With any new city comes riots; however, in the early years Calgary did remain rather civil until the Great Depression rolled into town. Then just like any other area in North America, unrest began to ensue. However, it’s not the Great Depression riots that I want to focus on; instead, I would like to shed a little light on two riots that took place prior to the Depression, as stated before, in the “early years of Calgary”.
1892: Chinese community blamed for an outbreak of smallpox: In a location behind a laundry shop, a Chinese resident was recovering after a bout of small pox. The local authorities were ordered to destroy everything in that location, quarantine the other occupants outside the city limits, and burned down the laundry shop. However, this did not stop the disease from spreading. In all, nine Calgarians contracted small pox and three of them died. Stories alleged that this small epidemic was caused from the unhygienic living conditions of the Chinese people. When the quarantined occupants returned to Calgary a riot erupted. Three hundred men smashed windows and doors of all Laundromats, attempted to burn other Laundromats down, looted property, and assaulted the Chinese residents. This would be just the first of many heartaches the Chinese population would have to endure in the young city.
February 1916 – Riverside/Bridgeland : Riverside Hotel and White Lunch Café: Prior to Bridgeland and the Riverside area becoming Little Italy, it was predominately a German neighbourhood, often referred to as “Germantown”. This area existed from the 1880’s until it was finally annexed by the city in 1910 when the CPR started to subdivide the lots for purchase. The German’s were very business orientated and a number of them owned their own businesses or were managers at other locations; Paul Pouplier for example was the President of the since closed Cecil Hotel. After World War I ended, tension was still in the air. So much so, that an angry anti-German mob destroyed the Riverside Hotel because it was understood that the owner was actually German, not English. Then within the same month, 500 rioters destroyed the White Lunch Café on speculation that the owner hired an Austrian versus a returned soldier.