"Most cities have to wait for bathing suits and sweltering heat to proclaim summer. Not so Calgary. Eighty-two-year-old Ernie King has donned his white suit, white socks, white shirt, and white flat-topped straw [hat] for almost the 50th season…."
So read the opening sentences of the Calgary Herald on April 14, 1956. Ernie King was born in Kent, England in 1874. He made the long journey to Calgary with his parents at the age of 13 to join an uncle who had traveled to the frontier with Colonel Macleod’s first regiment of mounted police. King worked for a short while for this same uncle at a general store, and also worked as a postmaster. He then became seriously involved in the retail business when he began working for the Hudson’s Bay Company.
From 1895 to 1900, King operated his own clothing business in the mining district of Kaslo, British Columbia. He is credited with starting a new fad in the region: derby hats, the headgear worn by King since he was a child. With the arrival of the gold rush in the Klondike, the population in Kaslo was drastically reduced, so King left for South Africa, where he became a clothes-buyer for a retailer in Johannesburg.
He returned to Calgary in 1907, and began operating his own tailoring business until his retirement in 1931. Ernie had one eccentricity, noticed first when he returned from South Africa: when, in his judgment, the cold, Calgary winter had passed and spring was around the corner, he would don a completely white suit, together with white shirt, shoes and accessories, and, of course, his white derby hat. Calgarians would then know that spring and warm weather was here. Ernie King, Calgary's "weather prophet" died in 1956.