Cashman, Tony Gateway to the North.
Article Type: Book Review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Broadway, Michael J.
Pub Date: 12/22/2003
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2003 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Winter, 2003 Source Volume: 12 Source Issue: 2
Topic: NamedWork: Gateway to the North (Book)
Persons: Reviewee: Cashman, Tony
Accession Number: 115498163
Full Text: Cashman, Tony Gateway to the North. Edmonton: Duval House Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-55220-261-5 193 pp.

Tony Cashman is an Edmonton-based historian who has written "popular" histories about the University of Alberta hospital, Edmonton's schools and the Exhibition Association. In this volume, he chronicles the city's involvement with aviation and the development of Edmonton's City Centre (or Industrial or Muni) Airport. The book is crammed with interesting stories concerning the airplanes and the men and women who put Edmonton on the aviation map. Readers will learn that after the city created Canada's first municipal airport it approved livestock and crop raising on its grounds that remained unfenced until 1962. Even more surprising is that the forerunner of Air Canada used to pick up passengers and take them to the airport!

The book covers the period from 1911 to 1991 and is chronologically organized. Chapter 1 recounts the Edmonton Exhibition Association's successful effort to bring an airplane to the city in 1911. Another rive years would pass before the next plane flew over the city. Chapters 2 through 11 deal with the inter-war years. In 1919, the city received the donation of a biplane named Edmonton to promote aviation in the region. The plane was used to give rides around the city, distribute newspapers and search for the occasional fugitive! The discovery of oil at Norman Wells in 1920 offers a glimpse of the city's future as a supply base for energy exploration. But improvements in airplane design and navigation are necessary before flying in the North becomes routine.

Civic boosters, fearful that the city is losing out to neighboring towns that are providing a base for government survey planes, pressure the City Council in 1926 to award $400 for the construction of two three hundred yard long runways. The "airport" is named Blatchford Field in honor of the city's mayor. A year later the Edmonton and Northern Alberta Aero Club is founded. The Club trains pilots and ensures that the airport becomes Canada's busiest in terms of landings and takeoffs. Flying's increasing popularity during the 1930s means that lighting and hangars are added at the airport. After the embarrassment of two round-the-world fliers having to take off from Portage Avenue (now Kingsway) because the runway was too muddy, the city invests in a concrete apron in front of a hangar.

During the Second World War Blatchford Field became a centre for aircraft repair and a critical link in the supply line between the lower 48 U.S. states, Alaska and Russia (Chapters 12-13). The airport retains its gateway function in the post-war period with the opening of trade to Japan and energy exploration in the North. The introduction of passenger jets puts Edmonton within one stop of Europe via the great circle route in the 1950s. In the early 60s the International Airport opens and Blatchford Field is renamed the Industrial Airport. Most passenger traffic is transferred to the International Airport except for the Airbus service linking Edmonton and Calgary (Chapters 14-15).

Wardair, an Edmonton-based charter airline enjoys a brief moment of glory as the "world's best" before it collapses from debts incurred from an overly ambitious expansion plan and is absorbed by Canadian Airlines. Airline industry deregulation in the 1980s results in the Edmonton Regional Airport Authority assuming the responsibility of managing the area's airports (Chapter 16). A very short epilogue covers the collapse of Canadian Airlines and the transfer of all commercial passenger traffic to the International Airport. But as readers of this book will appreciate such upheavals are commonplace in the aviation industry.

The book's numerous illustrations testify to the author's expertise in uncovering sources in newspapers, historical archives, art galleries and museums. But this reader's appreciation of the early aviation pioneers' accomplishments would have been enhanced with the addition of several maps showing the routes they traveled. From an academic perspective the book's biggest drawback is its failure to cite a single published source, although a list of contributors is provided in the book's acknowledgements. Despite this omission the book must be considered a success, and it is highly recommended for anyone wishing to gain an understanding of the role of aviation in Edmonton's history.

Michael J. Broadway

Department of Geography

Northern Michigan University
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.