Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Westerdale United Church

If I have the time I will try and take back roads while travelling.  Sometimes an hour trip by main road can take double or triple the time.  I don't mind.  This September day I was travelling from Calgary and ended up North of Olds.  I came to an interesting crossroads in my journey.  Literally, not figuratively.  I spied a cemetery, tiny church and an old school...WIN!  There was also a newer community hall and a ball diamond and many many cows.

Teeny tiny 
I pulled over by the tiny church and made my 6 year old come with me inside with me.  We looked around (this didn't take long) and then signed the guest book.  While I was reading some info on the wall, my son also signed the bible.  When I saw what he was doing, I started yelling REPENT! REPENT! but he didn't understand what that meant, so the moment was lost.  Sorry, United Church.

The original church was completed and dedicated on June 16, 1904 as the Westerdale Methodist Church.  It became Westerdale United during the Union of Churches in 1925.  Ministers from surrounding communities served Westerdale, services were irregular in the 50's.  In the 60's Westerdale became part of the Ennerdale Mission field and was served by theological students. Services resumed in 1971. This pioneer church became a bit of an attraction, however 1979 saw the organ and guest book stolen and lead to the doors no longer being always open.  A new organ was donated and music continued to accompany the services.   I am not sure when services ceased but by 2009 the building was in disrepair and could not be saved. It was torn down.  Citizens built this replica to stand in place of their beloved church.

Also if I ever get married, I know a cute little venue.

Feeling bad

Not a bad view, and a cow
Westerdale School 1920-1957

Monday, November 28, 2016

Leedale House

I was skeptical when my boyfriend told me there was a old house I'd like right by his shop, near Rimbey, AB.  Skeptical and dubious (I like that word).  But....just....maybe on some level he is paying attention when I make him look at my photos...maybe the cursory glance and the 'uh-huh' or 'that's nice' weren't so superficial?

Saggy in the middle, happens to the best of us.
Again, still skeptical as we are heading there. LO AND BEHOLD,  I see it through the trees and it is fantastic!  A couple phone calls later and we are at the house of the man who owns the land that the old homestead is on.  I ask for permission to get closer to the house and he says in a slow, not overly friendly way, "wellllll I suppose you can do whatever you want."  I chatted him up a bit more and by the end I couldn't get him to stop talking.  He was great!

As well as learning about him and his family and their connection to the area, which was extensive, he gave me a bit of info on the old homestead.  He bought the land in the late 50's and the house was vacant then.  A family of 5 had lived there, but they left everything and went home to England.  He said the house has been picked clean over the years by vandals.  There also used to be a log barn,  but it accidentally burned down at some point. 
 I spent as long as I could wandering around the old house.  Just listening and looking, wondering where that family is now. 
I was glad that I got to see this house, even though finding things myself is part of the fun.  He hasn't found me anything else of interest (and he travels all over to get to different job sites), so I chalk this discovery up as a lucky one-off.
Still a beauty
Not safe to enter.

If you zoom in there is a game controller on the floor, odd

Visiting the old house Nov. 26th.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Willans Barn - Demolished

I am a born and raised Calgarian.  I moved an hour and half north 3 years ago but still consider myself a Calgarian on a detour.  I happened to be in Calgary in September, the day before a historic barn in the Fish Creek Park area of South Calgary was to be demolished.  I headed out, camera in hand to document the last day of a significant part of the history of the area.  If you know Calgary though, you know that old and historic don't mean much and are usually replaced or demolished. Members of the community and Norman Willans own grandson fought to have this saved but were turned down again and again by local government and park officials.  Apparently it didn't qualify as 'historically important' enough.  If this isn't then what it?

Some backstory on the Willans.  The foothills of Southern Alberta have been associated with cattle ranching since the late 1800's.  The Willans family is part of this history.  Norman Willans was born in England and moved to Canada in 1886.  He took 2 years of Agricultural schooling in Ontario, and moved west, to the Millarville District, to use his skills to make a life for himself. He later married and eventually moved to Calgary in 1901.  He worked as the manager of Pat Burns' Bow Valley Ranch.  Norman and his wife Alice, bought their own land for a mixed farming operation, while still working for Pat Burns.  Around 1910, Norman built this log barn as well as a tiny cabin just to the north. The barn was built of white spruce found along the banks of Fish Creek.  The tiny cabin is still there behind a chain link fence and safe from the wrecking ball, for now.  I saw it but by that time it was pouring rain and I was trying to cover my camera gear.

I found my way off the path to get closer to this old beauty.  I chatted with a couple guys walking a dog, they had no idea this was the last day for this place.  I am sure that many have walked by this without even knowing what it is, or was.  As the rain started to come down harder I packed up my stuff quickly and got back to the main path.  I picked the burrs off my sweater and took a last look at this place.  The rain seemed to be reflective of the situation, dreary and forlorn.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


View from the highway, I love Rowley already!
It was a beautiful September day and NO ONE wanted to go for a drive so I packed up my essentials and hit the road.  Destination: Rowley, AB.

I think Rowley is a hidden gem in Alberta! It's heyday was in the 1920's when it had a population close to 500. Now a virtual ghost town (pop. 6-8 according to online info).  Locals have lovingly restored many parts of town. Not every building is historically accurate but is doesn't take away from it's charm.  It's been used as a movie set a few times, notably for Bye Bye Blues (1989) and Legends of the Fall (1994).  I suppose this is what prompted the sign 'Rowleywood' to be erected on the hillside.  (No photo...shame on me).

How fun is this....on the last Sunday of every month, pizza night is held at Sam's Saloon, people gather from all around for this event and the ghost town has life again for a brief time.  If I was a ghost, this is definitely where I'd hang out. 

The day I visited I was blissfully alone to soak up the history and scenery.  The highlight for me, is the 3 restored grain elevators and train station.  Rarely do you see grain elevators and a train station, but 3 elevators is amaaaazing.  3 elevators and a train station, all in their original locations is something special to say the least.  I seem to have spent the majority of my time near the elevators.  I know I missed some other cool buildings....which means I will have to go back!

Pizza anyone?

Former hospital, former residence.  

United Church

In the shadows of giants

On the old railbed

Bye Rowley, until next time!

Check out these 2 blogs for more Rowley!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Can I Axe You a Question?

So we found ourselves with a kid free night this past weekend and the possibilities seemed endless!  What could we do? Dinner, movie, drinks, bowling, paint night, escape room, lots of drinks? NONE OF THE ABOVE.  Apparently the latest thing to do is axe throwing.  I have been wanting to try this since I heard it opened in my town.  My other half didn't see the appeal but he agreed to give it a whack, haha whack. I immediately started the trash talking.

Forgot to snap all the bullseyes
We arrived at, got some instructions and were let loose on the targets.  They first show you a 2 handed throw, then 1 handed and then a fancy upside down throw.  Throws mastered.  I won a game of 21 and then I won a game of around the world. My accuracy was pretty darn good.  One thing I did notice between myself and my other half was that he seemed to want to throw it as hard as possible but I think it's all in the motion, which is why I crushed him.  Into sawdust.  I didn't want him to feel too bad, so to bury the hatchet I told him it must be beginners luck and that girls just have better attention to detail and that is why they have better accuracy.  I don't know if any of that is actually true...

At the end the staff informed us that they want to form an axe throwing league.  This got me immediately thinking of funny names.  I have come up with the following so far:
  • The Axe Holes
  • Axe to Grind
  • Kiss My Axe
  • The Old  Battle Axes
  • Bad Axes
  • Random Axe of Kindness
  • The Brainy Axe
Whether you want to the relax and take the edge off, or train for the zombie apocalypse, or engage in some friendly competition, it's worth a visit to your local axe throwing establishment.  Happy throwing!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Up To Date

I have never been stung by a wasp, hornet, yellow jacket, bee, etc.  Bees I like though!  They are just doing their bee thing, the rest of the these stinging creatures just seem like assholes who are out to create arm flapping chaos wherever they go.  Making an otherwise normal person look like one of those wacky inflatable arm waving tube men you see in front of some store having a HUGE EVERYTHING MUST GO SALE!

Anyway, as I stood on this lonely gravel road on a hot summer day with no cell service and only the buzz and hum of at least a million winged things around me.....I thought to myself....I could get stung, have an allergic reaction and DIE RIGHT HERE. Not how I pictured the end. However since you, dear reader, are reading this I have lived to explore another day.

This particular day, I was stopped at an abandoned school.  What? Shocking!  Some of these one room school houses are named after the area they are in, a local person, or sometimes after a place that settlers in the area originated from.  This one is called Up-To Date School.  I couldn't find anything on how this interesting name came to be.  Info on some of these old schools is limited but I did find that John and Melvin Tucker hauled the lumber from Stettler (about 50km away) and built the school.  It opened in 1909 or 1910. This school did not have a teacherage on site, the teacher boarded with members of the community. I can't find a date for when the school closed but once it's life as a school came to end it became a granary.  It still stands tall and proud, and just a bit weathered, on it's original site.  In the end though, everything must go.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Wilmot School

This place was the start of my addiction to finding old schools, my gateway building if you will.  I first passed this school a few years ago when I moved into Central Alberta and was driving around to see what I could see. I stopped, took a few photos and actually had no idea what it was or had been, but I knew I loved it and wanted more. 

Door's open!
My go to online resources don’t have much info on this place other than it was open from 1912-1953.   It looks like it might have been a community centre briefly after the school district was disorganized.

I always obey signs and the unwritten rule of abandoned buildings: take only photographs, leave only footprints.  I am glad there is still things inside the building despite its location, or maybe its location along a well traveled highway has helped?  In any case, this is another building I stop at whenever I go by.  Not always for a photograph but to say, ‘Hello, old friend, I am glad you are here’.  

Window with a view...of the outhouse
Keyless entry
The heat is off
School's out forever.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Notre Dame de Savoie Church

For my first post, I want to share my most recent adventure through Central Alberta.  This place was one I have been meaning to visit.  I knew I had a few hours to myself so I loaded up the essentials: coffee, camera, lenses, back road atlas, water, snacks, rubber boots, more coffee and some good music.  I also stopped for coffee along the way. 

Notre Dame de Savoie can be found on a quiet crossroads NE of Halkirk, AB.  Kitty-Corner to the church is a cemetery that appears to be kept up.  Beyond that is the Paintearth Mine operation.

This church was built around 1915 by the local Francophone community and was in use until 1964.  A newer church was then built nearby but has since been torn down.  Notre Dame sits silently, save for the flapping and cooing of the pigeon population inside.  I didn't venture into pigeon territory any further than the threshold.  You never know with these old places and exploring alone makes me extra cautious.  My over active imagination also doesn't help....picture falling through the floor boards and being covered in pigeon poop or WORSE.  No thanks.  

I took a few moments to soak in the peaceful quietness and to think about what an important place and hub of activity this once was to so many settlers and families in the area. Even in this state, it still holds a certain charm and beauty and I am hoping it withstands the elements a bit longer.  À la prochaine!