Smart, James (Cappy)
• 436 Boulevard NW
James "Cappy" Smart was born at Arbroath, Scotland in 1865 to James and Isabella Smart. Educated in Dundee, he followed the vocations of shiprigger and carpenter. Smart first worked in Winnipeg as a mortician's apprentice but moved to Calgary around 1883, where he found work at a sawmill owned by a former Northwest Mounted Police officer named James Walker.
In 1885, Smart started his long career with the Calgary Fire Department - then called the Calgary Hook, Ladder and Bucket Corps - at the rank of "hookman." Being a hookman did not pay well, and Smart had to supplement his income by working again as a mortician. He quickly moved up the ranks in the fire department until he was appointed Chief in 1898, a position he held for 35 years.
Smart was a very outspoken and colourful personality, often in conflict with Calgary officials. The disagreements ranged from arguing with the Chief of Police over the speed limits for the department’s newly motorized fire truck to harbouring truant fugitives from school in his headquarters. Calgarians loved Cappy Smart and his unconventional management style.
Cappy appreciated an audience. When the curious crowds drew too close to a fire he would give them one warning and then would order his men to turn the hose on them. He inspired a great degree of loyalty from the firefighters under his command and won the respect and admiration of Fire Chiefs across the country. As a result of Smart’s foresight, Calgary was one of the first Canadian cities to make the transition from horse-drawn to motorized fire patrol.
The unconventional "Cappy" was notorious for keeping a menagerie of animals at the fire-hall, from parrots to alligators to a monkey named Barney. Smart, a keen participant and supporter of community events, initiated Calgary's first May the 24th Sports Day.
After a 48-year career with the Calgary Fire Department, Chief Smart finally retired 1933. He died in 1939. He and his wife Agnes had two children; a son and a daughter.