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The adventures of Scruffy the Car


Photo courtesy Heritage Park Historical Village.

There’s a Nash 450 sedan sitting in Gasoline Alley in Heritage Park Historical Village, and her name is Scruffy.

She first rolled off the assembly line in 1930 with a shiny coat of paint. Only a few years later she was covered in dents, repairs and rust due to the travels of a Saskatchewan family searching for a better life on the open road.

Like many prairie families in Canada during the Great Depression, they were forced to pack up their belongings, load up the car and leave their devastated farm behind to find work.

Scruffy has room for five people. With no trunk, any extra luggage would be strapped on the roof. The family headed north to Peace River Country, but somewhere in Alberta the worn-out car kicked the bucket.

Sylvia Harnden, the curator at Heritage Park, says the family would have had no choice but to set out on foot while Scruffy was left to fend for herself. Scruffy eventually settled in a barn in Balzac.

About 50 years later, in 1985, a man named Brian McKay showed up looking for Scruffy. The Calgary-born car enthusiast was living in Victoria, restoring antique Nash roasters, and looking for parts, when he heard about the old girl.

“He picked it up for parts, but once he had it in his possession, he started to look at it and fell in love with what it represented — all those thousands of thousands of people who struggled during the depression,” Harnden says. “The Dust Bowl, drought, hail, grasshoppers — it was a terrible time for a lot of people — and to him it represented those hardships.”

After having a hell of a time taking Scruffy to car shows, in 2004, when he was 65 years old, McKay mechanically restored the car and drove 2,000 miles down Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, recreating the journey of many Dust Bowl refugees who headed west hoping to find work.

He shipped Scruffy by flatbed truck to Chicago and travelled by train to meet up with her for the epic, 2000-mile, seven-week journey. McKay mimicked the life of the original displaced farmers with an old bed frame tied on top of Scruffy and a kitchen set-up at the back. He camped roadside or in campgrounds along Route 66 and cooked his own food.

The car has wooden spokes so when driving through drylands in Nevada, at one point he drove into a tributary of the Colorado River to soak his wheels, to swell up the spokes so they would be tight again.

After McKay’s death, Scruffy was donated to Heritage Park in 2010 with the stipulation they could not restore her.

“I think the story of this car is one thing — the indomitable human spirit,” Harnden says. “Brian McKay had it, people who survived the Great Depression had it — they just had to keep on, keepin’ on — and somehow they did.”

Liked this story? Read the full feature in the May/June issue of Where Calgary and uncover the secrets behind five museum artifacts.  

Paul Brandt’s Legacy: Love, Music and Creating Change


Photo by Kylee Pedersen.


The first time Paul Brandt saw Liz — his wife — in 1995, he knew he wanted to marry her. She was singing at Calgary’s Centre Street Church that fall; he attended the service with his parents and couldn’t stop thinking of her his whole flight back to Nashville.

When Christmas Eve rolled around, Brandt was back at the church, but this time he was on stage singing. At the end of his set he saw Liz slip out the back of the church, so he unplugged his guitar and ran down the aisle, catching her just before she got outside to get her number.

When I asked him how he knew she was the one, he said, “I just did.”

Incredulous as it may seem, that innate gut feeling has forecasted much of Brandt’s life. The Calgary-born, Airdrie-raised musician doesn’t sit on the fence mulling things over — he’s either in or he’s out.

Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre (NMC), is hosting a new temporary exhibit, The Paul Brandt Legacy Collection: YYC to BNA, which is infused with that spirit. It doesn’t beat around the bush or gloss over details; it’s an intense close-up of not only the accomplished musician behind the songs that paint a picture of Western Canadian experience, but the philanthropist behind the musician.

The first pieces in the exhibit that Brandt points out are two intricate drawings, hanging one above another. He explains they were gifted to him and Liz on a recent trip to Iqaluit, where they were filming a documentary for the CBC to commemorate the Arctic Winter Games.

“My wife and I have travelled all over the world to a lot of really unique places through humanitarian work, and we get to go to places nobody gets to, but we both agree that our richest cultural experience was right here in Canada in Iqaluit.”

The exchange that he had with the Iqaluit artist got him thinking about the struggles faced by Canada’s Indigenous communities, and he started thinking about how he could use his platform to be an alley for Indigenous communities. That was the spark for the launch of the #NotInMyCity campaign, a movement which seeks to raise awareness about child sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, which is also showcased in the exhibit at the NMC.

“While Indigenous people make up only four per cent of our national population, they make-up over 50 per cent of our human trafficking victims,” Brandt says. “So you hear about missing and murdered Indigenous women and there is a huge connection between what’s going on there and trafficking.”

Photo by Kylee Pedersen.

Near the Iqaluit drawings, a #NotInMyCity banner hangs on the wall — a canary yellow rose on a black background, created by Calgary designer Paul Hardy.

Brandt says the main goals of the movement are to shine a light on human trafficking in his home province and to create a conversation that includes victims’ voices. During the next #NotInMyCity event (which is taking place on June 20 at the Deane House), the Calgary Tower and Reconciliation Bridge will light up in the bright yellow colour of the campaign.

Perhaps one of the reasons the exhibit so strongly represents Brandt’s passions, is the three years of hard work put into it by Mount Royal University (MRU) students who archived, organized and implemented the entire installation.

“When I first met Paul I felt like I almost knew him better than he knew himself because I had gone through everything,” says Jordan Piraux, who archived all of the material that Brandt loaned to MRU as part of his Storyteller in Residence Position. An alumni of MRU himself, Brandt has worked on several projects with students enrolled in the entrepreneurship, social innovation and marketing streams. For this particular assignment, students were tasked with dissecting the Paul Brandt brand and creating an entrepreneurial or social project from it.

The collection does devote half of its space to Brandt’s music career and his artistic process. There are unrecorded songs scribbled onto airplane sickness bags and framed photos of him winning his first Calgary Stampede talent show in a shirt his mother sewed for him, which brings to mind Garth Brooks. It quickly becomes clear, however, that being a musician is only part of Paul’s life. He is just as equally dedicated to the social causes he’s passionate about.

While the word legacy doesn’t quite sit well with him, Brandt sees the collection as a platform he can use to make change: “It’s about using [the Paul Brandt brand] as a billboard to raise awareness for these types of issues. Yeah, I want to entertain and have fun when we are on stage, but if it’s not being used to do something that’s going to make the world better, it doesn’t really have a lot of meaning to me.”

As for the creation of the exhibit, Brandt took to its inception the philosophy he takes to everything: “Before I create anything, whether it’s a campaign like this or a song, the question I ask is, ‘Does the world need this?’ I think the world needs this and I’m excited to be working on it.”

The Paul Brandt Legacy Collection: YYC to BNA exhibit will be at the NMC until Dec. 31, 2018.

Hot Art Round-Up: Jun 14 – 16



Animal Crackers-Angie Rees
Blackboard Gallery, 5 – 8 pm

Second Thursday – Artist Spotlight
Alberta Craft Gallery, cSpace: 5 – 8 pm

Adults Only Night at TELUS Spark- Cocktail Science June 14th
TELUS Spark, 6 – 10 pm

ShapeFormChanges Exhibition
Motion Gallery, 6 – 9 pm

Off Cut – Exhibition reception for Chris Savage, and Nasarimba
The Bridge Inc, 7 – 9 pm

Artists in the Museum
The Military Museums, 7 – 10 pm



Five AM presents Natasha Jensen
Five Art & Merchandise, 7 – 10 pm

Connections 2018 Group Exhibition
Ruberto Ostberg Gallery, 5 – 9 pm

Launch Party
Glenbow Museum, 7:30 – 10 pm



Farmers & Makers Market at cSPACE
cSPACE, 10 am – 3 pm

Rock Painting for Neighbour Day at the Calgary Public Library
Central Library, 11 am – 2 pm

Neighbour Day -Art for the Artist in You
Framed on Fifth, 11 am – 4 pm

Exhibition Opening – Process; thinking through
cSPACE, Alberta Craft Gallery: 2 – 4 pm

BUMP Launch Party ft. Ryan Hemsworth
Central Memorial Park, 3 -11:30 pm

“Canvas pARTy” Bumblebee Buzz
Motion Gallery, 7 – 9:30 pm

Uncovering hidden treasure from the First World War


Photo courtesy Glenbow.

On the seventh floor of Glenbow, one of the floors containing the museum’s collections materials, Travis Lutley slips on a pair of archival gloves and picks up a slender cigarette tin. Its exterior is dotted with rust, but it’s in pretty good shape considering it’s been buried in dirt for almost a century.


Hot Art Round-Up: Jun 7 – 9



Lancette Burton: Day Dreamer
Loft 112, 4 – 9 pm

Free First Thursday Night
Glenbow Museum, 5 – 9 pm

The bell that rang when Chuvalo fought Ali


Exhibit in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame/Photo by Silvia Pikal.

The year was 1966.

The place was Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

And the fight was between George Chuvalo and Muhammad Ali.


15 things to do in Calgary in June


Photo courtesy Monsieur Periné.


This Columbian group mixes Latin and European influences in their Afro-Caribbean sound. See them on June 4. (more…)

Hot Art Round-Up: Jun 1 – 3



Art Auction Launch Party
Motion Gallery, 5 – 9 pm

Andrée-Anne Roussel / -Pathie
TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary, 7 – 10 pm

Bruise Me Softly
Stride Gallery, 8 pm – midnight

The journey of the Kimball Theatre Organ


Photo by Jason Dziver.

On a Tuesday afternoon in March, Jason Barnsley, the National Music Centre’s collections and exhibitions technician, is playing some movie jazz on the Kimball Theatre Organ.

Barnsley is a trained organist who plays and tunes the assemblage of pipes, valves, cables and instruments that make up the instrument, which lives on the third level of Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre.

Using both hands and feet to control the keys and levers, he can play the pipe organ, snare drum, xylophone, glockenspiel and several other instruments to give the audience the feel of an orchestra.


3 new eats in Calgary


Looking for something fresh? These places have opened in Calgary within the past few months.


Check out Little Lot Diner for casual and tasty breakfast, and lunch and dinner, from bennies to burgers. They’re also licensed and serve 12 cocktails, 4 rotational taps and a coffee bar. (more…)

Hot Art Round-Up: May 24 – 26



Riley Thérèse – Baptizing a Ghost
ACAD, Marion Nicoll Gallery: 6 – 8 pm

Children’s Festival of the Arts

The International Children’s Festival of the Arts returns to the picturesque banks of the Sturgeon River in downtown St. Albert. This year’s theme, Stories Alive, offers a one-of-a-kind experience for kids to sing and dance to world music, listen to stories about faraway places, interact with roving artists, and create their own masterpieces with an array of hands-on activities.

From an enchanted retelling of Thumbelina that blends dance, puppetry, and live music into a spellbinding theatrical experience, to the stunning world of Neverland with aerialists, tumblers, and jugglers, imaginations and stories come alive with an abundance of main-stage performances. For a list of performance venues and addresses, visit their website!

International Children’s Festival of the Arts | May 29–June 3
St. Albert Place | 5 St. Anne St., St. Albert | 780-459-1542