Princes being where they are, and demand at peak levels, only one thing could bring more pleasure to Alberta ranchers, a visit by Alberta’s Royal Rancher, the Duke of Windsor and his Duchess. And as if by royal edict their arrival in Calgary brought the first real springlike weather, the only disappointment being that the owner’s visit to the E.P. Ranch at Pekisko was limited to a single day, and their visit to Alberta a mere four days, the last spent amid the grandeur of the mountains at Banff.
Both the Duke and Duchess had news of their plans for their Alberta ranch. The Duchess spoke of renovations and brightening up the place, but on their brief inspection found the buildings and the ranch generally had been kept in better repair than had been anticipated.
The Duke had more news. Asked shortly after his arrival if his plans for enlarging the livestock operations at the ranch might include a change from Shorthorns to Herefords, he replied, “Some consideration is being give to such a change. He readily agreed that his property lies in the heart of the Hereford ranching country, and that there might be more interest and more profit in the Whitefaces.
But, whatever breed he may continue as his purebred stock, he made it clear that his prime intention was the production of commercial cattle, rather than a continuation of strictly purebred activities.
On their first visit since 1941, the Duke and Duchess found both the weather and Alberta roads much improved. The Duke was impressed by the highway from Calgary to High River, and the road on to the ranch he also found better than on former visits.
Questioned on rumours that he might sell his 4,000-acre property, the Duke denied the rumour, his tone as much as his words, revealing, the warm spot in his heart, as he said, “After all, this is the only land in the world I have ever owned.” His voice held the same note of pride any rancher displays when he speaks of “his spread.”
The Duke gave every indication of being a dyed-in-the-wool Albertan, too, when he gave the impression of the usual proprietary attitude in taking his Duchess to Banff. It was her first visit to the Canadian Rockies, and in his words “She enjoyed it very much.” How many of us have taken a newcomer to Banff and returned with the same glow.
Visiting in Calgary and at Pekisko, the Duke renewed many old friendships with Alberta cattlemen, talking over his plans with his old acquaintances, and accepting their advice and counsel on his problems. When it was suggested that he should become a member of the pioneer “Western Stock Growers’ Association,” he promptly remembered he had been honoured many years ago with a honorary life membership in the organization.
Stopping in High River, the couple on their return to Calgary were enthusiastic over the fine Memorial Community Centre, the library, the activities of the younger members’ club and also a meeting of Cattlemen that was underway. The Duke attended the meeting for a time, and took an interest in the discussions.
World traveller though he is, the Duke readily recalled by name many of the early acquaintances of his original and subsequent visits to Alberta, George Lane, Senator Dan Riley, Senator Pat Burns, Guy Weadick and many others. He also recalled with a smile the rodeos that had been held at the E.P. Ranch. He only regretted that he had never so far been fortunate enough to see the famed Calgary Stampede, and while it would be impossible for them to be in Calgary for the 75th anniversary celebration this summer, they hoped some year to be able to be in Calgary for the Stampede.
The owner of the E.P. confessed he was quite interested in Alberta oil, and reminded reporters that he had drilled on the ranch during the war years, but without success. He said he had no intention of drilling again — at least not alone. But later in his visit, he did meet with oilmen, attended their luncheon and reportedly reached an agreement for possible future searches for oil on his land.
He also revisited, while in Calgary, the No .1 branch of the Canadian Legion and looked over the shovel he had used as the Prince of Wales in 1919 to turn the first sod for the Legion Building which later became the home of the largest branch of the organization in the Empire.
The Duke and Duchess before leaving Alberta reiterated their intention of returning for another visit to their ranch, possibly this fall, when, the Duke said, he hoped also to get in a spot of hunting. And in future, they hoped to be able to spend more time at their Alberta home… not, they hastened to add, that it would be their permanent residence, but it would be home more frequently.