Picturing the Past
Teacher Section
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Activity, printable version

Letter 8

James writes about the Women's Christian Temperance League, Nellie McClung, women's rights, William “Wop” May and aviation

Short-Answer Questions

A. Who was Nellie McClung and what did she do?

B. What was the Women's Christian Temperance League?

Discussion Questions

A. How did the women's rights movement change Canada? Who, besides Nellie McClung, was involved in fighting for women's rights? Can you think of ways women's rights have changed the lives of all Canadians?

B. At the start of his trip, James was very excited to travel by train. Why then would he decide to travel home by plane? What were some of the discomforts of the train? What were the good things about train travel? How was rail travel affected by the Depression?

Letter 9

James writes about his first impressions of Jasper Park Lodge, meeting new friends and golfing.

Discussion Questions

Why would CN decide to build their hotel in Jasper in such a different style than their main competitor, the Banff Springs Hotel, which was built like a castle in the mountains? What attracted visitors to Jasper?

Essay Question

Before Jasper and Banff became national parks, the railway had to be extended between Alberta and British Columbia, through canyons, mountains and dangerous territory. Write an essay on the building of the railroad through the West. How did workers overcome obstacles? What dangers were there to workers? Who built the railroad? Why was it so important to extend the track through the Rockies?

Letter 10

James writes about trail riding in Jasper National Park and tourism.

Discussion Questions

When the head of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, Cornelius Van Horne, saw the final expense report for passage through the Rockies, he realized that he would have to find ways to increase passenger traffic to make back some of the money. The CPR became one of the first companies to advertise Canada as a vacation destination, claiming "if we can't export the scenery, we'll import the tourists!"

Look at the photos from the CN collection used to advertise Jasper Resort and the Rocky Mountains (the CN collection was mainly used for advertising). How did the CPR and CNR make the mountains appealing to tourists like James? Which words did they choose and what do you think they left out? How do you think this kind of advertising has affected the image of Canada at home and around the world?

Letters 11

James writes about his Maligne Lake trip, fishing and eating.

Short-Answer Questions

A. What type of clientele do you think the lodge catered to, and why? What would be the appeal of a mountain vacation during the Depression?

B. Do you think it would have been viewed as “proper” behaviour for girls to go fishing with men in 1937? What types of activities would men and women be engaged in that are different than today?

Letter 12

James writes about the Maligne Canyon motor tour and Banff Indian Days.

Discussion Question

Early guide and park pioneer Tom Wilson created "Banff Indian Days" when he was called upon to find a way to entertain a group of bored guests. It became a tradition at the Park. What image did this kind of exhibition give tourists of Native people? Do you think contact increased awareness of Native issues or made the First Nations culture seem more mysterious and foreign? Why?

Group Activity

Choose a picture from the photo album that comes from the CN collection and describe what you think it would have been used for? Advertising? Inventory? Surveying? Tourist photographs? Are there people in the photos? Animals? Do they appear posed/staged or natural?

Final Discussion Question

Before reading James's letters to Ellie, what did you know about life in the 1930s in Canada? What have you learned? What did you find most shocking? Interesting? Upsetting? What is similar to present-day life? What is different?