This Week in Western Canadian History
February 6 - February 12
February
12
1793

Coal MineIn the course of one of his exploratory trips for the Hudson's Bay Company, Peter Fidler spent the winter of 1792-1793 with the Peigan, travelling with them in the Red Deer River district of present-day southern Alberta. On February 12, 1793, at Kneehills Creek, Fidler made the first discovery of coal on the Canadian prairies. Over a hundred years later the Drumheller coalfields went into commercial operation.

February
12
1901

Rocky Mountain Development Co. ProspectusWhen Kootenai Brown first came to the Waterton area of southern Alberta the Kutenai told him about oil seepages along what is today called Cameron Creek. Brown told other local ranchers of the find, and on February 12, 1901, the Rocky Mountain Development Company was incorporated to drill for oil. In 1902, at a depth of 312 m, fine quality black crude was struck. At the time, the only producing oil fields in Canada were in Petrolia, Ontario, so excitement ran high over the potential for local production. The directors of the company anticipated oil wells on every acre, an oil refinery, and even a small town to house the oil workers. Unfortunately, within two years the flow of oil had dwindled to little more than a trickle, and in 1906 the well was closed. Geologists later speculated that the first discovery was probably seepage from a distant underground reserve that became trapped along a fault plane. Although short-lived, Rocky Mountain Development No. 1 was western Canada's first producing oil well and the birthplace of today's industry.

February
6
1914

Professor and Mrs. Ross of Calgary (who had travelled extensively throughout South America) gave a demonstration of the tango, the newest dance sensation which had been banned from public premises throughout the city because of its provocative nature. The police chief, city officials, and religious leaders were invited to the performance but few attended. The ban remained in effect.

February
9
1914

A Manitoba farmer, trapped in his windmill for three days, was finally able to escape after the wind died down. The man, dissatisfied with the performance of manufactured windmills, designed and built his own machine. As he started the sails turning, the wind came up and trapped him inside. His wife and neighbours attempted to come to his rescue, but the farmer neglected to provide any way to shut off the machinery. The sails were so large and were turning with such velocity that they couldn't even pass food or water to the prisoner and it would have been suicide for him to attempt to jump out. After three days, the wind finally dropped and the weakened farmer made his escape.

February
10
1916

Hotel after riotMilitia officials announced a board of inquiry into a riot in which more than 500 individuals -- mainly men in uniform -- invaded Calgary's White Lunch restaurant and demolished the interior. The mob was incited by a rumour that the manager of the restaurant (a man born in the United States, but with a German surname) had fired a First World War veteran and hired an Austrian in his place. It was later revealed, however, that the veteran had refused to perform the cleaning duties for which he was hired and was replaced by someone who would.

February
9
1922

The Calgary chapter of the Canadian Club passed a resolution requesting that the federal government institute and recognise Canadian citizenship. At the time, only persons who could prove a direct line of descent from aboriginal communities were defined as "Canadian." All other Canadian-born or naturalised citizens were British.

February
11
1931

With the opening of a porridge kitchen in the city, city officials claimed there would be no need for panhandling. A local businessman (who wished to remain anonymous) provided the funds for bowls, spoons, and rolled oats. At any time of the day any person could receive a bowl - or more if he wished - of hearty porridge served with milk.

February
7
1945

In the closing months of the Second World War the Japanese military was determined to carry the war to the North American mainland so Canadian and American civilians would experience the war firsthand. Beginning in November 1944, they released thousands of paper balloons which usually carried one large high-explosive bomb and several smaller incendiary bombs. It was anticipated that the bombs would start forest or grass fires and perhaps hurt or even kill those unwary enough to approach the bombs. Several bombs were discovered in the western states and in western Canada, but on the urging of the government the press conducted a voluntary blackout on the incidents. While this prevented the Japanese from knowing how successful their campaign was, and did prevent alarm among civilians, it also meant that people who discovered the objects had no idea of the danger they represented, or knew to report them to military authorities.

On February 7, 1945, two young men near Provost, in east-central Alberta, found the remnants of a balloon bomb with a sealed canister attached. They took the device home, and while using a hot poker to open it accidentally detonated the fuse -- miraculously they didn't detonate the explosive. They escaped with minor injuries. Just three months later, in Bly, Oregon, a pastor's wife and five children came across a similar device. As they approached, there was a terrible explosion and all six were killed. Following this incident -- which was the only one in which lives were lost -- the military and the media collaborated to release more information to the public.

February
10
1954

Hunting and fishing became more than recreation to Royal Canadian Air Force fliers on a training course in the Northwest Territories. The men were being taught how to survive in an Arctic climate. The airmen were “crash-landed” into the snow and left with only basic food and clothing. While on the course they learned to hunt caribou and boil lemmings to supplement the basic “scientific rations”, and to build igloos and snow trenches to provide shelter. The biggest challenge, said the course instructors, was to convince the men that they could develop the skills to survive in the bone-chilling cold.

February
9
1967

High school students in Oliver, British Columbia, were threatened with arrest if they continued their boycott of school classes. The students were protesting the temporary suspension of three girls, who were sent home to lengthen their mini-skirts. The principal of the school defended his actions, noting that the skirts were as much as eight inches above the knee. “They’re a terrible distraction”, he said. Boys were rushing into the classrooms “so they can get seats in front of the class and look back.”



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