Children were an inescapable fact of life in Calgary in the Fifties. The baby boom was well underway, and as Jack De Lorme's photos show, kids were everywhere. In 1955, there were over a million and half people between the ages of 15 and 19 in Canada, out of a population of around 16 million. Between 1951 and 1961 in Calgary, the number of children age 19 and younger went from around 29 percent of the residents to almost 39 percent. Combined with Calgary's growth, the sheer number of children was impressive. One child of the Fifties remembered that "Fun was always a big gang of kids. We always lived in a neighbourhood where there were tons of kids"
The boom put a tremendous strain on the resources of the education system. One woman who grew up in Calgary recalled:
"I remember arriving on the first day of school and there were so many of us, they didn't know what to do. They sent us all home until they could hire more teachers and set up some classrooms. We were at home for a couple of days until they could get their act together."
The launching of Sputnik by the Soviet Union made a massive investment in education even more imperative, as politicians in North America worried about falling behind the Communists in science and engineering. Not only were more schools built, but teaching also became a better paid and more professional occupation. The expansion of the education system would be the foundation of future prosperity.
Photos of children in every circumstance abounded in the newspaper. Some were simply sentimentality - especially at Christmas or Easter when De Lorme would do posed photos to help sell papers. Others were a celebration of the sheer numbers of children and exuberance of child rearing in that age. Disadvantaged children were not forgotten. The new Children's Hospital was a great favourite for photo shoots, while service clubs often sponsored trips to the zoo or the circus for kids from orphanages - which still existed. It reflected a great concern about children's welfare.
Not surprisingly in Calgary's small town atmosphere, sports for young people were accorded a great deal of print. The newspapers covered high school and even junior high school track and field and winners of badminton tournaments, volleyball championships or football games could all be assured of getting their picture in the paper. That most cliché "sport" of the Fifties, the soap box derby, was tremendously popular. The annual race down Victoria Road on Cemetery Hill (now Macleod Trail) was a major spectator draw, and boys diligently prepared their homemade racers for weeks in anticipation.
The Albertan generally only showed teens engaged wholesome pursuits like sport - a surprise given the increasing concern, even hand wringing about teenagers in the Fifties. In three years De Lorme photos, only one dealt with a teen controversy - wearing jeans in school. Perhaps worrisome teenage fads and the disaffection of Rebel without a Cause passed Calgary by; or perhaps the editors of the paper thought reporting on Elvis, zoot suits, ducktails, and heavy petting would just encourage teens.