A Bob Edwards Christmas story

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary through the eyes of writers

A Calgary Christmas card, courtesy of Calgary Public Library Postcards from the Past)

A Calgary Christmas card, courtesy of Calgary Public Library Postcards from the Past)

On Christmas Day, 1920, Bob Edwards offered his readers a seasonal story of sorts in his weekly newspaper, the Eye Opener. Calgary’s legendary journalist-provocateur recalls a road race through the streets of Calgary in 1906. According to a few old timers, Edward’s account could be invention, or it might just have happened.

 

The Eye Opener Road Race of 1906 was in the nature of a Novelty Race and afforded intense amusement to the populace. Contestants started from the corner of First Street East and Eighth Avenue, underneath our offices in the Cameron block, to the shot from a pistol fired, as now, by Captain Smart of the Fire Department. On this occasion there were fifteen starters, all of whom had agreed to abide by the rather unique conditions. At the crack of the pistol they were off in a bunch, with a contestant from High River slightly in the lead and the Olds entry close up.

Running west up the avenue, according to the terms of the race, the contestants raced up to the Royal hotel, where each had to drink a glass of whiskey at the bar; thence helter-skelter up the street to the Alberta, where a snort of dry gin was the next condition laid down; from there they flew round the corner to the Dominion and put away of schooner of beer, speeding on and on from bar to bar the whole length of Ninth avenue, drinking horn after horn, no two alike. A corps of umpires followed the runners the whole length of the course. Rounding into Eighth avenue, it was noticed that only three were left in the race and these just barely managed to make the Queen’s hotel. Only one emerged ten minutes later to finish the race. He had just one block to go and it was indeed fortunate for him that Eighth avenue is a narrow thoroughfare, for he came along bumping against the buildings on either side and stotting from one side of the street to the other. This was the only thing that kept him on his feet. He was the Macleod entry and had been training for just such an event as this for years.

When the enthusiastic crowd grabbed the winter and hoisted him on high amid loud acclaim, calling on him for a speech, what do you think he said? He wagged his head sagaciously from side to side and asked if anybody was going to set ‘em up. Much sorrow was expressed over the untimely demise of two of the runners, both of whom succumbed on Ninth avenue.


Bob Edwards, Eye Opener (Dec 25, 1920),