Alberta: The Early Years

Alberta: The Early Years

A booklet celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Caledonia Football and Athletic Club of Calgary contains the following. 

“On a spring day in April 1904, a band of exiled Scots got together for a “shoot in” on a football pitch in the 500 block on the south side of Fourteenth Avenue.  All were in street clothes except one – Billy Stevenson – who was stripped in his Queens Park colours.  Another Queens Park man, the late Dr. George Ings, witnessed the proceedings and it didn’t take him long to mix with his fellow countrymen.  Then and there the fellows decided to form a football club – its name to be Callies Football Club of Calgary, the colours to be the black and white of Queens Park.”

The club was officially organized on April 26, 1904, but soccer had been played in Alberta long before that.  The first game the Callies played was a friendly against a team called the “Excelciors, with the first game the club played in the Calgary League taking place on May 17th, 1904.”

Two years later on exactly the same day, May 17, the first attempt to form a provincial governing body for soccer in Alberta happened in Red Deer.  The Red Deer News of May 22, 1906, reports as follows.  “At the meeting held yesterday in the Alexandra Hall to consider the forming of a Provincial Football League, the following representatives were present.  J.A. Fairley, Innisfail; B.F. Kause, Red Deer; W.F. Kennedy, Red Deer; P. Howell, Red Deer; N.R. Walker, Strathcona; J.A. Jackson, Ponoka; P.R. Ramsey, Innisfail.”  The new Alberta Football League was duly created with J.A. Fairley installed as president and J.A. Jackson of Ponoka as secretary- treasurer.

Yet over one year later, on Tuesday, June 11, 1907, the Edmonton Journal reports at some length of a provincial association being formed in High River, to be known as the Alberta Provincial Association Football Union.  So it would seem that to start with, Alberta had two provincial associations, one in the north and one in the south. 

But it would seem that two years later, on April 19, 1909, the two groups got together and merged to form the first truly province-wide governing body.  Once again the meeting was held in Red Deer between representatives from the Alberta Amateur Football Association and the Central Alberta Football League as reported in the Edmonton Bulletin on April 20.  On May 1, 1909, the same newspaper reports that the new provincial football league “is now an accomplished fact.”  J.W. Ward of Edmonton was elected president with J.A. Fairley of Innisfail, Dr. J.A. Ings of Calgary and Mr. Schofield of Pincher Creek as vice-presidents.  H. Ballantyne of Calgary was the secretary-treasurer.

However, before all this transpired, the Calgary Caledonians had won the People Shield, the unofficial championship in Canada.  Playing in the Calgary League composed of teams called Bankers, Hillhurst, Western Canada College, City and Labourers Union, the Callies played 16 games, of which 14 were won and 2 drawn.  The Callies won the trophy by beating Toronto Thistles and Winnipeg Britannia.  The winning team was Jock Ross – Andy Morgan, Donald MacKechnie – Arthur Park, Sandy Strang, James Petrie – Tom Stewart, Cruickshank, Thomson, McLean, and Carr.  The Callies repeated their feat in 1908 and 1909, thus becoming Canada’s first soccer dynasty.

In August of 1907, Mr and Mrs A. Bennett of Calgary presented a Shield to be awarded to the champion team of Alberta.  It was first competed for in 1908 and won by, who else but the Calgary Caledonians.  The Callies went on to win it again in 1909, 1910, 1911 and 1912, and then not again until 1923.  The Shield continued to be awarded until 1929 when it was replaced by a trophy called the Campbell Cup donated by Robert Campbell, president of the Scottish Football Association. © 2007 by Colin Jose

In 1911, Alberta welcomed its first overseas touring team, the famous Corinthians from England.  On August 24, 1911, they met the Edmonton All-Stars at Diamond Park in the provincial capital and won 6-1.  The Edmonton team on that day was Ernie Parker (St. George’s), Kinsman (Callies), Moffatt (Swifts) – McCormick (Swifts), Crews (Swifts), Cowan (Callies) – Gathercole (St. George’s), McLuckie (Callies), Tod (Callies), Lloyd (Swifts), and Manton (Swifts).

Two days later, it was the turn of the Calgary All-Stars to face the tourists.  This time the result was much closer with the Corinthians winning 4-3.  Playing for Calgary that day on defense were Nicholson (City) – Melville (Hillhurst), Grindley (Callies) – Haig (Callies), Arthur Wakelyn (Hillhurst), Petrie (Callies).  The names of the forwards cannot be distinguished in the newspaper.  In October of that same year, Calgary Hillhurst crossed the Atlantic Ocean to tour England, but the tour was cut short due to injuries to some of the players.

The years of the First World War were lean years for soccer in Alberta, as in many other parts of Canada, but the end of the war brought a tour by a team representing the Scottish Football Association.  The Scots, including many famous names, played in Calgary on June 12, 1921, and in Edmonton two days later.  Calgary was beaten 5-0 and Edmonton 6-0.  In 1924, it was the turn of the Corinthians to tour once again, and for Canada to send a representative team all the way to Australia.  Three Alberta players made the three-month trip down under: Mitch McLean of the Calgary Caledonians, Bill Linning of Lethbridge Veterans United and Jim Wilson of Edmonton Royals, with McLean playing in all six internationals.

When the Corinthians played in Edmonton in 1924, the Edmonton forward line contained three players who were to make an impact nationally for years to come.  Their names were Dave Turner and the brothers George and James Graham, with George Graham scoring the winning goal as Edmonton beat the Corinthians 1-0.  At that time, they all played for Edmonton South Side.  Turner went on to a great career with Westminster Royals and George Graham with Toronto Ulster United.  But Jim Graham remained in Edmonton where he played for Edmonton All-Stars many times, and also played hockey for the Gainers Superiors and toured Europe with them in the winter of 1932-33.  Later in 1950, he coached Edmonton Waterloo Mercurys to the World Hockey Championship.

In the 20s and 30s, teams in Calgary played for the Black Cup, and in Edmonton for the Vets-Martin and Dragoons Cups, while all-star teams from Edmonton and Calgary played annually for the Hudsons Bay Trophy. 

However, the Alberta story is not all Edmonton and Calgary.  Alberta had strong teams in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Drumheller.  Lethbridge Supinas won the Alberta championship in 1932, 1934 and 1935 while Drumheller Miners toured across Canada in 1932.  In addition, some teams from eastern British Columbia close to the Alberta border were members of the Alberta Football Association, and competed for and won the Alberta championship.  For example, Michel Freebooters from the Crows Nest Pass area won in 1926 and 1927, while Kimberley Tunnel won in 1928.

In the national championship, Calgary Hillhurst was the only team to win the title in this era, with Hillhurst beating Toronto Ulster United right in Toronto.  That team included Andy Wilson, Fred Foster, Bob Stephen, Roy Austin, Andy Mitchell, Geordie Scott, Fred Deluce, Sammy Gough, Stan Wakelyn, Bernie Cartwright and Johnny Wright.  Edmonton C.N.R. came close in 1929, beating Vancouver St. Saviours in the B.C.-Alberta final handily but losing to Winnipeg United Weston in a three-game Western final. 

On the administrative side, Charles Smail from Edmonton played a major role in the affairs of the Alberta Football Association and the Dominion of Canada Football Association, as did Fred Crumblehulme from Calgary.

Notable People

Notable and interesting people from Alberta during the period between the wars were:

Dr. George Arthur Ings – Born: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  Died: Edmonton, Alberta, October 10, 1933.  First president of the Alberta Provincial Football Association, founded June 8, 1907, in High River, Alberta.  In April of 1909, he was a delegate to talks of a merger between his association and the Central Alberta Football League founded in 1906 in Red Deer.  As a result of these talks, the Alberta Football Association was formed in Red Deer on April 30, 1909.  In 1907, he was president of the Calgary Caledonians when they won the first People Shield competition and Honorary President in 1908 when the Callies repeated.  Dr. Ings was educated at King's College, Windsor, Nova Scotia, and Edinburgh University in Scotland.  On returning to Canada, he settled in Calgary and practised there until the outbreak of World War One when he received a commission from the Canadian Army Medical Corps and went overseas. He served in England and on the Western Front with the 2nd Divisional Ammunition Column until the Armistice.  Shortly after his return to Canada, he accepted a government appointment in the northern part of Alberta and was stationed at Fort McMurray, where he remained in practice until his last illness.

Charles Mathison Smail – Born: Arbroath, Scotland, June 26, 1882.  Died: Edmonton, Alberta, November 25, 1972.  President of the Dominion of Canada Football Association in 1932, 1933 and 1934.  Emigrated to Canada in 1903 and lived in Regina before moving to Edmonton two years later.  Played for Edmonton Caledonians from 1907 to 1910 before turning to the administrative side of the game.  The following year, he was elected to the executive of the Edmonton and District Football Association, and in 1914, became president.  League play in Edmonton was suspended during the First World War, but when it resumed in 1919, he once again became president and remained in office to 1922, when he moved up to the presidency of the Alberta Football Association.  He also served as president of the Alberta Soccer Association for seven years: 1915, 1919, 1920 and from 1923 to 1926.  He first became a council member of the DFA from Alberta in 1923 and occupied that position continuously until 1926, when he became the second vice-president.  He became first vice-president in 1931 and president a year later, being elected by mail vote when no Annual General Meeting was held.  One year later, he was re-elected by mail vote, but in 1934, was elected to a third term by the delegates attending the annual meeting in Winnipeg.  In recognition of his outstanding service to the game, he was made a life member of the Alberta and Canadian Soccer Associations.  Away from soccer, he was employed by the City of Edmonton from 1907 until his retirement as city treasurer in 1949. Inducted into the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame in 1964.

Major Fred Crumblehulme – Born: Bolton, England, 1886.  Died: Calgary, Alberta, May 8, 1947.  Came to Canada in 1910.  Elected President of the Dominion of Canada Football Association in 1946, but died while still in office.  A member of the council of the DFA for Alberta in 1928-29, 1929-30, 1930-31 and 1931-32.  President of the Alberta Football Association from 1927 to 1935 and for six years secretary of the Calgary Football Association.  A coin collector, he ran a store in Calgary in the 1930s.  Served in the First World War with the 31st  Battalion, and in the Second World War was appointed Military Services Officer.  He was instrumental in obtaining Mewata Stadium as the city’s major sport centre and was honorary secretary of the Stadium Commission for 12 years.

James "Jimmy" Graham − Born: Portrush, Northern Ireland.  Arrived in Edmonton as a young boy with his parents in 1914, and grew up on the South Side, playing soccer and hockey.  He played for the Edmonton All-Stars versus the Corinthians in 1924, the English F.A. in 1926, the Welsh F.A. in 1929, the English F.A. again in 1931, and for the Alberta All-Stars against the Scottish F.A. in 1935.  He was also a member of the great Edmonton Nationals team that reached the Western final of the national championship in 1929 and lost to United Weston in Winnipeg in three games.  His hockey career began in 1925 as an outstanding centre for the Edmonton Gainers Superiors, helping them win the Alberta Senior Championship twice and the British Columbia Senior Championship once.  In the winter of 1932-33, he toured Europe with the team, leading them to the Paris International Trophy.  After the war, he coached the Edmonton Waterloo Mercurys to the World Hockey Championship in London in 1950.  Jimmy was also a good baseball player, and won the Edmonton Senior Men’s Golf Championship from 1960 to 1962.  He was posthumously inducted into the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame in 1965.  Brother George Graham was also an outstanding soccer player with several teams including Toronto Ulster United.

Stanley Yorke Wakelyn − Born: Sunderland, England, 1890.  Died: Calgary, Alberta, December 26, 1978.  Great centre forward of the Calgary Hillhurst team that won the People Shield in 1912 and the Connaught Cup in 1922.  Played for Calgary against the touring Corinthians in 1924, England in 1926 and Scotland in 1927.  He also went on tour to England in 1911 with Hillhurst.  He grew up in Calgary, and was said to have had a tremendous shot and kept his forwards going with splendid passes to both wings.  Voted one of the players of the half century by the Canadian Press in 1950.  Served overseas in the First World War with the 31st  Battalion from 1916 to 1918.  Worked for many years for Canada Post.  Known as "Porridge" to his teammates.

The Strang Brothers
There were four Strang brothers.  John, who was the eldest, died suddenly in 1907, and was considered by many one of the best players the Callies ever had.  Then came the twins, Alexander (Sandy) and William, and then Norman, who, like William and many others, was killed overseas in World War One.

Alexander "Sandy" Strang – Born: Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland, September 16, 1878.  Clubs: Dunfermline Juniors, Aberdeen Orion, Dunfermline Athletic, Glasgow Celtic.  Twin brother of William Strang.  Suspended by the Scottish F.A. in 1904 and emigrated to Canada.  A member of the Calgary Caledonians when they won the Western Canada championship in 1906.  Captained the team, from centre half, when they won the People Shield in 1907 and 1908, and was a member of the team that won for a third time in 1909.  Was a member of the great Callies half back line of James Haig, Strang and Jimmy Petrie.

William Strang – Born: Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland, September 16, 1878.   Club: Glasgow Celtic.  Twin brother of Sandy Strang.  Signed by Celtic on April 23, 1903, he made just two appearances for the first team and spent most of his time in the reserves.  Suspended by the Scottish F.A. in 1904 and emigrated to Canada in 1905.  Went to live in Calgary.  Known as "Wull."  Killed during World War One.