A booklet celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Caledonia Football and Athletic Club of Calgary contains the following: “On a spring day in April 1904, a band of exiled Scots got together for a “shoot in” on a football pitch in the 500 block on the south side of Fourteenth Avenue. All were in street clothes except Billy Stevenson who was stripped in his Queens Park colours. When another Queens Park man, the late Dr. George Ings, witnessed the proceedings, it didn’t take him long to mix with his fellow countrymen. Then and there the fellows decided to form a football club – its name to be Callies Football Club of Calgary, the colours to be the black and white of Queens Park.”
The club was officially organized on April 26, 1904, but soccer had been played in Alberta long before that. The first game the Callies played was a friendly against a team called the “Excelciors, while the first game the club played in the Calgary League took place on May 17th, 1904.
Two years later on exactly the same date, May 17, the first attempt to form a provincial governing body for soccer in Alberta happened in Red Deer. The Red Deer News of May 22, 1906 reports as follows. “At the meeting held yesterday in the Alexandra Hall to consider the forming of a Provincial Football League, the following representatives were present. J.A. Fairley, Innisfail; B.F. Kause, Red Deer; W.F. Kennedy, Red Deer; P. Howell, Red Deer, N.R. Walker; Strathcona J.A. Jackson, Ponoka; P.R. Ramsey, Innisfail.” The new Alberta Football league was duly created with J, Fairley installed as president and J.A. Jackson of Ponoka as secretary-treasurer.
Surprisingly over one year later on Tuesday June 11, 1907 the Edmonton Journal reported at some length of a provincial association being formed in High River, to be known as the Alberta Provincial Association Football Union. So it would seem that to start with Alberta had two provincial associations, one in the north and one in the south.
Two years later on April 19, 1909 the two groups got together and merged to form the first truly province wide governing body. Once again the meeting was held in Red Deer between representatives from the Alberta Amateur Football Association and the Central Alberta Football League as reported in the Edmonton Bulletin on April 20. On May 1, 1909 the same newspaper reported that the new provincial football league “is now an accomplished fact.” J.W. Ward of Edmonton was elected president with J.A. Fairley of Innisfail, Dr. J.A. Ings of Calgary and Mr. Schofield of Pincher Creek as vice-presidents. H. Ballantyne of Calgary was the Secretary-Treasurer.
However, before all this transpired the Calgary Caledonians had won the People’s Shield, the unofficial championship in Canada. Playing in the Calgary League composed of teams called Bankers, Hillhurst, Western Canada College, City and Labourers Union, the Callies played 16 games of which 14 were won and 2 drawn. The Callies won the trophy by beating Toronto Thistles and Winnipeg Britannia. The winning team was Jock Ross – Andy Morgan, Donald MacKechnie – Arthur Park, Sandy Strang, James Petrie – Tom Stewart, Cruickshank, Thomson, McLean and Carr. The Callies repeated their feat in 1908 and 1909, thus becoming Canada’s first soccer dynasty.
In August of 1907 Mr and Mrs A. Bennett of Calgary presented a Shield to be awarded to the champion team of Alberta. It was first competed for in 1908 and won by, who else, but the Calgary Caledonians. The Callies went on to win it again in 1909, 1910, 1911 and 1912, and then not again until 1923. The Shield continued to be awarded until 1929 when it was replaced by a trophy donated by the Scottish F.A.
In 1911, Alberta welcomed its first overseas touring team, the famous Corinthians from England. On August 24, 1911 they met the Edmonton All-Stars at Diamond Park in the provincial capital and won 6-1. The Edmonton team on that day was Ernie Parker (St. George’s), Kinsman (Callies), Moffatt (Swifts) – McCormick (Swifts), Crews (Swifts), Cowan (Callies) – Gathercole (St. George’s), McLuckie (Callies), Tod (Callies), Lloyd (Swifts), and Manton (Swifts).
Two days later it was the turn of the Calgary All-Stars to face the tourists. This time the result was much closer with the Corinthians winning 4-3. Playing for Calgary that day on defense were Nicholson (City) – Melville (Hillhurst), Grindley (Callies) – Haig (Callies), Arthur Wakelyn (Hillhurst), Petrie (Callies), The names of the forwards cannot be distinguished in the newspaper. In October of that same year Calgary Hillhurst crossed the Atlantic Ocean to tour England, but the tour was cut short due to injuries to some of the players.
The years of the First World War were lean years for soccer in Alberta, as in many other parts of Canada, but the end of the war brought a tour by a team representing the Scottish F.A. The Scots, including many famous names, played in Calgary on June 12 and in Edmonton two days later. Calgary were beaten 5-0 and Edmonton 6-0. In 1924 it was the turn of the Corinthians to tour once again, and for Canada to send a representative team all the way to Australia. Three Alberta players made the three month trip down under, Mitch McLean of the Calgary Caledonians, Bill Linning of Lethbridge Veterans United and Jim Wilson of Edmonton Royals, with McLean playing in all six internationals.
When the Corinthians played in Edmonton in1924, the Edmonton forward line contained three players who were to make an impact nationally for years to come. Their names were Dave Turner and the brothers George and James Graham, with George Graham scoring the winning goal when Edmonton beat the Corinthians 1-0. At that time they all played for Edmonton South Side. Turner went on to a great career with Westminster Royals and George Graham with Toronto Ulster United. But Jim Graham remained in Edmonton where he played for Edmonton All-Stars many times he also played hockey for the Gainers Superiors and toured Europe with them in the winter of 1932-33. Later in 1950 he coached Edmonton Waterloo Mercury’s to the World Hockey Championship.
In the 20s and 30s, teams in Calgary played for the Black Cup and in Edmonton for the Vets-Martin and Dragoons Cups while all-star teams from Edmonton and Calgary played annually for the Hudsons Bay Trophy.
However, the Alberta story is not all Edmonton and Calgary. Alberta had strong teams in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Drumheller. Lethbridge Supinas won the Alberta championship in 1932, 1934 and 1935 while Drumheller Miners toured across Canada in 1932. In addition, some teams from Eastern British Columbia close to the Alberta border were members of the Alberta Football Association and competed for and won the Alberta championship, For example Michel Freebooters from the Crows Nest Pass area won in 1926 and 1927, while Kimberley Tunnell won in 1928.
In the national championship Calgary Hillhursts were the only team to win the title in this era, with Hillhursts beating Toronto Ulster United right in Toronto. That team included Andy Wilson, Fred Foster, Bob Stephen Roy Austin, Andy Mitchell, Geordie Scott, Fred Deluce, Sammy Gough, Stan Wakelyn, Bernie Cartwright nd Johnny Wright.
Edmonton C.N.R. came close in 1929 beating Vancouver St. Saviours, in the B.C.-Alberta final handily but losing to Winnipeg United Weston in a three game Western final.
On the administrative side Charles Smail from Edmonton played a major role in the affairs of the Alberta Football Association and the Dominion of Canada Football Association, as did Fred Crumblehulme from Calgary.