Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016: One Heck Of A Year

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
OK maybe not that dramatic but it was an interesting year...personally, creatively, nationally and globally. For me it was the year my amateur photography and infatuation with exploring the back roads of Alberta really took over. In that spirit I figured I would highlight a few of my favourite images from 2016 in no particular order.
Kirkcaldy, AB

Dorothy, AB

Daisy Bank School, near Halkirk, AB

Botha, AB

Near Didsbury, AB

Near Bowden, AB

Greenridge School, near Rumsey, AB

Vulcan County, AB

Barn near Eckville, AB

Ennerdale School, near Olds, AB

WWII Royal Canadian Air Force Aerodrome, near Vulcan, AB

Near Bentley, AB

I hope you enjoyed these, I think they sum up me and my year pretty well.  
The new year offers a new start and I am looking forward to whatever next year brings.  I don't make resolutions but I will make an attempt to blog regularly as I am really enjoying it!  I hope everyone has a fantastic 2017 and I appreciate everyone who takes the time to visit, read and comment on my blog.  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ghost Signs - Alberta

Old vs new in downtown Calgary.  See what you find while lurking in an alley!

Another favourite thing of mine is ghost signs. These you will not usually find on back roads or in rural areas. They are most likely to be found in older downtown commercial areas of cities and towns. In the US there are several great examples of ads painted on barns, but I have not ever come across one in Canada.  If you don't know what a ghost sign is, I can guarantee you've walked by one at some point and not even noticed. I bet after reading this you'll start seeing them! A ghost sign is what's left of old hand painted advertisements. These were popular in the early 1900's. I've seen them from illegible, to just uncovered (usually when an adjoining building get demolished), to restored. The paints that have lasted the longest likely contain lead, which is why in some cases you can see ads showing through other ads.

Painted over. 
With all things I photograph, you never know how long they will be around, so shoot it now, don't wait. Case and point, a ghost sign that I photographed 3 years ago has now been painted over, for no apparent reason.  This particular sign was on a side of building in a narrow alleyway, why not leave it?? You can make out 'Jenkins Groceteria'.  It was a chain in Calgary and by 1928 they had 17 stores. This was about the same time Safeway came to Calgary and offered to buy Jenkins stores.  He refused and instead opened up a bunch more in Calgary, central and southern Alberta.  He was the first in Canada to change to self-serve groceries. Now every time you go grocery shopping and grab a cart you can thank the forward thinking of Mr. Jenkins. These Groceterias have been gone for decades and now this sign is gone too.  For more info on Jenkins Groceteria 'checkout' this:
On the flip side the revitalization of Calgary's East Village has restored some of the old buildings including some ghost signs. These include the Biscuit Block and Simmons Building pictured below.

I have many more photos of ghost signs but have chosen a few here to highlight.  If you want more info please drop me a line, I could go one for hours about these and what came next for advertising, Hint: it's bright and flashy and glowing!

The writing is on the wall:

Calgary - Simmons Building

Calgary - Biscuit Block
Downtown Calgary
Downtown Calgary

Calgary - 17th Ave SW

Calgary - Kensington (almost gone!)


Medicine Hat - area now turned into a park/plaza

Coleman, AB
Lethbridge, AB
Lethbridge, AB

Nanton, AB (see similar ghost sign below)

Okotoks, AB
Fort Macleod, AB

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


There once was a school called Betchton
It now looks lonely and forgotten
I found it one day
It was too cold to stay
I'll come back when the sun's out to play

Betchton Community Centre.
It must be totally obscured in the summer!
Hopefully I didn't lose you after that poem...I will stick to taking photos. However I do think rhyming 'Betchton' and 'forgotten' gets an 'A' for effort.
Ok, so the school in the picture is in the Betchton district (NE of Olds, AB) but it is not the Betchton School.  It is actually Reed Ranch School, built in 1929.  It was moved to Betchton and became a Community Centre when consolidation occurred.  The date above the door says 1962. No info found on the fate of the original Betchton school, but likely demolished if a different school was moved in.  It was a unique looking school, not one of the typical designs I have see.   Neat!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Canmore Helicopter Ride


"Oh, you know I really am fascinated with aviation.  I never knew they did it all with rubber bands."  Auntie Mame (1958)

The Fam 
For real though, helicopters are COOL.  I have been on 2 helicopter rides in my life.  The first time was when I did a student exchange during high school in Yellowknife, NWT. This was the same time I saw the real Ragged Ass Road, went ice fishing for the first time, road a dog sled, and flipped a ski-doo (luckily not permanently injuring my friend David). My northern experience could be a whole new post. Anyway....I wanted to share my second helicopter ride. The reason for this helicopter ride was to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday in April of 2016.  She's always wanted a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon but even at 90 you can't always get what you want. Sorry Nana, I wish we could've all taken you there. We decided to surprise her with a helicopter ride over Canmore and the Rocky Mountains. We all met for lunch at Murrieta's in Canmore.  Alpine Helicopters called during lunch to tell us it was too foggy to fly. Fortunately after walking around a bit to kill some time, the skies cleared and we were cleared for take off. Nana had the seat of honour up front with the pilot and there were 5 of us in the back.  Myself and my son, my 2 sisters and 1 bro-in-law.  The hour flight flew by. Nana loved it and got a bit teary eyed as she does quite often.

It was an amazing sight to see the Rocky Mountains from the air.  I would love to do it again in the summer! It would be quite a different view.  I highly recommend seeing the Rockies this way if you are ever here, they are impressive from the ground and even more so by air.

Nana is still going strong at 90, maybe a Grand Canyon trip is still in the cards.
Roadside wildlife


Three Sisters (the mountains)
Three Sisters (the humans)

They are not very roomy inside
Up up and away!

Glacier up close
Guess which one is Nana!

Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death, LIVE! - Auntie Mame

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sunset Hill

The Sunset Hills are just west of Bentley, AB.  The highest peak is just under 3400ft, making it the 1270th highest in Alberta.  Oooh ahhhh, okay so not the Rocky Mountains, but it's still a picturesque area.  I was on my way to look for a old abandoned house that someone had mentioned was 'a bit' west of Bentley.  Not much to go on but I did find a house!  It turned out to be a 2 for 1 trip when I caught the unmistakable profile of an old school house across the highway tucked into a clearing in the trees.  

Old homestead looking down from the Sunset Hills
On my initial trip I took photos of both the house and the school from the roadway.  Both are in areas that are fenced off.   I drove to a farm at the bottom of the hill and was hoping to inquire about the house, but no one appeared to be home.

The school house had no marker and I did not know anything about it at the time.  After a bit of research (internet FTW!), I discovered it was the aptly named Sunset Hill School.  It opened in September of 1913 and closed when centralization occurred.  This was likely in the mid 50’s but I don’t have the exact date.  According to the Bentley and District Early History book, students had slate boards and pencils which they could make squeak and I’m sure this drove the teacher crazy. Eventually the pencils were replaced with pens with removable nibs and ink wells in the corner of the desk.  The ink would freeze on cold days.  How far we’ve come in 100+ years, from slate tablets to electronic tablets!  The school then became a honey extraction plant owned by Norman Pearson.

On a subsequent trip by the school (I had stopped to look again) an older gentlemen was coming down the road and stopped.  We chatted and I asked if he happened to be Norman Pearson.  Indeed he was (yaay for research!),  he gave me permission to go onto his property.  I was hoping he might let me inside but he never offered and I didn’t feel like I could ask.  I kick myself now of course for not asking.  He went on his way and I happily walked around and took a few photos.  This is another place I stop and look at when I’m in the area, maybe Norman will come down the road again and invite me for a tour.  Stranger things have happened. 

Love that red!!

Old School door

Lookin good from the back!