Alpine Club Marks Prairie Birthplace
Rollason, Kevin, Winnipeg Free Press
Remembering the start of Winnipeg's least likely club
More than 100 years ago, several mountain-climbing enthusiasts decided to create a national club devoted to the sport in a city synonymous with mountain climbing.
Well, actually they chose Winnipeg -- not because of topography but mainly due to the fact the Manitoba Free Press was one of the main founders of the Alpine Club of Canada.
And on Friday, several climbing enthusiasts came together on Smith Street just south of Portage Avenue to unveil a plaque commemorating the club's creation on the very building where its initial meetings were held in March 1906.
Peter Muir, a Winnipegger who is the national president of the organization, said Winnipeg wasn't as odd of a choice for the club's founding as people might think.
"For much of its history, Winnipeg was among the most influential of Canadian cities because of geography and then development, first rivers and then railways," he said.
Muir said Arthur Wheeler, the club's first president, was ready to accept overtures from an American mountain-climbing club to have Canadian mountaineers join them in a Canadian branch after years of unsuccessful efforts to create a Canadian organization.
He said Wheeler made a final push to have a Canadian club set up by writing letters to the editor of newspapers across the country.
One of those letters ended up on the desk of Free Press editor John W. Dafoe and he gave it to the only reporter with any experience in the Canadian Rockies, Elizabeth Parker. She had earlier spent 18 months recovering from an illness in Banff, Alta.
"Ms. Parker set out on a tireless campaign of editorials and articles about the club,+ all based on the out-and-out unacceptability of joining with the Americans," Muir said.
"To disagree with her premise that a Canadian club was essential was to brand yourself unpatriotic and tantamount to a threat to the British Crown."
The plaque itself not only gives a brief history of Wheeler's and Parker's roles in founding the club, along with the Free Press and CP Rail, but also shows a photograph of the founding members with Parker, in a long dress, holding a large climbing rope over her shoulder. …