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Town’s history recorded in postcards

The first Sylvan Lake Hotel in 1914. Dusty Lakeshore Drive in the 1930s. The Sylvan Lake boat houses through the years. Regattas and mile-long swims. Beachcombers in vintage suits and caps, immortalized in a black and white snap shot.

You can find all this in Sylvan Lake A Postcard Perspective, a book that tells the story of the town through 201 postcards.

Written by Central Alberta doctors Robert Lampard and Brian Inglis, the book developed out of Inglis’s extensive postcard collection on all things Sylvan Lake and a desire to do something for the town’s centennial in 2013.

Both men have a deep interest in history and deltiology (postcard collecting) and traded postcards over past Christmases since meeting each other at Michener Centre over two decades ago.

“It started primarily with an interest in the Sylvan Lake post office, who was the first post mistress and that. It evolved from there because once you’ve seen a few postcards, it’s hard not to get intrigued with what’s happening in the pictures,” Lampard said, who started collecting in 1992.

He has a large collection of Rocky Mountain postcards as well, some of which he included in his previous eight books, many tracing Alberta’s medical history.

Lampard said as far as he knows this is the first and only book of postcards on a lake resort in Canada.

The book brings readers back in time when Sylvan’s beaches were wide and sandy, starting with images thought to be from around 1900, leading up to the early 1970s. The 15 chapters reveal postcards of the old general stores, numerous piers extending into the waters, jam packed with people; the rickety, high wooden slide; teeter-totters in the lake and oar boats on the horizon with a sunset in the background, just to name a few.

One of Lampard’s favourites remains those of the Norell, the passenger boat that took visitors on excursions around the lake from 1932 until the 1970s. It is one of his favourite images largely because he never got to take a ride on it.

“Remember that what these postcards basically reflect are the interests of people who visited Sylvan Lake during the summer, a reflection of summer activities. There was only one winter postcard, thought to be of Sylvan Lake, that we could find,” Lampard said.

Lampard, who grew up spending his summers in Sylvan at a family cabin from the 1940s onward, said he remembers cars lined up for “almost two miles,” at a time. He said there could be upwards of 15,000 people heading to Sylvan (with a population of approximately 600 then) during the 1930s for a weekend.

“It was a very popular summer destination.”

The authors contacted various postcard dealers and others in Sylvan Lake who shared their collections. They also found a few postcards on eBay to complete the book.

The pair say they are happy with the end result but remain a little disappointed they were not able to locate a postcard with the image of Varsity Hall, one of the oldest and most expansive dance halls in the town.

Copies of the book are $25 and are only available at the present time by contacting the authors.

Lampard said they will see how much interest there is before putting it into local stores.

To obtain a copy, call either 403-887-7037 or 403-341-0331 or email at or

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