Calgary Tower

by Shaun Hunter

through the eyes of writers


In honour of the Calgary Tower's 50th birthday, here's a literary tour of a city icon. If you know of other sightings of the Calgary Tower in fiction, poetry or essay, send them my way. 

For a little Tower trivia, check out CBC Calgary's 2017 photo essay. Photos of the Calgary Tower in my post come from the Calgary Public Library's Williams & Harris Shared History Centre.



“Calgarians have invented for themselves a new Rorschach test. It is no ink spot on a folded page, but a smooth tower of concrete with a revolving restaurant on top."

-- Robert Kroestch, Alberta (1968)



“Pretty nearly, the only six-hundred-foot concrete erection in the British Commonwealth. With a May basket balanced on its tip – that twinkled with coloured lights at night. […] And […] a red oil derrick to spear the last fifty feet.”

-- W. O. Mitchell, The Vanishing Point (1973)



“I ascend skeptically. But eat my lunch convinced by the voracious view. The mountains like giant white coral on the horizon. The Bow River winding as an ongoing park through the city. […] Capsule view of a metropolis aborning.”

-- Scott Symons, “Calgary: a Leacock town on the Prairies” (1979)



“You go up the elevator expecting to get a panoramic view of the city and what do you find – goddamn pinball machines. Hundreds of them being played by a herd of juvenile delinquents whose only interest in life is getting three free games on the Big Whizzer.”

-- Tyler Trafford, Entropia (1980)



“Anyway the tower looked to Tessie like a man’s you know what and she couldn’t resist telling Flora that it was the biggest one she’d ever seen – and she had seen a few in her time.”

-- Edna Alford, “Half-Past Eight” (1981)





“We talked a great deal over dinner that night, and our guest made a comment as we noted how the once solitary arrogance of the Calgary Tower, the subject of much local ribaldry, had been chastened by the competition. “Calgary,” he said, “seems to be under erasure.”

-- Ian Adam, Foreword, Glass Canyons (1985)


“The building of his tower was pure Calgary. Calgary was serving notice that, while the city with the big Stampede was satisfied with its progress during Canada’s first century, it expected a much bigger piece of the action the second 100 years.”

-- Fred Stenson, The Story of Calgary (1994)  



“The whole city lay like a map below him. It was still, as if no people lived in it. If you looked closely you could see cars moving, but they moved slowly and silently.”

– Martine Leavitt, Tom Finder (2003)




“We turn down an alleyway and slink past the bold black geometry of fire escapes, stage entrances, stairs fleeing back doors. A construction crane slowly revolves over the rooftops while the Calgary Tower preens in the flattering glass surface behind Ark’s pawnshop.”

-- Lesley Battler, “Calgarius Mundi” (2004)



“When he reached downtown, it had grown dark. A young man in a tired baseball cap stood just outside the doors of the concrete tower, and sullenly, without any greeting, he began making arrangements with Samuel.”

-- Edi Edugyan, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne (2004)



“He’d been ordered to cause minimal damage to the tower. Well, tell that to the troops up there, four on the top landing now, dishing out a steady stream of rifle fire punctuated with the occasional smoke and fragmentation grenade.”

-- Tom Clancy & David Michaels, Endwar (2008)



Four city blocks away, through a high, thin gap in the monolithic concrete mass of downtown, he could see, suspended like a lighthouse in the sky, the beacon of the Calgary Tower.”

-- Eugene Meese, A Magpie’s Smile (2009) 



“The convoy [of unicorns] pulls to a brief stop at the red light, in the deserted heart of downtown, under the ring of red lights on the alicorn that is the Calgary Tower.”

-- Suzette Mayr, Monoceros (2011)




“the snow-white wall / the Cinderella sky/ the beauty and the beast light […] / I saw Rapunzel peeking out / her hair falling down"

– Emily Xu, “Rapunzel’s Tower” (2014)

“She’ll scale the Tower, / shoot the rapids below 14th Street, scramble through suburbs.”

– Angela Rae Waldie, “Lines Written on a Map of Calgary” (2014)


“And as the sun sets on the chatter and speculation, the Husky Tower burns splendid and tall in the warm soft night, in the caressing Chinooks that blow down over the Rockies. This is the city’s long, hard, and enduring dream.”

-- Robert Kroestch, Alberta (1968)