We’re standing smack dab in the middle of Second Street West, Munson Alberta, much to the amusement of some locals, shooting a trademark BIGDoer.com then and now. We’ve come armed with an old photo, taken close to a century ago, have plopped ourselves down in the spot where it was captured then, our mission to shoot a “now” image, composed similarly. It should look like the “then” pic in every way possible. That’s how we roll.
We’ll not just show the resultant image here (scroll down) but will also talk about what’s changed over time, what hasn’t, and will touch on a little bit of history of the town itself. Prepare to learn something – grab a coffee and read on.
First the “then” photo. It was found in an online photo archive by yours truly, the scan appearing to be in the public domain and without copyright (correct us if wrong). There’s no date on it, but we know it’s real old. We’ll get to that shortly. While this one was sourced in-house, many of these “then” images are sent in by readers. If you have an old photo you think should get our then and now treatment, please, drop us a line.
Munson dates from the early 1910s. It was born, as many towns were on the prairies, with the coming of the railway. This line, originally the Alberta Midland, part of the Canadian Northern Railway Network, later amalgamated into the Canadian National Railways System, ran south from Stettler Alberta and points north, into Drumheller, and points southwest. The track was last used about a decade ago and was pulled up only recently. Another line lost.
Munson has a population of around two hundred today. In times past, during the great prairie settlement boom way back when, it was more. Nothing but a sleepy little burg today, a few blocks square, the streets are lined mostly with older homes. Lots of peace and quiet here, a level ten on the solitude scale. We stood in the middle of the road, but worried little about being mowed down. No cars were seen.
The town was named by the railway, as was often the case out here on the plains. It’s said Munson was a person connected with a law firm the Canadian Northern Railway retained.
The street seen in the old photo was when shot, at the edge of town. No different today. Behind the houses on left is nothing but prairie. Small towns don’t grow much. In fact, many shrink.
The original photo shows a row of what were at the time some fairly new houses. For the now image, most of them are still there, but save for one, are blocked by trees and not visible. That one clearly seen in both, today operates as a Bed and Breakfast (Silver Fox Inn) and appears little changed from the old days.
We’re not sure what happened to the church seen in the far background, old photo. Calling around, no one seemed to know anything about it. You’ll notice a “newer” church now stands a bit closer in today. There sure is a lot more trees since the early days…said Captain Obvious. There’s been some change, but the street feels much as it did then.
While there was no date on the original photo, a number of clues suggest it’s from about a hundred years ago. For one, everything seen in it has this newness about it and we know how old the town is so that’s a no-brainer. While we don’t know the purpose of the photo, we think it may have been a postcard. Ones like it, showing small town street scenes, were common in the early days. We never saw the backside scan, which would confirm this or not, so can only guess.
The now photo was lined up and composed in camera with no post production funny business to help us along. This of course means we’ll never ace it…but we get close. Still, for this one, I felt I was a bit off, more than I liked. That’s just me though. The BIGDoer-mobile makes a guest appearance in the now photo. It’s sometimes photo bomb a shoot.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: March, 2017.
Location: Munson, AB.
Article references (and thanks): University of Alberta Press, Statistics Canada, Book – Place names of Alberta, Volume III, Central Alberta.