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It took me some time to get around to editing and posting the second half of the 2020 Alberta Ghost Town Tour, but here it is.
Now, let me head off a minor controversy which reared its head in the YouTube comments on the Part I video. I realize and understand that many of the places we visited on this tour are not “ghost towns” in the classic sense. I had a viewer comment about how the town of Carmangay has a population of 300 people and therefore not a ghost town. As I have said before, I tend to use a fairly broad definition of ghost town — one where any town which has seen a population decline or the closure of many businesses and services over the decades is a “ghost” of its former self. “Ghost town” is not intended to be a pejorative term — given the content of our blog and channel it is used by use as a term of endearment.
With the Fall upon us it remains to be seen what our next adventure will be. We took a week off for some downtime to do some camping, Geocaching, and hiking and used that as a break from creating video content too. While I greatly enjoy making videos, sometimes it is nice to just enjoy your surroundings and not worry about how to get a certain shot or how you’re going to splice things together at the end to form a somewhat cohesive story. I don’t want video to become a chore, especially because we make literally zero income from this endeavor.
Thanks for watching!
A few weeks back I mentioned we visited Rowley with journalists Johnnie Bachusky and Vincent Bonnay. I occurred to me that I never shared Vincent’s final outcome of his web series on Alberta ghost towns.
Here it is!
“The hidden lives of ghost towns: Across the Prairies, towns are disappearing. Some teeter on the brink of oblivion, the last gasps of their stories captured by roving groups of dedicated photographers and amateur historians. Others cling to life through whatever means they can. But there’s much more to all of them than just the ruins of old buildings. Here, we take a tour of three of Alberta’s ghost towns, before they fade into history.” — Vincent Bonnay, 2020
Normally we gather every July to spend two days traveling around a section of Alberta as part of the “Ghost Town Convention”. The name is a bit of a misnomer as there are no real convention elements to it, it is just a group of like-minded individuals touring various places,
“Ghost town” is also a bit misleading. Many of these places are not ghost towns in the classic sense. However, if you expand your definition to think of a ghost town as any settlement that is now a shadow of its former glory, then many of these places are ghost towns. The prairies are awash in small towns that had big dreams but are now just hanging on by the thinnest of threads.
Make no mistake, it’s not just towns either. We also visit cemeteries, historical sites, abandoned locations and — in normal non-Covid years — museums. This is the seventh straight year that our good friend Jason Sailer has organized this event for us.
If you have ever driven Alberta Highway 9 / Saskacthewan Highway 7 between Calgary and Saskatoon, you likely have noticed the large white object which sits just north of the highway right on the border between the two provinces. If you are curious like me, you may have even driven up to the gates only to discover chainlink fences topped with razor wire and signs warning you to stay away.
Nicknamed by many as “the giant golf ball”, it is formally known as the Alsask Radar Dome and it was an active military installation up until 1987.
The above images were taken in April of 2007
If you grew up in the Cold War era like I did, you will remember learning about Canada’s role in protecting the United States from a Soviet attack. It was well known that if an attack were launched on the United States, the most likely route would come over the north part of the globe, putting Canada right in the middle of two superpowers.
Part of the defence was a series of three lines of radar stations, designed to sound the alarm should an attack be detected. The northernmost of the these lines (and I would dare say the most well-known) was the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line. Further to the south was the Mid-Canada line and the southernmost was the Pinetree line. The Alsask Radar Dome was part of the Pinetree line.
Construction of the Alsask Radar Dome started in 1961. It went into operation two years later in 1963 and remained functional up until 1987. At that point it was essentially abandoned and left to the elements and the vandals.
In 2018, the property was acquired by the Canadian Civil Defence Museum and Archives. They have been working ever since to secure, clean up, and restore the site. We received notice back in the Spring about some upcoming tours of the site but those were delayed thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last weekend we finally got to go inside and check it out for ourselves.
Of course, we also would like to use this opportunity to highlight some content from friends of our blog who previously published content on this subject:
The Soviet Threat, a documentary by The Cache Project:Become a Patron!https://c6.patreon.com/becomePatronButton.bundle.js