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The Story of BoB Edwards, founder, publisher and one-man staff of The Calgary Eye Opener, Billed by it's creator as the most popular, semi-occasioal, bi-monthly, catch-as-catch-can newspaper west of Winnipeg. Eye Opener Bob
Copyright 1974 Western Producer Book Service
207 pages,
ISBN 0-919306-46-2.


"Picturesquely situated so as to be within easy reach of the brewery, Calgary extends right and left, north and south, up and down, in and out, expanding as she goes, swelling in her pride, puffing in her might, blowing in her majesty and revolving in eccentric orbits round a couple of dozen large bars which close promptly at 11:30 right or wrong."

"A man may be too old to enlist but his age never keeps him from going to the front at the Grand Theatre when there is a leg-show on."(March 9, 1918) "Although the citizens of Calgary are not what you would call violently insane, they still indulge in picnics to an alarming extent, eating sand and ants and doing other things which we admit are mildly idiotic."(April 2, 1913)

"You'd be better in a city; you come to Calgary," Paddy Nolan said to Bob Edwards when on one of his High River trips to defend a cattle rustler. Edwards was attracted by the heavy-set lawyer whose nationality was as obvious as the peaks of the Rockies and whose wit was as sharp as an Irishman's peat ax.

A few months later, while the cloud of righteous indignation from certain incidents remained over him, Bob Edwards made the decision, confessing publicly to understandable discouragement:

"These small towns are awful. Wetaskiwin threw us down
Leduc threw us down. Strathcona, being dead anyway, shook its
shriveled finger at us.High River is passing us up. Ye Gods! That
we should have lived in such places."
Calgary would be different. But would Calgary be better?

For Methodist ministers and transient editors there was special advantage in being mobile. With no printing plant, no office, and no professional equipment, Publisher Edwards could pack his belongings and make himself ready for moving while a liveryman was hitching to drive him away. On leaving High River, all his worldly belongings except the precious books were packed in one of those accordion-type valises which could expand like a snake that had swallowed a cat.

Departure made him sad. Friend Jerry Boyce had already left to operate a hotel at Gleichen, but there were various other loyal people to whom he was obliged to say "farewell": sporting Billy Cochrane, who owned the first automobile in the Alberta country; Dan Riley (later Senator Riley), whose wealth was ten dollars tucked in a shirt pocket when he walked to the foothills in 1883, and who then lost the ten dollars when he washed the shirt in the Bow River; Phil Weinard, the German-born rancher and friend of artist Charlie Russell; Dr. G. D. Stanley, who saved the editor's life a few times; the devil-may-care Shorty McLaughlin, and others. Nor could he get it out of his mind that he was writing "Failure" on another chapter in his life.

Calgary loomed as the next experiment - Calgary, which had begun when the North West Mounted Police built an outpost at the junction of the Elbow and Bow rivers twenty-nine years before, and which now seemed to be the real beating heart of the West. Calgary's three-man police force counted a population of 9,554. According to Bob Edwards there were just two classes in local society: "those who sent their washing out and those who took it in." Stephen (8th) Avenue was the business lifeline. Most of the hotels, including the Alberta, Royal and Queen's, were on the south side of the avenue, and "ladies" chose to walk on the north side. There was this about it, that an editor who became incapacitated by drink now and then wouldn't be conspicuous, and half the people on the avenue wouldn't be making it their business to know how he was spending his evenings.

Arrival in Calgary was without fanfare. The fire department's brass band, led by proud Crispin Smith in Prince Albert coat and bearskin busby hat, was on the street - but it wasn't for Bob Edwards. He went to the Alberta Hotel, took a one-dollar room, shut the door with a slam and threw himself on the bed to think about his next move in a city in which his acquaintances were few. To produce his paper in Calgary would be his fifth publishing venture in the Territories and he had no capital. He might have had a few dollars, but there had been some debts to meet before leaving High River and he had given the clerk at the trading company thirty dollars to provide groceries for the wife and children of an improvident fellow who deserted in the night. Bob knew he was practically destitute and his "banker," Jerry, was far away. Moreover, kind-hearted Jerry had troubles of his own and probably couldn't help anyway.

It was too bad about Jerry; just to think that he had had to face the court on a charge of being an accomplice in connection with a mail robbery. Late in 1903, ten thousand dollars were stolen from the mail between Calgary and Winnipeg, and Jerry, in the course of raising a loan with which to buy a property in British Columbia, had the misfortune to get some of the hunted money and was caught with it. Before the court finished with the case, a mail clerk was convicted and sentenced to seven years in penitentiary, while a Calgary lawyer was sentenced to eighteen months for complicity, and Jerry Boyce had to do some explaining to clear himself.

Gripped by a hitherto inexperienced feeling of loneliness and failure, Bob's inclination was to go to the bar - that bar for which the Alberta Hotel was famous. But he knew that ifhe went while feeling depressed, he'd stay too long and bedevil more than ever his entry into Calgary business.

While the conflict between a yearning and a conviction continued, there were heavy footsteps in the hall and a knock at the door. This was no ordinary gentle knock, but a pounding that might be from the fist of a giant. Before Bob could call "Come in," the hinges squeaked and the broad frame of Paddy Nolan filled the doorway, black-moustached Paddy, greatest lawyer in the Territories, whose cultured Irish accent and incomparable humor drew men to him like syrup draws flies. Paddy Nolan was exactly what Bob Edwards needed at that moment as on many subsequent occasions.

"The clerk downstairs told me he had just registered an honest Scotsman and I wanted to see with my own eyes," the lawyer began. "Sure, and it's welcome to Calgary, my man."

Bob seized the big outstretched hand and felt a charge of reassurance from it. "Paddy Nolan!" he exclaimed. "The Irish are not all knaves, or they hide their guilt damned well. It's months since I saw you. Ten me, why have you not been High River way these last months?"

"The Cashel case," Nolan replied. "Trying to save an accused murderer from the gallows can take a lot of time, you'll understand. We almost did it, but - poor Ernest - after an my effort to prove his innocence, he confessed the shooting to Dr. Kerby on the eve of his hanging."

Before there was any talk about Bob's business problems, Paddy Nolan related the Cashel story - one that had filled the newspapers and excited the people of all Canada for months. In October, 1902, Cashe1, wanted for forgery, was in the Red Deer district, ostensibly to secure cattle with which to stock his ranch. Ellsworth was the name he was using. After staying at the shack of Isaac Rufus Belt, it was noted by friends that both men had disappeared. Police searched along the Red Deer River but found nothing to support their suspicions. Cashel was found and arrested on a charge of forgery; but before the police got him to Calgary, he jumped to freedom from the washroom window of a fast-moving train. Next, Cashel stole a horse, was rearrested. But in the meantime, the decomposed body of Belt was discovered at the mouth of Trail Creek on the Red Deer. Cashel was charged with murder and Paddy Nolan was retained for defense. Tried before Chief Justice Sifton, the slippery Cashel was convicted and sentenced to hang on December I5, 1903.

Cashel was still hard to hold. Following a visit from the condemned man's brother, John Cashel, the convict confronted his guards with two revolvers, herded them into his cell for safe keeping and walked calmly out into the night and disappeared. Paddy Nolan, by this time, was in Ottawa seeking a new trial. As he talked with the Minister of Justice on December 10, the Minister was handed a telegram. After reading it, the government man turned to Nolan and announced, "Your man has escaped." Nolan is reported to have replied: "Thank you sir; good-bye."

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