Michael Dawe announces retirement from role as City Historian

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
September 6, 2017 - 3:44pm

After 38 years of collecting and sharing our city’s history, Michael Dawe has announced he is retiring from his role as Archive Specialist (Historian) with the City of Red Deer.

Dawe's time with the City goes back even further, having first volunteered with the archives in 1970.

“It’s time,” he says about his decision to step aside. “To a lot of people, I’m not that old yet – I’m 61, but you reach a certain point that there’s a time to tackle a few things and there are a few things that I’m going to be tackling. I’m on the verge of some new adventures to try.”

Dawe confirms he is mulling a run for city council and will make his intentions known sooner than later with nomination day quickly approaching.

Otherwise, the man who’s always called Red Deer his home says he’ll continue his historical postings on social media because local history is in his DNA.

“It’s one thing to collect history, but unless you can get it out there and get people interested in it, it becomes a ‘so what?’ Part of what I hoped to do was to make it interesting and accessible to people, not just to collect it,” Dawe says.

On his passion for history and his exceptional memory, Dawe explains they come from conversations around the dinner table growing up with his parents, both of whom were teachers.

“My father lived in the same house for 89 years and he could talk about the Red Deer he grew up in which was less than 3000 people. In the case of my mother’s family, her dad grew up out towards Willowdale and Pine Lake, so they would talk about families and development in the rural areas southeast of Red Deer. My grandfather was a true homesteader -- he would talk about the First World War -- he was there in the trenches. My father was in the Air Force in the Second World War.”

Dawe goes on to say what he’s most thankful for is having known people personally who current Red Deerians would likely only recognize because a local landmark is named after them.

“People that I knew like Annie L. Gaetz, Kerry Wood, Mattie McCullough, Joseph Welsh -- those were people I knew personally and I learned a lot and gained a lot from having known them,” he says, adding the Red Deer and District Archives are in good hands.

“In the last several years, there have been a variety of people that work here. They are great people and there’s no danger in terms of history being lost or people not being able. In fact, I would say they're even better people than me. I think the world will be fine.”

A story with Michael Dawe wouldn’t quite be complete without a dose of history. Dawe says one of the most fascinating tidbits he remembers about Red Deer revolves around a man named Charlie Parker.

“As a little kid on the south side of Red Deer, there was a man by the name of Charlie Parker. He was a family friend and he had a Lancaster Bomber parked at his gas station on the side of the highway and if you were a little kid who wanted fascination, he would let kids climb all over that Lancaster Bomber from the Second World War,” Dawe recalls.

Among other accomplishments, Dawe has authored several books and ran for the Alberta Liberals in the 2015 provincial election. He attended Lindsay Thurber High School and graduated from Red Deer College in 1975 before leaving the Univeristy of Alberta in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in history.

In 1981, Dawe helped found the Alberta Society of Archivists.

Dawe’s final day with The City of Red Deer is October 16.



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