By Marla J. Daniels
In the decade of the 1980s, Fort Edmonton Park added many new features and reached the international stage and screen. Four movies were filmed in the Park (primarily on 1885 Street) and one of the Fort’s working York boats was completed and launched during the 1986 world’s fair in Vancouver. Park staff hosted three Royal Visits in the ’80s and were involved with the 1984 Papal Visit.
At Expo ’86, millions of visitors were able to watch the on-site construction of a replica York boat and chat with three Fort Edmonton Park boat-builders. One of them is Joseph Isserlis, who has been working as a costumed interpreter and boat builder at the Fort since 1979. He was assisted in Vancouver, BC by Ian Campbell and Dennis Stewart from August 18 to October 13, 1986. In reference to the Expo ’86 theme of Transportation and Communication: World in Motion “ World in Touch, Joseph recalls “the boats at the exposition were a wonderful example of cultural diversity which contrasted with the theme of technology, where there is convergence of ideas and development.” The York boat exhibit presented a human story among the grand pavilions and high technology of the fair. Fort Edmonton Park saw Expo ’86 as an unprecedented opportunity to extend a portion of its successful interpretation program to a new audience of huge proportions.
On the occasion of the visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Edmonton, September 17-18, 1984, the Park’s Missionary Cross was presented to him for his blessing. The Missionary Cross is an altered replica of the one erected outside the palisade walls in 1838. It stands in a quiet area near the Pond Picnic Site (east of the Fort) as a spiritual and historical tribute to the missionary heritage that helped shape the character of Western Canada.
A VIP photo gallery in the Train Station features images from Royal Tours hosted at Fort Edmonton Park during the 1970s and 1980s. The June 1983 visit by HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, with Diana, Princess of Wales, created a media circus. Other ˜80s visits included Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, July 1980, and HRH Andrew, Duke of York, with Sarah, Duchess of York, July 1987.
In addition, Fort Edmonton Park’s 1905 Street was largely completed during the 1980s with the acquisition of 13 replica attractions and several original structures “ Egge’s Stopping House and the Anglican Church of St. Michael and All Angels. In 1985, Mellon Farm opened on 1920 Street.
The Edmonton Radial Railway Society (ERRS) began in 1980 with a single streetcar, Edmonton 1, and has grown to be one of the largest heritage transit organizations in Canada. In 1981, Edmonton 1 began running at Fort Edmonton Park, and by 1984, the ERRS had established regular service on a one- kilometre line in the Park. A replica of the original Strathcona Streetcar Barn was constructed in 1982 to house the streetcar collection. On your next visit to the park, look to see if you can catch a ride on the 1908 Edmonton 1 or the 1912 Edmonton 42, or one of the other streetcars operated by the ERRS volunteers. Edmonton 42 has been the main workhorse in the Fort Edmonton Park fleet for over three decades. During this time it has carried more than 2,500,000 passengers and traveled over 70,000 miles.
What memories from Fort Edmonton Park in the 1980s would you like to share?