The information contained herein came from the RMRA History The First 27 Years, covering the period March 2, 1954 to March 2. 1981. This entertaining 86-page book chronicles the major events and achievements of the Ramblers. Many people spent a good deal of time compiling the book, including present members Marg Lowndes, Anne Moran and Wally Drew. The History comes alive with personal anecdotes, and gives an insight into how the club, how its members, and indeed how society has changed over the years. The intent of this chapter is not to repeat what is already well documented, but is to give a brief overview, of those years, to perhaps whet your appetite. You will find that the Ramblers has a rich history, and that its activities in those early years were more far reaching and varied than they are today. It is said history often repeats itself. If you feel the RMRA, today could use a shot in the arm, or perhaps you would like to see it try some things 'new', then it is very worth your while to know its past. Chances are the club successfully did those 'new' activities years ago. Many members who were there then are with us here today. Know the past and listen to their advice. You will benefit by gaining a respect for what can be done within the RMRA and the club will benefit from your subsequent involvement.
The early 1950s were full of optimism for Calgarians. Young people in their 20s and 30s had grown up in the Depression, and if they had not participated in WW II, they were certainly affected by it. Those two giant events moulded self-reliant people who made the best of what they had to work with. A sense of community, in helping your neighbour, was probably stronger then than it is today. When you read the History of the Ramblers, it is easy to discern these two qualities: self-reliance and a sense of community. In the post-war boom of the 1950s, young Calgarians had unprecedented opportunities to explore their natural surroundings.
In 1954 people were not particularly concerned about the environment. You could camp at will in the Mountain Parks and cut deadwood for fires or shelters. The 1A highway was the 'Trans-Canada', and sometimes it took 3 hours to drive from Calgary to Banff. You took the train to Rogers Pass as the highway did not yet exist there. Many Calgarians did not own cars and had to be picked up or dropped off when going on trips. The fitness craze did not exist, nor did television to any great extent. Much of young peoples' entertainment was self-generated. It was in this environment that a group of friends got together to form an outdoor club.
The Rocky Mountain Ramblers Association was founded by John Hickey (MacInnes) on March 2, 1954. It was affiliated with the Ramblers Association of Great Britain and the Canadian Youth Hostellers Association. The RMRA was to stimulate an interest in backpacking and in holiday tours with a dynamic outing program. The club was unofficially known as "Hickey's Hikers" in those early days. Meetings to plan trips were held in John Hickey's bedroom in his parents' house. In 1955 annual dues were $1.00.
The first RMRA trip was to Mt. Yamnuska on May 9, 1954. About thirty, went on that trip, with a small group led by John Hickey making the peak. The majority of the members split into small groups and wandered around on the east ridge. To commemorate this historic outing, the Ramblers repeated the trip during our fortieth anniversary celebrations in 1994. This time all participants made the peak.
The first camping trip was on the Victoria Day weekend of 1954. Ticks, mud, cold weather and loud neighbours made for the memorable "Kananaskis Massacre No. 1". This trip was thankfully not repeated in 1994. The first holiday tour was a one-week backpack into Assiniboine led by John Hickey.
The focus of the Ramblers has always been outdoor activities. The first 27 years saw a great variety of pursuits undertaken by the club. Backpacking and holiday tours were especially popular. The following are some highlights mentioned in the History to give you some idea of the diversity of trips. Purchase a copy of the History and read the details of these activities. Perhaps in the future some of these adventures can be repeated.
Backpacking was a popular activity, much more so than today. The RMRA had club equipment for rent including sleeping bags and hand made tents. The following are just some of the outstanding trips taken:
- In 1958 a 50-mile backpack from Castle Junction to Mt. Assiniboine via Shadow Lake, Simpson Pass and Sunshine Village completed by Tom Moffat, Ken Bailie and Fred Marsh.
- In 1959 an epic bushwhack from Moraine Lake to Marble Canyon via Wenkchemna Pass and Tokumm Creek.
- The north Boundary, Trail of Jasper National Park from Berg Lake in 1968
- 1969 week long trip to Pipestone Pass, Siffleur River and Clearwater Pass led by Jack Carter.
- In 1970 Jack Carter led a 9-day backpack into the Brazeau - Poboktan Pass area of Jasper Park.
- 9-day trip to Glacier Park, Montana, led by Brian Crummy in 1972. (much bushwhacking)
- 9 day backpack from Kananaskis Lakes to Bourgeau parking lot via Palliser Pass, Wonder Pass, Citadel Pass and Healy Pass! Led by Ed Forester in 1972.
- Wally Drew led 16 members to Copperstain Mtn on the east edge of Glacier National Park in 1973.
- Quita Mills led a 7-day trip from Sunshine to Assiniboine and out Bryant Creek in 1973
- Brian Crummy led a 9-day backpack into Jasper Park along the Skyline Trail, then the Nigel Pass - Jonas Pass - Poboktan Pass area in 1973.
- In 1974 Helga Dauer led the first of many ski backpacks into Egypt Lake.
- Wilf Twelker built igloos on his trip to Balfour Glacier in 1974.
- 10 Ramblers skied the full traverse from Temple Lodge to Baker Lake and out Baker Creek, staying the night in an igloo. (1974)
- Jack Carter led a trip to Elysium Pass in northern Jasper Park, a seldom seen wilderness area. (1974)
- 1974 trip to the Bugaboos where East Post Spire was climbed. (Daphne Smith, Arn Haase, Peter McGill leading)
- 1978 trip to the Pacific Crest Trail in the North Cascades of Washington led by the Flanagans.
- 1979 trip to Cauldron Lake, climbing Mistaya Mtn, led by Art Davis.
- 1979 backpack to Whiteman Pass - Owl Lake area by Peter McGill.
Holiday tours involving leisurely backpacks, car camping, or stays at resorts were very popular:
- a week at the Stanley Mitchell hut in Little Yoho Valley with horses packing supplies in and out!
- Thanksgiving weekend by train to Rogers Pass, staying at the ACC Wheeler hut.
- In 1961 the first of many annual Victoria Day weekend trips to Jasper
- 1961 Labour Day weekend trip to Windermere for camping, swimming, golf, and water skiing.
- 1963 Christmas ski week to Apex Alpine, Big White and Silver Star.
- 1964 Christmas ski trip to Todd Mountain, BC.
- The 1966 Victoria Day weekend trip to Jasper led by Alastair Sinclair, the most active trip leader that year.
- 1973 Christmas ski trip to Big White, staying in a lodge on the slopes, led by Wally Drew.
- 1974 car camping to Kokanee, Slocan, and Manning Parks led by Jim Kirkpatrick.
- 1975 car camping to St. Mary's Alpine, Kokanee and Cathedral Parks led by Jim Kirkpatrick.
- 1975 trip to the Valhalla Mountains and Kokanee Park led by Daphne Smith.
- In 1976 Helga Dauer led the first of many annual ski weekends to Sunshine Village.
- in 1978 Mary and Doug Campbell led 21 Ramblers on a weekend at Wapta Lodge
- In 1980 Peter McGill led a 10-day trip to Monashee Provincial Park.
- A 1980 Christmas trip to Delphine Lodge at Wilmer, BC, led by Jim Cunningham.
- 1981 New Year's at the Ramparts Creek Youth Hostel for 20 Ramblers led by the Lowndes.
Day trips became a regular part of Rambler life when Wally Drew joined the club in 1956. The following are a few highlights mentioned in the History:
- Wally's first day hike was to Aylmer Lookout with 12 participants.
- Mt. Temple was climbed for the first time by Ramblers in Aug, 1963.
- Alastair Sinclair was on the club's first ascent of Mt Aylmer in 1964.
- Roger Woodgate made probably the first ascent of Grotto Mtn by a blind man in 1966
- 1966 saw the first Rambler ascent of Storm Mountain.
Cross Country Skiing was initiated in 1956 with Wally Drew leading the first trip. Downhill skis were used for touring. 'Skinny Skis' did not become popular until the 1970s.
- October 28, 1956 was the Ramblers first ski trip: to Elbow Lake, only a foot of snow, but lots of rocks!
- Wally Drew led the first of many annual Easter Weekend trips into Skoki in 1959.
- The first recorded 'skinny ski' trip led by Alastair Sinclair up Forty Mile Creek in the 1971-1972 winter season.
- Brian Crummy led a circuit of Cascade Mountain (21 miles) in 1975
- 1980 ski ascent of Junction Mtn by 10 Ramblers led by Wally Drew.
- 1980 circuit of Fort Mile Creek - Mystic Pass - Johnston Canyon, led by Wally Drew.
Downhill Skiing, was very popular in the early years, sometimes being more popular than ski tours. Visits to popular resorts in Alberta, BC, and the US were common.
- Wally Drew led the first canoe trip on the Bow River near Banff in 1958.
- Ed Stacey made a solo trip from Fort Nelson, BC to Inuvik, NWT, via the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers!
- The Lake Louise to Banff canoe trip in 1973 saw some swamped boats!
- Bill Leach led 8 Ramblers on a 55 mile trip down the Red Deer River.
- Wally Drew led the first ice skating trip in 1957 to Innis Lake southwest of Olds.
- Wally Drew led the first swimming trip in August 1957 to Pine Lake southeast of Red Deer
- Wally led the first of many annual trips to Gull Lake in 1958.
- In Sept, 1966, 11 Ramblers rented horses at the Diamond Cross ranch and rode to Barrier Lake and back, then enjoyed a BBQ supper and dancing. (dudes led by Roger Woodgate ?)
- was originally banned but became a part of Rambler activities in 1961
- In 1964 the RMRA purchased a club rope and had its first rock climbing school led by Ted de Waal
- Brent Davis instigated ice climbing in 1977.
- In 1978 there were two ice climbs by Brent Davis and Ordell Steen.
- RMRA member Ron Smylie summited Mount Logan, Canada's highest peak, in April, 1959 (not a Rambler trip)
- Wilf Twelker started leading his first of many glacier trips to the Wapta Icefields in 1966, building igloos for shelters.
- First ski ascent by Ramblers of Snow Dome in 1966.
- Ramblers Gerry Schlee and Art Borron participated in ACC Centennial climbs in the St. Elias range in 1967. Gerry led a first ascent!
- 1968 ascent of Mt. Rearguard by Brian Crummy, Rob Ashburner and Jamie Mackie.
- In 1976 Bill Leach climbed 200,000 vertical feet (60 vertical km!).
- 1979 ascent of Mt Athabasca by 7 Ramblers, led by Ordell Steen.
- 1980 Bow Lake - Yoho Wapta traverse led by Wilf Twelker building an igloo for shelter.
- 1980 ski backpack to Castleguard Meadows with an ascent of Castleguard Peak, led by Dick Jull.
- 1980 ski ascent of Mt. Columbia, Alberta's highest peak, by Ordell Steen, Bob Farrell. Tony Forster and Arnold Westberg.
- 1980 ascent of Mt. Victoria by Ordell Steen and Wilf Twelker.
- Numerous moonlight hikes were led by Wally Drew, usually to peaks on the eastern edge of the Rockies. The trips would leave town Friday evening for a wiener-marshmallow roast lasting until midnight. The mountain was climbed in moonlight, and the dawn of day observed from the peak.
- Moonlight hayride west of Bragg,, Creek in 1973.
- 1980 moonlight backpack to Mt. Bourgeau, led by Helga Pattison.
Social activities are an important part of the Ramblers, but this was especially so in the earlier years. Many of the outdoor activities seemed to have a more social bent than today. Society back then placed a strong emphasis towards marriage on young people. Read the History and see how many couples were formed from the Ramblers. One backpack alone to Floe Lake produced 3 marriages within half a year! The term 'holiday tour' conjures up thoughts of relaxation and socialization. Some of the following highlights from the History are still going strong today:
- The first recorded party thrown by Bernie Taylor and Wally Drew was a ski season wind-up in April, 1958
- Numerous square dance evenings at Ted de Waal's parents' house, 1958 and earlier ?
- First recorded annual New Years Party Dec 31, 1958 at Tom and Lucia Moffat's.
- First recorded annual Christmas Party held Dec 21, 1960 at Sandy and Nancy Vair's home.
- First of many Hallowe'en parties held in 1961 at the Thurston's.
- Wednesday meetings became wiener roasts at Glenmore Park in the summer of 1963.
- Some Wednesday meetings were spent swimming, skating or skiing at Happy Valley.
- Some other meetings were held playing bingo at the Thurston's, or bowling or square dancing.
- Linda Scarlett organized the first recorded progressive supper from one end of the city to the other in 1972.
- 1973 saw the first recorded treasure hunt using cars, somewhat like an auto rally.
- 1974 saw the first annual Mosquito Creek Thanksgiving weekend car camp.
- First annual car camp to the Highwood in 1979.
- 1980 'fox' hunt organized by Dieter Steffan in the upper Kananaskis.
There was more 'esprit de corps' in the club in the early Years. A tremendous project for a club of the Ramblers size was the construction of the Centennial Trail over Mt Allan from Ribbon Creek to Deadman's Flats.
- Wally Drew named Chair of the Centennial Trail Project, 1966.
- Work on the Centennial Trail continued through 1969.
- In the 1970's the club became very active in conservation matters, and submitted numerous briefs, especially concerning National Parks Policy. (sound familiar?)
- The first recorded river cleanup was led by Wilf Tweiker in 1973.
- In 1975 the RMRA made several submissions on the future of Waterton Park, twinning the Trans Canada Highway in Banff National Park (sound familiar ?), creation of the Great Divide Trail, and the creation of Valhalla Park in BC.
- In 1979 the RMRA made submissions on Lake Louise development and the Wilmore Wilderness area.
- In 1980 the Ramblers placed summit registers an top of Mt Bourgeau, Storm Mtn, and Observation Peak for Alberta's 75th birthday celebrations.
The path from informal meetings in John Hickey's bedroom to our structure today is outlined in the History. The early affiliation with the Canadian Youth Hostelling Association ended within a year, and the affiliation with the British Ramblers ended in 1964. Some important timelines are:
- The first Annual General Meeting held Sunday morning Dee 5, 1954 at the Club Cafe.
- 1957 saw meetings with programs designed to teach outdoor skills to members. A leaders manual was developed.
- May 1957 saw the first permanent RMRA headquarters in Ron Smylie's Alpine Sport Shop.
- The 'Pack Rat' made its first appearance in 1957 due to the efforts of Wally Drew.
- The Leaders Council (Coordinators Council) was formed in 1957.
- The 1957 AGM became a Saturday evening banquet along with business.
- In 1958 a broken leg on a ski trip spurred the requirement for compulsory trip insurance. (10 cents / person / day) - 1960 saw the club move to Bob Baxter's book store.
- First Gold Pin awarded to Wally Drew, and the second to Sandy Vair in 1960.
- In 1963 a grievance committee was formed.
- In 1968 Sandy Vair retired from the Executive after 14 Years service, 6 as club Chairman.
- In 1969 the bylaws of the Association were rewritten, giving the club an up-to-date constitution.
- In 1969 the AGM was held at a regular Wednesday meeting, rather than at the Annual Dinner and Dance.
- Frank Stanley joined the Ramblers in 1969 and has run the coffee shop ever since.
- In 1971 the RMRA moved to the basement of the Lutheran Church at 7th Ave and 9th St. SW.
1981 to the Present
The first 27 years from 1954 to 1981 saw the Ramblers develop from an idea into a mature club with a proud history. Since 1981 the Association has remained basically the same in structure and in total membership (see chart below). During those intervening years there were some great adventures, epic trips and worthy achievements. Some members who participated in those years have great stories to tell, and it would be a shame to not document them. A challenging but rewarding project would be the updating of our history to the present before it is too late. Who among us is up to that challenge?