On this sunny day, we aren’t going to write an article about ice hockey. Instead we are going to talk a bit about one of our city’s founders and his legacy which is in imminent danger. File this under the “Edmonton” part of “Edmonton Oilers Hockey Blog” if you will.
As an Edmontonian – and in particular as an Oilers fan – we often witness the cloud of inferiority that hangs over too many of our fellow citizens. Being one of the greatest dynasties in sports, only to turn into a small market team that acted as a feeder squad for larger markets in the NHL for 20 years will do that to a City.
Particularly if that hockey team is the main calling card for your home on the National stage, The City’s self image tends to trend in parallel to the fortunes of the hockey team.
In the absence of a juggernaut company being started in a tiny office downtown and later going public, or the next Prime Minister attending Edmonton schools his/her entire life and sweeping E-Town into the highest office in the land, or a band coming from Castledowns to win 11 Grammys – the Oilers are what we collectively get behind.
For now. And that’s great.
E-TOWN IS SWEET
We personally think Edmonton is the bees knees. Say what you want about “the big mall out in the West” “the potholes” or whatever axe you choose to grind, we are all fortunate to be sitting here in 2011, in a City of 1.1 million of (mostly) employed individuals.
We spend the bulk of our time working and staying warm and complaining about the lack of a forward who can win faceoffs, but in many instances we don’t consider how fortunate we are to live here. And we rarely ever wonder who put Edmonton on the map way back in the day and are responsible for where we are today.
Ask people in El Centro, California with an official unemployment rate of 27.0% if they would like to commute to a gainfully paying job in sub zero temperatures. Or go ask a resident of Fort Meyers, Florida – property prices have declined 59.1% since 2008 – if they would like our relatively stable real estate market. A great many folks would love to be here, cold weather and all.
Yet it’s no secret that Edmonton is at a crossroads. The one path before us leads towards a slow decline towards obscurity, as a second tier City in Canada. The other path leads to becoming a City that can attract and retain the best and the brightest who will help Edmonton continue to thrive and expand and kick the hell out of some other hockey teams if the moons align.
We need to start by collectively holding our heads higher and that starts with showing respect to the OG Edmontonians who have put everything they had on the line – to build the foundation of the City that we enjoy today.
THIS GUY IS A CHAMP
This fellow right here is HME Evans – a founding Edmontonian who carried the City when it was needed the most. Unless you were around in the 1910s you probably don’t remember his tenure as the Mayor of Edmonton between 1917 and 1921. Robin Brownlee probably remembers the day he was elected and probably referred to him as a ‘whipper-snapper’ under his breath as he road down Jasper Avenue in his buggy.
Anyways, Evans was asked to run for Mayor by the business community in 1917. Described as ‘Edmonton’s only honest businessman’ they felt that the City was in such dire straits that only a man with Evans skills could turn things around. He had invested heavily in Northern Alberta’s fledgling coal industry only to see his British investors pull their funds in the 11th hour.
Instead of giving up and watching a large part of the Edmonton economy dry up, he found alternate funds and forged ahead keeping many employed and building a successful business in the process. And as our Mayor he straightened out the books and prevented the City from going bust.
And his house Sylvancroft was the center of it all. A focal point for business and politics of early Edmonton, they used to raise so much money for the British Red Cross here during WWI that they got a letter from the Royals commending them for their efforts. During the Great Depression it was an operating farm and food went to the food bank. Great people once lived here and did a great many things for the City of Edmonton that we take for granted 100 years later.
A century after it was constructed, the property is about to be knocked to the ground. The family owned company put the thing on the market several months back in the hope that someone would step forward and save it, restoring the house that once meant so much to efforts to improve our City.
No one stepped up and now it is on the block to be knocked down. You can read an excellent article about it in the Journal here.
SO WHO CARES RIGHT?
We can hear you now: “But Wanye, what do I care if some old pile of bricks is going to get knocked down? Our goalie is in jail, I have bigger problems and so should you!”
Our concern isn’t that Edmonton would allow an old house to be knocked down. Instead we are more concerned with the fact that a grand residence like this could fall into disrepair and then be knocked to the ground without so much as an offer from the rich folks that parade around this City with their noses in the air. Think that cool old houses like this get knocked down in Vancouver, Calgary or Toronto? No way Ray.
Where is the next generation of great Edmontonians watching over the City to ensure we honor the past and hurtle towards a sweet future? Why isn’t anyone willing to pick up where HME Evans left off in this grand old joint? Either they straight up don’t care, they have left for warmer climates, or they are living out on 1st street and 1st avenue in a remote acreage, detached from the City and our fellow residents.
And as a result the last remaining legacy of a dude who put it all on the line several times for our City is forgotten to the mists of time.
But be damned certain were it not for people like HME Evans, there wouldn’t be an Edmonton on the same scale it is today. There wouldn’t be nearly the industry up here, nor nearly as many residents. Guaranteed we wouldn’t have a NHL hockey team and we wouldn’t be sitting around with our twitters and interwebs discussing whether or not to allow 100 million to be thrown at a new arena in the downtown core.
Were it not for the HME Evanses of the world, Edmonton would be much smaller and crappier today than it is and odds are most of the folks reading this would live somewhere else.
When the City was at it’s lowest, a great man came to our collective rescue and 100 years later we continue to reap the rewards. His last remaining legacy should not be knocked down.