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history

What happens when you clean an Olympic medal with Ajax?

By SILVIA PIKAL 

Photo by Jason Dziver.

1936 OLYMPIC SILVER MEDAL
At Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Helena Deng, manager of exhibits and collections, points out a display with two Olympic medals.

The medals are both the same size, shape, and are imprinted with the words “XI. Olympiade Berlin 1936.” Both medals belonged to Canadian track and field athlete John Wilfrid Loaring, who won a silver medal in 400-metre hurdles at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

But one of these things is not like the other. One is silver and shiny, while the other is discoloured and clearly damaged.

“Unfortunately, my mother cleaned the winner’s silver medal with Ajax Cleanser which badly tarnished it,” Loaring’s son, G. R. John Loaring, said in an email to Where Calgary.

“Ajax is a very, very harsh chemical,” Deng says. “It’s great for sinks, less so for silver medals. By cleaning it with Ajax, she stripped a large portion — if not all — of the silver plating off the medal.”

Many years later, G. R. John Loaring received permission from the International Olympic Committee Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland to obtain a duplicate of the medal.

Luckily, the same German company that made the 1936 Berlin Olympic medals was still in business and able to reproduce the original. The medals are identical aside from a tiny “COPY” stamped along part of the thin round edge. (And the copy is unravaged by Ajax, of course).

In 2015, when Loaring was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, his son shipped his collection of medals to the museum, which included the original and its shiny copy.

“We as Canadians have a very long history of success in athletics,” Deng says. “This medal — to have it displayed — is that impact story.”

A CANADIAN TRACK AND FIELD STAR
Loaring was born in Winnipeg and moved to Windsor in 1926. A rising track and field star, he won several medals in high school and on the Kennedy Collegiate Track Team.

At only 21 years old, Loaring competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in 400-metre hurdles. The very first time he competed in this event was at the Canadian Olympic trials. He was also the youngest finalist in the category, and thus surprised the world by taking home the silver medal. Following his success in the Olympics, he won three gold medals at the 1938 British Empire Games.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, he left Canada for Britain to serve in the Royal Navy. In 1940, as a radar officer on HMS Fiji, Loaring overcame gruelling and challenging circumstances. When the ship was dispatched to pick up civilian survivors of a torpedoed ship, Loaring was able to help resuscitate three children due to his training in Royal Life Saving skills.

During the Battle for Crete, their ship ran out of ammunition and was sunk by a German bomber. Thanks to the strength and stamina Loaring developed as one of the top hurdlers in the world, he survived by clinging to the wreckage for hours until he was rescued. He developed severe oil poisoning due to being in the water for so long, and was put ashore in Africa to recover. Still, less than a year later, he was back to competing in track meets in England.

Back home in Windsor he was an active athlete, worked as a coach and lent his time to a variety of sports organizations.

The adventures of Scruffy the Car

By SILVIA PIKAL

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.  

Uncovering hidden treasure from the First World War

By SILVIA PIKAL

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.

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Walk, Bike, Run: 5 Ways to Get Moving in Winnipeg This Summer

So you’ve discovered Winnipeg’s incredible outdoor attractions and you’re looking for more ways to get outside and get moving. Have no fear! These fun tours and activities make getting active and exploring the city easy.

walking paths

ROUTES ON THE RED

A collection of self-directed walking, biking, and paddling tours along the Red River. Put yourself in the shoes of a voyageur and try out a half-day walking tour that follows the paths of the historic fur trade. Routes and maps found on routesonthered.ca

THE LOOP

Get a crash course on the city by walking this 3.5 hour self directed route that covers Winnipeg’s significant historic, cultural, and architectural sites. Download the route map at tourismwinnipeg.com

BEE2GETHER BIKE RENTALS

Find a willing partner and take to the streets on a bicycle built for two. Bee2Gether’s cute yellow campers can be found at The Forks and Assiniboine Park, with tandem, single rider, buggy, and surry bikes for rent. Visit bee2getherbikes.com or call 204‑298‑2925 for more information.

EXCHANGE DISTRICT BIZ WALKING TOURS

The entire Exchange District neighbour-hood is designated a National Historic Site, and there’s plenty of history to explore. Tours with themes like “Death and Debauchery” bring to light the dark secrets of Winnipeg’s early years—when it earned the nickname “the wickedest city in the Dominion”. Call 204-942-6716 to book.

DOWNTOWN BIKE TOURS

Pig out and get active at the same time on the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ’s Moveable Feast tour. Diners bike between 5 restaurant stops to sample eats at the neighbourhood’s prime restaurants. Visit downtownwinnipegtours.com to book.

More Ways to Explore Winnipeg:

Journey to Churchill at the Assiniboine Park Zoo
What to Expect at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Walk in Louis Riel’s Footsteps
Free Things To Do in Winnipeg

Toronto for History Buffs

EXPLORE TORONTO’S RICH HISTORY WITH THESE ACTIVITIES AND RESTAURANTS

Black Creek Village shoots

Step back in time to the 19th century at Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Fort York National Historic Site played an essential role in the city’s turbulent past, and today boasts the largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings. Throughout the summer, the Fort York Guard, comprised of musketmen and musicians, perform various demonstrations including artillery firing, drills, battle tactics performances and more.

Black Creek Pioneer Village recreates Ontario life as it was in the 19th century, complete with more than 40 heritage buildings including a town hall, a one-room schoolhouse, a general store, harness shop and saddler, and a broom maker’s shop.

Take a grander look at the city’s past at Casa Loma, a Gothic Revival home that was once the private estate of financier Sir Henry Pellatt and his family. Built from 1911 to 1914 at a cost of $3.5 million, the majestic palace boasts more than a dozen rooms, towers and an underground tunnel that connects to the stables. Open in 1913, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres is the last surviving Edwardian double-decker theatre in the world, and has hosted the likes of such performers as Charlie McCarthy and George Burns and Gracie Allen. Twice a week, guests can tour the former theatre, which was home to vaudeville acts and silent films, to see the historic dressing rooms and hand-painted flats and drops.

Situated across from the current City Hall (100 Queen St. W.), Old City Hall (60 Queen St. W.), was the largest municipal building in North America at its time of completion in 1899. Until it closed in 1966, it was home to local government offices and courthouses. A looming clock tower is one of the building’s identifying features, along with bronze casts of gargoyles that were reinstalled in 2002, in tribute to the original four statues that flanked each corner.

high tea

A spread of dainties at Afternoon Tea at the King Edward Hotel.

EAT Partake in the centuries-old English tradition of afternoon tea at the Omni King Edward Hotel (37 King St. E.), which serves savory finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones with Devonshire cream in an elegant setting.

Once a private home that was transformed into a diner in 1929, The Senator is the city’s oldest restaurant. With fixtures from 1948, the menu is chock-full of comfort foods like bacon and eggs with baked beans, homemade meat loaf, and liver and onions. Barberian’s Steak House dates back to 1959 and boasts an extensive collection of Canadiana art and artifacts that includes paintings by members of the Group of Seven and firearms and rifles used during the War of 1812. A menu of classic dishes includes New York strip loin, shrimp cocktail, rack of lamb and French onion soup, as well as an after-theatre menu with cheese or beef fondue and a Grand Marnier soufflé for two.  —Linda Luong Luck

City Secrets

Courtesy King + Bannatyne

Courtesy King + Bannatyne

Uncover a new side of Winnipeg at these historically significant spots that have been reborn as tourist destinations, foodie favourites, hip shopping locales, and learning centres.

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6 Must-See Quebec City Museums

By SHANNON KELLY

Maison Chevalier (Photo: genevieve.ducret)

Quebec is one of Canada’s oldest cities, founded in 1608, and arguably the best preserved, so doing at least one museum on your trip here is essential. Explore French-Canadian and native history, art and even 17th-century medical technology at these fascinating museums in a fascinating city. At the very least, they can provide a respite from the summer heat! (more…)

The Fairmont Château Laurier’s Centennial Celebration: What’s in Store

The historic Fairmont Château Laurier is celebrating its anniversary with a series of fun and fascinating events taking place in the coming months.

One of Ottawa’s most recognizable landmarks celebrates its 100th anniversary this spring. The Fairmont Château Laurier first opened its doors on June 12, 1912, although it was originally slated to open on April 26. An interesting fact that people might not know is that just days before the hotel’s original opening date, the man who commissioned the Château Laurier, Charles Melville Hays, died aboard the Titanic on April 15. Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, for whom the hotel was named, and who also helped the Château Laurier acquire its property, opened the hotel instead. With its prime location in the heart of the city, only steps away from Parliament Hill, the Fairmont Château Laurier has played host to a century of political deals and many of Ottawa’s visiting celebrities. From rock stars to political figures, its guest list has included Shirley Temple, Billy Bishop, Roger Moore, Bryan Adams, Nelson Mandela, and more.

In honour of this historic landmark reaching the big 100, the hotel is offering some fun events in the upcoming months: (more…)

Revisiting the Titanic 100 Years Later in Halifax this Spring

Fairview Lawn Cemetery, the resting place of 150 Titanic victims (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

April marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic 375 miles off the Newfoundland coast in 1912. Events in Halifax, a city that played a key part in the tragedy, will commemorate the event’s centennial. (more…)

Restored 1919 Film Gives Rare Historic Glimpse of Arctic Life in Canada

Still from 1919 film Romance of the Far Fur Country (Photo courtesy of the Hudson's Bay Company Archives)

Some of the earliest footage of northern Canada—a silent black-and-white film documenting a 1919 Hudson Bay Company expedition—has been restored to a full-length documentary. The film had been gathering dust in a London archive for 50 years but was recently restored and is being shown in select Canadian towns and cities. (See clips of the original footage.) (more…)

Explore Nova Scotia, Circa 1934

Back in 1934, Nova Scotia’s selling points for vacationers included dustless highways (ah, luxury!) and 22 golf courses (it has 80 today) among many of the natural and historic attractions it still showcases, like Louisburg and Cape Breton Island.

It was, to quote the Official Motor Guide of Nova Scotia, a place where you could “Generally Enjoy Your Holiday In a Sportsman’s Paradise.” Plus, in 1934 you could pick up this guide to Nova Scotia for a mere dollar.

This and other historic Nova Scotia guidebooks are viewable online at the Nova Scotia Archives. Browse the entire 136-page 1909 Sporting Guide to Nova Scotia, the 24-page Storied Halifax (1917), and the pamphlet 7 Days in Halifax, which advises visitors of the wide range of dinner prices in that city in 1930: from 50¢ to $1.50.

You Are Here: Old Strathcona

Image courtesy of Noel Zinger

With over 600 eclectic, independent and alternative shops and services to explore, it’s little wonder Old Strathcona is regarded as the place to experience Edmonton’s finest live theatre and music, boutique shopping, dining and nightlife. Read on for some of our top spots in this historical district and then visit www.oldstrathcona.ca for even more. (more…)