Cohen: The days when young Canadians went west


Ottawa Citizen

BANFF, Alberta – In a time young Canadians from the East still travelled by train, wrote letters home and thought the West exotic, working a summer at one of the great resort hotels in the Rockies was a rite of passage.

Every year Chateau Lake Louise, Jasper Park Lodge and the Banff Springs Hotel hired university students in Eastern Canada as chamber maids, waiters, bartenders, busboys and groundskeepers. In April, they took the train out and took whatever work there was; in August, they took the train home, tuition in hand.

It was more than a summer job; it was a seasonal migration as reliable as the movement of the caribou. Students came from Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario. They met Alberta and each other.

It was, in its way, an immersion in this big, diverse country. It was less linguistic than cultural, but it made the summer a seminar…

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