Cashman, Tony Gateway to the North. Edmonton: Duval House Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-55220-261-5 193 pp.
Tony Cashman is an Edmonton-based historian who has written "popular" histories about the University of Alberta hospital, Edmonton's schools and the Exhibition Association. In this volume, he chronicles the city's involvement with aviation and the development of Edmonton's City Centre (or Industrial or Muni) Airport. The book is crammed with interesting stories concerning the airplanes and the men and women who put Edmonton on the aviation map. Readers will learn that after the city created Canada's first municipal airport it approved livestock and crop raising on its grounds that remained unfenced until 1962. Even more surprising is that the forerunner of Air Canada used to pick up passengers and take them to the airport!
The book covers the period from 1911 to 1991 and is chronologically organized. Chapter 1 recounts the Edmonton Exhibition Association's successful effort to bring an airplane to the city in 1911. Another rive years would pass before the next plane flew over the city. Chapters 2 through 11 deal with the inter-war years. In 1919, the city received the donation of a biplane named Edmonton to promote aviation in the region. The plane was used to give rides around the city, distribute newspapers and search for the occasional fugitive! The discovery of oil at Norman Wells in 1920 offers a glimpse of the city's future as a supply base for energy exploration. But improvements in airplane design and navigation are necessary before flying in the North becomes routine.
Civic boosters, fearful that the city is losing out to neighboring towns that are providing a base for government survey planes, pressure the City Council in 1926 to award $400 for the construction of two three hundred yard long runways. The "airport" is named Blatchford Field in honor of the city's mayor. A year later the Edmonton and Northern Alberta Aero Club is founded. The Club trains pilots and ensures that the airport becomes Canada's busiest in terms of landings and takeoffs. Flying's increasing popularity during the 1930s means that lighting and hangars are added at the airport. After the embarrassment of two round-the-world fliers having to take off from Portage Avenue (now Kingsway) because the runway was too muddy, the city invests in a concrete apron in front of a hangar.