Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

During most of Canada’s centennial year, 1967, I was twelve years old, and was living in the town where I was born—Riverside, California, USA.  I had never been to Canada, and didn’t know much of anything about it.  But I was an avid coin collector.  I first learned about the 1967 centennial from a Royal Canadian Mint ad in a coin collecting magazine offering commemorative medallions for sale.

I sent away for, and soon received, a silver medallion (Americans could not import gold at that time, and I would not have been able to afford the Mint’s gold medallion anyway).  I later saw an ad, probably in the next issue of the same magazine, for the Province of Ontario’s centennial medallion, and I ordered that too.  Then I got the idea that maybe all the Canadian provinces were selling medallions, so I wrote letters to each one asking if it was doing so.  British Columbia replied positively, and I ordered its medallion (which, in addition to Canada’s 1967 centennial, was also celebrating BC’s 1966 centenary).

But I didn’t have much luck with most of the other Canadian provinces.  Either they didn’t write back (which was not surprising, since I simply sent my letters of inquiry to each respective provincial government with no more definite an address than its capital city), or they wrote back saying that, no, they had not produced a medallion.  Someone from the Prince Edward Island government replied saying that the province didn’t have a medallion for the 1967 centennial, but had produced one for the 1964 centennial of the first confederation conference that had been held in Charlottetown in 1864—and enclosed one in the envelope for free!

My letter to Alberta resulted in a reply advising me that the province had not produced a centennial commemorative medallion, but that many towns in Alberta had done so.  My correspondent even supplied a list of them, and suggested I write to the city government of any that I wanted to buy one from.  So I did.  And as a result, I ended up buying centennial medallions from each of seventeen different towns in Alberta.

By today’s standards, the process for buying each of these was long and involved.  I first had to send a letter of inquiry to each town government, then wait for the reply informing me of the charge (invariably C$1.00 for the medallion, and usually C$0.25 for postage and handling).  I then had to go to my local U.S. post office to purchase a money order, in Canadian funds, for the requisite amount (and for which the U.S. Post Office charged a small fee).  I then mailed off the money order with a note summarizing my order (which, of course, required postage).  And then the small packages from Alberta, with little green customs stickers, started to arrive.

Many of these medallions were also C$1 tokens that the town businesses agreed to accept up until a date specified on the coin.  In addition to celebrating Canada’s centennial, many of them also celebrated something related to their own town.  The one for Rocky Mountain House proclaimed the town to be “Alberta’s Oldest Settlement,” with its founding in 1713.  The one for Drumheller listed grain, beef, oil & gas, and coal as “Our Heritage.”  The one for Viking declared that it was a “Crossroads Town with a Future.”

Some town medallions listed more specific points of pride.  In addition to farming, ranching, sporting, and hunting, the one for Oyen noted its “Centennial Curling Rink.”  Under the image of a buffalo, Wainwright’s declared, “World’s Largest Buffalo.”  St. Paul’s boasted of having the “World’s First Flying Saucer Landing Pad.”  The one for Drayton Valley was inscribed, “In Commemoration of Voyageur Canoe Pageant” (and listed May 25 as the date for this), while the one for Alder Flats noted that the town was the “Centennial Voyageurs First Stop.”  The medallion for Grande Prairie proclaimed, “Grande Prairie Sea Cadets Salute Canada’s Centennial.”  That confused me, since Alberta is landlocked.

I made my first trip to Canada in January 1973 when I went to Quebec City on a January intersession college study tour.  I’ve been back to Canada on many occasions since then, including to Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Kingston, and Victoria.  But I never have been to Alberta. Still, when I think of Canada, I remember my centennial medallions—especially the ones from all those towns in Alberta reflecting such pride in both country and community.

And the coin collector in me is curious as to whether they have produced commemorative medallions for Canada’s sesquicentennial this year.  Now, I could find out and order them within a matter of minutes via the internet.  But that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as sending out all those letters and waiting for replies was half a century ago.


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