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7 Stories from Edmonton’s Past

QuirkyEdmonton1904
Joseph Henry Morris owned the first car in Edmonton. In 1904, Morris purchased a 1903 Ford Model A in Manitoba and brought it back to Edmonton by train. He was issued licence plate “No. 1”, but was responsible for constructing the licence plate himself. Morris was later taken to court for failing to display a proper licence plate, to which he argued that the broomstick placed vertically at the back of his car was sufficient to display his number. If the stories can be believed, he won the court case, but was issued a proper leather licence plate the following year.

1907
A rapid population boom in 1907 left many Edmontonians living in tents because builders could not keep up with housing demands. Many of the descriptions of the “tent cities” from that time are very rose-coloured, due to a phenomenon called “boosterism,” in which settlers exaggerated amenities in order to attract more people to their neighbourhoods. Fort Edmonton Park’s “tent city” can be visited to see how people lived during this period.

1910
Mail from Edmonton to St. Albert and surrounding areas used to be delivered via moose-drawn cart! Buffalo Bill Day, as he was known to townspeople, raised two orphaned moose in 1910, and the pair of moose — named Pete and Nellie — went on to pull his mail cart.

1933
The first permanent traffic light was installed in Edmonton in 1933 at the corner of 101 St. and Jasper Ave. The light replaced a battery-operated one, which had to be held up by a police officer!

1938
In 1938 the Al Rashid Mosque was built in Edmonton and became the first mosque in Canada. The land and money needed to build it was collected by a group of local women. Al Rashid Mosque has changed locations several times since then. In 1992, the original building was moved to Fort Edmonton Park, where it still stands as an important landmark of Edmonton’s history that can be toured by park visitors.

1947
On April 29, 1947, children and teens marched down Jasper Avenue to protest the rise of the candy bar prices from 5 cents per bar to 8 cents per bar. Many of their signs read “don’t give way to inflation!” They weren’t successful — nor were their co-protesters in other Canadian cities — but their efforts will never be forgotten.

1956
Canada’s first successful open heart surgery was performed at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton on September 18, 1956. Doctor John Carter Callaghan undertook the ten-hour-long procedure on ten-year-old Suzanne Beattie using a heart-lung pump as mechanically complex as a car. Dr. Callaghan went on to pioneer many other heart surgeries, including one that saved his own great-granddaughter’s life a few years later. He was also the co-developer of the world’s first cardiac pacemaker, and pioneered the use of cold-therapy during surgeries.

—Danielle Mohr

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