October 7th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 39
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Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Source: Glenbow Library
This postcard is an advertisement for the Grand Union Hotel circa 1907.
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
It’s only a 1907 advertisement for the Grand Union Hotel in Coleman but look a little closer and you’ll see that it’s marketing much more than telephone service and new furnishings: it’s marketing an all white staff.

Thirty rooms electric lighted and furnished in first-style, reads the ad.

Bar and table the best that money can procure, porter meets all trains, hot and cold baths and WHITE HELP ONLY.

Canadians of Asian decent have experienced a long history of racial discrimination in Canada and the Pass is no exception but a postcard of an old advertisement for the Grand Union Hotel in Coleman shows how some businesses used prejudice as a marketing tool.

The postcard was on sale at the Bellevue Ice Cream Shoppe this summer. A representative of the ice cream shop would not comment but Clif Cates, former owner of KolorKard which produced the post card, apparently did a lot of business taking pictures of businesses in the mountains, and printing postcards that were more about advertising for the business, than scenery of interest to visitors.

The advertisement identifies C.E. Baker as the proprietor.

“He was the first proprietor,” said Glory-Jo Galicia, the fourteenth proprietor of the Grand Union. “They wouldn’t hire the Chinese. When I do my historical tours, we all get a laugh out of it because that’s racist, you don’t do that.”

“I guess they thought I was white,” quipped Scott Tanaka, a former Grand Union employee and a man of Japanese decent.
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“It’s nice to know that society has changed so much since then,” he added.

Times certainly have changed but the postcard offers a snapshot of a time when the Pass was a booming frontier town where people of Asian decent had difficulty finding jobs and not only at local hotels.

“It’s a racism that was present in the mines themselves as well as in the towns,” said Barbara van Vierssen Trip, program coordinator of the Crowsnest Museum.

The Hillcrest mine disaster, the worst coal mining disaster in Canadian history, occurred on Friday June 19, 1914, killed 189 workers and left 130 widows and about 400 fatherless children but none of the victims was of Asian descent.

“That is because people who were of those very visible ethnic minorities found it very difficult to find work in the mines,” said van Vierssen Trip. “They were stuck in jobs that were not as well paying as mine work.”

In a time before political correctness and with over 40 ethnic groups making their way to the Pass by 1950, Van Vierssen Trip explained that ethnic tension was ubiquitous in the community and was not limited to Asians.

The street the Crowsnest Museum is built on was once officially called Dago Drive, which is a highly offensive racial slur for an Italian, she said.
All of the five towns that make up the community were made up of distinct ethnic groups. Many Polish people settled in the Bushtown area of Coleman, people of the Greek and Ukrainian Orthodox faiths settled in Coleman while North Coleman and Carbondale were primarily British.
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But it’s not just a history of ethnic strife.

The 192nd Battalion, which was based in Blairmore and made up of people from the Pass, recruited a number of Japanese volunteers who wanted to go serve in the military during the First World War.

“They were in B.C. at the time and had a tough time finding people to take them on,” said van Vierssen Trip.

But Harold E. Lyon, an early mayor of Blairmore and the founder of the battalion recruited them at the Sarcee Camp near Calgary.

After the war, some of the Japanese troops settled in the area, worked for local industries and played baseball for the Coleman Cubs; the best ball team in the Pass at the time, said van Vierssen Trip.

Lyon would later speak out against Second World War internment of Japanese Canadians.

There are so many things from the past that are very shocking,” said van Vierssen Trip. “It’s good to remember where we’ve gone wrong in the past, that way we know to avoid these mistakes in the future.”

According to a University of Guelph report, many Chinese immigrants first came to Canada in 1858 to build our national railway and were paid starvation wages for performing the most dangerous tasks.

After the railway was completed, the federal government imposed an 1885 head tax, which forced all Chinese immigrants to pay a $50 tax. This was increased to $100 in 1900 and $500 in 1903.

Between 1885 and 1923, the Canadian government collected an estimated $23 million – not adjusted for inflation - from 81,000 Chinese immigrants.
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October 7th ~ Vol. 85 No. 39
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