Gateway Gazette

Sheep River Library OUT LOUD: Meet Harry Sanders

The Sheep River Library OUT LOUD special event and speakers series is drawing to a close. Be sure to sign up for the remaining three sessions. Terry Fallis will be returning on Thursday, October 23rd (this session is almost full).  Robert Greenwood of Sun Ergos, in his solo performance, will be representing 22 characters from 17 Shakespearean plays on Saturday, October 25th. And on Monday October 27th, Historian Harry Sanders will be presenting his research on the History of Hotels. Register by phone 933 -3278  or pick up your ticket at the library. These are all free sessions but you need to per-register as space is limited.

EARLY HOTELS in the West

The hotel was an essential cornerstone in the frontier western community. Henry A. McGusty, who travelled across the prairies in 1889, noted in his book Two Years in Manitoba and the North-West Territory  “This is one of the most noticeable things about Canada. The smallest village, even when only boasting one store, usually has one or more hotels, and they are better than would be expected. They are boarding-houses, clubs and saloons, or at least combine the three.”

To weary travellers, hotel beds and meals provided a welcome sanctuary from the rigours of travel. For cowboys and labourers, the hotel was a place to drink, to play a game of pool, buy a smoke, meet a friend or sit around and gossip. To families, hotels were a place to go for Sunday or Thanksgiving dinners. Clubs regarded them as meeting places. Many non-homeowners, rich and poor alike, called them home. Sometimes the town doctor, optician or lawyer made his office in the hotel.

In all these capacities, hotels served a vital role in the community. This was not fulfilled by the building alone—it was the people who lived, worked and socialized within that helped define the role of the hotel. Above all others in making it an important social institution was the proprietor, who as often as not was a prominent member of the community and a booster extraordinaire.

Harry Sanders, a Calgary historian (and the son of a Drumheller hotel keeper), has been working on a book about Alberta hotels for many years. Join Harry for a look back at hotels from Calgary to Nanton and from Turner Valley to Mossleigh.

Harry SandersAbout Harry Sanders

Harry Sanders was born in 1966 in Drumheller, Alberta, where his father owned and operated the Whitehouse Hotel. Spending his early youth in and around this old hotel gave Harry a lifelong appreciation for heritage buildings, and this influenced his decision to study history and to follow a career as a local historian.

Harry was educated at the Calgary Hebrew School and Bishop Carroll High School. In 1988, he earned a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in History at the University of Calgary. His honours thesis dealt with the social role of hotels in early Calgary. During his university years, Harry spent his summers working as an interpreter at Heritage Park Historical Village.

Harry has worked at the Calgary Public Library, the City of Calgary Archives, the Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta and the Glenbow Library and Archives. Since 1995, Harry has been a self-employed historical consultant, contract researcher and freelance writer. From 2006-09, he appeared on CBC Radio as “Harry the Historian,” and he served as the Calgary Heritage Authority 2012 Historian Laureate. Harry has written several books on local history. He lives in Calgary with his wife, Kirsten Olson, and their two children.

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