Sunday, 5 October 2008

Farewell Old Man...

Well, I guess for most of us at the DHCC it feels like the end of an era. I've only been there almost 2 years, but some of our staff have been there for 11, 12, 13 years. Friday was our last day at the Old Colonel Belcher Hospital (or Health on 12th as its currently called) There's one other clinic left there now, and they will be relocating to the Sheldon M. Chumir Centre towards the end of the month. After that, I guess (and what we've heard is) that they're decommissioning the old man. They took down the east wing of the hospital when they started building the SMC building, however, we've been happily using the west wing for quite a while. In fact, I think it is my favorite place - I've ever worked. I like the building (it's quirky, old, and full of stories - and ghosts) though I don't always say I like it - there are days when the temperature is nuts, and has never been normal - either we're hot or cold - no normal temps at the Belcher. I'll miss the location - 12th Ave, and 5th Street - how much better can it get? Restaurants on every corner, tonnes of good places to walk to, shop at, I mean - that's the centre of all the best action for sure... Gosh, I'll miss it. I'll miss my great view of Gerry's 24 hour restaurant. I'll miss reminiscing about the stabbing that happened across from my window. Just kidding - not kidding about the stabbing, just that I'll miss reminiscing about it. I'll even miss my desk.

I'll miss Bill, Stewart, Lori, and all our security staff. I'll miss my wee walk to the Lougheed mansion. I'll even miss Tourette's girl and her daily verbal beatings a little bit. I think she actually missed me a little bit when she didn't see me for a week and exclaimed "oh the B%$@H is back". Ah, how I'll miss that. (I'm being entirely sarcastic in that case - just in case you didn't catch that) But really, I will miss the place terribly. There's few things I really appreciate about Calgary anymore, and the old Belcher is definitely one of them. They're taking him down, just like they take every building in this city down that has any character. There's something wrong with that. But, I'm not going to rant about our wasteful Alberta culture today. No, today, I shall share with you a bit of history about this great building...

This is taken from a page called the Friends of the Colonel Belcher...

Calgary's original Colonel Belcher Hospital opened in 1919 for World War I Veterans. Located in a former warehouse on 8th avenue, the facility was named for Lieutenant Colonel Robert Belcher, a cavalry officer and charter member of the Northwest Mounted Police. After seven years, the hospital united with the Ogden and Sunnyside Veterans' Hospital and moved to a larger location in the same area of Calgary.

With the outbreak of World War II, the hospital moved to its present site on 12th avenue and 4th street SW., which was formerly the Senator Patrick Burns Estate. Ten years later, the hospital was extensively renovated and given a two-wing expansion.

In 1991, the Colonel Belcher was designated a long term care facility exclusively for Canada's World War I, World War II and Korean war Veterans. Today it operates under the auspices of the Calgary Health Region.

So, that's the history of the building, and for a brief summary about our friend the Colonel, I found this on a website about Masonic History Education... (apparently he was a mason - and this would explain the giant lodge on 12th Ave right across from where the old Burns park is)

Colonel Robert Belcher (1849 - 1919)

In Calgary, on 7 June 1919, the Colonel Belcher Hospital was formally opened, to look after soldiers who had been wounded in the first World War. It has continued to serve Alberta for nearly seventy years. Because our country has enjoyed the blessings of peace for several decades, the Hospital has been able to expand its activities beyond war veterans, and is now available to treat other members of the community. It was named for a notable pioneer of the West, a soldier and Freemason, who died just four months before it was opened.

Colonel Robert Belcher was born in London, England, on 23 April 1849. He came to Canada in 1873, and was a charter member of the Mounties. While serving in their ranks he was posted to many parts of the great North West, eventually reaching the rank of Inspector. In 1875 for example he belonged to the party that selected the site on which Fort Calgary was to be built. On 13 September 1880 he married Margaret McLeod of Edmonton, who had arrived there the previous November; she was one of the first white women to settle in the vicinity. Belcher was in charge of a contingent that was sent to preserve order in the Chilkoot Pass at the time of the Yukon Gold Rush (1897 - 1899). During the Boer War he went to South Africa as second-in-command of Lord Strathcona's Horse (1900 - 1902). When he retired from the Mounted Police in 1908, he took a lively interest in promoting public awareness of the militia. In fact, he was the commanding officer of the first militia unit formed in the region, which took the name of the19th Alberta Dragons. During the First World War, at the age of 66, he recruited the 138th Battalion and took it to England. On his return to Canada he was transferred to the Military Hospitals Commission. He died in Calgary on 10 February 1919.

Robert Belcher was initiated into Ancient Freemasonry in Regina, in Wascana Lodge, at that time No. 23 on the Grand Register of Manitoba, on 6 November 1888. In 1894 he became a charter member of North West Mounted Police Lodge, No.61, G.R.M., in Regina, and was its first Master. When the Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan was formed in 1906, the lodge became No. 11 on the new Register, and W. Bro. Belcher was still a member. In 1910, after his retirement from the Mounties, he transferred his membership to Edmonton Lodge, No. 7 on the Grand Register of Alberta, and remained on its rolls for the last ten years of his life. He is buried in Edmonton Cemetery.

So, there you have it, a bit of history about the Old Colonel Belcher, and Colonel Belcher himself - granted - it's been a copy and paste kind of history, but that's better than what I could have come up with myself. The truth is - there's a lot (well a bit anyway) of great history in this province, and we have no idea how all these things got here, and what they were before, and who was here before. Calgary is FAR too big for it's britches now, and I don't like it anymore. It used to have character, and community spirit. It still does have a little, but you have to look close to find it. I know of a few places where you can still find it. However, one of my favorites is now going to be decommissioned. I'll miss you Colonel, and all your friends at the hospital. You'll have to find new haunting grounds now...

1 comment:

Bill said...

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