This weekend, Calgarians have a chance to learn about a seemingly hidden part of Calgary’s history.
Last year, Calgarian Kevin Allen began the Calgary Gay History Project in order to better understand what life was like for underground gay community within the city during the 50s and 60s. Since it wasn’t until 1969 that Canada decriminalized engaging in homosexuality, Calgary’s gay (queer, lesbian, bisexual and transgender were not terms commonly used then) community had to hide in the shadows.
On May 3, Allen will host “Invisible People and Places in 1950s and 1960s Calgary” at the Central Library. The next day, May 4, Allen will give a Jane’s Walk tour of Calgary’s Beltline, pointing out and telling stories about important places for Calgary’s LGBTQ community in the 60s and 70s.
“People were living a very secretive existence but they were in contact with each other,” says Allen. “There were a lot of friendship groups, a lot of house parties at the time.”
“There were gathering spots with sympathetic bartenders and managers that allowed these groups,” he adds. “It was a dangerous time, in that if you were arrested by the police you could be put in jail.”
This happened to Everett Klippert, a former Calgary dairy worker and gay man. He was the last person in Canada to be arrested, charged, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned for homosexuality. After being arrested in Calgary for gross indecency, Klippert spent four years in prison. He then moved to the Northwest Territories were he was subsequently charged with more counts of gross indecency after police discovered his past criminal history while questioning him in regards to a possible arson. Klippert was again sentenced to a penitentiary for three more years. He was released in 1971.
Allen will revisit Klippert’s story and talk about other research findings, including evidence that Calgary had a gay club dating back to 1939.
Register for the Calgary Public Library Heritage Matters talk online or by calling 403-260-2620. The Jane’s Walk tour will begin at 223 12 Ave. S.W. at 10 a.m. For more information on the Calgary Gay History Project visit calgaryqueerhistory.ca