8 Edmonton facts you probably didn’t know

by | Feb 26, 2024 | Arts & Life

Every city has its mysteries, and Edmonton is no different. A recent thread in the subreddit R/Edmonton saw Edmontonians discussing some of the unique facts about the city of champions. We didn’t know most of them, so we did some digging, verified our sources, and picked the 8 most interesting to share. 

1. Mayfield was named after a WWI fighter.

Wop May, a famous Canadian pilot who fought during World War I, is the reason the Mayfield neighbourhood got its name. During WWI, May was chased by the infamous “Red Baron,” after firing on the Baron’s cousin. May escaped by “dodging and spinning” his plane, just moments before the Baron was shot down for good.

When May returned from war, he and his cousin rented a type of plane known as “Canuck” and started a business called May Airplanes Ltd. They opened the first airport—for a lack of a better term—which is still known today as the Mayfield neighbourhood.

2. Edmonton was the headquarters of witches.

The city of Edmonton was named after Edmonton, England, a city just outside of London famous for being the headquarters of witches. In fact, there was a famous play named “The witch of Edmonton: A known true story” inspired by Elizabeth Sawyer, who was executed for witchcraft in 1621. The name ‘Edmonton’ comes from the birthplace of Sir James Winter Lake, Deputy Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Before our city, Fort Edmonton was the first to receive the name ‘Edmonton.’

3. Blatchford wasn’t always empty.

It is undeniable that Blatchford has become an infamous name among NAIT students since the new LRT station opened, but did you know Blatchford Field was the busiest airport in the world at some point during World War II? Planes would stop to resupply and go on with their trips to Russia and Europe trying to help their allies at the time.

4. We tricked Calgary for the government and the university.

When Alberta and Saskatchewan joined the Canadian Confederation in 1905, Premier Alexander Rutherford was asked to organise the provincial government. There was some discussion on where to build the legislature and the university. Eventually, Rutherford decided the legislature would be in Edmonton and said the university was to be constructed ‘south of the Saskatchewan River’. Calgary was a little upset since they hadn’t been chosen as the capital and expected to get the university. Little did the Calgarians know that he referred to Strathcona, where Rutherford’s house was, and not our neighbours to the south. Rutherfords’s house is still open to public visits today, and, as you might have guessed, is ‘just south of the North Saskatchewan River.’

A historical photo of Rutherford House via FB @rutherfordhousephs

5. KISS loves Edmonton.

KISS’s first tour outside of the USA started in Edmonton, Alberta at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium at the University of Alberta. Gene Simmons has highlighted that first gig as one of the greatest, not only for the outcome of the concert itself, but also because he met her first groupie, a “green-haired” girl who spent the night with him “just because he was in a band.” 

Since then, Simmons has been a regular in Edmonton. Just last year in 2023, Simmons, alongside the rest of KISS, stopped in Edmonton as part of their final live tour. Now they are moving on to digital presence and avatars and might not be playing live in tours anymore. What a strange world we live in.

6. Mac DeMarco is a Strathcona High School alum.

If you are into indie rock and indie pop, you might have heard the name Mac DeMarco. He was born in Vancouver but was later raised in Edmonton. DeMarco attended junior high here, and he eventually graduated from Strathcona High School in 2008. Ultimately, he moved back to Vancouver and later on to Los Angeles, where he lives today.

7. An ETS employee pulled off a major coin heist in the 80s.

Salim Kara. Does the name ring a bell? He stole over $2 million in coins while working for ETS in the 1980s. Coins are heavy, so he had to be quite smart to get them to the bank. And for a while, he was. 

He devised a way to beat the system by using a modified car antenna to take coins out of the machines he was in charge of maintaining. The bank believed him when he told them he had a side business with vending machines. He was successful until Canada introduced the dollar coin and his earnings became suspicious during audits. He had become a little too careless to cover his tracks, and ETS’ losses were too visible. He was ambushed and caught red-handed. He pleaded guilty and spent some time in prison.

8. Edmonton’s a gaming destination.

Are you a gamer? Or maybe an anime lover? Well, Edmonton has history with both. Bioware, creators of games like Mass Effect, Dragon’s Age or some within the Star Wars universe has its headquarters here in Edmonton. 

Steven Ogg, who lent his voice to Trevor from GTA V, is also from Edmonton. 

And as one redditor shared, the anime Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans, has two episodes featuring Edmonton as the centre of all action being the capital of the Arbrau Nation.

A still from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans, where Edmonton’s downtown is used as the vials for the capital city of the Arbrau Nation. Pictured above is Edmonton’s 102st and 102 ave. Photo via Reddit

Well, let’s leave the Edmontosaurus, the Albertosaurus, the Edmonton Drillers and the military gang that fought a Canadian military commando for another article! Cheers!

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