In 1957, a group of us were touring Alberta rivers using our own canoes and kayaks. Chris Von Schoening had quite a following of Klepper kayaks but most of us had wood and canvas canoes. The spur to forming a canoe club came when we organized the Banff to Calgary race, and in 1958, we registered the Calgary Canoe Club (changed briefly to Calgary Canoe and Kayak Club). We developed races whenever we could with no meeting place except members homes. Initial memberships cost $3. Believe it or not, we lost a few people when we started charging this princely sum.
As years went by, we felt it would make good sense to have a safer spot to train novices in the skills of safe canoeing. I wrote to the Canadian Canoe Association and heard back from their secretary Frank Clement, who suggested we look at flatwater racing. He came by to see Glenmore Reservoir, offered us a loan of $2500 to help us buy original flatwater canoes and kayaks (Chris Von Schoening and I put our names on the line for this first loan), and we progressed from there. Boats were stored in my back yard and we could top them to Glenmore down a track, where the club is now (thought to be Sam Livingston’s access to his farm), through dense bushes to the water.
With a little pressure from home, I approached Harry Bootham, Calgary’s Parks Superintendent, saying we wanted to build a boat house on the shore of the reservoir. He had been most helpful in helping us locate a Rugby Clubhouse at Kingsland, but was not in favor of our locating on the north shore. Instead, he wanted us to locate with the sailors on the south shore. The Rowing Club was forming at the time and Dave Matthews came up with a wind study which showed the sheltered water on the north side.
Dave had spotted an old construction shed near the waterworks building which was full of black filtrate (coal dust). The shed was used when Glenmore Dam was being built in 1930 and was good in frame only. The city had just sold the building to entrepreneur and Dave persuaded the man not to buy it. Then we went to city council to persuade them that we needed the sheltered north shore location. Ron Farran was on the council then, Jack Leslie was the mayor, and with five minutes to speak against the Parks proposal, we carried the day. Bill Wearmouth agreed to move the building, but Harry Bootham came behind us hook, line, and sinker. City Parks bulldozed an area, moved the building and re-furbished it, garage door and all. We determined that one side was for the Canoe Club, the other for the Rowing Club.
Extensions came in Bert Matthews’ day, and with gas and electricity when Ray Palmer became Commodore. Thereafter we were badgered by on city commissioner to put toilets in at our expense. After pointing out that this was financially impossible, the city decided to look into toilets for the two clubs and the public using the park. A study developed into a plan, from toilets, to toilets with a change room and showers, to the architectural draft we have today. Ray Palmer, Dave Matthews and myself lobbied local politicians and Parks’ Dave Kalinovitch and were successful in getting the fine facilities we have now.
Many people contributed to the club’s progress: Roberts Sims with whitewater, Herb Benthin with wilderness appreciation, Bert Matthews with the flatwater program, and Ray Palmer with political clout and the school board program. No one person does it all, but people working together make a club.