“It was for everyone.”
Deborah Dobbins describes Edmonton’s first pie shop as a place where everyone — black and white — was welcome.
In the late 1970s Dobbins’ mother, Caroline Mae Johnson Leffler Greene, opened The Slice, which was billed as Edmonton’s only pie shop, on 118 Avenue and 86 Street.
New customers came from the larger community, but those who knew Caroline Mae had some inside knowledge.
“They pretty much could get the pie for free if they went to her house,” Dobbins said.
For Dobbins, Alberta’s history is also family history.
“I am third generation African American Canadian Albertan,” she said.
She’s also the president of Edmonton’s Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots, working to preserve and promote the history of the hundreds who came to Canada in the early 1900s.
Stories like how Shiloh Baptist Church got its start.
“When the people first settled in Edmonton they tried to go to church and they weren’t allowed. So they started their own.”
The church has since been recognized as the oldest black Baptist church in Western Canada. It’s still operating, serving both as church and as community gathering place.
Dobbins is putting out a call for help to build an African American Albertan cultural centre to inspire future generations.
“They need to understand their roots and take pride in that so they can stand on the shoulders of those who came before and be proud and equality.”
The story of The Slice — including their famous pie crust recipe — is preserved as part of the Royal Alberta Museum’s “I Am From Here” exhibit.
The interactive exhibit also highlights Hatti’s Harlem Chicken Inn, which became famous among visiting entertainers.
You can hear the story of Hatti’s in this RAM podcast.
“I Am From Here,” is open until Sept. 7.