Who says learning local history can’t be fun?
On Sept. 1, 1910, then-prime minister of Canada Sir Wilfrid Laurier travelled to Lethbridge to official open the Galt Hospital building in Lethbridge. But there was one problem. No one could open the doors; someone misplaced the key to the building. After some scrambling to locate the misplaced key, Laurier opened the doors to the brick structure with the deserving fanfare.
In honour of the Galt Hospital’s 100th organizers are revisiting this historic humorous mishap during the combination Museum Community Day and Galt Hospital/Baby Birthday Party Sept. 26.
“As an event co-ordinator without a history background, I thought as a normal, Joe Public that this is a funny story. Can you imagine this huge celebration and scrambling and wondering where key is to get into the building?” said Lori Harasem, the Galt Museum & Archives’ special event and volunteer co-ordinator.
On Sept. 26 at 11 a.m., the plan is to do a re-creation of the building’s original opening, complete with the misplacing of the key to open the building, but how to incorporate the search for the key stumped organizers.
“We did plan on doing the re-creation because only two people spoke. It wasn’t huge and there weren’t lots and lots of speeches, but because it’s the 100th birthday, we thought it would be really fun to have those speeches done,” she said.
“My concern was because the missing key is a part of that history that if we just did the re-creation, then people standing here watching may not know that story and think, ‘What is the Galt doing?’ ”
Then, one of the Galt’s Katimavik volunteers suggested a treasure hunt of sorts to find the missing key. Since Sept. 1, one “Find the Key” clue has been released each Wednesday at www.galtmuseum.com, as well as Twitter and Facebook, hinting at where the key to the Galt Hospital is hidden. The first person to find the key will open the doors to the Galt Hospital building in a re-creation of the 1910 event Sept. 26.
“It’s a really fun way to take that quirk and get the word out there about how it really happened.”
The hunt has been popular, she added, with people eager to share their adventures — and misadventures — with Galt staff.
“One person was looking in the Buchanan Room of the (Lethbridge Public) library and was taking a lot of books off the shelf and putting them back, and a woman poked her head in the room and asked what he was doing. He said he was looking for the key, and the woman said she had no idea what he was talking about. So then he thought she was a really good actor so he kept looking,” said Harasem.
Ray Waddle of the city’s parks department found the key Thursday morning.
“From the first day, I have been looking. I knew from the first clue that it had to be in Galt Gardens and then from there, I figured out it had something to do with the art gallery. I had checked this area before but didn’t find it until today," he said in a release.
Waddle will attend the festivities on Sunday and will be the individual who gets to open the doors to the crowd, as he assists the actors playing Sir Wilfred Laurier and the vice-chairman of the Galt Hospital Board, Mr. Naismith, in their opening of the building.
While the hunt for the key offered plenty of fun leading up to Sept. 26, there is a lot of entertainment planned for the day itself, including free a Galt Babies Birthday Party and the opening of a new exhibit. The admission fee will be waived that day, courtesy of the Friends Of The Galt Museum.
“We’ve taken the elements of community day with the free admission and exhibit opening and then added the Galt Babies birthday party cake and refreshments, and combined them with a couple of other things to celebrate the centennial.”
The exhibit “Galt Hospital — 100 Years” celebrates the centenary of the 1910 Galt Hospital building through amazing stories about the people involved with this impressive brick structure. Throughout its 100-year history, it’s served as a hospital and school of nursing, rehabilitation or chronic care centre, the home of the Lethbridge Health Unit, and the museum and the archives.
“Former Galt nurses will be stationed throughout the building to give people an idea of how the Galt looked 100 years ago when it opened,” said Harasem, whose office was once the surgery room.
The first 1,000 people through the door will share the Galt Babies’ birthday cake, courtesy of the Galt School of Nursing Alumnae Association. Harasem said 1,000 birthday invitations were mailed and while she doesn’t have an idea how many will be attendance because they weren’t required to reply, she said they’re located around the globe.
Also happening inside will be a teddy bear clinic (bring your teddy bear for a checkup) and displays by some of the local organizations who have utilized the building, including the Lethbridge Hospital Society and Galt school of nursing alumni.
The Lethbridge & District Horticultural Society, which is also celebrating a centennial, will host a talk about the native prairie garden at the museum’s entrance. The Helen Schuler Nature Centre will offer two natural walk of the natural area around the building.
Children and family activities are planned to happen around the grounds weather permitting. If the weather turns foul, some of the events will move to Pemmican Lodge.
Activities will run until 4 p.m.
Parking is available on-site for those with mobility concerns. The Bay will provide overflowing parking. For those feeling adventurous, park downtown and catch the old street car from the old IGA parking lot (parking is not allowed in the lot), pulled by a truck to the Galt, courtesy Lethbridge Exhibition Park. The street car will make trips to and from the Galt throughout the day.
“Considering the Galt has almost half the time been a museum, it would be interesting to take a look at the evolution of this building,” Harasem said.