Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bridger Creek Golf

Bozeman got some play on the Golf Channel today when Bridger Creek's senior golf instruction program was featured on the Morning Drive program. Launch the video to see some of the background scenery that we are forced to play against in these parts. Eat your hearts out!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Feel the Bern! Equality for All!!!

He's winning. I worked nine years as a caddie, toiled as janitor and dishwasher, labored in plastics, cardboard box and culvert factories, and then got my first college degree. After studying hard and graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and working hard for decades thereafter, taking plenty of unpopular positions and bucking trends, I have done better than most people in life. It's unequal -- unfair. Vote Democrat. Elect Bernie!!!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Up the Valley

From time to time at Along the Gradyent we mention places or things that are up the valley. Up the valley it is about three miles to the foot of the Bridger and Gallitan Mountain ranges. Going another mile or two to the end of the road and then literally climbing up the mountain slope lives one of our daughter's high school friends (I will call her Dot), whose home (with stable and pasture) yields incredible views. Sunday I shifted the Jeep into four wheel drive and motored up the snowy and icy switchbacks to drop our daughter off at Dot's for a biology study session. I took the following photos, up the valley. Click to enlarge.

Up the valley looking back down the valley. Gallatin Mountains on the left and Bridger Mountains on the right. 

North to the Gallitan Range.

South to the Bridger Range. Up here you better have your own snow plow (right).

Looking further up the valley to George Washington in repose. You can see this 
rocky outcropping from a distance on our hot air balloon photo (far right). 

 Dot's horse looks kinda like a Pinto.

Dot's other horse looks even more like a Pinto.

Meanwhile, back home at Chez Gradyent the deer came to play (and feed) along a hedge row.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

What a Difference a Year Makes

Last year we played golf in Bozeman on February 5. That's not going to happen in this supremely normal winter of 2015-16.

Web Cam view from the clubhouse, across the putting green to the cottonwoods at the first tee, Cottonwood Hills Golf Course, Bozeman, Montana, January 31, 2016, 5:00 pm MST.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It Never Rains in California

Except when it does, of course.

It has been raining. Drought in large portions of California is endangered.

But going by the U.S. government Drought Monitor 100 percent of California remains in drought. Soaking rains and heavy snows, according to the government, have done essentially nothing to attenuate the extent or even the severity of drought.

Compared to the January 12 Monitor (left hand map) only a tiny portion of California is experiencing less severe drought this week (see the extreme northwest corner of the January 19 map on the right). Yet the news on the ground has been nothing but good.

The following graph depicts water storage at Lake Shasta (a good benchmark because it is the largest reservoir in the state) in northern California. The January improvement is dramatic.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Thoughts and Notes About a California Drought

California Governor Jerry Brown during a message to the California
 state legislature on Jan. 6, 1977,  "We are going to have to learn to
 share  -- north and south -- all of us together." "It is the only way 
we can solve this problem."
Steinbeck wrote it as fiction but he spoke the truth in "East of Eden."
“And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.”
California is experiencing its most severe drought of my lifetime, though the drought is only modestly worse than the 1976-77 drought that intersected with my three year residence in California. When I moved to California in the fall of 1975 and first saw the indigenous flora it was brown, and it remained brown for the rest of the year and throughout 1976, and then through the summer and early fall of 1977. The dawning of the "Little Ice Age" was ascendant in the minds of many climatologists of the time, and the theory of global cooling was cited as possible cause. 

There was a place on Stanford campus called Lake Laguanita. To my repeated observation it contained nary a liquid drop. So for two solid years that is what I thought California was -- dry and brown. And in a weird way it made sense that the good citizens of the Golden State elected young, austere Jerry Brown as governor. So now, almost forty years later California elected elderly, austere Jerry Brown. The citizenry are nothing if not consistent. They believe more in symbolism than solutions. Coincidental this is not.

Low water behind the Lake Shasta dam, March 2, 1977.
I recall in the 1976-77 timeframe driving from the San Francisco Bay Area, past Lake Shasta on a trip up to Seattle. I looked down and was appalled by how far the reservoir level had dropped from its peak capacity. I saw boats and docks and marinas marooned high and dry. The water supply was shriveling up. The life it supported would surely waste away.

There will always be drought somewhere -- most dramatically in semi-arid climates that depend on short seasonal surges of rain and snow to replenish water supplies. In these locales if they do not get their water in a three or four month window, there's no making it up later on. 

Drought has myriad causes and periodicities, though that is not the way Dear President sees it. We have zero evidence that the man ever stuck his noggin inside a chemistry, physics, biology or meteorology lecture hall or worked at a bench in a scientific lab. He knows not the difference between the scientific and Socratic methods. He pontificates nevertheless.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Look Up!

That is up the valley from our front porch. You never know what you might see! Click to enlarge.

Landing here.

See George Washington's nose to the right.

Visiting The Old Homestead

We wrote last summer about a second cousin in Sweden, Roland Classon. A "genealogy fiend" I called him. Yesterday Roland wrote on his genealogy blog about my sister's and daughter's July visit, which the rest of my family took advantage of to vacation in Seattle, using my sister's house as home base. Roland lives in Helsingborg, located at the narrowest part of the Oresund strait, across from Denmark.

For reference, here is a map locating Helsingborg and Aseda, the rural community where more than a century later the family homestead still stands nearby.

Google Maps screenshot of routes between Helsingborg and Aseda, Sweden.
We repeat Roland's post in the following, verbatim -- translated into English of course. His references to Kuttaboda are to the rural crossroads of our ancestral home located about five miles east of Aseda (population 6,336) proper.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Avalanche Season Is Here

While back East people enjoyed unseasonably warm temperatures through December that were more amenable to playing frisbee or golf than sledding or skiing, we had plenty of early season snow, plus temperatures that averaged a bit below normal since November 1. 

Bridger Bowl Snow Report, Christmas Eve, 2015
The ski areas are going strong. Just fifteen miles north of us, Mother Nature dumped one hundred and nine inches of snow at the community sponsored Bridger Bowl skiing area through Christmas Eve. Powder and packed powder were the norm. A fresh coat of snow was falling almost every day.

Nearby to our south, the Big Sky ski resort reported a 40 to 60 inch snow base and "fantastic skiing and riding." Big Sky invites "C’mon out and enjoy the biggest skiing in America! We’re sure you’ll be stoked you did!"

The Bozeman Chronicle reported on the early season opening of the ski season.
Santa Claus came early and filled Bridger Bowl with 2 feet of smoky snow this week, appeasing the valley’s powder hounds. From the ski hill’s parking lot it was apparent that Bozeman had been stricken with the powder flu — 2,305 skied Thursday.
Cooper Krause, 26, an engineer for Morrison-Maierle, had to go in to work this morning but was still on the slopes by noon, enjoying the fresh snow.
“It’s pretty good,” Krause said as he pushed off with a friend at the top of the Sunnyside Lift. 
The Dec. 11 opening day at Bridger Bowl was a week later than last year. But the weather’s been cooperating since and 13,265 people have visited in the first week.
“This time of year it’s always a touchy point waiting for the right storms to really kick things off,” said Doug Wales, Bridger Bowl’s director of marketing. “Some years you start fat and happy.”
Wales was a bit skeptical about the preseason forecasts for a warm, dry El Niño year in the Rocky Mountains. 
“It’s setting up well now and right when we need it for the holidays,” Wales said. 
“The big challenge is getting the snow, and we’re on our way. Obviously its got to keep up and we’ll continue to make snow as much as we can early on,” he said. “But we’re excited about where we are today.”

Here is a video of the skiing at Bridger Bowl earlier this week.

And Then The Rains Came

The rains are coming in a deluge to California this week. Here is a screenshot of the Doppler radar effective 5:00 am PST today.

Doppler radar, 1/1/2016, 5:00 PST. Source:

Wave after wave of moisture is headed in off the Pacific Ocean. 

The National Weather Service issued this statement for the Sacramento area.

  • Issued by The National Weather Service

    Sacramento, CA

    3:37pm PST, Mon Jan 4
Here is what is reporting.

Train of storms to drench California, southwestern US as El Nino drives the pattern

By Brett Rathbun, Meteorologist
January 5, 2016; 7:17 AM ET
A series of storms will bring welcome rainfall across California and other portions of the southwestern United States this week.
The track of these storms is fueled by El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
"The above-average temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, known as El Niño, tends to strengthen the storm track into the West Coast and occasionally California during the winter," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
Train of Storms in the West
While a parade of storms slammed into the northwestern United States during November and December, the southwestern U.S. will receive days of precipitation this week.
"The pattern in the West will remain quite active through the week," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Matt Rinde said.
While rainfall will be measured in inches from California and into parts of Arizona, these storms will not erase the drought across the Southwest.
Snow will fall across the mountains which will be beneficial for filling lakes and rivers during the spring and summer months. Snowfall will be measured in feet across the Sierra Nevada. Snow this week could cause travel problems near Donner Pass.
The next few storms to roll ashore will be from Wednesday into Friday and will be progressively stronger and bring heavier rainfall and mountain snow across all of California and into Arizona and New Mexico.
"While most of the rain and snow will fall at moderate rates with minimal impact, there will be heavier rain later Tuesday into Tuesday night which could cause some flooding in some of the hills surrounding Los Angeles," Rinde said.
According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel, "The storms during the second half of the week have the potential to unload 2-3 feet of snow on the mountains and ski resorts of Southern California."
In addition to wintry travel problems, enough rain will fall to raise the risk of sporadic urban flooding and a small number of mudslides, especially in burn scar areas from wildfires.

The mainstream media will tell you simplistically that this will not put an end to the California drought. While technically true, the string of storms will put a meaningful and welcome dent into the drought and take the edge off the crisis. And four or five weeks of this kind of weather, which has been known to happen when previous coastal droughts have broken, will in fact put an end to the drought. We have identified information sources. We will be watching and reporting because we are interested and hope that you will be too.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Found Again!

Readers of this blog know I have posted a number of times on the pre baby boom history of my hometown of Morton Grove, Illinois, and pipe up every now and again about goings on in or near my family's current residence of Bozeman, Montana. As these municipalities are geographically separated by the better part of a mile vertically and some 1,300 miles horizontally, and their populations are modest (Bozeman 37,280 and Morton Grove 23,270 in the last decennial census) you would not expect there would  be a whole lot of intersection between the two populations.

But I received an email at my blog address the other day titled "Small World" (you can get to my email address by clicking through the "View my full profile link" on the right side of this page). The sender, who we shall refer to as Mr. Moody, wrote as follows,

Hi Grady:

I recently happened upon your Blog.  I am also from Morton Grove, and vaguely remember you from early childhood.  I lived on 9000 block of Moody Street,  went to Park View, then Niles West (Class of 76), and then on to Ann Arbor, Berkeley and beyond.  You were about 4-5 years ahead of me if my recollection is correct.

I relocated here (Bozeman) in 2000 in an effort to escape the city and the practice of law (and to flyfish, ski, hike, etc.)

It would be good to meet you sometime.  Keep up the Blog!

Mr. Moody
### West Something or Other St
Bozeman, MT 59715

We love making new friends, discovering long lost or previously unknown relatives, and assisting people seeking our help to connect with others whom they surmise we might be able to find or hone in on based on writings in our blog (though the story had a bittersweet ending, we were able to help a man adopted as an infant track down his birth mother). 

My life story seems to parallel (I attended rival schools in Madison and Palo Alto) my Bozeman neighbor more than a little bit. I responded.

Mr. Moody,

Great to hear from you!

Your name sounds familiar, like I met you playing golf here or something like that. Your name is not ringing a bell from back in the day.

We are ... just east of town.

I presume you've read my Morton Grove posts. If not, they are tagged Morton Grove in the right hand column of my blog.

Caddied for nine years at Glen View Club, got the caddie scholarship, went to U Wisc. then Stanford and lived and worked in the DC area for 34 years before retiring and moving to Bozeman.

Yes I graduated Niles West 1971 after attending Park View all the way through. Lived on the corner of Austin and Davis at 9101 N. Austin. I probably walked by your house on the way to or from Park View a thousand times.

I have accumulated a lot of research on the Poehlmann Bros. greenhouse operation that, depending on which side of Moody you lived on, would have been in your backyard (see greenhouses in image below). I'll get it written up sometime in the next couple of months.

Inline image 1
Morton Grove, aerial view, 1939, courtesy USGS>
I have a question. The Bozeman Parks website says Southside isn't open for skating yet, Is that right? I promised to take my kids skating.

Until later.



The Poehlmann Bros. Greenhouses (shuttered but not yet taken down in this 1939 view) are the row upon row of structures between Moody and the (North Branch of the Chicago) river in the above right photo. Our correspondent grew up in a home on Moody Avenue between Lake Street and Davis Street. We actually blogged once about the route I walked in my childhood to Park View School down his block of Moody, and another time wrote on the block north of Mr. Moody's childhood home that has been taken back by nature. I learned how to ice skate in Harrer Park and attended Park View School grades K through 8, located since the 1950s where the Poehlman brothers once grew roses, carnations, mums, lilies, and other flowers and greenery for the wholesale florist market. 

I passed by Mr. Moody's childhood home the day Kennedy was shot.
My correspondent wrote back.


Great to hear from you, too.  They still seem to be working on the ice each morning, but it does not appear to be open yet.  It should be open any day now.

Please feel free to give me a call (or knock on the door) when you head to South Side Park – my house faces the north side of the Park.

Mr. Moody

Just how small of a world is it?

Our daughter Blake skating at South Side Park in Bozeman, February 2014. Our correspondent's home -- quite literally -- is in the background. 

With below normal temperatures through most of December, it most certainly has been cold enough, long enough to lay the ice at South Side. We suspect some sort of a labor issue is responsible for the delay. When we get around to lacing our skates up, we will be sure to knock at Mr. Moody's door and say "Hi."

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Icicles in the Hair

Ah, icicles in the hair -- nothing like January in Montana!
Posted by Grady Foster on Friday, January 1, 2016

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Donald Trump

I actually watched Trump speak live streaming, beginning to end, more than an hour, extemporaneously last night, during a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Have to say, I only agreed with or was favorably impressed by, oh, maybe 90 percent of what he had to say. Of course, five percent at most gets reported, and that stuff is mostly material that was said tongue in cheek. Also picked up one of Trump's old books at the Goodwill and read it cover to cover. The man is consistent. I don't know where this is going to end up, but it sure is fun to watch and he has changed the debate, forever, to the better. When people get their underwear up in a bunch when Trump speaks up, they end up engaging in blunt and substantive debate (real debate, not merely sound bites) on how to seriously address the problem or issue he highlights, which otherwise does not happen in the name of caution and political correctness. The man is real. The longer this lasts the better.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saturday Pictures

Saturday Pictures
December 26. 2015
(click to enlarge)

It snowed, oh maybe five times this last week including Christmas day. But here the day after the sun came out and it was a beautiful day for a walk. Walk we did. Here are some of the snow covered sights in the hood.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

As you all are roasting back East just think of us here, opening presents,

Enjoying a white Christmas,

And skiing in powder.

A very Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 21, 2015

On The Road to Bathgate Act 4i: Aunt Charlotte Nancy Foster Von Alman on Fire

Charlotte Foster and Arnold Leroy Von Alman,
Glendive, Montana, wedding photo, March 29, 1930.
We have relied on Charlotte Nancy Foster Von Alman's writing and storytelling many times. But up to now we have not written a post featuring aunt Charlotte. We rectify that here with additional passages from her family history and vignettes on her long and well-lived life.

Charlotte Nancy Foster Von Alman was born in Bathgate, North Dakota (population 43, 2010 census), November 22, 1906, the tenth of eleven children of I. J. and Laura Elizabeth Armstrong Foster. Charlotte was immediately preceded in birth by her brother Jimmy who was born on September 16, 1905. My father, George W. Foster, the eleventh and final surviving child, came into this world almost three years after Charlotte on August 27, 1909. 

After growing up in Bathgate Charlotte left to attend college, earn her teaching certificate and become a teacher in country schools in North Dakota and Montana. She married Arnold Leroy "Roy" Von Alman in Glendive, Montana on March 29, 1930. The newlyweds returned east to Littlefork, Minnesota shortly thereafter, where their offspring, Bob, Marge and Lyn, were born and raised. Marge lives in Littlefork to this day. Charlotte died at Littlefork on May 2, 1988. 

Foster family of Bathgate, North Dakota, 1910 Federal Census.

Charlotte Nancy Foster, December, 1906
Note the treadle (foot powered) sewing machine in the background of Charlotte's baby picture. As was typical in the day the machine was located near a window to permit entry of natural light to illuminate the sewing surface.

Charlotte bequeathed us fascinating snippets of family lore in the form of an 18-page, typewritten history on the Isaac Jarvis (1862-1934) and Laura Elizabeth Armstrong Foster (1870-1934) family. The history is jam packed with stories about Bathgate, her parents and ten siblings, and the life and times when the children grew up in Bathgate between 1890 and 1930. We sliced and diced, and then spliced the typewritten history into various Foster family ancestry posts, including on her sister Bina, her father Ike and mother Laura, her brothers Adams and Lyn, and her uncle George Sanderson Foster

Sunday, December 6, 2015

My Three Favorite Songs

So good that my kids don't care when I sing along.

1. American Pie, Don Mclean. 

They say it's the anthem of a generation. So be it, then the generation is mine. Don McLean once said American Pie means "I never have to work again, if I don't want to." Of course, there is more than that. Other McLean classics not to be overlooked include Crying, Castles in the Air and Vincent (Starry Starry Night). The man knew how to draw from the world around him and paint with words -- a seemingly simple yet mostly impossibly complex task.

2. Brick in the Wall, Pink Floyd.

This has always been a favorite but the song has taken on special meaning for me as a parent (currently of high school, middle school and elementary school students). I play it for inspiration whenever I am preparing to wrangle with a member of the school board, read the riot act to a school administrator or disabuse a teacher of the notion that there is anything sufficiently common and standard about the many diverse children under their tutelage to justify adherence to a common core regimen. 

This version is performed by Pinky and the Floyd, a fabulous tribute band here in Bozeman. I mean, there are what, thirty-five or forty thousand people in town, and that much talent? They are backed up by the Bozeman High School choir which performs this particular song with gusto you can only get with a decade or more of frustrating experience in the public school system. I think our eldest daughter's piano teacher is somewhere on the stage. If you look carefully, you can see the back of my head (with the open program to the right of our oldest two girls and exchange student) at seven seconds into Pinky and the Floyd's promotional video. Our kids' guitar teacher says he won't go see Pinky and the Floyd because he knows they are so good he would want to join the group and might never try to leave Bozeman again.

3. Tuesday Afternoon, Moody Blues.

It's from  the album Days of Future Passed. Best known from the album is Knights in White Satin, but I did not need to get there. I fell in love earlier in the day.

Let's finish with some more Pinky and the Floyd.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Saturday Pictures

Saturday Pictures
December 5, 2015
(click to enlarge)

We woke up this morning to a fresh coat of pure white snow and bright sunny skies. I got the old heart pumping and the blood flowing clearing the driveway and sidewalks, then I took advantage of the conditions to shoot scenes around the homestead. We finished our picture taking early afternoon.with a Christmas card photo (see the end). 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Way To Go Hawks!

Bozeman High School is known not only for dropping Michelle Obama's national school lunch program, it is terrific academically, rated first in the state. It has great opportunities for college bound kids, technically inclined students, students bound to remain and thrive in agriculture, and those seeking vocational training. The school's administration is creative and inspired, the teachers aspire to help every student be the best than he or she can be, and it has an activity or organization styled to suit virtually every type of student, bent or interest (it has a fantastic, broad-based music program). The alternative program is fantastic and fully supported by the community. I swim and share the pool mornings at the Swim Center attached to the school most every weekday during winter months so I get a pretty good sense of the vibe and school spirit. They are high, very high. Bozeman High is better on virtually every level than the school our kids would have attended if we had remained inside the Beltway in self-proclaimed "World Class" Arlington, Virginia.

Bozeman's Balue Chapman breaks a tackle
at Friday night's football game.
This week, congratulations are in order to the Bozeman Hawks High School football team which downed cross-state rival Billings Senior in the AA championship game last Friday night at frigid Van Winkle stadium in Bozeman. The Hawks scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to set up a 35-23 victory. Bozeman finished the season with a 12-1 record, bouncing back from a 5-5 finish in the 2014 season. On the home front, we recognize our eldest daughter who performs with the school's jazz band, for braving the elements to root and drum the Hawks gridiron warriors to victory.

Earlier this month, the Bozeman girls volleyball squad won the first state high school volleyball title in school history. 
[T]he Bozeman Hawks captured the 2015 Class AA State Volleyball Championship in a hard-fought victory over Missoula Sentinel.The win gave Bozeman its first high school volleyball state title in history.
"We've been working on this since day one of tryouts, and we tried everything we could during practice," said senior outside hitter Caitlin Lonergan. "We gave it our all, all the time. We left it all on the court, mostly us seniors. We knew this was going to be out last time in these jerseys. So we left it all out there."

"I'm really proud to have coached these girls and been a part of it," said head coach Erika Gustavsen. "To make school history is just icing on the cake."
Way to go young ladies!

Bozeman High School boy harriers hanging at Mandeville
Creek outside the high school. We last featured Bozeman HIgh
at Along the Gradyent to report the bear intrusion in Long Hall..
In mid-September the neigbor boy across the street stopped by to fund raise for the Bozeman High School cross country team. As I retrieved my wallet I asked the young man what his best times were for those 5K races. He said high 15's. "Wow, that's really motoring," I said. Since then I noted the cross country squad loping down Main Street, rain, wind or snow regardless, at 7:30 am most every weekday morning. Two weeks ago the Bozeman High School boys and girls won their respective state high school cross country championships. The next week the boys team placed in the Northwest regionals, which qualifies them for the national championship. Congratulations Chase Equall and your squad; best of luck on December 5th in Portland.

The girls team is headed to Portland too!

Also this week, four graduating Hawks committed to NCAA Division 1 athletic scholarships, one in baseball and volleyball, and two in basketball. With 17 seniors on the state championship football squad there will certainly be more.  Congrats to all the Hawks and best wishes in your future endeavors.

Stanford freshman and last year's Montana state soccer player of the year at Bozeman High School, Averie Collins, scored three goals and an assist so far for Stanford this year. The Cardinal are hosting an NCAA quarterfinal game this Friday versus Duke. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

On the Road to Bathgate: Great-Great-Uncle George Pringle Sanderson -- Blacksmith, Locksmith and Safecracker, Part 3.

George Pringle Sanderson,
Councillor refers to his service
as an Edmonton alderman.
Welcome to Part 3 of our three part series on George Pringle Sanderson, 1850-1940. Part 1 focused on George's early years. Part 2 reviewed his blacksmith years. Here we recount reports of his locksmith career and the extraordinary tales that accompany it.

George was born in Eastern Canada and moved west across the Canadian prairies, ultimately to Edmonton, Alberta, nee North West territory. From 1878 into the early 1900's George's principal occupation was blacksmith. But with the proliferation of steam powered locomotion and massive growth in the use of internal combustion engines, demands for shod workhorses and oxen were waning. George turned to the locksmith profession to maintain body and soul.

Metalworking and fabrication skills learned at the forge facilitated George's transition into the locksmith trade. In the beginning George was more or less a traditional locksmith. He copied keys, serviced locking mechanisms, fabricated locks and hasps, reset tumblers and adjusted combinations. But his locksmithing skills evolved further with the proliferation of safes that ensued after the establishment of the province of Alberta in 1905.

George P. Sanderson was long-living proof of the adage about the man who builds a better mousetrap. Right up to his departure from this life in 1939, at any hour of night or day, Edmonton's finest would beat a path to George's door, seeking help opening a blaky safe -- or a safe whose owner was balky about opening. 
George said his talent was no secret; it was a gift, a special present from Santa Claus for being born on Christmas Day -- which occurred in 1850 at Carleton Place, Ontario.
We know, of course, that George Pringle Sanderson was actually born on Christmas Eve. But he wasn't the sort of a fellow to let a day or two get in the way of a good story -- and there are good stories aplenty about George and his safecracking escapades.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

On the Road to Bathgate: Great-Great-Uncle George Pringle Sanderson -- Blacksmith, Locksmith and Safecracker, Part 2

George Pringle Sanderson, 1850-1940.
Welcome to Part 2 of the three part series on George Pringle Sanderson. George was my great grandmother Margaret Sanderson Foster's (1840-1871) youngest brother. 

To summarize from Part 1:
George Sanderson was born December 24, 1850 in Carleton Place, Ontario. He moved to Winnipeg in 1877 to work as a blacksmith before moving further west, to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan by ox cart. He came to Edmonton in 1881 by buckboard. He became the settlement's second blacksmith and first locksmith. He returned temporarily to Winnipeg in 1883 to marry Julia Simpson, with whom he had four children.
Uncle George was a true pioneer. When he ventured across the Canadian prairies to Edmonton (established by Hudson Bay Company as Fort Edmonton, a trading post) the fledgling community's population was a couple of hundred residents, compared to near 900,000 today.

Edmonton's early days are celebrated in vignettes at reconstructed Fort Edmonton Park, which is operated much in the style of Colonial Williamsburg down in Tidewater Virginia.
One of Edmonton's premier attractions, the Park represents four distinct time periods, exploring Edmonton's development from a fur trade post in the vast Northwest, to a booming metropolitan centre after the First World War. The park features over 75 structures, many of which are the originals. Costumed interpreters operate the site and live the way of the past. Exploring each building, each room, and talking to the 'inhabitants' makes for an extremely enjoyable recreational visit. This attraction can be viewed in a few hours or may take many return visits to appreciate the sense of the past.
Blacksmiths were critical to the local economy in frontier Edmonton.
Before the horseless carriage age, the most essential persons in the community were the blacksmith and carriage maker. In their shops horses and oxen were shod, iron tires reset on wooden wheels, wagons and carriages made, and a great deal of wrought iron work such as hinges, hasps, and tools were fashioned. Today, the shops with their blazing forge, bellows and anvils, with the many tools, the noise and the smells would be a fascinating place.

An establishment in 1885 Edmonton combined both essential trades under one roof. George Sanderson and Edward Looby worked as partners for a number of years providing those services without which much of the community could not have survived. George P. Sanderson left Ontario in 1877 with the intention of settling in Winnipeg. After working four years as a blacksmith there, he and his friend and new partner Edward Looby, headed further west by ox cart. They arrived in Edmonton in October, 1881, and at once proceeded to set up a combined blacksmith and carriage making business.
We know George Pringle Sanderson had a blacksmith and carriage business. But what does that imply? Did he work out of a stall, a stable, a studio or something more? What was the scope of his business? What did it look like? How are we to know? Certainly no living person has personal recollection of George's enterprise, and stories passed along through oral family lore would suffer the ills of fading memory and fractured communication. 

But look see here, can you believe it? We got it! An 1883 photo of that very blacksmith shop, including mustachioed, towering George pictured out front wearing his leather work apron (affording protection from glowing hot iron rods and fiery embers) in the foreground. It will be recalled that uncle George's occupation was listed as joiner in the 1871 Census of Canada. In the construction of the shop, George obviously had put his carpentry skills to good work.

Title: George Sanderson's blacksmith shop, Edmonton, Alberta. Date: 1883
Remarks: Located at corner of Jasper Avenue and Namayo Avenue, (97th Street).

L-R: John Kelly, engineer and machinist; John Blair, carpenter; James Wright, printer at "Bulletin"; John Looby, blacksmith and partner, Sanderson and Looby; John Brown, on horse, merchant; George P. Sanderson; Charles Stewart, stage driver.

L-R on balcony: Mrs. G. P. Sanderson; Lizzie Kelly; Kat Kelly. John Brown's store, extreme left.
Subject(s): Edmonton, Alberta - Buildings / Log cabins and buildings / Edmonton, Alberta - Personalities / Blacksmiths and blacksmithing / Work clothes