History is a collection of stories. These stories connect us to the past and help us form our identities that are rooted in places. Let’s explore what Edmonton was like decade by decade. These artifacts from the City of Edmonton Heritage Collection are from the 1980s.

Jump To: A 1980s Music Mashup Timeline of Edmonton | Learn More About Edmonton in the 1980s

A 1980s Music Mashup Timeline of Edmonton

“If I Could Turn Back Time” (Cher, 1989), these are some highlights of Edmonton in the 1980s worth revisiting:

1980

  • Secure a prime viewing location to watch The Great Divide waterfall plummet like a "Sledgehammer" (Peter Gabriel, 1986), 156 feet into the North Saskatchewan River for the first time to commemorate Alberta's 75th Anniversary.
  • Embrace a weekend where "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" (Cyndi Lauper, 1983) by attending the inaugural Edmonton Folk Music Festival.

1981

  • Advise Prime Minister Trudeau not to put the National Energy Program into effect, which put western Canadian cities like Edmonton "Under Pressure" (Queen and David Bowie, 1981).
  • Take a "Holiday" (Madonna, 1983) at the newly opened West Edmonton Mall. Then come back again for more fun in 1983 when Fantasyland opened, and again in 1986 when the World Waterpark opened.

1982

  • The Constitution Act of 1982 passes. It adds the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and guarantees the existing rights of Indigenous Peoples via treaty, the Royal Proclamation, land claims, or others. Explore and access the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a variety of languages and formats. 
  • Enjoy the entertaining and "Thriller" (Michael Jackson, 1982) experiences of attending the first Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival. 

1983

  • Edmonton hosted the 12th World University Games. The Summer Universiade was opened on July 1 by Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their first Royal Visit together to Canada. This day was also Diana's 22nd birthday and the first Canada Day (previously known as Dominion Day).
  • Think to yourself, "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" (The Smiths, 1986), when the Hotel Macdonald was closed due to disrepair, and have "Faith" (George Michael, 1987) because it was designated a Municipal Heritage Resource in 1984, then renovated and reopened in 1991.

1984

  • Cheer and let it be known that "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" (Whitney Houston, 1987) when the Oilers won their first Stanley Cup, then again in 1985, 1987, and 1988!
  • Attend the grand opening of the Edmonton Space and Science Centre to see how renowned architect Douglas Cardinal knew how to "Push It" (Salt-N-Pepa, 1987)" with his building design. 
  • GALA (Gay and Lesbian Awareness) Society formed and annually hosted a week of planned activities to build community and raise awareness. GALA 1988 Poster
    Photo Source: Edmonton Queer History Project.

 

  • Be "Hangin' Tough" (New Kids on the Block, 1988) at the 72nd Grey Cup hosted at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium in 1984. In 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1987, the Edmonton Eskimos (currently Edmonton Elks) football team won the Grey Cup.
  • The first Cariwest Caribbean Arts Festival took place to celebrate the Caribbean-Canadian immigrant community. Learn more about this festival's history
  • Watch a "Smooth Operator" (Sade, 1984) baseball team, the Edmonton Trappers, win their first Pacific Coast League Championship.

1985

  • Celebrate the University of Alberta Hospital's "Total Eclipse of the Heart (Turn Around)" (Bonnie Tyler, 1983), for successfully performing western Canada's first heart transplant.
  • Bill-C31, or the Bill to Amend the Indian Act, was passed. Nellie Carlson and Kathleen Steinhauer of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation were among the many women who fought to eliminate discrimination against Indigenous women in the Indian Act. Bill C-31 addressed gender discrimination of the Indian Act, restored status to those who had been forcibly enfranchised due to previous discriminatory provisions, and allowed bands to control their own band membership as a step towards self-government. Learn more about Nellie Carlson and Kathleen Steinhauer's activism.

1986

  • "Fade to Black" (Metallica, 1984) in the movie theatres to experience the first Edmonton International Film Festival. 
  • Be "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)" (Kate Bush, 1985) when the North Saskatchewan River rose 11.5 meters! 
  • Rush out to the launch of The Works Art and Design Festival like a "Heatseeker" (AC/DC, 1988).

1987

  • Issue an advance warning for the Black Friday Tornado of July 31, and witness from afar, "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" (Dead or Alive, 1985).
  • The Duke and Duchess of York visit Edmonton. For their visit to Fort Edmonton Park, Sarah Ferguson wore a Klondike costume.  Blue Klondike Costume
    City of Edmonton Heritage Collection, 1987-041-0001 to -0003

 

  • In October, opening ceremonies were held for the Harbin Gate marking the entrance to Chinatown. The gate was later taken down in 2017 for an LRT line expansion project. Learn more about Chinatown.
  • The Northern Lights Wheelchair Basketball Society (one of the five teams that makes up the City of Champions) started the Hi Lights school program to provide students with the opportunity to try wheelchair basketball.  City of Champions Sign City of Edmonton Heritage Collection, 2016-035-0001 

1988

  • Shed a tear when three weeks after Wayne Gretzky's "White Wedding" (Billy Idol, 1982) to actress Janet Jones, he was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings in August. 
  • Have a treat and watch the Guinness Book of World Records say, "I'll stop the world," and "I Melt with You" (Modern English, 1982), when Edmonton's Ice Cream Depot made the world's largest ice cream sundae in City Centre Mall at 24.91 tons (54, 917 pounds)! 

1989

  • Edmonton elected its first woman mayor, Janice Reimer. Find out more about her accomplishments
  • Celebrate the Citadel's Theatre's 25th anniversary of putting Edmonton on the map at a national scale with high quality cultural performances from 1965–1989, and hope for another 25 years of good "Karma Chameleon" (Culture Club, 1983)

Learn More About Edmonton in the 1980s

Edmonton City as Museum Project (ECAMP) Articles:

Against the Law: The 1988 Nurses' Strike

Cariwest: The Caribbean Community's Gift to Edmonton

Colours of the Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan Sikh Parade

Edmonton Folk Fest: How Did We Get Here?

Laser Light Shows at the Edmonton Space Sciences Centre (ESSC)

 

Other Articles and Books:

The Crazy '80s: U of A Grad-Turned Hollywood Writer Recalls . . . as Much as He Can About Edmonton. CBC News.

November 18, 1987: Edmonton Video Rentals Are Big Business. CBC News.

Alberta Labour in the 1980s by Winston Gereluk. Working People in Alberta: A History. Alvin Finkel. AU Press, 2012.

Pride Timeline 1980–1999. Edmonton Queer History Project.

 

Other Sources:

Visit the Edmonton Public Library to browse Edmonton newspapers from the 1980s.

There are many 1980s enthusiasts on Facebook and Instagram.