50 years ago: Sesame Street saved; colour TVs all the rage; and a Siberian tiger named Norman arrives in Calgary

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Bert and Ernie rule. Fifty years ago, one of the stories on the front page of the Calgary Herald announced that Sesame Street could stay on the air in Canada. The popular children’s show was only two years old at the time, in 1971. But the Canadian Radio-Television Commission’s Canadian content rules had been threatening the survival of the show on Canadian TV channels. Viewers were incensed and complained to the CRTC in huge numbers; more than 8,000 letters were sent by Calgary families alone. The CRTC relented and Sesame Street continued to grace Canadian airwaves.

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On March 18, 1971, the Herald also reported that the upcoming federal census would include a few new questions. The government was interested in not only knowing whether respondents’ households had hot running water and flush toilets (questions from previous census surveys); it also intended to ask if people had “a home freezer separate from the refrigerator, electric dishwasher, automatic clothes drier, or black-and-white or color TV.”  The Dominion Bureau of Statistics explained that answers to these questions would help determine the country’s standard of living and assist in planning for adequate power facilities.

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Speaking of colour TVs, 50 years ago the Herald was full of ads from stores selling them. Many ads refrained from listing the prices of TVs, as they cost a small fortune back then. A 20- or 21-inch colour TV could start at more than $500, which is the equivalent of over $3,200 in today’s dollars for the smallest colour TV. Less than half of all North American homes with TV sets had colour sets at the start of 1971.

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Moving to the Business pages 50 years ago, pipelines were often a topic of discussion —  much as they still are today.

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Letters to the editor from readers have always been a popular feature. One letter attracting attention on March 18, 1971, was from a Calgarian awaiting open heart surgery. According to the letter, only one open heart surgery occurred each week at the (now gone) Holy Cross hospital. The city needed more heart surgery capacity, the writer noted.

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And in other local news on March 18, 1971: Industrial development east of the airport was quashed; Heritage Park had a successful year, posting a profit of $45,600; a new country club was planned for the corner of Anderson Road and 19th Street S.W.; more debate was occurring over surgical capacity in Calgary hospitals; and, a Siberian tiger named Norman arrived at the Calgary Zoo.

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