Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Esther


Since I first started exploring and looking at photos of abandoned places, I wanted to visit Esther, AB. Esther is almost a ghost town and is on private land. Luckily I was with a local friend and we had permission to check it out.

Esther was established in the 1920's when the railroad came, and was named after the daughter of the postmaster. Esther never had more than a few dozen or so residents and today I think there are only a couple of people left. The railroad is long gone but the elevator lives on as the oldest surviving Alberta Wheat Pool elevator left in the province.

There is lots more to see and I would love to go back and spend more time taking photos and exploring but for now I was happy to be in Esther.



Nature taking over an old gas pump











Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Lonely Barn and Forgotten Metal


On my recent trip the Far East......of Alberta, we were somewhere close to the Saskatchewan border when a barn was spotted in the distance. It was hard to miss as there were no other structures near it and you could literally see for miles. Behind it was a graveyard of old cars and rusted metal paraphernelia.




Across the gravel road from the barn, was a car resting on it's side, it's hood flung a few feet. Almost as if it failed while trying to escape from the carnage across the way.


That barn and car have been there for decades, there was a homestead here at some point. Now the barn sits alone as time passes it by.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Just Another Winter Wednesday

Also I heard it's Valentine's Day.

I had to run to the local drug store last night to get my son (who decided last minute that he did want to do Valentines) a pack of cards for his classmates. Not surprising in the least, the card aisle was full of men and the Valentines displays were pretty picked over. Luckily there was still some Spiderman Valentines cards left.

I want to give you an idea of our weather this week:
Monday: -36C with wind chill (this hurts the face)
Tuesday: Almost out of washer fluid? Great! It's +6C making a slushy melty mess
Wednesday: Here's more snow and for fun lets have some gusting wind warnings and freeze everything up, driving will be an adventure!
Thursday: hahaha you'll never know, but probably not good

Here is a photo of a place I found last year and stopped again on my way to Oyen on the weekend.

Feb 10, 2018

Oct 1, 2017

Have a good day everyone!
On a happy note,  some lovely flowers just got delivered to the office. Yes, for me.


Monday, February 12, 2018

A Case of the Mondays and Fairacres School


Well well well Monday, we meet again. I don't like you and you don't like me, luckily it was a pretty good weekend so I can't stay mad at you. Even when I tried to go out and had a completely flat tire, even when I had to trudge through knee deep snow to dig my air compressor out of the shed and EVEN when I was out on the street in -30C filling my tire. I wasn't even bothered when I found a big bolt in the tire and was rapidly losing air pressure as I drove to the tire shop. Even after all that, you're just another day and you aren't the boss of me.

This weekend started on Friday, I was off work and home with my son, I had a big order of pictures to work on so we just hung out around the house. I was keeping an eye on the road reports and weather since we had a trip planned to Oyen on Saturday, which is a 3.5hr drive east of me. I was meeting up with a friend and a local guy who I know of but had never met in person. We had permission to go on some private land which is always a bonus!

Conditions looked good, so we were up early and on the road while it was still dark. Roads were a bit rough part way but otherwise not bad. We got to Oyen, only 20 minutes late and started our day! We saw a ton of cool places over the next few hours, but I am starting with an old school.

Fairacres School operated in 2 locations, Fairacres #1, operated from 1911-1937 and is marked by a sign. It was moved in 1937 because there were no people left north of the site, so it was moved to a more central location, and Fairacres #2, operated from 1937-1944 and was then left on site.

Even though it was a only a short walk from the road to the school, it was bitterly cold with the wind chill stinging my face. I can't imagine going to and from this school during our frigid prairie winters.





A different edit 

Fairacres looks pretty for good being 107 years old.



Friday, February 9, 2018

Retlaw Cemetery

This is a quick second part of my trip to the ghost town of Retlaw, AB. You'll pass the cemetery if you are driving to Retlaw from the south. I stopped here first before wandering around town. There is little building that was built as a replica of the church in Retlaw. Inside is a guest book and some information. From what I could see and looking around briefly, there are no recent burials. The last date I could find was in the 60's. I could be wrong but it would make sense as most of the people had left.

....and while they lie in peaceful sleep, their memory we shall always keep





Well, here is a cactus...it seems to be doing OK in this dry area.


Just across the road from the cemetery is this abandoned homestead.



Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Retlaw: a Prairie Dry Belt Ghost Town


Retlaw (Walter backwards) is named after Walter Baker, a CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) Official. Retlaw was to be an important stop on the main line between Suffield and Calgary. The train station, along with freight room, section house and a pump house, was completed in 1914 and several trains a day began to roll through.

Retlaw is located in the Southeastern Alberta dry belt. Early cattle ranchers maintained that this area was unfit for farming. The CPR disagreed and set up farms to test the potential of the area for farming. Their results, whether embellished or not, brought settlers flocking to the area to get their piece of paradise. Towns sprung up all over the dry belt. After fires and drought, 1916 produced a bumper crop of wheat, producing the majority of the provinces wheat crop for that year. This encourage the railroad to expand and more people came. The good times were very short lived. Beginning in 1917, a decade of drought took over the land and as quick as they came, the people left.

The canal that was planned for Retlaw, to bring essential irrigation, was diverted and didn't come close enough to provide relief from the devastating conditions. Everyone was effected. The farms suffered. Many businesses began to move or close up shop. By 1928 the train station was closed and the CPR sold all their holdings to the village for $1.

There is so much more history here, my couple of paragraphs doesn't even skim the surface, but it gives you an idea of why there are so many abandoned homesteads and towns in the Dry Belt area of Alberta. A good book to read on this is Empire of Dust: Settling and Abandoning the Prairie Dry Belt.

I spent the good part of a morning in late November 2017 wandering around Retlaw. I saw no other people or vehicles but there is an occupied residence by the town site, I believe that is where the friendly dog came from that walked with me a bit.

Get ready for a lot of photos! As you walk down the road, there are hand painted signs at the locations of former homes and businesses, it gives you an idea of how many people used to be here.

Main Street Retlaw

The first buildings on the left hand side of the road where the Alberta Cafe, Campbell & White Meat Market and the National Cafe.





Across the street was the Retlaw Pool Hall which operated from 1917-1924. Beside it the Retlaw Hotel, which opened in 1914, but by the late 1920's had been dismantled and moved away.

Location of the Hotel
 In 1913 a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce opened but it was too small to meet the demand so a bigger brick bank was built. It was dismantled in the 1940 and moved to Lethbridge.

CIBC  
The only home left in Retlaw.
Friendly Retlaw resident





After the house we find the locations of the Post Office, Newton & Cook Grocery and Dry Goods, and the Telephone Office.





Redcliff Brick and Coal at the Telephone Office Site


At the end of the street is Retlaw United Church, it has been restored and is a welcome site after so many empty lots.



All decorated for Christmas

Back at the start of town if you turn west you will see where the train station was located.


There are a couple of empty foundations to be found in the grass, I came across this one, that looks like it would have faced the rail line and station.

Retlaw Church visible in the distance



I read each and every sign in town, there was also a wall of information and a cenotaph at the start of town also. I hope the signs get repainted as many are faded and almost illegible in some parts. The church is well cared for and the guest book shows that people visit.

It's a true ghost town and I was happy to wander among the ghosts for a bit.



Visit took place on Nov. 26th 2017.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Little Red Deer School #362

I read somewhere that fresh snow absorbs sound which is why it can seem so quiet during and after a snowfall. It certainly felt this way when I stopped here on New Years Day, it was quiet and serene and the low winter sun through the trees made beautiful patterns on the snow.





I have stopped by this school a couple times before since it is close to home and I like it. Looking back I never posted it! Weird.

Little Red Deer is a typical looking one room schoolhouse but something about makes it one of my favourites. It's also one of the older ones I have seen, opening in 1896. There aren't too many from before 1900. Little Red Deer operated until 1955 and then became a community centre. In 1941, instead of creating another school district, Little Red Deer #2 was built nearby to accommodate senior students. This school closed in 1957 and became a residence.

A local group looks after the upkeep on Little Red School, ensuring it will be around as a reminder of our local history. They also host a barbecue here each summer. I have reached out to them and should be able to get inside the school later this spring.

May 2016
 Are there any remaining one room schoolhouses in your area? I'd love to see them!