Heritage Park holds a special place in my heart. For non-Calgarians, it’s a historical village designed to show you “how the west was once.” The staff wear period costumes, you can explore real houses brought to the park and recreated for their times, take a spin on the antique midway rides, circle the park in a steam train or shop for vintage-style jewelry and candy. In short, it’s one of my favourite places on earth.
I’ve been visiting Heritage Park for as long as I can remember, and on a recent trip to the park with my husband, I was reminded of all the great times that came before. So, if you will, let me indulge in a walk down memory lane.
… attending two days of school at Heritage Park in elementary. It was maybe Grade 3 or 4 where all the students had to dress up (with snow pants underneath to keep us warm!), bring old-fashioned lunches in brown paper bags, and be taught in the traditional classroom with our individual chalkboards and dusty chalk. When the boys (because it’s always the boys, right?) misbehaved, instead of smacking them with the ruler as would have been appropriate for the time, they had to stand with their noses touching the chalkboards, their back to the class.
… visiting the park at Christmas as a child. I wore a thick red coat, a white toque and classic neon pink snow boots. This was before the days when the 12 Days of Christmas really took off, but the houses were decorated for the holidays and you could get a warm gingerbread man from the classic Alberta bakery.
… the feeling of The Whip, the antique midway ride that whipped you around the rounded corners at great speed. No seat belts for you! The caterpillar was also a favourite, waiting for the green curtain to cover the little roller coaster, leaving you and your seatmate in the dark as it circled around and around. It was always disappointing when the cover came off and the ride slowed down.
… waiting in line for a cone of strawberry ice cream, giving it one ambitious lick and the entire scoop fell in slow motion, hitting the dusty ground. It was a pretty sad day. Luckily I was given a replacement.
… taking my husband David to the park on his first trip to Canada. It bucketed down with rain that day, but we carried on, waiting under our huge golfing umbrella for the steam train to arrive.
… the ghost stories my Mum would tell of the days when she worked at Heritage Park. She was a docent for the Prince House, among others. Early in the morning the docents would have to do a quick clean before visitors arrived. She remembers cleaning the first floor landing, all the while noticing a flickering light through the grate into the attic. There was no electricity at that time in that attic.
… leaving pennies strategically placed on the rail lines, anxious to get my own flattened souvenir. I’m told now that pennies can “derail” trains. I’m skeptical that this is true, in fact, when I Google the matter it seems that most accidents are of the penny placers not getting away from the tracks in time. I was always out of there well in advance.
… walking through the train museum and being freaked out by the unexpected mannequins. Why in the world do we need mannequins? Freaky things.
… standing in line many a time at the Alberta Bakery just to bring home a loaf of fresh raisin bread. The smell alone can take me back.
… when the entrance to the park was a fort wall and had a slightly steep hill. The path was wooden slats which would get slick with ice in winter. In retrospect, it’s probably best they changed the entrance!
… when friends at high school worked at Heritage Park. I always thought it would be the coolest summer job. No idea why I never applied. I kind of regret that in hindsight.
And most recently, I remember going with my husband, pregnant with my first baby. I smiled at the thought of all the places I will take he or she around the park, the memories we’ll build together, and how one day this place might be just as special for my child as it has been for me.
Do you have a place like this, in your hometown or otherwise, that holds a lifetime of memories? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.