Tag Archives: Beltline

The Fruit Loop in 1982

Calgary’s Gay Prostitution Stroll for many years was centred around the Lougheed House on 13th Avenue SW between 6th and 7th streets. Colloquially it was known in the gay community as “the Fruit Loop.” Trolling cars would circle the block around the Lougheed House, in a clockwise direction, due to 6th being a one-way street. In 1982 local residents who lived in apartment towers facing the Fruit Loop petitioned Calgary Police to have the stroll removed. The petition received 547 signature from area residents (165 signatures from the Birkenshaw Apartment, 166 from Hull Estates, 68 from Park 300, and 148 from Evergreen Apartments).

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Driving route on the Fruit Loop: Source Google Maps

The apartment building owners alleged they were losing renters due to the distasteful activity and the ensuing noise and traffic that the prostitutes were making. Occasionally the sex workers would even get into the buildings and rest in the apartment lobbies’ overstuffed chairs.

Inspector Bill Brink who was in charge of policing the Beltline noted that male prostitutes had been moving west from Central Memorial Park, due to increased lighting there, as well as stepped-up enforcement. He also claimed that the gay bar, the Parkside Continental at 1302 4th St. SW, was one of the drawing cards for male prostitution in the area.

The Calgary Herald on June 21st, 1982 reported that police had enhanced enforcement efforts at the Fruit Loop. Noting enforcement difficulties, Inspector Frank Mitchell reported that male prostitutes were harder to spot than female prostitutes. He said, “if there are five men walking down the street, two may be homosexual, one may be a homosexual prostitute and two may be going to the library. It’s very difficult to assess.”

Later that week at a Police Commission Meeting, the petitioners brought forth their complaint. Police Chief Brian Sawyer, said the Calgary police force was sympathetic but helpless. He recommended that citizens write to their Members of Parliament, to lobby for laws to help police deal with prostitution.

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Image source: The Calgary Herald: July 21, 1982, page B1.

The Beltline NIMBYers were not happy with that response. One woman invited the Police Chief to spend a night in her apartment to assess for himself the magnitude of the issue. Another man thought that the male prostitutes could be moved as Police had done with the female prostitution stroll. The manager of the Evergreen Estates told the commission: “I don’t think the police’s hands are tied. They can do something about the commotion. We’re talking about commotion, noise, and disturbance.  [These] young guys are howling and hooting at the moon.”

Inspector Bill Brink incidentally was the police representative on the first gay community/police liaison committee (he also notoriously had busted Club Carousel years earlier on liquor charges, and was hostile to the activist side of the gay community).  The gay members of the committee agreed to help the police relocate the Fruit Loop to 10th Avenue SW.  The compliant committee then had cards printed which they hand-delivered to the stroll’s sex workers asking them to relocate. Although it was a polite initiative, it proved ineffective.

Finally, one wonders, is it a coincidence the Fruit Loop was across from the Ranchmen’s Club, one of Calgary’s then last remaining exclusive (men-only) private members clubs?

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Gaybasher Killed in Central Park

Central Memorial Park has a history of being a cruising park for gay men, and there are many related stories of police harassment there, as well as gay bashing incidents in the now gentrified Beltline greenspace.  Yet one night, in 1979, the tables turned and a gay basher became a victim.

On Saturday, September 22nd at around 10 PM, a skirmish broke out in Central Memorial Park. The result was that Beltline resident, Thomas Earl Nash, aged 22, was stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle. A half dozen people surrounded the dying man, lying behind the Memorial Park Library.  One of Nash’s panicked friends managed to hail a cab driving by on 13th avenue, who then raced them to the Holy Cross Hospital.

Nash did not survive the night.  A silver jacket from one of the attackers was abandoned at the scene.  It was also reported that large blood stains on the sidewalk remained the next day.  The police reported that no motive had been established for the killing, but that drugs were not involved.

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Calgary Herald: Monday, September 24, 1979 page B1

The two men accused of the killing fled in a stolen car to Penticton, B.C. and were arrested by RCMP officers the following Tuesday. Brian Christopher Hawkurst, 20, and Greg Paul Spencer, 19, were charged with second-degree murder.

As the investigation proceeded, details emerged that Nash was one of three straight men who had been abusing gay men in the park. It seems that the gang of harassers hassled Hawkurst and Spencer, who then decided to hassle back. A chase ensued whereby Hawkurst and Spencer caught up to Nash at the alley behind the library, and attacked.

The alley, ironically, was well lit by a floodlight which had been installed the previous month at police request, to discourage homosexual activity in the area. Sadly, the cab driver who came to Nash’s aid reported that it was not the first time he had had to take a stabbed man from Central Memorial Park to the hospital.

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Photo: Park in 2011 by Mack Male on WikiCommons

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YYC LGBTQ Legacy Sites

The City of Calgary’s LGBTQ Legacy Committee recently formed: a group spearheaded by Ward 8 City Councillor Evan Woolley, with support from the Calgary Gay History Project. The Committee’s goal is to commemorate our city’s LGBTQ history with a significant and lasting monument. We are at the beginning of the process but look forward to engaging with everyone who is interested in helping to shape what our monument could be.

One of the initial questions for a monument is where? The Beltline and the inner city seem like an obvious choice, as it is where much of our community spaces were clustered in the 20th Century.

Gay Beltline in the 80s

Doug Young personal papers, Glenbow Archives M-8397-1.

Gay activist Doug Young’s personal records are in the Glenbow Archives. His hand drawn map of the Beltline from the mid-80’s illustrates there were more queer spaces at that time, then we have today.

Some ideas for a monument location that we came up with:

  • The Old Y – now called CommunityWise, was the location of the first peer support organizations in Calgary, PLC and GIRC. It later hosted dozens of other queer non-profits and collectives and became the de facto hub for the LGBTQ community. Currently, CommunityWise is home to Calgary Outlink and Fairy Tales.
  • Central Memorial Park – a gay cruising park in the 70s, it was also the site of frequent police harassment of queers. Law student Henry Berg fought back in 1981. He took the police to task and won. Later in 1990, the Boer War Memorial at the centre of the park was the site of the first Pride Rally in 1990 – the origin of Calgary Pride.
  • McHugh House – Calgary’s 6th oldest building was moved recently into Humpty Hollow Park, in a corner of the Beltline that saw a lot of gay action, with nearby bars Myrts (later the Republik), Off Centre and later MoneyPennies in the Centre 15 building. Centre 15 also housed AIDS Calgary for a number of years.
  • Tomkins Park – the block-long green space nestled on the south edge of the Beltline, was the site of a number of Pride Festivals in the 1990s when the Pride Parade’s route went down 17th Avenue.
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    Sept 1978 Ad in Gay Calgary – a GIRC Newspaper

    It was also close to Books N’ Books, an independent bookstore which proudly sold LGBTQ books, newspapers and magazines (now Big Cheese Poutinerie).

  • Greenline 12th ave station – this new LRT station opening in 2024 might pop out at 12th avenue and 1st street SW (or be an underground station): super close to the original Club Carousel as well as the Old Y.
  • Connaught Park – this West-Central Beltline Park is surrounded by lots of hi-rise apartment buildings and walk-ups. Nearby City View Manor was rumoured to have been designed to house gay men exclusively, with walk-in closets and wrap around balconies.
  • Barb Scott Park – is close to current gay bar Twisted Element and the former Warehouse and Underground Pub (which earlier was a short-lived gay bathhouse).
  • Haultain Park – is close to Central Memorial Park, Old Y, and Club Carousel. Also not too far from A Woman’s Place Bookstore, another community hub in the 80s and 90s.
  • East Village – outside of the Beltline this is one of the oldest parts of Calgary. There was a historic bath house, somewhere east of City Hall in the early 20th century that had gay undertones. Later in the 70s, there was a gay steam bath named Dan Dominique’s on 3rd St. East between 7th and 8th Avenue, reportedly not recommended for the squeamish.

Where would you like to see a memorial? Write to calgarygayhistory@gmail.com – share your thoughts.

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