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Edmonton (Circa 1800-1920)

Filed in:Our Life

Edmonton (Circa 1800-1920)

September 7th, 2005  · stk

Fort Edmonton Alberta


The Province of Alberta is celebrating its Centennial this year and the big party in town was on September 1st. We didn't participate in any of the venues, but from what we heard (the sound of fireworks), it must've been a rousing time. We did, however, celebrate on September 5th, when Edmonton offered free admission to a number of city attractions. What better way to celebrate a 100-year birthday, than by visiting old Fort Edmonton, the 1800's trading post that predates this Provincial Capital?

Fort Edmonton Park is a living history museum that shows the growth of Edmonton through four historical periods - The old Fort, 1885, 1905 and 1920. Horse-drawn wagons, a steam train and electric trolleys provide transportation to their period-appropriate locations. In addition to the old trading post and fort, the other eras each have their own street, filled with historical buildings, costumed actors, operating shops (which includes the 30-room Selkirk Hotel) and a variety of amusements.

Learn about Fort Edmonton Park and our family visit ... Onward Ho!

So, we hitched Alex's buggy to our bicycles and cycled along the river valley parkway, to Fort Edmonton, about 11 miles away. Though it had rained the previous day and the weather forecast for the 3-day Labor Day weekend had been all over the map, it ended up being a warm, sunny, beautiful day. It took about an hour to cycle there. We enjoyed cycling by the river, on empty paths, through the UofA campus (where the incoming lot of freshmen were undergoing orientation and moving into the dorms), and along the river bluffs. It was a nice cycle, but Alex seemed to be whiny the whole way, for some reason. We stopped to change her diaper, hoping that was the root of the problem.

When we arrived at Fort Edmonton Park, they were "event" signs posted everywhere and a large grass field had been converted to a temporary parking lot. I guess we weren't alone in accepting the invitation to free admission and a large crowd was expected. While we weren't there right at 10 AM, when the park opened, the majority of people still hadn't arrived yet. There wasn't a line to get in, though it appeared to form shortly afterward. Still, the line-up for the train was such that we opted to walk a short distance and ride a street car, instead.

Alex loves the trains and was "toot, tooting" as the steam train pulled up and as the trolley cars went by. She was very excited to ride in one and was waving to everyone, "Hi people!" she said, excitedly, waving as if she were Queen for a day. To her credit, her enthusiasm spilled over to the crowd and many people waved back.

We got off at the end of the line and walked straight over to the old Fort, where we were entertained by Native Americans, performing dance rituals. Quite a crowd was gathering, so we ducked inside the fort and let Alex lead us around from one room to another. Actors were inside some of the buildings, explaining what life was like during the fur trading era. How short people were preferred (more could fit in a boat, a room and required only a little bed) - who would have thought?

In the inner courtyard, we were treated to a mock celebration. A York boat, returning from Hudson's Bay after an arduous 4-month trek to unload fur and bring back supplies. They celebrated the arrival in paramilitary style and a rum toast, as the arrival of a York boat is quite the event for tiny Fort Edmonton.

We walked down to the river and had a look at the York boat, admiring the grit and determination that was, for the fur traders, their daily life. These York boats traveled some 2000 kilometers, along the inland waterways, to deliver their goods and had to return, upriver, laden with supplies. Talk about a rugged life!

We boarded the steam train for a return ride to the entrance, where we stopped for lunch on a park bench, next to a large shade tree. Alex ate very little. She seemed to be whiny again, which we took as a sign that she was tired. So we started walking, with Alex perched on Dad's shoulders (so we could make some distance) and we walked along the 1920's street. Alex didn't want to be on Dad's shoulders. She wanted her Mommy and cried till Rachel carried her. Which she did, but Alex is getting to be 30 pounds and quite heavy. So we had to slow down for tiny feet, as Rachel put Alex down and we walked along the boardwalk. It was warm in the sun and across the street, was a soda fountain shop. Scott said, "It's a good thing that Alex can't read, because if she saw the 'ice cream' sign, she'd be over there in a flash."

At the head of 1905 street, stood the Selkirk Hotel. We were amazed to look inside and see porters and staff dressed in period-appropriate clothing. It was busy and we commented that it would be a fun place to stay.

We understand that Brad Pitt (and his latest flame - Angela Jolie) are going to be filming here this month - and the whole of Edmonton is "buzzing" about it. Fort Edmonton Park will be closed to the public for filming, but the hotel will be open (and maybe, if one rented a room, they could be rubbing elbows with the stars?). The film is supposed to be about the outlaw, Jesse James, so I'd bet that most of it would be on 1885 street, but that's just a guess. It will be fun to watch the film and recognize parts of the Park.

Alex became even fussier, so we quickly left 1905 Street and took the briefest of walks down 1885 street, pausing only to look in a window now and again. Most of the buildings were either being used as period-appropriate businesses, or open for public viewing, with roped-off sections, displays and signs that explained things. The crowds were pretty thick, by this time, so moving around the crowded boardwalk, with a toddler, was difficult. We skipped the crowded buildings and decided to catch a street car back, so that we could pedal home and put our fussy little girl, to bed for a nap.

We were just about out of the Park, making our way through the crowds, to the exit, when Rachel says, "Scott, help!" Scott turned around, just in time to see Alex barf all down her arm, onto Mom's shoulder and chest. About the time Scott got back to help (what was he going to do?), Alex barfed again. Scott grabbed sticky Alex and set her down on a bench, facing her away from the crowd, which provided her a splash-free fence, should she puke again. Fortunately, she didn't, but what an awful mess and our poor little girl.

Suddenly, we understood why Alex had been so whiny all morning and why she kept asking for "Mommy" (the comforter). Poor Alex. She must've felt awful all morning, yet put up with the buggy ride, the Park and all of it, with only a whimper. What a trooper.

Dad rushed her out of the park. We stripped off her outer clothes and cleaned her up with a bit of water from our water bottles. Rachel went into a nearby shop and grabbed a couple of plastic bags, into which, she stuffed her barfed-on clothes, along with Alex's. We cinched Alex into the buggy and began the long ride home.

Alex didn't cry, but part way home, she coughed a few times and then upchucked, all over herself, in the buggy. We gave her some water, which she drank and we continued home. About an hour later, we finally got there. Mom took a green Alex into the house for a cursory bath, but all the time, Alex was crying for her, "nappie" (which means that she wants to lie down in bed, with her white knitted blanket that Gran Pilley made for her). Dad hosed off the clothes, the buggy and set everything out to dry.

So Alex had a big nap. We had showers and were feeling tired out after our 22-mile bike ride, endless walking at Fort Edmonton Park and the stress of seeing our daughter sick. Later, Alex got up and was playing like nothing was the matter.

And for this family, a Centennial celebration at historic Fort Edmonton, will be inexorably linked to the Oop's first public upchuck. I suppose we'll even laugh about it, though it was pretty gross, at the time.

Pukey Edmonton!

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