It’s a fairly hard ‘n’ fast rule for the team…as long as time allows. When driving the road to where ever we pay a visit to a random small town along the way. Or two. Even if it’s a place we’ve been before. Then, we wander the streets aimlessly for half and hour or so, or if rushed, drive them in a similar fashion, in search of fun, adventure and little things to photograph. It’s a pleasant break from the highway. And more often than not we discover something cool.
In this here post we say “hello” to Blackie Alberta, a small village south of Calgary, visited not once but twice this day, first in the light of morning then again as darkness falls. Always nice to see things under different conditions and light. The town itself is maybe ten blocks square, there’s a downtown mostly comprised of empty buildings and on each visit, it was quiet as a church. Seems we have the place to ourselves.
Our attention is constantly drawn to the biggest thing in Blackie, the towering grain terminal by the tracks, near big enough to cast a shadow over the entire community. It dates from the late 1990s and if I did my math correct (my school report cards suggests it’d be a miracle), then this massive hunk steel, these towering bins, together hold something like three dozen times the capacity of the traditional wood grain elevators they replaced. You know those “prairie sentinels”…we talk of them all the time.
We drive around looking for the best angle. There, the toboggan hill at the park. Perfect! It’s so big. I mean massively big even when viewed from a couple blocks distant. Tiny town, big grain elevator!
Wait a minute, I think I see something from this “lofty” perch. Boler! Now our day will be complete.
Back to the old wood elevators, There used to be a bunch of them in Blackie. Something like eight over the years. And now there’s just the one. Pretty much all that’s left to remind us of of the earlier ones…a sign at a parking lot thanking the Alberta Wheat Pool for donating the land. The “Pool” hasn’t existed since the 1990s.
Our addiction to old metal is satisfied. A fix! A nice 1940s era Fargo Pickup on a side street. This make was sort of unique to Canada – well they were seen elsewhere in the world but not the US – and were sold at Plymouth dealers here. They were essentially Dodges with a few subtle changes and of course different badging. Fargo operated in this country from the 1930s into the early 1970s and were made in modest numbers (for the population of the country). Plymouth, a big maker in the past, packed it in just after the turn of century – a reminder that nothing is forever I guess.
Since Fargos were not offered in the US, these can be both a real head turner and head scratcher to American Car Buffs. What in tarnation is a…a…Fargo?” They’ll recognize the Dodge family resemblance but tend to become baffled from there.
Blackie dates from about a hundred years ago, about the same time the railway passed through (CPR Calgary to Lethbridge line). The towns and the tracks often made the scene sort of concurrently. What’s in a name? Blackie, a well know Scottish Scholar. The place is home to some three hundred souls today and is larger than it was say fifty years ago. Bucking the trend a bit here. Still, in feel, it’s full on village.
Outside a small grocery store and the always present “Chinese and Western Cuisine” restaurant (every small town has one) there are no other retail businesses. Many buildings in the core are empty. The wall of one displays a mural of a bucking bronco. Some of the buildings here have a Hollywood connection and make an appearance in the 2005 production of Brokeback Mountain. Link below.
One the way home, some night shots. Why not? The elevator is nicely lit. The sky was overcast, so no stars which always like to include. I don’t recall if there was any auroras due – anyway these should be done in moderation and too many “money shots” can kill the awe – so it didn’t matter anyway. Still, we got a couple nice pics. In the one shot, we stood there, in “downtown” Blackie, middle of the road, no worries about traffic of any kind accidentally taking us out. No one was cruising Blackie this night.
Save for a the occasional low hum coming from the grain terminal, a distant sound emanating from deep inside the bowels of this humongous plant, it was total silence. Perhaps Blackie was booming and busy and noisy back in the early days, but here, it seems like it’s gone to sleep. This is small town Alberta in 2017.
The click of the camera was deafening.
Blackie in the movies…
Brokeback Mountain then and now – Riverton WY bar.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: March, 2017.
Location: Blackie, AB.
Article references (and thanks): Book: Fenceline and Furrows, a history of Blackie and area, Alberta Wheat Pool Records.
Everything seen was shot from public property.