Prairie Towns

I must admit that I love prairie towns, and I had my cousin Rina drive me through a number of them. Yesterday, I said that store fronts were rarely brick, but as I discovered, there are brick store fronts, but only in the more affluent towns; otherwise, clapboard or stucco is de rigueur.

Yesterday, we managed to pinpoint several shared characteristics of small towns in Alberta. On a main drag anywhere, you will inevitably find angle parking, a hardware store, a Chinese restaurant, a bank, a small grocery store, an auto-tractor parts shop, a liquor store and a tavern, saloon or "hotel." In the better-heeled communities, there will also be a pharmacy, hair salon (usually called "the Cutting Edge" or "the Cut and Curl"), and a barber shop because men don't like the feminine smell of girlie hair salons. In Stettler, the heartland of Alberta, we found a fairly affluent area, as it had a jeweler on its main drag selling diamonds and Rolex watches. That was proof that oil money has helped keep Stettler happy and healthy.

On our way back from Viking, we saw the ornate spire of a Ukrainian church from the road and decided to go in and look around the small town of Holden. Many of the businesses on the main street were abandoned, and we found a hardware store that was being converted into a home. As I got out to take pictures, the owner came out to see what I was up to. I told him that I loved the facade of his store, and he told me that they were slowly converting it into the family home. As we talked, I noticed a few doors open a crack to see who the newcomers were. Clearly, a Montrealer rolling into town to take pictures was a rare occurrence.

The picture below is the main intersection of Holden. On the left hand side is an abandoned hardware store and directly across the street is a small food store. The statue at the centre of the intersection is a memorial to all the local boys of Beaver County who died in World War #1. By today's standards, the middle of an intersection is an odd place to put a war memorial, which suggests that it was probably erected before cars had taken over the streets.

I found it hard to overcome the desire to take pictures here. The light and the skies created some amazing and unique photo opportunities, and apart from the wind, there is also the silence of the prairies and the feeling of being utterly alone.

As we stopped to take pictures of an abandoned homestead, I said to my cousin Rina, "It feels as though there is no one here for miles."

"Well," she said, "that's because there isn't anyone for miles, unless you count the gophers."

Related posts:
Alberta: Prairie Sky
The Badlands



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