While perusing an assortment of used books at a Victoria book sale, the one above, Red Lights on the Prairies’ caught my eye – proving once again that covers do sell books. Flipping to the table of contents, my long held belief about my hometown being a quiet, unexciting, and frankly somewhat boring place was shattered. There it was, in black, white – and red.
James H. Gray is the author of several best selling books on the social history of western Canada. In this book, he reveals that from about 1880 to 1940, Lethbridge, and other emerging centres across the western Canadian prairies had thriving red light districts that persisted despite pressure from the temperance and moral reform societies. Gray’s well-documented book illustrates the frequent conflicts and often-fiery rhetoric between the reformers, town councils and police, who were caught in the middle. Town councils and police believed that prostitution couldn’t be eliminated, and so the next best thing was to contain it in segregated areas where it could be policed and monitored.
Mainstream history, Gray points out, has downplayed the existence of prostitution. The dearth of written material on the subject illustrates Gray’s point. Gray goes where other historian have seldom trod. His well researched treatise chronicles the role of prostitution in the development of western Canada, demonstrating that it was an integral part of the social and economic fabric of society.
“The generosity of the whores of the West was more than just legend; it was a well documented fact. A pioneer CPR company doctor recalled that in times of disaster it was always the local prostitutes to succour the sufferers or survivors.”
Gray’s work gives insightful glimpses into the gritty reality of the lives of miners, cowboys, homesteaders and entrepreneurs, and into important issues of the day, from haphazard development, lack of planning, rancorous political battles. The author supplements his research with personal interviews that breathe life into the history.
Demographics explain the large assortment of bordellos that thrived in Lethbridge. The coalmines, on which Lethbridge was founded, attracted large numbers of young, single miners from Europe and the British Isles. Lethbridge became a major cattle-shipping point, attracting a second group of young men – cowboys. Between the two groups, they provided a very comfortable living for the madams and their girls. Gray writes,
“What other community, for example, could claim that its gaggle of whorehouses doubled as cultural centres, as Lethbridge’s did, during the expiring years of Victoria’s reign.
“By 1890 there were six brothels and the coal company dormitory within the triangle which was famous throughout southern Alberta as “The Point”. It’s gaudily painted two and three story houses became the town’s most prominent landmark. They could be spotted miles away from almost any direction, day or night.” 
In the photo below, “The Point” is the strip of land in the foreground, with the high-level bridge in the background.
In my next post, the life and times of Dolly Arthur– the last legal madam in Ketchikan, Alaska.
 Red Lights on the Prairies (Gray, 1971)
 Ibid. p. 197
 Ibid. p. 181
Who would have believed that Pickleball, a game invented on Bainbridge Island, Washington State fifty-one years ago, was destined to become the fastest growing sport in North America? The game owes its name to Pickle, a ball-retrieving cocker spaniel.
According to the US Pickleball Association (USPA) there are currently over 200,000 players in North America. Pickleball Canada reported six-thousand players in 2014 and twelve thousand in 2016, doubling in just two years – and the fastest growing group is 55+.
Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It’s played on a badminton-sized court with a net a few inches lower than in tennis. Players use what looks like an oversized ping-pong paddle to send a ball back and forth across the net – until someone misses. Be careful not to step in to the kitchen!
To understand the popularity of the game, visit any pickleball venue. It’s a very social game. You’ll see people having a great time. One of the players will welcome you with a big smile, explain the game, and invite you to join in. You’ll play with a variety of partners and get to know them better chatting between games. With the growing popularity of pickleball, chances are someone you know will be there.
Pickleball is a fun way to exercise. The bending, reaching and court positioning helps improve mobility and flexibility. Striking the ball enhances hand-eye coordination, while keeping score helps with short-term memory. I’m still working on that, but no one worries too much about the score. Time literally seems to fly by, and I always leave a session feeling tired, but exhilarated. To get started, all you need are court shoes, and gym attire or comfortable clothing. Most venues provide paddles for beginners.
Even if you haven’t played racquet sports, Pickleball basics are easy to learn, but a good place to start is at a beginner’s drop-in clinic. After a few sessions, you’ll be ready to join the regular drop in sessions offered at many recreation centres.
Whether you’re a snowbird and flock south for the winter or travel close to home, there’s probably a |Pickleball group nearby. No matter where you go in the Pickleball world, you won’t be a stranger for long.
If serious competition is your forte, Pickleball accommodates that, too. There’s a range of fun and seriously competitive tournaments. Oh, yes. There’s one other thing I should mention. Pickleball is highly addictive.
We made the trek from Victoria, British Columbia on the southern tip of Vancouver island to Lethbridge, in the southern reaches of Alberta to celebrate Thanksgiving with family. By car, it’s a ferry ride and fifteen hours of mountain driving – or, three hours flight time. We usually put our air miles to use and fly, as we did this time. We flew to Calgary, stayed overnight at a hotel near the airport, and the next morning took the connector flight to Lethbridge, Alberta – or L.A. as it’s often referred to.
That flight is an experience. From the departure gate, we board a bus that takes us to the far end of the apron where our ride awaits. The aircraft is a Beechcraft turbo prop that holds about eighteen people, and it’s full. It’s a cosy experience.The seats look like they were borrowed from a kindergarten class, but every seat is a window seat. The flight from Calgary takes forty-five minutes.
Lethbridge is also my home town and soon familiar landmarks appear on the horizon. Our flight path takes us over the high level bridge that spans the mile and a quarter river valley carved by the Old Man River. It’s difficult to get a decent photo from the aircraft window, but here are some ground photos of the big bridge.
The modern City of Lethbridge, with a population approaching one hundred thousand, is located near the site of the original settlement, of Fort Whoop-Up. The fort was a trading post established in 1869 by two American traders. Originally named Fort Hamilton after one of the founders, the fort earned a wild and lawless reputation.
One type of alcohol sold by the Whoop-Up bandits was known as Whoop-Up Bug Juice, a highly prized alcohol spiked with ginger, molasses, and red pepper. It was then coloured with black chewing tobacco, watered down, and boiled to make “firewater”.
The reputation of Fort Whoop-Up led to the establishment of the North West Mounted Police and their famous march west in 1874. Reminiscent of on present day ‘war on drugs’ efforts.
Fort Whoop-up has been re-created in Indian Battle Park in the Riverbottom near the big bridge.
This photo overlooks the river valley towards the site of the original fort near the junction of the Oldman and St. Mary’s rivers. The Rocky Mountains are just visible against the horizon.
We often stay at Paradise Canyon, a timeshare and golf resort in the valley. It’s a beautiful setting, and we’ve been here so often that it feels like our home away from home – but the weather is subject to rapid change at this time of year.
This photo is from our timeshare unit two days ago.
This was the scene when we looked out today.
We enjoyed a wonderful thanksgiving feast with family, and I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.
It was an action packed week for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their two young children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. It was the youngster’s first debut into the celebrity status that they’ll have to endure all of their lives, but by the time they left, both seemed quite comfortable with the adoring crowds and cameras watching their every move. George and Charlotte spent most of their time at Government House in Victoria, where they they were made to feel quite at home. Royal watchers caught glimpses of the children at play. The kids even spent some time at Gyro Park in Cadboro Bay.
Meanwhile, from their Government House base, their parents did a whirlwind tour of British Columbia, spending time in Vancouver in the Downtown Eastside, taking in wineries in the Okanagan. up to Haida Gwaii, and then up to Whitehorse. Their itineraries have been well covered in local and national media, and I won’t dwell on them in detail here.
Here in Victoria, there were two main opportunities to see, and if one was very lucky, to interact with the Duke and Dutchess – Wills and Kate. When they arrived offered the greatest opportunities, but huge crowds made it impossible to get close. Some people staked out their spots along the royal route hours in advance.
On their final day, we went to the Ogden Point breakwater. Kate and Wills were scheduled to ride a tall ship. It was a situation of hurry up and wait, but being part of the crowd in a celebratory mood is a big part of the experience. As their motorcade drove by, I did manage to get a shot of the royal couple in their limo. Following are some photos of the scene at the breakwater.
A few hours later, we went to the Inner Harbor to bid farewell to the Royal family as they departed via float plane for Vancouver, and then home. I’ll bet they were exhausted, with all of the meeting and greeting, handshaking and talking they have to do, all the while looking attentive and happy.
Pacific Shores Nature Resort
Pacific Shores is a fifteen-acre resort on Craig Bay. We’ve had a time-share unit and have been here many times. It’s very comfortable and feels like home away from home. Our unit is roomy and well appointed, featuring a full kitchen and in-suite laundry facilities – and it has great views overlooking the bay.
Paths meander through well-tended gardens, where plants from many parts of the world cohabit with native species. My favorites are the several varieties of apple trees which ripen just in time for our visit. A trail along the estuary, a salmon spawning stream, offers views of several duck species and other birds. The trail connects with regional trails for longer walks.
A knob of layered, weathered rock at the tip of the point is an eye-catching feature, inviting exploration at low tide. The bay is shallow and calm, ideal for kayaking, paddle boarding, or collecting oysters. The setting sun paints sky and water with bands of ever changing colors while stately grey herons stalk their prey in the shallows.
Pacific Shore’s amenities include an indoor pool and hot tub and a work out room. An outdoor hot tub nestled in a rocky grotto surrounded by gardens. Another hot-tub on the point offers views over the bay. The point also features a fully equipped barbecue center with tables and chairs for casual dining and a lower deck for sunning or relaxing. It’s an ideal place to meet travelers from around the world.
Victoria is eagerly awaiting the arrival of their Royal Highness’s, William, the Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, the Dutchess of Cambridge – fondly known as Kate and William. The royal progeny, Prince George of Cambridge, and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge will accompany their parents – and undoubtedly steal much of the spotlight.
William and Kate married on 29 April 2011 at Westminster Abbey. Prince George, was born on 22 July 2013, and Princess Charlotte on 2 May 2015. Various media sources have reported that a third royal offspring is in the plan. Incidentally, Kate and William will have a night away from the kids when they visit Vancouver – just coincidence, I’m sure.
They royal family and entourage arrive tomorrow (Saturday, Sept 24) at the airport via military helicopter. The motorcade will proceed to Government House where the family will check in – probably no credit card will be required, but there may be a damage deposit required, what with the young prince roaming around among all those expensive and breakable trinkets. T
The royal’s public debut in Victoria will begin tomorrow afternoon at the Legislature at 5:00 pm. Thirty to forty thousand royal watchers are expected to swarm the legislature lawns and inner harbor. Setup crews and media outlets have been out in full force over the past couple of days. Here are a few photos of the pre-visit preparations taken last night and this afternoon.