Go west young man, go west

De­bunk­ing myth about New­found­lan­ders

The Compass - - OPINION -

Go west young man go west. That’s an ex­pres­sion I’ve heard so many times in my life, ever since I was a lad. Al­though not young any­more I fi­nally did go out west - west to Cal­gary.

Al­berta is one of the most beau­ti­ful prov­inces I’ve ever vis­ited. It is sim­ply mag­nif­i­cent!

My re­cent visit there makes it the ninth of our ten prov­inces I have vis­ited. The only one I’ve missed is Man­i­toba and that (Win­nipeg for sure) is on our list for next time.

It is good to be back af­ter seven months away from the old sod. Step­ping off the plane at Tor­bay air­port the night of May 29 and plant­ing my feet firmly on the ground of my birth­place gave me flut­ters of joy. Five min­utes into our taxi head­ing for the ho­tel lis­ten­ing to the cab driver (un­so­licited) bring­ing us up to date on the lat­est pro­vin­cial scut­tle­butt proved in­stantly to me we were home. Those cab­bies are so much a part of our cul­ture. They’re unique, in­tel­li­gent and dif­fer­ent.

My time in Cal­gary put to rest what I al­ways thought was over­stated - the myth that New­found­lan­ders and Labradore­ans are the most friendly peo­ple in Canada.

A nephew who is a prac­tic­ing lawyer out there ap­pears very con­tent and I can see why.

From the time we ar­rived un­til we left we found Al­ber­tans like us - friendly help­ful and colour­ful. I was amazed with the mix­ture of cul­tures there. A trip to the Chi- nook shop­ping mall showed us peo­ple of all shapes, size and color, par­tic­u­larly from Asia.

If you visit look around and you will see in­ter­est­ing faces from In­dia, Pak­istan, China, South Viet­nam, South Korea and a large num­ber of work­ers from the Philip­pi­ans. Busi­ness own­ers boast about their work ethic, reli­a­bil­ity and fru­gal­ity. Chi­nese and Korean fam­i­lies own some pop­u­lar fran­chise restau­rants like A & W.

Stay­ing close to down­town Cal­gary we chose pub­lic trans­porta­tion to get around.The mag­nif­i­cent C-train (Cal­gary Tran­sit - built for the ‘88 Olympics) was within walk­ing dis­tance and very in­ex­pen­sive. For $5 a day we could ride just about any­where within a ra­dius of about ten miles of the city. There are com­mu­nity stops along the way and the train is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and easy to exit.

Like in New­found­land

Our first walk to the C-train sys­tem pro­vided us an in­di­ca­tion of the friendly peo­ple I men­tioned above. We were seek­ing out the C-train’s de­par­ture lo­ca­tion for a trip into the city. I asked a se­nior lady who was wait­ing at the cross­walk near our ho­tel how to reach the train. “Oh no prob­lem dears,” she said, “I’m on my way there too, so fol­low me.”

Small talk along the way re­vealed her name was Judy. She was a re­tired civil ser­vant, wid­owed and liv­ing in a nearby condo. She showed us the ABCs of us­ing the sys­tem. She stood by ‘till we got our tick­ets from a CTC vend­ing ma­chine and she even made cor­rect change for us. De­part­ing at her stop in town, she smiled at us and wished us a “good day”!

Then there was the young stu­dent on his way to classes with his back­pack full of books. We asked him if he knew where the CTS of­fice was down­town. We wanted to drop by there and buy a monthly pass. “No prob­lem he said, I’ll show you.” With that he ex­ited at our stop and walked a short dis­tance along the main street and pointed to the build­ing where the of­fice was lo­cated.

Then there was the young Chi­nese girl sit­ting on a bench who when asked about the sched­ule of the C-train that trav­eled out our way, gave us her per­sonal sched­ule. “Take this,” she in­sisted, “I can pick up an­other one.”

A young waiter who works in the restau­rant lo­cated atop of the mag­nif­i­cent Cal­gary Tower was very in­ter­ested in our visit and about New­found­land. He said he knew some New­found­lan­ders in Cal­gary work­ing at Fort MacMur­ray and liked them. He was quite knowl­edge­able about Cal­gary and pointed out var­i­ous things he felt we would be in­ter­ested in vis­it­ing ‘round and about the im­me­di­ate area.

Round­ing out our al­ready im­pres­sive feel­ing about the peo­ple of Cal­gary was the young woman who of­fered us a free ad­mis­sion ticket she could not use to the very pop­u­lar Her­itage Vil­lage site. A sin­gle ticket cost $16. There are nu­mer­ous other ex­am­ples I could give but I think I’ve made my point.

Out and about

Cal­gary is a very im­pres­sive metropoli­tan city with progress on ev­ery cor­ner. De­spite the down­turn in the econ­omy, new construction is ev­i­dent par­tic­u­larly in the down­town. Oil com­pa­nies are build­ing huge high-rise of­fice com­plexes; the train sys­tem is be­ing ex­panded and mod­ern­ized and high­ways are be­ing up­graded and widened. There is a mas­sive project un­der­way to im­prove air­port ac­cess to the down­town and new sports com­plexes are pop­ping up.

For our first visit we took in all the his­toric sites. The most mem­o­rable one was the trip up the steep moun­tain­side to Banff and Lake Louise.

Words can­not pos­si­bly de­scribe the beauty and splen­dor of that mag­nif­i­cent part of Al­berta. It is some­thing to be­hold and the re­ally great thing about it is that it is Cana­dian.

We saw the venues built for the 1988 Cal­gary Olympics. Most im­pres­sive were the ski slopes.We saw the Stam­pede grounds, the Cal­gary dome where the Flames play host to vis­it­ing NHL hockey teams, vis­ited the his­toric Drumheller ar­chae­ol­ogy mu­seum (Royal Tryell) where mil­lion year old di­nosaur bones and skele­tons are dis­played and where they are still un­earthing fos­sils said to be five mil­lion years old. TELUS Cor­po­ra­tion of­fered a ter­rific op­por­tu­nity to visit their com­mu­ni­ca­tions mu­seum where you can ex­pe­ri­ence tech­nol­ogy that will amaze you. We were par­tic­u­larly taken with the IMAX the­atre, where we watched two films on a gi­ant screen with in­cred­i­ble sur­round sound. They were about the forces of na­ture.

There is so much to see in and around Cal­gary. We plan on go­ing back again next spring. We chose not to go north to Ed­mon­ton and of course a jour­ney to Fort Mac would be im­pos­si­ble to do in such a short visit.

All about the peo­ple

A chance visit to the new Cal­gary Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing (City Hall) re­sulted in us sit­ting in on a coun­cil meet­ing. Meet­ings are open to the pub­lic. It was quite im­pres­sive and it is in­ter­est­ing to note that mu­nic­i­pal pol­i­tics ap­pear to be all the same, taunts, jeers, in­ter­rup­tions, sar­casms and of course civic leaders out to make a name for them­selves.

It was quite clear when you ob­served Mayor Dave Bron­con­nier talk about “his beloved city of Cal­gary” how pas­sion­ate he is about it.

So what is it about Cow­town or the heart of the new west or the Stam­pede City that he says makes Cal­gary a cut above the rest?

Without hes­i­ta­tion, the feisty mayor leaves lit­tle doubt about what makes Cal­gary tick. “It’s the peo­ple, he says.

“Cal­gary is one of the most spe­cial places in the world, sim­ply be­cause of its peo­ple,” said Bron­con­nier, him­self a third gen­er­a­tion Cal­gar­ian.

“We’ve got peo­ple who be­lieve in pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment; we have peo­ple who be­lieve in busi­ness suc­cess; en­trepreneurs shar­ing and build­ing.”

Cal­gar­i­ans have been her­alded for their work on events such as the ‘88 Win­ter Olympics, the Cal­gary Stam­pede and the 2008 Junos, and how cit­i­zens raised $52 mil­lion for the United Way.

They have built what started out as a prim­i­tive un­known set­tle­ment of the west into a world class City. Take a look at pho­tos of the Cal­gary sky­line 25 or 30 years ago and see where it is to­day.

I re­ally en­joyed my trip to Cal­gary and now more than ever, I am cer­tain the thou­sands of New­found­lan­ders em­ployed with the oil sands project at Fort MacMur­ray are find­ing a lit­tle piece of home out there.

It’s a place like New­found­land and Labrador where a friendly smile and a help­ing hand is pri­or­ity No 1. Al­berta’s low five per cent sales tax is easy to take too. We can only wish. A spe­cial thanks to Bur­ton K. Janes of Bay Roberts for his in­ter­est­ing and thought­ful views, which ap­peared here over the past five weeks dur­ing my ab­sence.

Bill West­cott writes from Clarke’s Beach

Bill West­cott

Scrib­blings of a Cor­ner Boy

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