THE SAGA OF SADDLE RIDGE
by Hugh Bennett ( 1st President of S.R.C.A.)
The Saddle Ridge Saga had its beginning eight miles northeast of downtown Calgary in the year of 1912. Intense expectation for Calgary’s growth by planner, speculators and promoters, resulted in much of the area being subdivided into five and ten acre parcels-even city lots. Subdivided portions (through real estate promotion) commanded prices of two hundred and fifty dollars per acre as individuals and partners from near and distant parts of Canada and the United States clambered to speculate in the great land boom. Still visible is a partial railroad grade intended to be a scenic sightseeing route heading towards Drumheller.
By 1929, we find the area still gently rolling, cultivated farmland, with some fenced and open grassland. The two by two inch wooden surveyor stakes which once stood in such straight rows (being a menace to the cutting of wild hay), had been yanked from the ground by farmers and burned in their kitchen stoves.
Land transactions were negligible through the following ten lean years of depression, except for many lots which reverted to the Municipal District of Rockyview for nonpayment of meager land taxes. The farmers owning the greater acreage of any quarter section, wherein these lots lay, used all the land without any demand of payment from the owners. Land traded at ten to thirty dollars per acre, depending on the percentage of alkali sloughs.
No interest other than agriculture was shown in the area until the early nineteen fifties. Couples with young families and various occupations seeking country life, began buying the acreages and building homes. Upwards to one hundred homes were constructed by the late nineteen sixties. The new residents believing recreation to be a necessity of life, called an organization meeting and planned a centre on a 23 acre site at 44 Street and 74 Avenue. The district borders were to be 48 Avenue on the South, 68 Street East, City limits north, and CPR tracks on the West. Besides the $5.00 a year per family membership fee, dances were held at Delacour hall, hoping to earn funds for the proposed centre.
“Following a lively discussion (the understatement of the year), it was decided the bartender mixed the drinks too strong, resulting in a $30.00 deficit.” - Meeting minutes of April 29, 1969
Many names were submitted to designate the area and since a ridge approximately 100 feet high existed within the boundaries, and an average of at least one saddle in each household “Saddle Ridge” received the majority votes.
Rink boards and a skating shack were moved from a vacant airforce base, power installed, old fashioned backhouses constructed, and the top put on the newly drilled well to keep the kids and rodents out. A combination open air riding arena and rodeo grounds, and a ball diamond followed. The Quonset hall opened in the fall of 1972 and a capacity crowd attended to celebrate its opening and the closing of the outside privies. This was all accomplished by people working with people, people arguing with people, and a lot of help from the Calgary Parks Department.
Membership has grown to 172 from the original 37. Present day activities include rodeo, all girls (CGRA), team roping, 4H horse shows, dances, skating and hockey (2 rinks), films, teen club, bingo, stampede breakfast, baseball, children’s playground and others.
A tip of the old straw hat to Saddle Ridge and all other communities built with a pioneer spirit by men and women not interested in personal monetary gain, but determined to improve the quality of family life.