The Pulse: Feb. 21, 2024

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  • 6°C: Sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High 6. Wind chill minus 11 in the morning. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Red: The High Level Bridge will be lit red for World Encephalitis Day. (details)
  • 8pm: The Edmonton Oilers (33-18-1) host the Boston Bruins (33-12-11) at Rogers Place. (details)

Three wrestlers in colourful costumes face off in the ring.

Filmmaker gets bruised to explore indie wrestling culture

By Colin Gallant

Omar Mouallem says few know that what became Stampede Wrestling held its first-ever event in Edmonton in 1948.

"It was founded as Klondike Wrestling in Edmonton," Mouallem told Taproot. "It had its first show at the Edmonton Sales Pavilion (at Edmonton Northlands). The reason that it became part of Calgary lore is that about 10 years later (co-founder) Al Oeming … sold it in order to, I believe, start the Edmonton Game Farm."

Mouallem is the director of Making Kayfabe: The Private Lives of Indie Wrestlers, which streams on CBC Gem starting Feb. 23. It's the followup to his previous film, The Lebanese Burger Mafia.

He said Edmonton's deep wrestling history and its current renaissance are part of the inspiration.

"Some of my most core memories revolve around wrestling," Mouallem said, recalling trips from his childhood home in High Prairie to Edmonton to see World Wrestling Entertainment and Stampede Wrestling matches as a child. He stopped watching during WWE's notorious Attitude Era, but came back in "recent years" when he started a family and wanted something cheap and fun to do.

It was then that he noticed that wrestling had changed for the better. "There are a lot of promotions like Love Wrestling (in Edmonton) and WrestleCore in Vancouver, and many more all over North America, that are embracing something else — this fun, inclusive, and campy form of entertainment and performance art," Mouallem said.

The WWE once owned Stampede Wrestling. Mouallem said the organization bought up many independent clubs and had a near-monopoly on the sport during its zenith. He credits American alternative outfit All Elite Wrestling with taking back market share since its founding in 2019 and catalyzing a shift in wrestling culture, including here in Edmonton.

"It's a game changer," Mouallem said. "What I think AEW has also brought to it is this more inclusive culture, because they've had openly gay and trans wrestlers. I think it has helped to bring in a new audience. And I think, maybe more importantly, it's helped inspire a new generation of wrestlers, indie wrestlers, who maybe were previously afraid of the culture or the environment that they would be stepping in if they trained and got in the ring."

Making Kayfabe is not a talking heads documentary. Instead, Mouallem is the main subject, and he trained for three months with Michael Richard Blais of the Clandestine Wrestling Society to do so. The film culminates in a Clandestine— and Love Wrestling-presented match last June at The Rec Room's South Edmonton location. Mouallem, who's also an award-winning journalist and author, transformed into "Fake Nooz" Neville Anderson, a heel who drew the passionate ire of the audience.

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Headlines: Feb. 21, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

People gather in a public square at night during winter.

Public space bylaws can't fix what community can, advocates say

By Colin Gallant

As council sends the proposed public spaces bylaw back to the drawing board, the city as a whole needs more patience with community-based solutions that don't require enforcement to change social disorder, advocates said on Episode 251 of Speaking Municipally.

Cheryl Whiskeyjack, executive director of Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, said she is already working with the city on programs that look for solutions beyond fines, like the Community Outreach Transit Team.

"The wonderful thing about that partnership is that we are also building capacity in people who work in enforcement to have a different conversation or develop different tools to work with people," Whiskeyjack said. "These strategies need time to take root and show outcomes … It takes time to develop these relationships with folks that we're meeting in these spaces, to develop trust with people that we're meeting in these spaces."

Items proposed in the bylaw included new and increased fines for behaviours like open drug use, loitering, and riding bikes on grass. On Feb. 14, council sent the proposal back to administration for changes. The episode was recorded before this decision.

Fellow guest Omar Yaqub, servant of servants for IslamicFamily, said fining unhoused people does not make less people become unhoused. Fixing long-term problems requires long-term solutions.

"We have tools that we know of work," Yaqub said. "We have partners who want to be part of the solution, engage with the city, and collaboratively work together. And together we can solve these problems. Not in a month, not in a season, but over time."

At the Feb. 14 meeting, council directed administration to create a report on alternatives to ticketing.

Hear more about the proposed bylaw, anecdotes about lived experiences of difficulty existing in spaces, and Whiskeyjack and Yaqub's work to find solutions on the Feb. 16 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast. You'll also hear discussion on the Katz Group's lawsuit against Boyle Street Community Services.

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A newspaper clipping that shows a bi-plane upside down for unexplained reasons. The clipping reads, "To Peace River in 3 hours To Calgary in 2 hours."

A moment in history: Feb. 21, 1920

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1920, a short-lived Edmonton airline run by a transportation magnate was preparing to take to the sky.

The Edmonton Aircraft Company was founded in early 1920, when businessman John "Jock" McNeill bought a wooden biplane. McNeill partnered with a few others — including pilot and instructor Keith Tailyour — with the plan to create a passenger airline that connected Edmonton and Calgary, and later connected to Peace River.

While the city's aviation history stretches back to the early 1900s, the Edmonton Aircraft Company was only the second aviation firm in the city. To house his fledging airline, McNeill leased a small parcel of land north of downtown and built a hanger on it. It was the first hanger on what would later become Blatchford Field.

In July 1920, Tailyour and M.R. Jennings made a successful Edmonton Aircraft Company flight to Calgary in two hours and 30 minutes. The trip marked the first passenger flight between the cities.

The Edmonton Aircraft Company wasn't McNeill's first transportation firm. Originally from Scotland, McNeill arrived in 1910 and quickly bought the Twin City Transfer Company. Specializing in moving and storing belongings for newcomers to the city, the company found significant business due to Edmonton's booming population.

McNeill soon expanded by forming Alberta's first taxi company, which still exists as Yellow Cab. He's also credited with starting Edmonton's first private ambulance company, as well as being an integral part of the city's first bus business. McNeill's home, a two-storey brick house in Norwood, was seen as a testament to his family's financial success and is recognized as a municipal historic resource.

Unfortunately, The Edmonton Aircraft Company was not as successful as McNeill's other ventures. About a year after its founding, Keith Tailyour took a job as a flight instructor at CFB Borden, where he was killed during a training exercise. Without a pilot for his airline, McNeill sold off both his plane and the hangar. After less than two years, Edmonton's second aviation company was no more.

The aviation landscape in Edmonton is much different today than in McNeill's time. Blatchford Field is no longer an airfield but is rather being developed into a residential neighbourhood. Late in 2023, the NAIT/Blatchford Market LRT station started operating well ahead of its estimated opening in 2025.

This clipping was found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse of @VintageEdmonton.

A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: Feb. 21, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.