Our 5 Favourite Things We Learned From a Century of New Trail

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first issue of New Trail, U of A’s magazine for alumni. To celebrate, the team behind New…

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first issue of New Trail, U of A’s magazine for alumni. To celebrate, the team behind New Trail dove into the archives to come up with “100 Things We Learned Reading 100 Years of New Trail.” You can find the first 50 of these favourite bits from the past in the Autumn issue of the print magazine — Part One of the two-part celebration.

We asked our colleagues at New Trail to narrow the list down even further: if they could pick only one favourite piece from this anniversary issue, what would it be?

Here’s what they had to say.

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Leafing through a century-worth of New Trail was very much like scrolling through one mega Facebook feed. So many glimpses into the lives of so many great grads! Margaret Gold, ’18 BA, ’24 MA, is just one of them. By all accounts, she was a fearless trailblazer — in all senses of the word! Not only was she well-travelled and well-educated, but she was also an accomplished mountaineer. In July 1924, she was to have been the first woman to ascend Mount Robson — until, as the story goes, she got partying with other members of the Alpine Club of Canada and gave up her spot. Somehow this makes her infinitely cooler in my books. I would have LOVED to hear the full, debaucherous story over a hike or — even better yet — a couple of drinks.

Stephanie Bailey, Communications Associate

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It’s no surprise that we have some forward-looking folks here at the university but what did come as a surprise was just how prescient some of those people turned out to be! One article from 1953 envisioned a future where students would attend lectures on a “personalized portable television set.” Not too far off from the online learning of today. My favourite, though, is this peek into the future of self-driving cars from Jonathan Schaeffer, former Dean of the Faculty of Science, from back in 1993. “[Driving] on the Calgary Trail is pretty damned boring. I don’t know why the car can’t drive itself. Why can’t there be sensors in the car? Why can’t it know where the right and left shoulder are? Why wouldn’t it be possible to have a car that is smart enough to drive itself? I could program it to say here I am, here’s my destination, here’s the route I want to follow and it would do the rest.”

— Lisa Cook, Associate Director of Communications

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Reading through 100 years of past issues, I was surprised by how much the lives of people before us mirrored our own lives decades later. During the Second World War, a teacher shortage meant that more students had to take classes by correspondence — and it wasn’t always easy. A story in the July 1944 issue captured this spirit in the words of one Grade 8 student: “Sometimes I think ’tis slow progress doing school work by correspondence, and I would rather take my .22 and dog team, and go into the bush to shoot squirrels.” He goes on to express appreciation for his teachers and a determined effort to “stick to his desk.” But, .22 aside, it’s a dilemma I think most of us can relate to.

— Lisa Szabo, Communications Coordinator

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Class Notes is one of our favourite parts of the magazine. It’s where we get to know our grads and hear their latest news. Going through old issues, we found so many funny, touching and interesting messages from grads. But the one that stood out for me was from William Taylor, a 1953 science grad, who wrote to New Trail in 1957 to say he was “eager to answer a newspaper story seeking a person with stamina, courage, and $1,500, who is willing to leave for a one-year expedition to the mysterious lands of the Incas, in South America’s wild Andes mountain area. ‘I fly a plane, have mountain climbed, have the money and can’t think of anything more exciting and adventurous.’ ” To me, it exemplifies the intrepid spirit of so many U of A grads as they blaze new trails, literally and figuratively. I wonder if he ever made the trip? I’d like to hear the tale.

Karen Sherlock, Team Lead (Publications)

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I was looking at the Spring 1957 issue of the magazine and I found that, even from their early days, computers were a big deal at the U of A. And they were big, too. Measuring 2.23 metres high, 6.4 metres long and nearly a metre deep, an analogue “electronic calculating board” purchased by the Department of Electrical Engineering took two people to operate. At least one professor called it “the brain.” It looked like it could’ve been the model for the transporter room on the Starship Enterprise, and it was capable of “duplicating, in miniature, power systems and water and gas flows.” It was used to solve practical problems in the power industry and to train electrical engineers “in the complexities of modern electric system design.”

— Mifi Purvis, Communications Strategist

Read the full list in the print issue of New Trail, arriving in mailboxes this week, or download the issue here.download the issue here.