The Pulse: Sept. 20, 2023

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  • 15°C: Cloudy with 60% chance of showers. High 15. UV index 2 or low. (forecast)
  • White/Red: The High Level Bridge will be lit white and red for CNIB Night Steps presented by Alberta Retina Consultants. (details)

Two women and a man holding a young child stand on a blue rubber playground base, with play structures and trees behind them.

Podcast explores the serious work of places to play

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

Playground design has changed a lot over Edmonton's history, but regardless of the equipment, the essence of the space is the way it builds community, say experts consulted during Let's Find Out's quest for the city's best park for kids.

Today, an essential part of that community-building is making sure the playground is both safe and enjoyable for children with various abilities.

"There are so many features about inclusive play that go beyond just the surfacing," Jill Footz of Edmonton Playgrounds said on Episode 83 of the podcast that answers questions about Edmonton's history. As a mother who has reviewed about 380 Edmonton-area playgrounds with her kids since the pandemic started, Footz has come across a lot of advancements, such as the Clareview District Park. It has ramps, sensory spaces, and one of Edmonton's few ground-level merry-go-rounds to make it more inclusive.

Community-building was an important part of playgrounds in the early 20th century, too, albeit in a different way. Social reform was on the minds of park-makers back then, Paulina Retamales discovered in her master's research on Edmonton's Gyro Club.

When the Gyro Club of Edmonton started in 1921, people were concerned about children being at risk of drowning in the river or getting hit by the growing number of motorists on the streets, Retamales said. So the club started building and programming places for the children to go.

"They decided to have playgrounds be their mission, to help provide and support that social reform, a place for kids to be under supervision, which for them was very important," she said.

These parks acted as "the heart of the city," said Retamales, with play directors who would engage the kids and encourage inter-playground competitions, offering more socialization and integration at a time when immigration rates were high.

Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon sparked the search for Edmonton's best playground when she posed the question to the podcast, and community was on her list of essential criteria.

"I think sometimes that gets overlooked in the design," Lennon said. "Having places to sit or picnic tables or places to gather, because people want to gather at playgrounds."

Hear more about what she learned with hosts Trevor Chow-Fraser, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, and some avid playground testers on the Sept. 6 episode. And learn more about a different kind of park at Let's Find Out's live show on Sept. 21.

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Headlines: Sept. 20, 2023

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • Law enforcement and data analysts gathered in Edmonton for the inaugural Safety of Our Cities Conference beginning Sept. 18 at the Edmonton Convention Centre. The first day focused on how to gather, share, and analyze data ethically to ensure privacy is protected. "To make decisions based on evidence, we need compelling data," said Anil Arora, the chief statistician for Statistics Canada. Police services are working to better integrate data in their decision-making processes, Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee told media. The conference's second day looked at the need for bail reform, and how law enforcement should focus on violent offenders to target guns and gangs. The conference wraps up Sept. 20.
  • CTV News spoke to a registered psychologist who said the increased smoke and wildfires this year has led to some people experiencing eco-anxiety because of concerns over the environment. "A lot of people do suffer from seasonal affective disorder in the winter, but now potentially, we're seeing it in the summer," said Sabrina Roach. Edmonton has had a record-setting year for smoke hours, with more than 300 already recorded. The smoke is expected to continue as long as wildfires persist. As of Sept. 18, a record 2.03-million hectares have burned in Alberta. Wildfire season lasts until October.
  • Severe storms in Alberta and the Prairies this summer have resulted in more than $300 million in insured losses, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). Of that, more than $90 million went to replacing or repairing vehicles damaged by storms in Alberta. "This is the third straight summer in which Alberta has seen significant insured damage from hail, wind and rain," said Aaron Sutherland, a vice-president with IBC. The increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events is putting pressure on insurance premiums, the association said.
  • Councillors on the urban planning committee heard from administration during a Sept. 19 meeting about the challenges of enforcing development permit requirements on surface parking lots in central Edmonton. A city report found that 90% of lots are operating without a current development permit, but city director Lyla Peter said strict enforcement "may result in many vacant lots, which could become a target for social disorder." Coun. Michael Janz said limiting enforcement is unfair to other business owners who are following the rules. "It seems like an uneven application of justice," said Janz. The committee referred the report back to administration to recommend a new strategy for the lots, including enforcement and ways to increase vibrancy and safety.
  • The University of Alberta has unveiled its new 10-year strategic plan, called Shape, which aims to increase student enrolment by 35% and achieve a top-50 ranking among worldwide research universities. The plan focuses on increasing research funding, expanding its faculty, and prioritizing research areas such as energy and environment, artificial intelligence, and health and wellness. "By 2033 we will be known as a university with transformational impact," the plan states.
  • Longtime Edmonton reporter and news anchor Courtney Theriault is moving to radio to join 630 CHED as the host of Midday on 630 CHED with Courtney Theriault starting on Oct. 2. The show will air weekdays from 12pm to 2pm and focus on "all things Edmonton", providing listeners different points of view.
  • Sky watchers in central and northern Alberta were treated to a colourful aurora borealis display on Sept. 18. "It was just an incredible event," said Frank Florian with TELUS World of Science. The University of Alberta's AuroraWatch group reported high geomagnetic activity in the Edmonton region between 9pm and midnight. Northern Lights were also seen in St. Albert, Drayton Valley, Fort Saskatchewan, and Sturgeon County.
  • The Alberta government approved $7 million from the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Fund to help Cenovus Energy study the potential use of small modular reactors in northern Alberta. In a release, the province said small modular reactors could provide zero-emissions energy and help reduce emissions from oil sands, but noted that adopting the technology in the future would require a full regulatory and engagement process.
  • More than 100 children from Alberta and the Northwest Territories departed for a theme park in California on Sept. 19 as part of the first Dreams Take Flight trip from Edmonton International Airport since 2019. The children, who were selected through the Dreams Take Flight charity, face mental, emotional, physical, or social adversity. Over the past three decades, Dreams Take Flight and Air Canada have given more than 42,000 Canadian children the opportunity to take a Dreams flight.
  • Sportsnet announced its full broadcast schedule for the Edmonton Oilers 2023-24 season. The regional broadcast team returns with play-by-play announcer Jack Michaels, game analyst Louie DeBrusk, and host Gene Principe. The team's first regular season game is set for Oct. 11 in Vancouver against the Canucks.
A newspaper clipping of an ad for the Bijou Theatre, where admission was 10 cents and movies included Foxy Cupid and Professor Optimo

A moment in history: Sept. 20, 1912

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1912, the Bijou Theatre, Edmonton's first cinema, was advertising its latest showings.

For 10 cents admission, moviegoers would generally be treated to an educational film (in this case, Winter Logging in Maine!), a short comedy, and a full-length feature. There would usually be a bit of an intermission featuring orchestra music or comments by the Bijou's manager as well, which gave the projectionist time to set up the next film reel.

The Bijou Theatre had humble beginnings, starting out of a converted store in downtown Edmonton in 1908. It wasn't the most glamorous experience, with its hard wooden seating and hand-cranked projector. But it didn't matter much — Edmonton audiences were hooked. The city already had a strong tradition of live theatre and quickly embraced the silver screen. But it wasn't just pure entertainment they were interested in. Newsreels and educational films allowed audiences to experience a view of world events that couldn't be found in newspapers or books. For example, when King Edward died in 1910, the film of his state funeral in London was rushed to the Bijou, where it played for six days.

By 1912, the Bijou opened a second location, the South Side Bijou, in Strathcona. Other theatre companies were also moving in, and the increased competition led to entrepreneurs building bigger and grander buildings to set themselves apart. By 1915, Edmonton was home to many large movie theatres; Allen Theatres, one of the earliest movie theatre chains, owned both the Gem and the Monarch, with 490 seats and 600 seats respectively. The Gem was on Jasper Avenue and 96 Street, near where the Dreamland Theatre had opened a couple of years before. Soon after, they were joined by the Portola Theatre a block away, turning the area into Edmonton's first cinema district.

One of the few surviving cinemas of the era, the Princess Theatre, was finished in 1914. The lavish building was said to have the largest stage in Western Canada and focused on a program of "high class moving pictures varied occasionally with high class musical vaudeville or musical concerts." (It's for sale, by the way.)

The rising popularity of movies in Edmonton, and the rest of Alberta, didn't come without its detractors. Theatres didn't have restrictions on what types of films could be shown, and calls rose up from newspapers, government officials, and police departments for films to be censored. Depictions of violence, crime, drinking, and sexual behaviour frequently came up. However, some were also worried that many of the films contained American propaganda or didn't show enough images of Canada or Great Britain to inspire patriotic sentiment. As a result, the Alberta government enacted The Theatres Act in 1913, which regulated movie theatres and required all films shown in them to receive provincial ratings and approval. (Many other provinces set up similar systems around the same time — although Alberta, unlike most others, only regulates theatrical releases.)

Even with the new restrictions, film remained a popular pastime in Edmonton. New theatres continued to open, including another Allen theatre (named, aptly enough, the Allen Theatre) in 1918. The new cinema featured an auditorium that was modelled after a Roman amphitheatre, a state-of-the-art ventilation system, and other creature comforts to lure in audiences. The Allen would eventually become the Capitol Theatre and be converted to show "talkies" in the 1920s, becoming one of Edmonton's most storied film houses into the Golden Age of Cinema during the 1930s and '40s.

Despite their popularity at the time, few of the pre-1920s movie theatres have survived. Many were torn down to make room for more development during the 1950s and '60s. The Capitol Theatre was demolished in 1979, although a recreation of its 1929 version was built in Fort Edmonton Park. The Gem saw itself renamed, renovated, and turned into a restaurant over the decades before being abandoned. It was declared a historic resource in 2000 but was deemed a public hazard and was torn down in 2010. The theatre that started it all, the Bijou, continued on until 1938, before it was renovated and renamed the Rialto Theatre. The next few decades saw more renovations and changes in ownership until it was finally closed in 1987.

Still, while those theatres might be gone, Edmonton's love of cinema remains. Aside from the many modern multiplexes scattered around the city, it is home to countless film societies, clubs, and festivals — including the Edmonton International Film Festival, which opens on Sept. 21.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera.