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Rocky Mountain Ramblers Association

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.

Outdoor Activities

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:

Holiday tours involving leisurely backpacks, car camping, or stays at resorts were very popular:

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:

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.

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.


Ice Skating:


Horseback Ridding:

Rock Climbing:

Ice Climbing:


Moonlight Trips:

Social Activities

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:

Community Service

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.

RMRA Organization

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:

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?

Membership history