Fonds paa-7820 - Penley family fonds

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Penley family fonds

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PAA paa-7820

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

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  • 1918-1986 (Creation)
    Penley, J.K. Penley, Wahnita

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Physical description

14 photographs. -- 4 audio cassettes. -- 0.01 m of textual records.

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Archival description area

Name of creator

Biographical history

John (Jack) Kenneth Penley was born January 8, 1888 in Orillia, Ontario, the son of William Dingley and Isabelle (McRae) Penley. Jack worked for a time in Ontario at lumber camps along the McKeller River. In 1907, the Penley family moved to Kelfield, Saskatchewan; homesteads were filed for the father and older sons, including Jack. Jack proved his land, and in the off-season, worked in logging camps in northern Saskatchewan. In 1912 he traveled to Calgary, Alberta and found work in the clothing business. Soon, he began work as a dance instructor and exhibition dancer; he purchased this studio and continued to teach dance as well as beginning to hold public dances. His business, known as Penley's Dancing Academy, was first located at Unity Hall, and in 1914 moved to Hickman Hall. At a dance summer school in New York, he met a girl by the name of Wahnita Elizabeth Barker. She was the daughter of Mimie and Walter Barker and was born December 20, 1900 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She learned to dance as a child, and soon became a dance teacher's assistant. She was only sixteen or seventeen when she met Jack Penley. He invited her to Calgary, but as she was so young, they just corresponded. Jack joined the Royal Flying Corps, and in 1918 asked Wahnita to take over his dance studio in Calgary. They were married March 26, 1918 before he went east where he trained in Ontario at Camp Borden and Desaronto; he eventually became a flying instructor. After the war, Jack and Wahnita taught at the Academy. Their son John Kenneth (Ken) Junior was born January 7, 1921 and daughter Wahnita (Nita) Louise was born May 23, 1922; Nita later married Allan Bertram. In 1929, the Academy moved from Hickman Hall to a new building, which was then sold in 1948. A new building was built, and again sold; afterwards they rented space for the studio. As well as offering dance instruction and public dances in Calgary, in the summer months Jack ran dances at Chestermere Lake from 1928 until 1934 and at Sylvan Lake from 1933 until 1944. In 1936, Jack began a swing club, which became known as Penley's Swing Club; the Club had a branch in London, England during the war. Jack died in June 1956. After Jack's death, Wahanita continued to teach dance out of her home, and taught for 50 years before retiring. She died February 29, 1988.

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Biographical history

The material in this collection was compiled by Ken Penley of Calgary, Alberta as part of a history project undertaken by the Alberta Pharmaceutical Association to document Alberta's pharmacists and drugstores. After the history book was published, Penley continued to collect material. For further information see The History of Pharmacy in Alberta : The First One Hundred Years (from leeches to lasers). -- Edmonton : Alberta Pharmaceutical Association, 1993.

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Scope and content

The fonds consists of records and information prepared by Ken Penley and Nita Bertram about their parents, the Penley's Dancing Academy and dance in Calgary, and includes interviews with Wahnita about her life and Ken about his father's life, a transcription of the interviews, photocopies of newspaper articles, photographs, and other records, newspaper clippings, photographs of Wahnita and Jack, and photographs and mechanically-produced photographic reproduction of some of their students.

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Immediate source of acquisition

J. Kenneth Penley, son of J.K. and Wahnita Penley, deposited the records in the Provincial Archives of Alberta in 1987.


Language of material

  • The material is in English.

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Restrictions on access

Access Conditions: None for textual and photographic records. Consult work copies for audio. Use Conditions: Permission for use required. Subject to the Copyright Act.

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An inventory is not available.

Associated materials

Also see the Penley family fonds at the Glenbow Archives in Calgary, Alberta.

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Further accruals are not expected.

General note

Information for the biographical sketch is taken from the records. The images can be located in the A file of the Provincial Archives of Alberta reference prints under the numbers A.16,096 through A.16,100. This fonds was donated at the same time, and in the same accession as an unrelated discrete item: a biography about Don Mackay entitled "Synopsis of My Memories of Don Mackay" by his wife Mary Mackay, which does include a reference to Mr. and Mrs. Penley.<br><br>Record No. Fonds consists of the following accessions: PR1987.0309<br><br>

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