized vehicles, and – judging from the above postcard – they liked to show them off!

Fire Headquarters, Calgary, early 20th century. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection. (94-01-1134). Fire vehicles have been decorated for parades and events since the days of horse drawn hose carts. We don’t know what special event is depicted in this postcard, but we’re glad someone took a photo!

Two Firefighters and a dog outside Fire Station No. 1, n.d. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection. (PI-A2002-0032).  I’ve included this photograph because if you look closely you’ll notice that there are dogs in the postcards as well! Check out close up views here and here.


The More Things Change

Looking North-East from Grain Exchange, Calgary, Alta., circa 1911. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection (94-01-1160 verso)

We love the postcards in this collection because they let us know how tourists viewed and experienced Calgary at the turn of the 20th Century. This postcard, written by two siblings visiting Calgary in 1911, makes it sound like not much has changed over the past 100 years. One described Calgary as “the liveliest town in the Northwest” and reported “a very large amount of building going on.” The second wrote “Lots of business 18 banks.” And – just like today’s visitors – the two had plans to visit Banff. Sound Familiar?

The visitors also used short forms in writing – just like we do in text messages! Since two separate people wrote this postcard, space was really at a premium. The second writer used “mor.” instead of “morning,” and even employed the “@” and “&” symbols! Believe it or not, the “@” symbol predates e-mail addresses by centuries – read about its history on the Smithsonian’s site. Emoticons are also nothing new. Check out this article about what could be the oldest smiley emoticon, dated 1648! If there’s one thing history teaches us, it’s that not much is new!

This poem by Robert Herrick, dated 1648, might have included the oldest documented smiley emoticon. What do you think? Image from The Atlantic.

Looking North-East from Grain Exchange, Calgary, Alta., circa 1911. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection (94-01-1160 recto)Looking North-East from Grain Exchange, Calgary, Alta., circa 1911. Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection (94-01-1160). 


Dear Mother 6-21-11

We arrived here at 11:30 this a.m. and leave at 6:10 PM. This is the liveliest town in the Northwest. A very large amount of building going on. We are both very tired and will rest at Banff tonight and tomorrow. Love Jack.

Dear Mother. We made a change @ Mcleod @ 4 this mor. & stay here till 6 on for Banff both [supposed] are awfuly [sic] sleepy. Quite a [illegible] cooler here. Lots of business 18 banks. Love to you from us Maurice [supposed].

Mrs Clara Williams
603 North D
Tacoma [supposed]
Wash [supposed]