Calgarians mark 50th birthday of Calgary Tower with block party, fond memories

Hundreds came out to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Calgary Tower’s opening on Saturday, participating in a block party at the tower’s base where people were treated to half-price rides to the observation deck.

Leona Baker is a born and raised Calgarian who was at the Calgary Tower on the day it first opened: June 30, 1968.

“I was 11 years old then and I think coming today was maybe even more exciting, just because I lived this long and wanted to enjoy the moment and share it with other people,” Baker said.   She recalled the many times her family took guests from Europe to the tower for dinner, and the worries she had about the structure falling down.

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“I used to have nightmares of it falling down Centre Street,” Baker laughed.  “I’ve [talked] to lots of friends that I grew up with and they say the same sort of thing about having the same kind of dreams of the tower falling down, so I’m glad to see that it never has. Somebody once told me that concrete lasts for 100 years, so I don’t think I’ll be around for the next 50 years but I  certainly enjoyed today.”

Renee McCarty made a special trip to Calgary to take in the celebrations on Saturday.  She recalls visiting the city as a child, when a ride up the Calgary Tower was a highlight.

“We used to come as children when we would come and spend a week with grandma in the summer, and we would come up and go for breakfast and it was the highlight of our visit,” McCarty said. “I’ve been back once [as] an adult and today I’m bringing my dad back for the first time.”

Howard Laine brought pictures of the tower to the block party on Saturday.  He shared his memories of touring the building as a kid visiting from Toronto in 1972.

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“Calgary was a very different place back then and this tower kind of stood out from everything else,” Laine recalled.

“That was the highlight of our visit.  It’s just an iconic part of Calgary. It’s one of the things that you see when you first come into the city; that red top stands out. Anywhere you go, that’s what you see and that’s what you recognize.”

While some people lamented the fact that the Calgary Tower is now dwarfed by several other taller buildings, others are impressed that lights have been added and that the torch is lit on special occasions.

“I think the problem is you kind of lose some of that identity because it gets buried in all the steel, but the nice part of it is the city has done a lot with the new lighting and to made it stand out and it’s used for a lot of big events,” Laine said.

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