Once upon a time, when they were just married, and before they had kids, my parents lived in Calgary. My Dad worked for a company that installed tvs in hospitals and he was on the road a lot, and my Mom started working at CIBC. They first lived in a little apartment and then in a house.
A decade of two later my parents had moved back to Toronto – my Dad got a job as a teacher and my Mom continued to work at CIBC – and had 2 children. For summer vacations my parents would take my brother and I on road trips across Canada. One of my favourite memories is when we went to Calgary. My brother and I had never been before and my parents hadn’t been back since they had moved. I can distinctly remember being in the car with my Dad driving, and my Dad with one hand on the steering wheel, dramatically swept his other hand to take in all of the development and said in a tone of disbelief “Back in the day this was all fields!”
This was something that my Dad couldn’t get over for the rest of our stay in Calgary and he said it so often that my brother and I used it to tease him incessentially.
Seeing something that has changed completely from how you remember it can really rock your world, but seeing a city as it might have been can set your imagination on fire. Unbuilt Calgary by Stephanie White is a book about how Calgary might have looked. It is a survey of projects proposed but not built that were situated at critical times in Calgary’s development; projects that indicate the city’s ambitions through its first 100 years. It looks back to ideas and schemes that could have changed the shape of this vibrant city.
I do plan on giving this book to my Dad, I want to see what he thinks about what Calgary could have looked like vs what it actually looks like. My I’ll even get to hear him say “Back in the day this was all fields!” again.