Months ago, while surfing the remotest Albertan backroads of the internet - I came across this charming blog:
BW'S got a post up about a country store that was run by his relatives light-years ago:
Apparently it's part of a museum display in Dreadful Valley now. Go read it - anyone that has ever gone home, only to find it long gone...will be touched by it.
I can't believe it, myself. To me that store is not an antiquity; I clearly remember when such stores were a dime a dozen. Alberta is a funny place: when I was a boy growing up in the 60's and 70's, a lot of Alberta's pioneers were still with us. We (I, I suppose) whine about "job stress". Let us pause and think about that - and maybe put that in perspective.
My grandparents and great-grandparents that came to Alberta at the turn of the last century - arrived by rail. Many settlers and farmers from that period came with the shirts on their backs - and that's about it. They had to
- buy tools and building supplies.
- buy farming equipment
- they had six months before winter to
a. get a crop and garden in the ground and harvested and stored for winter
b. build a barn and cabin
c. care for the animals they relied upon - and feed and shelter them too
THAT, ladies and gentlemen - is job stress. People starved to death in those days, or died from diseases and injuries that today would be considered minor inconveniences. My own grandparents were pioneers and I wonder at the culture shock they must have felt. During their life time they saw men go from rag n' tube biplanes to landing men on the moon. My granddad lived in a sod hut when he first came to Aberta, and retired when the first sky scrapers were going up in Edmonton and Calgary.
When I was a boy, country stores like that were still everywhere. On weekends my Grandparents went motoring the same way BW does... and sometimes I would tag along. We often stopped at such stores for gas and candy. Grandma was dressed like a 50's fashion model with the gloves and hat - and the second she walked into a store like this the women would gather round and start chattering like birds. I would get a petrified licorice pipe or cigar - and usually Grampa would find a jar of pickled eggs or sausage and then quietly cruise the hardware aisles looking for bargains. Often he would join the groups of farmers and old farts in raging debates about the quality of the new shotgun shells they had brought in, or how it was impossible to buy straight lumber anymore. I remember a pitched battle almost came to blows when they got in a fight over the latest deer head on the wall - the man that shot it said he scored at 157, a local wank said it couldn't be anymore than 150...and the battle was on! We still bitch about stuff like this today! I wonder if me and Grampa would be friends or foes in such debates. It didn't matter I suppose, because no matter how heated the arguments got, everyone seemed to forget them afterward.
The stores of my youth often had playgrounds and schools nearby where I could entertain myself while the grown ups socialized. I may be a grouchy old bastard...but it is my conviction that those WERE better times and better people than today, and that it is not my imagination when I think we've lost something as we race toward our future - whatever that is.
I am hoping that BW eventually finds a place where Old Alberta still lives. I watch his blog like a hawk and make notes: for I intend to start cruising Alberta too! I know for a fact that Alberta - somewhere - has a restaurant that will serve The Best Damn Steak In The World. I know that somewhere in this province, the World's Best Coffee is made - and it won't be McDonald's or Tim Hortons. Likewise, I shall discover and make public the Best Fishin' Hole and the Best Bakery. I will do it by motorcycle just as BW does...and maybe somewhere along the road I will find out where it is that I am supposed to be too.