A new book detailing the City’s history in celebration of the centennial year was released earlier this week.
Red Deer: The Memorable City, by local historian Michael Dawe, is a 360-page written and visual history of the City.
Dawe has been working on the book for the past three and a half years.
“The idea was that we would have various things throughout the year to celebrate the centennial but we would finish up with the book,” said Dawe. “This will be one of the last, if not the last, major printed history books because the world is changing – traditional publishing is changing dramatically, we are in a very virtual world. It’s a commemoration of 100 years but it’s also in some respects a benchmark to the end of an era.”
The book includes a number of different sections including one on the City’s landscape which describes many natural attributes Red Deerians have enjoyed for years.
“What is one of the biggest things that people talk about as an attribute to Red Deer? Waskasoo Park and the natural areas like the Kerry Wood Nature Centre and the Gaetz Lake Sanctuary. Those have always been important to people in Red Deer and that remains the same today.”
Another section is the history of the First Nations in the Red Deer area.
“The story of the Red Deer Indian Industrial School has not been necessarily well covered in the past,” said Dawe. “There is extensive writing, for the first time in a local history book, on what the Red Deer Indian Industrial School was and what’s true about it and what isn’t. But also bringing up to some of the modern Aboriginal and First Nations Métis organizations like Shining Mountains and the Native Friendship Centre.”
Information regarding North Red Deer – where at one time more than 40% of the people in Red Deer lived north of the river – is also detailed in Red Deer: The Memorable City.
“North Red Deer was always a special place in Red Deer – it was a little bit different than a lot of the other community. Instead of having little pieces of North Red Deer squeezed in amongst other stories, it’s the story of North Red Deer. They have their own history,” said Dawe.
Detailing the history of how citizens have a good time in Red Deer – especially in the early years – is also prominent in the book.
“What did people do for entertainment particularly in the days where we didn’t have television and tablets? One of the little facts out of that is when Red Deer was a couple hundred people and just a village, we had three live theatre companies,” said Dawe. “Red Deer had a very strong cultural life because you had a lot of young people that had moved here, they were trying to get to know each other in the community, so a way of socializing and entertaining was to do grassroots things at low costs. These included theatrical performances and reading clubs.
“It was a very vibrant community in terms of social, sports and cultural life because you certainly couldn’t park the kids in front of the television.”
Dawe added there are similarities to what Red Deer is today and what Red Deer was 100 years ago.
“There has always been a strong sense of community. Even though people who live in Red Deer move around the City a lot – it still has that element to it,” he said. “Also, something that is not universal to urban areas is a real concentration and belief in preserving areas within the City. How many urban centres can you say that you can go into a true wilderness area like the Gaetz Lake Sanctuary in the heart of the City?”
During his time writing the book, Dawe said there were many highlights.
“One of the nicest things that happened was really putting a high emphasis on getting lots and lots of photographs for the book. There are about 250 – 300 photographs in the book,” he said. “The other thing was trying to find photographs that probably people have never seen before.”
Now that the book is finished, Dawe said there is a sense of satisfaction.
“There’s a little bit of exhaustion but also happiness that it’s done. It is a huge amount of work.”
To purchase Red Deer: The Memorable City, folks can visit the Red Deer Public Library, the Recreation Centre, City Hall, the Collicutt Centre, G.H. Dawe and Tourism Red Deer. The cost is $35 plus tax.