CAMT 2017: Markerville Creamery

After leaving Dickson, our small group headed northeast towards the town of Markerville.

Markerville was named for C.P. Marker who was the territorial dairy commissioner.  The first post office under the Markerville name opened in 1902, but the history of the settlement goes back a bit further.  In 1888, twelve families from the Dakota Territory settled in the area.  At that time, the post office was named Tindastoll.1

It is fitting that C.P. Marker was the dairy commissioner because today Markerville is known for its creamery museum. The building housing the museum operated as a creamery for seventy years, from 1902 – 1972. It was owned by the Tindasoll Butter and Cheese Manufacturing Association.

Today the creamery building has been restored to its 1932 appearance.  A small ice cream shop operates in the front of the building while the museum portion houses much of the original equipment used in the preparation of butter and cream.  Admission is charged for visiting the museum.

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Everyone should have a riding tractor that looks like a cow

It is not a large museum and does not take much time to tour.  However, this doesn’t mean it isn’t an interesting place to stop for a visit.  The displays are very professional and informative and they open your eyes to a part of our province’s history that doesn’t get all that much attention.

We opted for the self-guided tour, purely in the interest of time.  I’m sure a guided tour would go into much more detail and make for a more in-depth visit.  Unfortunately, we still had some more places to visit so time was a factor for us.

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The creamery building in 1908 (top) and 2017 (bottom)

Markerville itself is also a very picturesque little town.  Whether it is the bridge over the river, the large creamery can “monument” on the side of the road, or the 1907 Lutheran Church, there is more here for the fan of history than just the museum.  Get off the highway and check out Historic Markerville.  I’m glad we took the time to visit,

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Markerville Lutheran Church

Hours of operation for 2017 are May 13 – September 4, from 10:00 – 17:00.  Adult admission is $5.

1Aubrey, M. K. (2006). Concise place names of Alberta. Calgary, AB: University of Calgary Press.

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CAMT 2017: Dickson Store Museum

Emily and I got on the road at 8am and began working our way north up Highway 22 towards the first stop on the Central Alberta Museum Tour.  Our destination was the Dickson Store Museum.  Once we reached Highway 27, we left the highway and took a combination of back roads and we picked our way along the Red Deer River before finally turning east towards Dickson itself.

Now, in all honesty, I had never even heard of the Dickson Store Museum prior to beginning my research for this event.  Once I learned of its existence, I was immediately intrigued and knew it had to be on the list.  How it ended up as the first stop was a purely selfish decision; it was the closest point to our home so I picked it so we wouldn’t need to get up excessively early in order to get there to meet the group at 09:30.

Some of our group had already arrived when we reached the museum.  Having not seen many of these people since last Fall — and meeting some for the first time — we had a chance to catch up and wander around before the museum opened at 10am.

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Welcome to Dickson

Dickson is named for the nearby Dickson Creek which, in turn, was likely named for the Benedickson family who settled in the area.  The name of the creek has been recorded as early as 1892.  Dickson had a post office from 1906 until 1970 when mail service was moved to nearby Spruce View.

SOURCE:  Aubrey, M. K. (2006). Concise place names of Alberta. Calgary, AB: University of Calgary Press.

It is worth noting that the Alberta’s History sign in town mentions the first post office in Dickson was opened by Carl and Laura Christiansen in February 1905.

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Signed in and the tour is underway

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Kitchen exhibit inside Dickson Store Museum

The museum covers both floors of the 1909 store building.  In addition, the area outside features the original lumberyard/shed and a reconstruction of the original log home used by the Christiansens before the construction of the store.

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There is a small ice cream counter in the back of the museum and that was a nice added bonus for us as the temperature was already beginning to soar, even this early in the day.  The museum staff were super friendly and quite happy to share their knowledge with us.  We tried to make sure to purchase some postcards (in addition to the ice cream) and make some donations to support their efforts in keeping this place alive.

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A Then and Now Comparison

In addition to their official webpage (link in the first paragraph above), also visit their Facebook page and show them some support on social media.  Let them know DanOCan.com sent you.

If you’ve been to Dickson and/or the museum, let us know in the comments.  Share your experience with us.  Let me know what you want to see from the upcoming postings from the CAMT tour — details of our trip or more “just the facts” on the museums.  I’ve had to cut this posting a little short as it’s time for me to get out the door and on my way to work.

 

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Central Alberta Museum Tour: The Introduction

It started simply enough.  Last year my friend Frank Lloyd made a comment about how it would be fun to get a group of like-minded individuals together and spend a weekend visiting a number of small museums.

Frank is a member of the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village & Museum near Moose Jaw, SK and knows the challenges that museums face.  An aging volunteer base, a lack of funding, and a public that seems to be losing touch with the past.  Many of our small town museums struggle to make ends meet and simply don’t get the attention they deserve.

“Can you imagine if we got a group together and visited these places and each dropped $5 in their donation bins?  It’s a small contribution for each person but could mean a lot to some of these places.”

His idea sat in the back of my mind for several months until one day in May when Emily and I were talking about all the museums we have seen on our travels but didn’t get a chance to actually stop and visit.  We finally decided we should take one of my long weekends and head out on the road and do a tour and finally check a number of these places off our “Must Visit” list.

We checked the calendar and picked the dates — July 14 and 15.  That’s when I decided to act on Frank’s idea.  I created a simple Facebook event, outlined the plan, and then invited a small number of friends to join us on the journey.  I didn’t know if anyone would be interested or if anyone would be able to make it, but I figured even if it ended up just being me and Emily we would still have a lot of fun.

Over the weeks, the route started to take shape.  More planning took place as I spent lots of time with Google Maps planning out how long we would need to drive between museums and how much time we would want to spend at each place.  Having never visited any of the places on my list, I didn’t have a great frame of reference but went with the “best guess” scenario.  Hey, a career working in IT management means I’m used to making decisions with incomplete information, right?

With a tentative schedule and timeline in place, I began to reach out to the various museums along the route.  “Hey, this is who I am and what I am planning.  Here is when we think we’ll be there.  Are your posted hours accurate and are you likely going to be open?”  Again, we know many of these places are counting on a small number of people so it couldn’t hurt to check, right?

As the replies came back to me, my spreadsheet continued to expand.  Hours of operation, contact names, phone numbers, email addresses, our expected arrival and departure times.  (I am a firm believer that Excel spreadsheets can be used to solve any problem in the world.)

 

CAMT 2017 Attendees

CAMT 2017 Attendees at the Paskapoo Historical Village in Rimbey, Alberta

Now, my original plan was to do one big blog post about the whole Central Alberta Museum Tour (CAMT) experience.  I soon realized that CAMT 2017 was going to need multiple posts.  I have close to 300 photos and about 30 minutes of video that need to be reviewed, processed, logged, and then edited.   Trying to fit in two days, 800km, and multiple museum visits into a single posting wasn’t a) going to be practical if I ever want to get anything posted, and b) not doing justice to these places and the people who make them run.

So, that’s it for now.  I wanted to provide you with some background on how the whole thing came to be and to provide some context for the posts which will be upcoming over the next few days (weeks?).  I really hope to hear from some of the museum employees in the comments.

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Weekend of Exploring

We’re not sure what to call it.  Alberta GTC (Ghost Town Convention), Mini GTC, Abandoned Weekend.  Let’s be honest, whatever you call it doesn’t matter because to those who “get it” no name is required.  For those who don’t “get it”, no name will make sense.

In this case, “it” refers to a weekend of backroads, abandoned locations, historic places, and otherwise checking out things that fly under the radar of your average tourist.

This is the fourth year in a row we have met together for a weekend such as this, with a focus on places in Alberta.  2014 was the southeast corner of the province, 2015 was the southwest/Crowsnest Pass, 2016 was based out of Oyen, and this year Brooks formed our home base.

It is slightly after 8:30am when our group assembles at a Tim Hortons in Brooks.  We are a smaller group than in past years.  It’s not unusual that life gets in the way and not everyone can make it.  It was only through the good fortune of my work schedule that this happened to be my weekend off.

Jason and Becky with young daughter Kayla are in one car, joined by Chris and Connie of BigDoer.com fame.  Emily and I are in our own vehicle with Tucker the Dog.  Hoping we don’t have a repeat of last year’s vehicle problems (loose lug nuts and a failed water pump), we have once again brought our 2006 Jeep Liberty as our vehicle of choice.  We would have loved to have brought our trailer to camp in, but having to work on Monday meant we would have been dragging it all over tarnation on Sunday before heading home.  So, the EconoLodge in Brooks is our home away from home.

We set our course northwards out of town, heading towards Patricia.  Then it was on to Iddesleigh where a local saw us looking around and drove home to get us a key for their museum.  Thanks George!

Back on the road, we make a quick stop in Jenner and then continue further north to Big Stone.  Across to Carolside, up to Rose Lynn, and then over to Sheerness where we watched a dragline do its thing. Back south through Pollockville, Cessford, and Steveville.  A very full day!

Day two again began at Tim Hortons.  We again head north, but instead of going northeast, this time we focus on the northwest.  We stop in Rosemary to admire the large Canadian flag painted on Main Street, up to Gem, and then to the Finnegan Ferry.  We pick our way over to Dorothy and then to East Coulee to check out the old Atlas Coal Mine bridge.  Finally, we drive through Wayne where a large number of motorcycles outside the famous Last Chance Saloon show how popular this area can be,  Finally, south of the town, we decide to part ways.  For Emily and me this is the closest point to home so it makes sense to start working our way west.  Jason, Becky, Kayla, Chris and Connie all continue their adventures south towards the TransCanada Highway and then finally back to Brooks.

The drive home is marked with the comfortable silence that always follows a great weekend of adventures.  We think about how lucky we are to have such great friends, how fortunate we are to be able to get out and see these places before they completely disappear, and we think of our friends who were unable to join us this year.

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Another Loss to Fire: Keeler Hotel

 

It’s becoming a ritual that is all too common lately.  This time the news comes from tiny Keeler, Saskatchewan where the old hotel was lost to fire on July 4, 2017.

Keeler Hotel

Photo Credit:  Dan Overes, July 9, 2016

My personal history with Keeler is a pretty short one.  I am sure Emily and I stopped in the town back in 2012, but I cannot seem to find any photos of the hotel taken on that trip.  Our last trip was in July of 2016 on our way back from our final Ghost Town Convention.  (By the way, that’s a teaser for an upcoming post.)

I remember a local stopping by as we were taking photos and warning us not to go inside because the floor was rotted and there was “about ten feet of water in the basement.”  We certainly heeded his advice not only because the floor was missing just steps inside the front door, but also because the roof had caved in making any access more than problematic.

Realistically the hotel was little more than a shell with nothing much left in the way of artifacts.  By any objective measure, its historical value was minimal and of little interest to anyone other than those of us with a crazy obsession with all things abandoned and historical.

For some other views of the hotel and Keeler, I have included a couple other links below.

Video from Home Town Saskatchewan, with the hotel featured at the 2:52 mark:

 

Photos from our good friend Mike Stobbs: http://www.pbase.com/impalass/keeler_sk&page=all

The drive down Highway 42 is going to be a little less interesting without seeing the Keeler Hotel sitting there anymore.  One more piece of the past has been lost.

Source:

Hart, H. (2017, July 04). Keeler Hotel Burns Down On Canada Day. Retrieved July 05, 2017, from https://discovermoosejaw.com/local/54363-keeler-hotel-burned-down-on-canada-day

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Canada 150

I am too young to have been around for the centennial in 1967.  I am too old to be around for the bicentennial in 2067.  Canada 150 is the closest I will get.

As hinted at last week, we joined Chris and Connie of BigDoer.com for a trip to a hillside monument originally created for Canada’s 100th birthday in 1967.  It has been slightly updated to mark this year’s 150th celebrations.

Enjoy some “Maple Leaf Forever” as we go droning in southern Alberta to mark the occasion.

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Simon’s Valley and Big Hill Springs

Just time for a quick post today before heading out again. This afternoon Tucker the Dog and I headed out towards Big Hill Springs Provincial Park for a short walk.

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We made a short detour to the memorial plaque dedicated to two soldiers who lost their lives in a plane crash and the schoolteacher who tried to save them. The plaque lists the crash as happening in “Simon’s Valley” so that’s how I titled the post, although you will also see it called Symons Valley in other locations.  I first came across this memorial back in 2005 and will stop in here on occasion.  Not really sure where the actual plane crash took place or how close it is to this exact location, but it is an interesting bit of history.

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Big Hills Springs is an underrated Provincial Park.  It is small and doesn’t offer much in the way of amenities.  There are your standard pit toilets, three picnic tables near the parking lot, and a selection of garbage and recycling bins.  The fact that it isn’t overly developed is part of why it appeals to me.  I also appreciate the fact it is less than twenty minutes from home, making it a convenient destination when I don’t want to drive vey far but still want to get out into the woods.

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I was surprised how many cars were i the parking lot on this Wednesday afternoon.  There appeared to be a group of people having a picnic/gathering at a couple of the tables near the trailhead.  Then there was a smattering of people out for exercise and parents with their young children wandering around.

The trail at Big Hill Springs is gentle enough to be done in running shoes — no need for hiking boots.  It is also a short enough loop that you don’t need a lot of time to walk it.  There is a llttle bit of uphill involved and some tree roots which can threaten your footing if you aren’t paying attention, but that’s about it.  If you can navigate a flight of stairs you are physically fit enough to enjoy this park.

I like doing the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, even though that gets most of the highlights out of the way early.  The path wanders beside a small creek which picks its way down the hillside via a series of small waterfalls.  There are also the remnants of an old mill, although I know nothing about the history of it.

After the waterfalls you leave the creek and climb to the top of the hill on the west side of the park.  From there it is a lovely walk through the woods, with occasionalal glimpses of the creek as it wanders through the valley on its way to Cochrane and the Bow River.

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Remnants of an old mill

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With the sky clouding over and the threat of rain in the air, I was thankful it doesn’t take long to enjoy this park.  Although, under different circumstances with more time, there are plenty of unofficial side trails to explore and many places you can sit by the creek away from the people on the pathway.

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The flowers were out in full bloom today

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A Fitting Tribute

So, as I mentioned, just a quick update today.  Have a great Wednesday!

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