Post war Alberta enjoyed a period of unprecedented growth
and overall prosperity. Many ‘displaced persons,’ a term for
Europeans, who came to Canada after the Second World War and
settled in Alberta, were skilled trades people or
professionals who naturally gravitated to urban areas where
employment was most likely. War Brides, with the help of the
Red Cross, made the long journey to Alberta and were united
with their husbands.
With the oil boom, American immigrants and American-owned
oil companies and moved in. The social trend for this era
was mass consumerism and American media dominated influences
via film, magazines, records, and a new fixture in the
living rooms of most homes — television.
Revitalized churches, women’s groups, community halls,
and organizations such as the YWCA and the YMCA increased
programs and/or volunteer participation to accommodate
Alberta’s growing urban population.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the Canadian government’s
Immigration Act limited non-white immigration. The Chinese
Exclusion Act (1923) was repealed in 1947 so that
Chinese-Canadians could sponsor relatives. In 1951, small
quotas of South Asians from Commonwealth countries: India,
Pakistan, and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) were allowed to immigrate
into Canada. Most of these newcomers settled in urban areas.
Like all new immigrants to Alberta, they aligned themselves
and joined together to build new cultural, religious and
social organizations that were largely supported by
volunteer efforts and some government assistance programs.
In 1967, Canadian immigration loosened its non-white
policies so thousands more immigrants from these groups
arrived in Alberta.
Throughout this urban growth, rural Alberta held their
own. Changing technology revolutionized farming practices,
reducing the need for farm hands. Small hamlets and villages
faded into oblivion. The exodus to urban areas allowed some
farmers to increase their holdings. Successive good crops
and Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s enormous wheat sales
to China and the Soviet Union helped farmers’ bank accounts.
In the 1960s, many new volunteer organizations sprung up
such as the Calgary Stampede Board. Alberta’s universities
and their booming student population created a shortage of
staff, which led to active recruitment of American
professors. Other new academic input came from Eastern
Canada, Europe and Asia. New perceptions and cosmopolitan
flavours spilled into Alberta’s local arts and cultural
Formed by volunteers, organizations such as Alberta
Society of Artists, the Women’s Musical Club, Canadian
Handicraft Guild, and the Allied Arts Council began and
opened the door to professionalism. For example, the Citadel
Theatre got its start in 1965: The mastermind behind
professional theatre in Edmonton was Joe Shoctor, an arts
promoter, real estate developer, and lawyer.
The Banff School of Fine Arts, which was started well
before the Second World War, expanded their programs and
attracted world class local, national and international
talent. In the post war years, the Provincial Institute of
Technology and Art was further developed by Canadian artist,
Illingworth Kerr, with the Department of Art renamed in 1960
to The Alberta College of Art, the technological school
became The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).
In 1962, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
opened. In 1970, Grant MacEwan Community College opened by
offering vocational and non-university credited programs.
Musically, the British Invasion hit North America in the
mid 60s when the Ed Sullivan Show introduced an English
group called the Beatles. Hair, fashion, music,
philosophical trends and opinions were reshaped by baby
boomers, who fought the status-quo and their parents’ views
of life and traditional roles. The impetus behind the
Counter Culture Movement in the 60s and 70s, was spurned on
by resistance to the Vietnam War, the feminist movement, and
human rights issues, particularly the Civil Rights movement
in the US. Peace marches, sit-ins, hippies, free love,
psychedelic drugs, and formerly taboo subjects such as
abortion and domestic violence were now openly discussed.
After 25 years in power, leading a prosperous economy,
the Social Credit party was defeated by Peter Lougheed and
the Conservative party in 1971. The Conservatives offered
what Albertans wanted and that was a media-savvy government
whose campaign slogan was "NOW!" a government that embraced
free-enterprise policies, and a new government with a young
leader who gave middle- and upper-middle class Albertans
respectability and political clout.