A Short History of the Banff Trail Community

banfftrail_opening_feb2010(Reprinted from a speech by Michael Shepherd, Emcee, given on September 19, 2009 at the Banff Trail Community Hall re-opening

Good morning everyone, good morning and welcome to the Grand Re-Opening of the Banff Trail Community Hall! After thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours, we have some exciting additions and improvements to share with you today.

My name is Michael Shepherd and I’ve lived on Capitol Hill Crescent
going on 3 years now and I’ve been working as an Actor and as an Emcee for over 25 years. You may recognize my voice from a series of popular TV commercials for Shaw High-speed Internet- the ones with the animated snails who like things slow. Yes, I am Don Snailski! But my ties to Banff Trail go further than my current residence, as I also spent a lot of my youth here. In 1969 I went to Kindergarten here at the Community Hall, and got my first scar tripping over a crack in the sidewalk and crashing into my tricycle at the place I used to live in on 19th St by Morley Trail. My Grandada’s construction Company, Curwen Construction, built many of the houses here and in Briar and Capitol Hills. My Great Aunt & Uncle Don & Pat Nelson lived on the corner of 24th St & Cascade Road for many years, and I had many conversations with their neighbour Jac Freidenberg, whom 20 years later was the Musical Director for a company I worked for doing Conventions out of the Banff Springs Hotel Small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it!

Back in 1910, the City of Calgary annexed what was to be a new area of town. In 1951 lots were sold for a new community on the edge of the city limits and Banff Trail was born! 19th Street was the trail to Banff (hence the name) and Morley Trail led to Morley, although it was nothing but a beaten down dirt path. The area was barren with nary a tree to be seen, just some brush and it was very dusty for many years as construction of homes began, soon followed by schools, stores, the University, McMahon Stadium and various other landmarks. You had to time your laundry just right, so as to not get everything all covered in dirt. There used to be an old dairy farm right where Brentwood Mall is now and that was seen as the boundary at the time.

Lots were selling for an average of $500 and after you put a roof on
your place the city would give you back $50. Gordon & Shirley Fox had a $5,000 mortgage for their place on Capitol Hill Crescent. In a lot of cases people had to pay contractors large down payments before they started construction, unless they built a 3 bedroom house, then it wasn’t so bad. The logic behind this being it would be much easier to resell a 3 bedroom place to another young family if repossession came into play. The Parks Department brought in trees as did individual owners who sometimes were given wrong information and purchased WAY too many for their property, and ended up looking like great neighbors by giving several trees and bushes away.

Banff Trail was one of the last areas of Calgary where the lots were
purchased directly from the City and not from a developer. Folks would line up for 3-4 days in advance outside City Hall, upon hearing lots were to be tendered. Shifts were taken by family members to keep their spot in line, bringing lawn chairs, sleeping bags and shaving kits. Someone came up with the idea of a numbering system- so that people could take washroom breaks and not lose their place in line and it was honoured quite nicely! This system, though long and arduous, did allow those in line to get to know their future neighbors before basements were even dug. It was the last time that the City allowed this as even the Mayor at the time, Don McKay, got tired of having to step over people resting on the steps as they went in to work. The Mayor was even heard to say “This is the last time we’re doing this”, and I believe it was.

I was talking to long time resident Doreen Hammond the other night
about Banff Trail’s beginnings and she shared this story for us. She
said that she and her then fiance had come out to survey their lot and seek out the right steel spikes that would mark off their property. They paced things out and marked their future property, and began to dig their basement. All was good, until one night when Doreen’s fiance had the awful feeling that they have been wrong in their pacing and were digging in the WRONG lot! Living on pins and needles until the next day after work when they could re-pace out the property lines, they suffered, only to find they were correct in their calculations and all was well. It would have made a great “How do you do” if they had been wrong & dug their future neighbour’s basement instead.

At this time the closest place that had phone service was the Wig-Wam Service Station, and since you had to have roads and a sidewalk in order to receive Postal Service’s mail was picked up at the Drug Store on the corner of 19th St & 20th Ave. Roads, sidewalks and lawns often weren’t in place until a few years after a home had been built. Building something out of nothing was the common thread for those who first settled in Banff Trail, and that kinship cultivated a very close-knit neighbourhood and a Community was born!

It didn’t take long for this community to band together for what they believed in. In the early years Confederation Park was known as “The Gulley” and ALMOST became a landfill at one point until concerned community members spoke up loud enough and the City was forced to move it elsewhere — Spy Hill to be exact.


55 years ago, in 1954, the Banff Trail Community Association was created to attend to the many needs of its people, many of whom were young families just starting out. Their children were looking for social & sporting activities that went beyond playing in “The Gulley” and using cardboard as sleds down snow covered mounds of construction dirt. Hockey & skating rinks popped up and in 1956 the first version of this fine hall that stands before you was built. There was hockey & figure skating in the winter as well as Winter Carnivals in February with plenty of hot chocolate. There was baseball in the summer. Parents were called upon to tend to the ice as well as volunteer as coaches and referees. Long time local resident John Watson’s garage was used as a hockey storage area and his wife Doris recalls one summer where a couple of young baseball players, blond twins in Grade 6, by the by, came and rang her bell saying “Um, the coach said we could come here to get glasses and some water”. That’s the kind of community Banff Trail was. The basement of the hall was used as a Kindergarten until the early 70’s when it was finally included in the curriculum of the City’s schools.

Parents needed a social outlet as well, outside of their children’s activities. Square dancing became popular very quickly and out of that came the Banff Trailers, a dedicated group of residents whose passion for dancing earned them a spot in the Opening Ceremonies of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Evening Crib tournaments have been going strong for years and through that group, new table-tops were installed on the buildings’ many long tables and re-wiring was done to accommodate nightly adventures in the Center. Bake and Craft sales led to the formation of the Ladies Auxiliary in 1962 where first President Madeline Gablehaus and her Band of Merry Wives helped organize various events to raise funds for the Community Association. This was done primarily through catering for functions ranging from Weddings to Funerals, but they also held garage sales, crafts and bake sales including the yearly Bazaar at North Hill Shopping Center. In 1967 on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, the hall was turned into a movie theater with a rented projector and films, complete with fresh popcorn; all for an admission price of 10 cents! This soon proved to be very popular (except for the few times that films were forgotten in cars and such), so popular that the movie theaters complained and had the City put a stop to it. Movie nights were replaced with monthly pot-luck dinners and slide shows from members’ foreign vacations, and the hall remained busy. Talking to some of our long term residents in the past week there has been more than one instance when the Community Association was on the verge of folding; but once again a community member would step up to the plate and introduce something new and raise awareness; a cycle that we hope continues on for years to come.

Which brings us to the present, to today. The Community Hall is 53 yrs old and it has had the occasional facelift over the years, but today we have some significant improvements to show you. Social activities are on the rise with the addition of soccer, as well as casinos, Stampede Breakfasts and BBQs, New Year’s Eve parties & we even have the pleasure of the popular Monday Night Jam sessions. In fact the Jammers are here today to entertain you this afternoon between 1-3pm, so dust off those guitars and prepare to clap your hands and shuffle your feet a little later on. We have the Grey Cup here in Calgary this year and it’s already sold out, even with the extra seating. So it’s only fitting that we will have a Grey Cup party here at Banff Trail on Nov.28th. On top of the entertainment we have for you here today, there will also be cake, coffee and juice and some door prizes to be awarded through out the event. Tickets are available to current Banff Trail members and with the purchase of a membership today you will also get yourself in for the door prize draws as well.

Enough of the housekeeping, let’s get to the Main Event, shall we? The Grand Re-Opening of this timeless Community Hall!! Many people were involved in this endeavour, but none so much as Community member Neil Brown — he is the one who really got this renovation off the ground, by organizing the casinos that helped fund this project and raising awareness and generating the community interest needed for such a task. Unfortunately Neil couldn’t be with us here today as he is in Egypt, but I’m sure he is here in spirit.

Now for some specifics:

The final cost of the addition and landscaping will be $758,500, consisting of a grant from the Alberta Government in the amount of $350,000, the Federal Government for $31,000, and from the city $17,500. The balance was paid through community funds raised through casinos. These were held April 2002, Feb 2004, Sept 2005, Jan 2007 and Sept 2008. The Federal money consisted of two Seniors Grants that went towards a sound system, kitchen renovations, new chairs and game tables, computers and computer training. The $14,0000 sound system in particular came from the New Horizons Seniors Programs and was provided by Unique Communications. These grants were applied for by Doris Grummett. Let’s put our hands together for her efforts, shall we?

banfftrail_opening_cutting_feb2010The roof of the existing hall was redone and insulation was added. Half of the cost was covered by the City’s Lifecycle program for community facilities. The names of the construction and architect firms that were involved with the hall renovation are Hughes Construction and Simpson Roberts Architecture.

Now just before we introduce the several dignitaries here today to share this accomplishment , I would like to recognize some of the long time residents and community members who are here not only to enjoy this day but to strengthen the ties between community members. Not a passing of the torch to a new generation of Banff Trail residents, but more of sharing the torch, blending the storied past with the aspiring future. When I call your name please stand and raise your hand to be recognized for your love and commitment to the community of Banff Trail.

Doreen Hammond, Doris & John Watson, Francis and Bill Fairhead

And the ever irrepressible & energetic woman whose hand and
presence is still active in the community today, she is the last of the
founding members of Banff Trail — and makes a mean cup of coffee -Doris Grummett- ladies and gentlemen!!

Joining us here today to share their thoughts, feelings & congratulations on this momentous occasion are your Alderman Druh Farrell, your Banff Trail MLA’s Harry Chase and Kyle Fawcett and from the Federation of Calgary Communities, John Wokolok, as well the President of the Banff Trail Community Association, John Kirkland and other members of the Board.

Our 1st honoured guest speaker will be Druh Farrell. Next will be the first of Banff Trail’s TWO MLA’s as we have the distinction of spilling over into two different wards. Ladies & Gentlemen — Mr. Harry Chase. Next up will be your other Member of the Legislature — Mr. Kyle Fawcett. Now from the Federation of Calgary Communities here is John Wokolok. I’d like to call your Banff Trail Community Association President John Kirkland to the microphone to prepare you for the cutting of not just one but three ceremonial ribbons.

Composed and researched by Michael Shepherd – thespisin@shaw.ca