Episode 18: The Case of the Christmas Train

Glen Carlson is seated, looking at the camera, sitting in front of a microfilm reader
Glen Carlson did a lot of unglamorous searching through microfilm with us for this story.

Glen Carlson asks us to help him figure out whether the Bay store downtown really used to have a Christmas train on the rooftop.

A glitzy-looking shot of the Bay at Christmas in the 1960s, with a village facade wrapped around the building. The Bay logo has a Jetsons' feel, and there are stars and pine swirls hanging from the power lines above the street.
A glitzy-looking shot of the Bay at Christmas in the 1960s, with a village facade wrapped around the building. [HBC Archives, HBCA 1987-363-E-610 – 49]
There’s a lot riding on the answer, because Glen’s wife, friends, and most of his family – pretty much everyone he knows – think he made it up.

Listen first! For real, don’t scroll down below the spoiler tag until you’ve heard the episode.

spoilers below

Our journey started at the City of Edmonton Archives, since it seemed like the kind of thing that might be captured in a photograph or a newspaper article. Archivist Melissa McCarthy helped us start looking there.

Melissa McCarthy, in a bright pink cardigan, laughs with her eyes closed while sitting at the reference archivist desk.
We like to share a laugh with Melissa McCarthy at the City of Edmonton Archives.

Glen was born in 1952, so we started digging there.

Black and white photo. Glen as a small child looks at the camera while he sits on the lap of Santa, who has a HUGE beard and belt buckle.
Tiny Glen! When he was 2 or 3.

Christmas displays were a big deal at the Bay, just like they were at other big department stores downtown at the time.

An ad for the Bay's Pre-Christmas Sale in the Edmonton Journal on November 18, 1952.
An ad for the Bay’s Pre-Christmas Sale in the Edmonton Journal on November 18, 1952.

We found a hilarious article from the Edmonton Bulletin on Christmas Eve, 1908, where the writer seems to have fallen asleep near the end.

After a lot of scrolling through microfilm and flipping through clipping files for the Bay and for Christmas, we struck gold.

Article headline: 700-Foot Rooftop Line Opens. There's a photograph of people lining up to enter a train on the roof of the Bay.
A clipping from the Edmonton Journal on November 20, 1964 blew this story wide open.

And Lisa Friesen at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, at the Archives of Manitoba, found us these gems in their collection.

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