Pizza Night in Rowley

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know we are big fans of the town of Rowley, Alberta.  Founded in 1910, reaching its zenith in the 1920s, rediscovered as a setting for films and movies in the late 1980s, surviving the removal of its rail line in the late 1990s — Rowley is a town that just won’t say die.

Recent reports put the town’s population at eight people.  As they say, on most days you could fire a cannon down its main street and not worry about hitting anyone.  But, on the last Saturday night of the month, this ghost town comes alive with hundreds of people walking the streets, eating pizza, drinking beer, and listening to live music.  Yes, this is Rowley on the famous “pizza night”.

My personal history with Rowley only dates back as far as 2010.  May 29th, 2010 to be exact.  It was a typical Alberta Spring day, meaning there were cool temperatures and wet snow all around.  After a day of cruising up and down muddy backroads and putting my poor Infiniti G35X through more than it was accustomed to, we finally found ourselves in Rowley.  We were actually attending the wrap-up of a Geocaching event but it coincided with the last Saturday of the month and Sam’s Saloon was in full swing.

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Sam’s Saloon as it was in 2010

Since that first visit, I have made the return to Rowley many times and we have made it back for pizza night four times.  We usually try and pick a month in the non-summer season to avoid the biggest crowds.

I guess I should explain to the uninitiated that pizza night is a completely volunteer-run event put on by the locals that is used to raise money to maintain the town.  There’s a great write-up by my good friend Johnnie Bachusky which explains it in great detail.  Check out the links from my In The Press page.

We Repair Anything -- Except Our Building!

I called this the “Lion Oil Building”.  Seen here in 2010, it was since demolished and replaced with a new structure built to look similar to the original.

For our April 2018 visit, we brought our trailer out to Rowley on Saturday morning.  The town has a number of designated spots where you can camp and we think this is the best way to experience pizza night because you can drink beer in Sam’s Saloon and not have to worry about how you’re going to drive home afterwards.  The camping is free but dropping a few bucks in the donation bin located outside the community centre is most appreciated.

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We have plenty of company in one of the designated camping areas in town.

Today it is Sam’s Saloon, but for most of the building’s life it served as a cafe and butcher shop, owned by Sam Leung.  Sam ran the cafe up until he retired in 1968 at which point it sat unused.  Sam would die in 1971 and is buried in nearby Rumsey — I keep meaning to make an effort to get out there to see if we can find his grave to pay our respects.  (Don’t quote me on the dates, I’m going from memory because I’m trying to get this posted tonight and I don’t have time to do actual research.)

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Sam’s Saloon as it is in 2018.  You can see the new Lion Oil Building to the far right of this image.

In comparing the photos of Sam’s exterior from 2010 to 2018, you can see where some of the funds raised have gone.  The store to the left (west) of Sam’s now sports a sign which reads “Rowlet Trading Post” and has a new overhang and hitching posts have replaced the fence-like railing.  Sam’s has a new sign but has lost the two classic wagon wheels which used to be mounted on the false front.  And the newly-constructed version of the Lion Oil building stands where the old one was rotting away.

If you get a chance to come out for a pizza night, Rowley will not disappoint you.  I didn’t even mention the classic grain elevators, the 1912 railway station, the old schoolhouse, the livery stable, the houses.  There is a lot to see in a small place.  Check out the video up towards the top of the article to get a good overview of what this place has to offer.

In addition, here is the link to my original post about Rowley and the Geocaching event which brought me to Rowley for the first time.  It was fun for me to read it again because I had forgotten some of the details such as the ghost stories the locals told us about Sam haunting his old place of business:

Back to the Badlands*

*Note, some of the formatting is off and the links to the photos are broken because danocan.com was on a different hosting provider back then and not everything made the move to the new platform properly and I never bother to go back and fix it.

 

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Big Valley, Alberta

Our trees may not be busting out with leaves, but to borrow a phrase from Tom Petty, “I feel summer creeping in” and that means it is time to get back on the road and out exploring — at least as far as we can with fuel prices being so high.  I guess the only consolation is future readers of this blog will look back and say “Don’t you wish we could get gas for $1.349 / L again?”

In what felt like our first outing in ages, we set off to Rowley for the monthly pizza night.  We’ll get to that in a future post because we’re going to focus on the town of Big Valley first.

Big Valley is one of those places we keep coming back to.  We’ve made recent visits in July of 2014, May of 2016 (when we road in on the train from Stettler), and in July of last year.  There is some real magic in this little town of 349 people*.

While there was ranching and farming taking place in the area, the town really got its start when the Canadian Northern Railway came through in 1911.  By the next year the CNR had built both the railway station and the roundhouse and maintenance shops.  Big Valley was off and running and achieved village status on July 28, 1914.  Just a few years later, in November of 1920, Big Valley officially became a town.

During that period of booming growth, the Anglican Diocese of Calgary was given $500 from Caroline Leffler of England, who requested that the money be used to establish a Church of England somewhere in western Canada.  Their choice was Big Valley.  A prominent site on the hill on the westside of town was selected and local craftsman Walter Dennis set about building the church which would become St. Edmond’s.  The first service was held at the church in November of 1916.

Interior of St. Edmund's

Interior of St. Edmund’s Church.  July 8, 2014

In 1923, the bell tower was added to the northwest corner of the church, which allowed the entrance to be moved.  Previously the entrance had been on the west side and often the harsh Alberta winds would cause snow to pile up against the doors.  The new entrance offered a much more sheltered location.  Apparently it was also at this time that the original stucco finish was changed to siding and painted in a more traditional cream color.

The blue paint dates back to 1974 when Big Valley was preparing to host it’s first homecoming, marking the 60th anniversary of the town.  The church had ceased holding regular services in the 1960s and had fallen into a bit of disrepair.  The locals wanted to spruce it up for the homecoming celebration and the story is that a local lumberyard had some leftover paint and donated it to the cause.  While it is said not everyone was thrilled with the blue color, it has since become a local landmark and it’s hard to image it being painted in any other hue.

While Big Valley boomed up until the 1920s, things started taking a turn after that.  In 1942 the town lost that status and reverted to being a village.  By the end of the decade the turntable at the roundhouse was removed as the diesel era of railroading was getting underway.

However, Big Valley remained a town that refused to disappear like many others.  The town’s grain elevator was erected in 1960.  And, in the 1990s the tourism industry really took over with the running of the Alberta Prairie Railway which runs from Stettler to Big Valley in the summer months.  (They used to run further south to Rowley but that line was pulled up and Big Valley is now the terminus.)

Now on weekends between May and October, the train brings thousands of tourists to Big Valley to walk the streets, see the historic sites, and enjoy a buffet meal in the local community centre.  The boom times that looked like they would never end back in the early part of the last century indeed have arrived and Big Valley continues to survive and thrive more than 100 years later.

Sources:
Alberta Prairie Railway A Major Alberta Attraction – Great For The Whole Family. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2018, from https://www.absteamtrain.com/index.html
Attractions. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.villageofbigvalley.ca/Attractions.page
Big Valley. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2018, from http://canadiannorthern.ca/big-valley/
Editor, R. (2014, August 08). New Heritage Marker Unveiled in Big Valley. Retrieved May 6, 2018, from https://albertashistoricplaces.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/new-heritage-marker-unveiled-in-big-valley/
History. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.villageofbigvalley.ca/History.page
C. (2014, November 03). Prairie Sentinels – Big Valley Alberta. Retrieved May 6, 2018, from https://www.bigdoer.com/11739/exploring-history/prairie-sentinels-big-valley-alberta/
C. (2014, November 03). St. Edmund’s Church Big Valley Alberta. Retrieved May 6, 2018, from https://www.bigdoer.com/12042/exploring-history/st-edmunds-church-big-valley-alberta/
*While the town’s website lists the population at 364, Alberta Municipal Affairs state the town’s population at 349 as of 2017.  Big Valley’s population was 364 back in 2013 and 2014 and likely the town website was just never updated.

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Aubrey Bendall Postcards

Over the weekend, we ventured south to Nanton, Alberta.  The plan was to make the drive down, check out some of the antique stores, grab some drone footage of the grain elevators, maybe have some lunch and then pick our way back home.

One of my favorite stores in town is Sentimental Journey Antiques.  Now, we’re not flush with cash so buying antiques is pretty much out of the question, but the building housing this store is worth the visit by itself.

Built in 1909 as a hardware store, the building retains much of its original charm.  The upstairs was converted into a number of small apartments in the 1930s and so today as you wander around checking out the wares you can tell when you have stepped into a former kitchen or living room or closet.  It’s simply a fantastic experience.

And don’t forget to check out the basement.  Down a rickety staircase into the depths of the building where you’ll find a lot of tools and sporting goods and other material, including a very old furnace occupying a good chunk of one wall.  This is really my happy place, wandering through three floors of relics from the past.

Our wandering came to a halt when we reached one of the rooms upstairs, however.  There we found a box of old postcards, ranging in age from the 1920s through to the 1970s.  Many were unused but some had been posted and sent across the miles to family and friends at home.

We initially started looking through them to see the photos but soon started reading some of the ones that had been written on.  We noticed there were a lot of postcards addressed to the same Bendall family in Bindloss, Alberta.

It was quite a treat to read the messages sent to this family.  Most of the cards we addressed to the adult couple Bert and Maimie.  It appeared their siblings were quite the wanderers, and visited many places and were writing home to Bindloss to keep the family updated on their latest journeys.  Many of the postcards made reference to “young Aubrey”.

We came to learn that “young Aubrey” seemed to like stamps and the family was also collecting some uncancelled stamps to bring back with them, in addition to the ones used to mail the postcards — some of them costing as much as 4 cents!

We lost track of time so I honestly couldn’t tell you how long we sat there, sorting through the cards, pulling them out and reading aloud the words written all those decades ago.  It certainly was much longer than we expected to be there.

Before we left, we had to see if we could find what became of Aubrey.  We knew he was a fairly young child in the 1930s so we thought there might still be a chance for him to be alive.  I pulled out my phone and did a search for his name.

Our hearts sank as the first site that came up on the list was an obituary.  After reading a few lines we knew we had found the right Aubrey, as the names of his parents matched the ones we had seen on the postcards.

Aubrey had been born in Saskatoon, SK in July of 1927.  His parents Albert and Mary would have three more children after Aubrey, but he was the only one who lived past the age of two.  Aubrey was only a few months old when his family moved to Alberta, first to Cappon and then to Bindloss.

Like many children of the era, he was educated in a multigrade single room school.  He attended school until the age of 15 when he started work on the farms in the area.  In 1949 he moved to Banff and worked in the grocery store there until his father took over the UFA contract back in Bindloss in 1952.  Aubrey came back to Bindloss and worked with his father and they eventually also took on the postal contract for the town.  Aubrey would run the post office (and later a confectionary) in Bindloss until his retirement.  How amazing that he ended up running the post office where all those postcards were mailed back when he was a kid.

Aubrey retired to Medicine Hat and then moved into a nursing home in Brooks.  Just a few short months later, on August 13, 2013.  We were sorry to learn we missed our chance to get in touch with him as he sounded like a really interesting fellow.  We kind of had grown attached to him over the time we spent reading the postcard collection.  If we had the extra cash we would have loved to have bought the “Bendall collection” and kept them together — it seems wrong that they might get scattered to the wind via multiple purchasers.

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Site of Bindloss school, likely the one attending by Aubrey Bendall.  Photo taken September 11, 2015.

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Aubrey’s obituary mentioned he was a volunteer firefighter for many years.  Here is a local dog in front of the fire hall in Bindloss on September 9, 2016.

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A couple of the buildings left in Bindloss.  September 9, 2016.

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Looking northwest from the busiest spot in Bindloss, AB.

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Looking north up Centre Avenue.  Bindloss, Alberta.

For some video of our day in Nanton, click below.

Sources:

About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2018, from http://www.sentimentaljourneyantiques.ca/about-us/

Obituary – Aubrey Bendall. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://cooksouthland.com/obituaries/obituaries/1376523788/bendall

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History and Urban Sprawl in North Calgary

Sometimes postings just fall into your lap.  Today is one of those examples.

I was out for a walk in the northern part of Calgary, near the community of Sage Hill.  In the midst of the new condo buildings and shopping centres, I came across something I didn’t expect to see – a farmyard.

This shouldn’t have been such a surprise.  The land around Calgary was all farms and ranches since the settling of the prairies.  In the nearly thirty years I have lived in Calgary, I have seen a tremendous amount of growth and suburban sprawl.  Many of the quiet country roads I used to drive have been erased from the map completely as the city expanded.

 

 

I guess my surprise came more from seeing this lonesome holdout of a past era than anything.  After all, when a cash-laden develop backs up a truckload of money to your door even the most stalwart defender of the family farm is likely to surrender to the inevitable.

Sure enough, as I got closer I saw a notice board placed near the property’s edge.  “Proposed Redesignation”, including the standard buzzwords “mixed use development”.  Yes, this little relic is not long for this world.

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Redevelopment Coming

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Another view of the farmyard


I took some photos and continued wandering around the area.  Just a little bit further north I saw a rusting combine sitting beside an intersection.  Right now this is a pretty quiet street but before long the concrete barricades which blocked the west leg of the traffic circle will give way to a brand new neighborhood.

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Where the future road will go

I had to wonder what will become of this metal beast as things develop.  While I would love to think it would sit at the entrance to the new community and serve as a reminder of the rich agricultural heritage this ground was once coveted for, we all know it will likely be hauled away for scrap and the memories of the countless bountiful harvests it played such an instrumental role in bringing home will be lost.  After all, we can’t have the future kids who will call this neighborhood home playing on some rusty metal thing, can we?

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Rusty Combine

I snap several photos, knowing that this area will change and develop rapidly over the next several years and, if I return to this spot in the future, the landscape will look very different.  My photos will be a quaint reminder of what was once here.  Once again, I find my role to be documenting the present so it can be the future past.

That turned my thoughts to another historic site which could have been the victim of urban sprawl but which was somehow spared the bulldozer.  Despite having known of its existence for several years, I had never made the time to visit.  I figured today would be as good a day as any.

I drove down Stoney Trail and eventually into the community of Panorama Hills.  From there I made several turns and finally came to a stop in front of a tiny greenspace, bordered on two sides by houses and at the back by 14th Street NW.

From the road you wouldn’t know this is a historic site, but when you get out and approach the cairn you soon learn the significance.  Yes, this is the spot where George McDougall is believed to have died.

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The small park with the McDougall Memorial sign and cairn

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know the name very well.  Yes, this is the same McDougall who was associated with the McDougall Church out near Morley.  (See the links at the bottom for previous postings about the church.)

George McDougall had been leading a party of buffalo hunters in January of 1876.  They were bring back their bounty to the Morleyville settlement which was struggling with low levels of food supplies.  George rode on ahead of the party and was caught in a blizzard.  It is believed he died of a heart attack and was found at this spot several days later.  His body was taken to Morleyville but was not buried at the church there, despite that being the location of his headstone.  Instead, he is actually buried on the other side of Highway 1A in a cemetery owned by the Nakoda that is not accessible to the public.

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As you stand here now, surrounded by houses and cars, it is hard to believe how different this landscape would have looked back in 1876.  This was less than a year after George and his son John had worked with carpenter Andrew Sibbald to build their church at Morleyville.  The Canadian Pacific Railway was still more than seven years away from reaching the area.  Calgary would not even become a town until more than eight years later in 1884.  No, when George McDougall finally drew his last breath here in the swirling maelstrom of a prairie blizzard he may as well have been on the moon.
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Yes, it’s amazing how areas change over time.  It doesn’t even take a lifetime.  For interest’s sake, go check out the listing on Canada’s Historic Places for the McDougall Memorial.  The site was formally recognized in 1976 and the listing describes it as “six kilometers north of Calgary”.  Wow, not anymore!The photos they show of this site show the cairn standing in the middle of bare prairie surrounded by a chainlink fence.  Those photos were taken in 2006, just a dozen years ago.

The sign, erected by the Nose Creek Historical Society, appears to have been moved from where it was in 2006.  You’ll remember the Nose Creek Historical Society from my visit to the site of the Johnston-Stevenson Stopping House.

Well, that’s all for now.  What are/were your favorite historical spots which were threatened or lost to urban sprawl?

Sources:

Reverend George McDougall Memorial. (n.d.). Retrieved April 04, 2018, from http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=8444

Related DanOCan.com postings:

Historic Calgary Week:  McDougall Church (August 8, 2013)

Perseid Meteor Shower (August 13, 2016)

Revisiting McDougall Church (February 10, 2017)

McDougall Church:  Gone (May 22, 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wild Horses of Sundre

Time for something a little different.

Last weekend we went out for a Sunday drive.  At Emily’s suggestion, we decided to head north on the Forestry Trunk Road / Highway 40 to see if we could spot some of the estimated 800-1000 wild horses which roam the eastern slopes of Alberta.

I guess technically these animals should be classified as “feral” more than wild as they are most likely the descendants of the horses that were used in the early part of the 1900s in logging and mining operations.  However, since most people refer to them as Alberta’s wild horses that is what I shall call them too.

The wild horses can be a bit of a political football, depending on your perspective.  Either they are invasive pests which are ruining grazing lands for ranchers and native wildlife, or they are majestic beasts who have now been around long enough that they are a treasured part of our provincial heritage.  Given that we were out to capture them photographically, you have a pretty good idea which side of that debate I am on.  I’m not here to push an agenda nor start any arguments.

We didn’t really have much of a plan, just a general sense of direction.  Armed with cameras and the drone, we would head up Highway 40 and, depending on time and weather, we would take one of the roads heading east and return home along Highway 22.

The further north we got, the more horse “sign” we saw along the road.  It wasn’t until we left Highway 40 and started along Secondary Road 584 that we finally spotted some of the wild horses.
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After that, we made a short stop at the community of Bearberry, which is a place I had never been to.  There wasn’t much there besides a rundown looking saloon and a community hall, but it was worth checking out.  We didn’t stop in at the saloon as time was becoming a factor, but it might be worth a visit at some point in the future.

I suggest checking out the Wild Horses of Alberta Society (WHOAS) to see more (and much better!) photos of the horses which roam the area between Sundre and Nordegg.

https://wildhorsesofalberta.com/

 

 

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Dance the Night Away in Saskatchewan

Manitou Beach is a tiny village located on the south shore of Little Manitou Lake.  In the first few decades of the twentieth century, this was an extremely popular tourist destination thanks to the “miracle” waters of Little Manitou Lake.

In reality, the miracle is simply a function of geology.  The lake basin was carved by glaciers and several springs in the lakebed release mineral-laden waters into the lake.  The lake does not have any natural outlets so the minerals simply build up and give the water a unique composition of minerals such as sodium chloride, magnesium sulphate, potassium sulphate, and calcium sulphate, and others.    It has been nicknamed “the Dead Sea of Canada” thanks to the purported healing qualities of the water and the density of salts which makes it easy to float in it.

Emily and I have had the opportunity to visit Manitou Beach on several occasions between 2012 – 2017, usually for purposes of visiting the Manitou Springs Resort.  That was the primary purpose of our day trip of December 27th, 2017 when we set out from Saskatoon for Manitou Beach.

However, no trip with us would be complete without at least one stop for some quirky roadside attraction.  On this day it was a sign proclaiming Young, SK as the home of the “World’s Largest Freestanding Mural”.  It caught our attention on the way to Manitou Beach but it was only on the way back when we took time to check it out up close.

Young, SK

Our first thought was that the sign had been vandalized, but the spray paint marks were simply covering up the words “Coming Soon”.  (Photo courtesy of Emily Overes)

The artwork on the mural is very well done and highlights the history of Young and area.  We’re not really sure if anyone validated the “world’s largest” claim or not, but we’re thinking maybe the inclusion of “freestanding” as an adjective limits the competition.  Regardless, the mural is 20′ high and 80′ long or roughly 6m x 24m for those who think metric, which I guess I should considering this is Canada.  The mural was originally painted in 2012 and was going to be mounted on the side of the ice rink but the size of the artwork meant the town couldn’t verify the integrity of the building so it was instead set up as a freestanding mural instead.

Young, SK

Once in Manitou Beach, we had to stop in and check on Danceland.  Danceland really is the main focus of this posting — way to bury the lead, eh?

Construction of Danceland started in 1928, which would have been right at the peak of the tourist boom in Manitou Beach.  Reports are the first dances were not held until 1930.

Danceland is unique because of the construction of the dance floor itself.  It actually consists of two floors — a solid floor and a floating floor, with a layer of horsehair in between.  Several inches thick, the horsehair gives the floor a unique bounce and allows dancers to go all night without tiring as much as they would on a traditional floor.  It is reported that the floor will actually bounce about and inch-and-a-half when under full load, which is often 500 people.  The dance floor covers an area of 5000 sq. feet.

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Exterior photo of Danceland taken by Emily Overes.  December 27, 2017

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Danceland in 1930.  Source:  Ruth Schellenberg, retrieved from http://www.watrousheritage.ca/ManitouBeachPictures.php 

 

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Danceland with some slightly more modern vehicles in front.  Image from Emily Overes, December 27, 2017

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Photo by Emily Overes.  December 27, 2017

 

Inside Danceland

Interior photo of Danceland.  Taken by Emily Overes (nee Giesy) in July of 2012

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Pamphlet for Danceland.  2017

Heritage buildings are under constant threat, and Danceland is no exception.  In this case, the very water that brought the people to Manitou Beach and made Danceland possible is the biggest threat to the building.  With no outlets, Little Manitou Lake is very much at the mercy of nature when it comes to water levels.  In 2011, a large berm was needed to keep the flood waters at bay.  During our first visit in July of 2012, the owners had portable pumps set up and were desperately trying to keep the foundation dry.

It was during that visit we were lucky enough to get inside and see the famous dance floor for ourselves, but we have yet to actually make it to Manitou Beach for one of the dances.  It shall remain one of our exploration bucket list items for now.

I had wanted to shoot some drone footage of Danceland but the cold weather and a tight schedule put those plans on hold.  So, instead check out this short video made by Tourism Saskatchewan and learn more of the history of Danceland.

Sources:

Schellenberg, R. M. (1996). Lake of the healing waters: Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan, Canada. Watrous, Sask.: Star Books.
Wrishko, M. (2017, August 26). Saskatoon Online – Village of Young Unveils New Mural. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from http://www.sasknow.ca/local-news/village-of-young-unveils-new-mural
Danceland. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2018, from http://danceland.ca
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20 Years of Exploring

Sometimes a posting comes together quickly.  I’ll get an idea for a topic, throw something up on the screen, and publish within an hour or so.  Other posts take a long time to come to fruition.

This is one of those latter type of posts.  If you don’t want to know the gory details of how it came together, I’ll put the video right up here near the top for you.

The idea was simple.  With all the snow we’ve been getting this Spring, I had plenty of time to sit down in front of the computer and look through thousands and thousands of images and try to select some favorites for inclusion in a retrospective slideshow.  Hmm, when I actually say it that way it sounds rather daunting, but it seemed simple at the time.

When that process was done, I loaded the pictures into Wondershare Filmora and started building the slideshow.  I expected this part to come together quickly, but that project sat open on my desktop for three or four weeks.  Out of every YouTube video I have created, this one took the most hours to actually complete.

The first problem was I had too many images.  Even at only a few seconds for each one, the video would have ended up being way too long for anyone to actually watch.  I started dumping images.  I went through many rounds of cuts.  It was at this point I also decided to drop any plans of including drone footage and instead focus completely on still photographs.

The next question was around style.  Should I include only “artsy” photographs or pictures which I consider to be some of my best?  What about all those photos that Emily and I have nicknamed “documentation shots”?  Those are the photos where we’re passing through a place and don’t have time to stop so we just point and shoot so we have some record of the places, knowing many of them will not be there the next time we come by again.  I left in a mix of all types, including some from when I was in my “HDR the hell out of everything” phase.

Then it was the ordering of the images.  I started chronologically, with some of the oldest photos being scans of shots I took on film back in 1997.  As I built that storyboard, I realized I was losing a big part of the story.  One of the great things about exploring for so many years was seeing the changes in the places I have visited multiple times over the years.

For example, Dorothy.  Some of the oldest images I have on my computer are from my initial trip to Dorothy circa 1997.  (Since I didn’t scan the images until several years later, I don’t know the exact date but that is my best guess based on context.)  The churches in Dorothy were in horrible shape when I first saw them.  Since then they have undergone an amazing restoration and look nothing like the shells they once were.  Meanwhile, the grain elevator has continued to deteriorate.  I think it is an incredible visual story, but just putting the images in chronological order meant that narrative was lost — too many subjects came into play between the 1997 Dorothy images, the 2006 Dorothy images, the 2011 & 2012 Dorothy images, and the 2017 pictures.

So, I scrapped the whole thing and started again, this time basing the order on locations instead of time.  All the Dorothy images were together, allowing one to see the changes that two decades can bring to a ghost town.  But then I found the video lost a sense of discovery.  If all the images of Dorothy are together, there is no sense of anticipation over what will come next.  Plus, some of the places where I only had images from one visit seemed out of place — what’s the point in focusing on telling the story of an evolution if you’re not going to carry that theme all the way through?

Scrap the whole thing and start again.

I finally settled on a general theme based on the type of building.  You’ll see the video front loaded with grain elevators, then move into service stations, then churches and schools, and other old businesses.  Given those themes and trying to fit the whole thing to the piece of music I selected meant dropping more images.  Old cars?  Gone.  Abandoned houses?  Gone.  Old buildings that aren’t really abandoned?  Gone.  Well, mostly gone.  There are a couple of places that survived those cuts such as the grain elevators in Nanton, which are far from abandoned.  Some of the photos I simply liked too much to leave out.

Of course, those themes went under multiple revisions too.  Maybe mixing themes was too much?  Instead of one four minute video maybe I should create four one-minute videos each with a unique theme?  Nah, stick with it and see where it goes.  By this point I was just trying to get this thing done and off my screen.

And, finally, subtitles.  I originally wanted to highlight the year the photo was taken and the location.  I also wanted to mention which locations no longer existed and how/when they were lost.  I went through many revisions on this idea and many styles of fonts and lettering, trying to find something that worked.  In the end, I decided to drop the subtitles completely.  I found they distracted too much from the photos and giving away all the details takes away some of the mystery.

So, after all that, I invite you to scroll back to the top and take a journey with me through time and place.  We’ll travel from 1997 to 2017 with multiple stops in between.  We’ll see highlights from three provinces and even one photo from Montana that made it into the mix.  You may question some of my selections, but each of these photos has some meaning to me.  Whether it was the place, the time, the people…there is likely a thousand word story behind every photo.  If any of them pique your interest, please tell me in the comments as I would love to give you more context.

 

 

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