Alberta Provincial Police Barracks

Coleman's newest museum opened just yesterday. The historical significance of the Alberta Provincial Police Barracks lies in the role that it played in the maintenance of law and order in the mining communities of the Crowsnest Pass from 1918 until the 1930s. It is one of the few APP buildings to survive and provides structural evidence of Alberta's attempt to undertake its own policing.


The APP had been created to combat the illegal importation of alcohol from British Columbia and the United States by the so-called “rum-runners” during Prohibition (1916 – 1924). The Barracks is where the Constable not only lived with his family but kept prisoners as well. It was a one-man operation and it was very dangerous 24/7.

"The death of Constable Lawson wouldn't have happened if it weren't for Prohibition, but Prohibition itself was the result of a complex mix of factors." Very, very informative.

It seems that every building has its story. This one tells the tale of Canada's most infamous rum running murder. It houses not only the story of the shooting, but also the trials and tribulations of policing prohibition, the court case surrounding the murder, as well as the repercussions of the entire event.
So what happened? Because of its proximity to the BC border, Coleman saw much conflict between the Police and the rum runners during Prohibition. The Pass’ most famous rum runner, Emilio Picariello, confronted Constable Lawson in front of the APP barracks after learning that his son had been injured by Lawson during a rum running incident earlier in the day.  An argument ensued, shots were fired, and the Constable was killed in front of his young daughter, the only witness.  No one is really sure who fired the fatal shot, but both Picariello and his companion, Florence “Filumena” Lassandro were eventually convicted of murder and executed just months before the repeal of prohibition in Alberta. Filumena Lassandro is the only woman to have been executed by hanging in Alberta.

The Layers of History were depicted here by the peeling away of wallpaper and paint. It seems almost a statement about what occurred here. We can paint over events but eventually, the layers will be peeled back revealing all that came before. That's history and it can be found in some surprising places... like in a little municipality in the Rocky Mountains of Canada.

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Coleman in 3 Parts: 1. The Town

Today's history lesson was at the little town of Coleman, a National Historic Site.

To prepare for the 3 mile walk into town, we stopped at our first Tim Hortons, a tasty part of Canada since 1964.
We only learned about this unique eatery while watching How I Met Your Mother. This was the perfect, and delicious, place to fuel up for the morning. The nutty treat is a Nutella® doughnut.
Afterward, we embarked on the Crowsnest Community Trail, a non-motorized route that meanders through all five communities in this region.

It was rather scenic.
These are the remains of the coal plant, with cut-stone buildings from the early 1900s. 

To be designated a site of national significance is something rare and special. The Coleman National Historic Site encompasses much of the old town of Coleman – its surface mine plant, the old downtown, some of the older residential neighborhoods, and the railway - which preserves the atmosphere of a western Canadian mining town between 1905 and 1950.
Coleman is a town built because of coal. The International Coal and Coke Co. had acquired 5,300 acres and it was incorporated as a town in 1903. Deeds for the lots carried a liquor prohibition to last for 15 years (this will be discussed in my next post). The goal was to make this a town in which families would like to reside.
Nearby are the ruins of Coleman’s coke ovens (216 of them), a landmark that often burned bright into the night, until 1952. By the way, for those who don't know, coke is the solid carbonaceous material derived from destructive distillation of low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal. Right?
Our first stop was for a little local military history at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall (1926)- Alberta's first!

As we strolled, we found not one but TWO Little Free Libraries. I knew we were in a good place when there are free books on the streets!

This is a private home now, but it was the fire station built just after the big fire of 1905.
I love this building. The Roxy Theatre was built in 1948, after fire destroyed the old opera house. The building was constructed in two sections. The front section is wood frame with brick, and has a wrap-around neon marquee. This section housed the ticket booth, and the popcorn machine, said to make the finest popcorn in the district. The second component is a corrugated steel Quonset, housing the 338 seats, screen, and ventilation system. The building was home not only to movies, but also to performances by the local symphony orchestra, and special Christmas shows for kids. Located on Coleman's main street, the theater was an integral part of the small town's streetscape.
I have to say that the Coleman Historical Society has done a wonderful service for us who enjoy discovering history while we stroll. They mounted plaques on many of the great buildings with photos of then, with their historical significance. I thought this was pretty cool. The Grand Theatre opened here in December 1921, and presented motion pictures, live theater, music concerts, and sporting events such as wrestling. The theater was purchased in 1932 for conversion into an automotive service garage, which required considerable building modifications.
The Motordrome was a full-service garage that also displayed cars for sale. So dang cool.
And lunch was at Chris' Restaurant. We ordered a cheese burger, a deviled egg salad sandwich and poutine, a dish originating from Quebec, made with French fries and cheese curds topped with a light brown gravy. While our particular poutine was curd-less (they substituted shredded cheddar), it was still delicious. We will continue the search for the best of this decadent dish throughout Canada. Someone has to do it! Fun day in Coleman.

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Frank Slide: Canada's Deadliest Rockslide

We had learned of the Frank Slide while at the Alberta Visitors' Center in Glacier. We had no idea what to expect. It was a massive shock to see the magnitude of destruction that occurred in this little town in Crowsnest Pass, 114 years ago.

The extensive debris field of the Frank Slide is part of the cultural landscape of this once promising little Coal Mining Town- the next Pittsburgh! Over 90 million tons of limestone rock slid down Turtle Mountain within 100 seconds.
The mountain face toppled and slid almost three miles across and up the other side of the valley. The slide buried the southern end of the town of Frank and completely destroyed a two mile stretch of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. The slide disaster also obliterated the mine plant of the Canadian-American Coal Company. Seventeen miners were trapped inside the mountain but fortunately managed to escape by tunneling upwards to the surface. After the dust settled, the catastrophic slide event had reportedly killed ninety people. The Frank Slide is considered the site of one of the worst natural disasters in Alberta’s history and is now a provincial landmark.

This photo does a good job showing what the mountain looked like before the April 29, 1903 catastrophe and afterward.
This photo shows the massive flow of rocks, spread out in the valley. That is not snow. That is a sea of huge limestone boulders. 
A visit to the Interpretive Center allowed us to learn what life was like in the coal mining town of Frank before, during and after the great rock avalanche. While there, we watched two very interesting and informative films,On the Edge of Destruction (which recreated the remarkable night the rockslide came down) and In the Mountain's Shadow (which presented the history of the spectacular Crowsnest Pass from immigration through coal mining to rum running). This pause was a historical introduction to our 'home' for the next three nights.

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A Hike Between Two Countries...

I don't know how much you know about Waterton, but we arrived with very little advance knowledge about this spectacular park. It was the Rotary Clubs of Alberta and Montana that proposed, in 1931, uniting Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta and Glacier National Park in Montana as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first such park in the world. It was intended not just to promote peace and goodwill between nations, but also to underscore the international nature of wilderness and the co-operation required in its protection.

Today, we wanted to hike between two countries so we boarded the 165-passenger Historic M.V. International (built on Waterton Lake in 1927 by the same people who built the Prince of Wales Hotel). For an hour, we were given a guided tour as we cruised the lake, heading to Goat Haunt, Montana, USA.


The deep groove, on the right, is the border between Canada and America. Wild, right?
Here we are at the dock at Goat Haunt. It was exceptionally picturesque.
The U.S. Goat Haunt Port of Entry is a United States Class B Port of Entry, all travelers crossing the border at Goat Haunt must present documents that are Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant. What??? U.S. and Canadian Citizens must present a Passport. What an interesting start to a hike!
This was the most wooded, non-groomed, untraveled trail we have ever been on! To get back to Waterton, we embarked on a 9 mile hike through some very interesting terrain.

And there was ample evidence that we were in bear country (that's scat)! Steve clacked rocks together and there might have been some raucous singing, too. We were completely alone for most of the 15 km hike.




And here we are at the 49th Parallel. I'm in Canada and Steve is frolicking in America. So dang cool!
We are exactly on the border, sharing some international love! Way, way cool. What an incredible way to spend Day #2 in Waterton.

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Waterton Lakes National Park...

"Timing is everything" and our timing for this trip could not have been more perfect. It is Canada’s 150th anniversary and in honor of this special celebration, all of Canada's National Parks are free to enter, from coast to coast to coast. We are going to do our best to see as many as possible.

The prairies of Alberta meet the peaks of the Rocky Mountains in Waterton Lakes National Park. Clear lakes, thundering waterfalls, rainbow-colored streams, colorful rocks and mountain vistas await hikers and sightseers. With an exceptional diversity of wildlife and wildflowers and a cozy little waterfront town to serve as a home base, Waterton packs a big natural punch into a relatively small and accessible area.

Our first stop, after the Visitor's Center, was the Prince of Wales Hotel (one of only two National Historic Sites in the park). Built in 1926-27, it is the park's most recognized landmark.
The hotel is named after Edward, Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VIII, and, like its namesake, it has a colorful history. If its Douglas fir pillars could talk they would tell you a tale of American imagination and money, built with Canadian grit and patience.
Today many people recognize the Prince of Wales as a railway hotel, but few realize it was built by the Great Northern of United States and not the Canadian Pacific. It is the last in a chain of 1920s luxury hotels, backcountry chalets and tent camps. In its day, it offered a final stop for affluent visitors travelling Glacier National Park's backcountry by horseback. Today, though most travelers arrive by car, the Prince is still pretty spectacular and definitely worth an explore.

What surprised me was the fact that in the heart of the park is a Village. People have homes and darling businesses here. It is all very scenic.

This sign demands further study!

June is the month for Wildflowers! We were pretty happy campers.



Wanting to explore a bit more, we headed to the Red Rock Parkway. This scenic road travels up the Blakiston Valley through rolling grasslands and ends at Red Rock Canyon. It is the best place to experience Waterton's classic prairie meeting mountain landscape. Along the way, we stopped at the scenic pull-outs, many of which had interpretive displays. And at the end we found a fantastic, brilliant red canyon with rushing water flowing through it. Wow.



We enjoy Ranger led hikes so we joined in on Bears and Blooms.
For four miles we meandered along Blakiston Creek, learning about Grizzly and Black bears. Ranger Vera identified various flowers and plants that bears eat, while helping us better understand bear behavior. At times, we were in prime foraging territory so there was a tiny bit of fear along with the excitement. It was a really great hike.
And for the perfect end to Day #1 in Waterton, Steve saw this little guy as we were heading back to the parking lot.


“Always respect Mother Nature.
Especially when she weighs 400 pounds
and is guarding her baby.”
― James Rollins

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