Irresponsible Freaks, Highball Guzzlers, Unabashed Grafters: A Bob Edwards Chrestomathy


260 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-9732481-5-7
DDC C818'.5209





Edited by James Martin
Reviewed by Frits Pannekoek

Frits Pannekoek is the president of Athabasca University, and the author
of A Snug Little Flock: The Social Origins of the Riel Resistance of


Grant MacEwan (1902–2000), academic, prolific author, Calgary mayor,
leader of the Liberal Party of Alberta, log-cabin builder, Lieutenant
Governor of Alberta, knew Western Canada and its foibles better than
anyone. Indeed, his more than 50 books and other writings about Western
Canada have created the folklore by which we in the West understand
ourselves. Without him we would not have known about, for example, John
Ware, Alberta’s famous black cowboy. MacEwan’s selection of the
idiosyncratic in our past probably also shaped how Eastern Canadians
view the West.

His work on Bob Edwards is some of his best. Edwards was a curmudgeonly
Calgary, Wetaskiwin, and High River newspaper man who was able to skewer
the pomposity of the publicly sober upper classes particularly in his
most famous paper, The Calgary Eye Opener (1902–22). Edwards prided
himself in creating a “larger-than-life, Hunter S. Thompson–type,
two-fisted, hard-drinking persona.” As Martin points out in his
introduction, this image may not have reflected the real, shyer Edwards,
but it did sell newspapers.

Martin’s chrestomathy (meaning “a collection of literary
passages”) consists of 250 pages of Edwards’s writings, particularly
from his newspapers; they should be read not only for their humour, but
even more for their social criticism. “Eye Opener Bob,” as he was
called, is often not taken as seriously as a social commentator as he
ought to be; Martin would have done us all a great service if he had
provided greater context on the Calgary of the early 20th century and
the interplay of Edwards with that context. Without this, Edwards can
come across as just a comical lout, which he most emphatically was not.
That said, both books have emerged at a critical juncture—just as
Alberta is celebrating its centennial year and Albertans are becoming
more aware of the richness of their past.



Edwards, Bob., “Irresponsible Freaks, Highball Guzzlers, Unabashed Grafters: A Bob Edwards Chrestomathy,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 18, 2024,