My Roots in Edmonton
By Phillip H Walker
I wake up on a sunny late-spring morning in my Ottewell home to hear the ever-present and pleasant rumble and horns of freight trains in the railway yards just east of 50th Street at 82nd Avenue. On a lucky night when I am still awake, I enjoy the arrival of freight trains rolling into the yard at 1: 30 a.m. and sometimes am entertained by one or more engines "whistling" their whereabouts or just having fun.
Then nostalgia sets in as I realize that 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the iconic High Level Bridge, which brought the newly constructed CP Railway from the City of Strathcona to the City of Edmonton.
The railways have been a major part of Alberta and Edmonton's history and economic well-being. They brought settlers who were buying homesteads in the land of opportunity, including my parents who came from Wisconsin in 1920 to homestead at Salt Prairie near Grouard, 370 kilometres north of Edmonton. My oldest brother, George, rode the rails throughout Alberta and B.C. in the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1951 a high school friend and I paid $10 return to ride on a CNR day carriage from High Prairie to the Ottawa area on a six-week harvest excursion. In 1952 I rode the Northern Alberta Railways to Edmonton to begin studies for a civil engineering degree at the University of Alberta.
Another 100th anniversary, that of the U of A Extension Department, is being celebrated this year. The department's first director was A.E. Ottewell, who owned a farm in the Clover Bar district, and whose name honours the neighbourhood in Edmonton where my family and I have resided for 50 years.
In 1957, I had the privilege of engineering the 10-inch waterline on the street where I live.
It's called roots. I love it!