This Land: Leitch Collieries, Crowsnest Pass, AB

May 28, 2022

The Leitch Collieries, Limited was a state-of-the-art coal mining company. It was built to last; however, due to several unfortunate events, it was only in operation for 8 short years.

It is located east of Frank Slide, and it was the only completely Canadian-owned coal mining operation in the Crowsnest Pass.

Power House

Coal mining requires lots of power, so the operation had its own power plant. It was 30 feet wide by 200 feet long and constructed of sandstone and mortar.

All repairs were done on site by the carpenters, blacksmiths, and machinists on staff. There was even a locomotive repair area next to the machine shop. This area could house 2 locomotives, which were serviced once per month. Some of the work would be done from down below (which is now the location of the public restrooms).

Manager’s House

Billy Hamilton was the manager and a part-owner. His wife, Ellen, designed the spacious home for their family of 6 children, staff, and occasional guests. The home had indoor plumbing, 3 fireplaces, hardwood flooring, and a dumbwaiter.

I love the photograph of 2 of the Hamilton girls and their enormous dog, Major. The little boy is from the Kerr family.

Another favorite photo is of the Kerr family. You can see that the family dog is at the center in their life, or at least the dog found the Geographical Center of Attention, as most dogs do. The mother is just beaming! Haha!

Coke Ovens

The collieries also produced coke, which is essential for smelting metal ores. Coke is simply “cooked” coal. This process purifies the coal, allowing it to burn at a much higher temperature. Construction of the coke ovens began in 1910, but by the time the company closed at the start of WWI, only the first 32 of the 101 ovens had ever been fired.

After the company’s remaining assets were liquidated in the 1920s, the structures were dismantled or vandalized. The coal seams were mined in the 1940s by Mohawk Collieries.

This Land: Sandon Ghost Town

May 26, 2022

Sandon Ghost Town is mostly family owned and operated by the Wright, Pellowski, and Turok families. This historical site receives no government funding. It exists due to the dedication and passion of these families, their friends, and volunteers. And it’s FREE. (Camping is $15 non-electric, $20 electric, including firewood.)

We came to see the trolley buses, but we were so captivated by the history. We arrived at dusk and easily found a campsite along the river. We walked around the ghost town briefly, but it was getting dark, so we decided to save it until morning.

In the morning, we went to the little mobile cantina operated by Vida Turok. She was serving up an enormous breakfast to Hal Wright, the station manager of Silversmith Power & Light Generating Station. Hal invited us to join him, and we ordered breakfast too.

Hal is so passionate about Sandon. Although he’s an engineer, he’s a brilliant historian. We were drawn in by his wealth of knowledge. He also told us about the trolley buses and how the collection will include a bus from every place they originally operated.

Brill Trolley Interpretive Display

Each trolley bus has a history. Once Hal knew our personal history, he told us which buses would be of interest to us because they were once in cities where we had lived. Bus #2368 once traveled the streets of Saskatoon. There was a photograph of it in service on September 26, 1969 at 20th St. and 2nd Ave.

Trolley buses were preferred over streetcars. Because they rode on tires rather than rails, they could get around stopped traffic. Most of the coaches in the collection were doomed to be wrecked, until they were rescued. Some had sat at auto wreckers for years. Others had been used as bunkies at cottages. All of them are fascinating pieces of Canadian manufacturing history and slices of urban life.

Silversmith Power & Light Generating Station

Hydro electricity has been generated in Sandon since 1897 at this original historic facility! Hal Wright is the station manager and he maintains and operates the equipment as it always has been done. No computers here! He records electrical levels, pressures, etc. using pen and paper in a log book. The machinery is fascinating. It was so well designed that friction is extremely low. The bearing housings were at ambient temperature. Hal will give you a free, personalized tour of this working artifact. His enthusiasm is contagious. Be prepared to be amazed!

Sandon also has a steam locomotive and freight train exhibit, a visitor’s center, a museum (operated by the Sandon Historical Society), and numerous hiking and biking trails.

This Land: New Denver, BC

May 25, 2022

“This land was made for you and me.” This is a line from the song by Woody Guthrie. In the 1960s, Canadian folk singers, The Travellers, changed the lyrics to include Canadian locations. The theme of our cross-Canada journey this year is: This Land. Although we won’t be visiting all the places mentioned in the song, we will see as much as we can.

Our first stop in our journey coincidentally was New Denver, BC, the location of the Japanese internment camp during WWII. We saw a sign for Kohan Reflection Garden, and we are never ones to miss a Japanese garden, so we stopped. However, we had not made the connection that this was the location of an internment camp most Canadians are familiar with.

During WWII, innocent Japanese-Canadians were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to remote internment camps. This was a deplorable event in Canada’s history, and one we should not be too eager to repeat. Fear can be used to justify all sorts of atrocities. These past two years have shown us how quickly people can be turned against each other through weaponized fear.

The Kohan Reflection Garden is located along Slocan Lake. At this elevation, spring had just begun, and the blossoms were a wonderful tribute to all the beautiful Japanese Canadians who suffered.

Also located in town is the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre. Unfortunately, it was after-hours, but we were able to peak through the fence. The community center and 3 cabins for internees are all that remain of this appalling chapter.

This land. Our land.

Never forget. Never repeat.

Wa:k Pow Wow in Tucson

March 11 & 12, 2019

On the way to Tucson, we stopped for 2 nights near Gila Bend, at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site. We visited there last year and really enjoyed it. This time, Sheila and the girls came with us. There is nothing quite like boondocking on the desert.

March 17, 2019

The pow wow was held on the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier Indian Reservation. The San Xavier Mission is the prominent building on the reservation. This church was constructed between 1783-1797.

The dancing and costumes at the pow wow were impressive. There was so much energy! There are several annual pow wows in our home province of Saskatchewan, but we have never attended one. We will definitely attend one in the future.

And let’s not forget the fry-bread. Mine was stuffed with delicious summer squash.

Modernism Week Yard Sale

February 24, 2019

The Yard Sale is the final event of Modernism Week. I was impressed by the prices. Yes, deals could be found. You just need a way to transport the goods home — maybe bring an empty Spartan Manor?

I did find a few tiny things at the yard sale, but I really would have loved some of the furniture. However, when you live in an Airstream, it comes furnished.

Fortunately, in one of the shops in Palm Springs, I found a new dinette light. It is exactly what I was looking for!

Modernism Week Vintage Trailer Show

February 23, 2019

Well, it’s about time that I updated this blog. The highlight of our time in Palm Springs was the Vintage Trailer Show.

1969 UltraVan “The Whale”
It was a dream-come-true to finally see one of these in real life. Oh, it’s so adorable!

1963 Kenskill
This trailer is in original condition. No restoration was performed.

1960 Shasta
This trailer is also original, except for the curtains

This Airstream is exquisitely decorated in a Southwest theme. It reminds me of my parents’ Trillium trailer, which has a stagecoach theme.

Caveman Camper
I had never heard of this before. The windows are fabulous and provide lots of natural light.

Holiday House
Yes, the Holiday House is being manufactured again, but it is nothing like the original. This one has won several vintage trailer awards.

1951 Roadmaster

1967 Airstream Safari

Aero Flite
This is a show-stopper. I still can’t get over the beauty.

1964 Streamline Travel Car
This is pretty fabulous. Check out the back patio. However, it needs a restoration.

I love the Franciscan Pottery “Starburst” pattern on the outside and inside.

1959 Traveleze

Spartan (Royal Manor? Executive Villa?) Mobile Home
This trailer is H U G E. It must have been parked first and all the rest filled in around it.  What an stunning specimen! I’d sell my Airstream in a heartbeat to have this. Yes I would!

Canned Ham
I have no idea what make and model this is (Shasta?), but it is so lovely. Look at that Orla Kiely wallpaper. Doesn’t it make you happy?

1954 Airstream Flying Cloud

1950 Westcraft Coronado
Another astounding restoration

1962 Trailorboat
This is a unique RV — it’s a boat and a teardrop trailer. The boat gets flipped upside down on the roof of the teardrop for transport. Years ago, one of these showed up at our Prairie Egg Gathering (bolerama), a rally for fiberglass trailers.

If you like the Trailorboat concept, Happier Camper brought their new prototype. Happier Camper makes unique fiberglass trailers based on the original bolers, but with modular furnishings and clever designs. Here is the prototype of their American Dream:

Happier Camper
Although these are not vintage, they deserve a spot at the Vintage Trailer Show. This company started as a restoration company for bolers, Trilliums, and other fiberglass trailers. This blossomed into manufacturing their own little eggs. Who wouldn’t be a happier camper in one of these?

They also brought 2 prototypes of their new longer model:

Believe it or not, this is just a tiny sampling of the trailers on display. Thank you to all the owners who opened their doors to let the hoards of people peek inside.

Historic Twin Palms Neighborhood: Tract Houses

February 18, 2019

At the lodge, I was given a map and addresses. Paul was going to just drop me off and leave, but because this was a self-guided tour throughout the neighborhood, we just parked the truck and Paul and Poppy followed me from house-to-house and waited outside for me. The bonus for Paul was that he got to talk to locals who pointed out unique houses that weren’t on the tour, and Poppy got lots of love from passersby. Paul learned that the neighborhood received its name because each lot came with 2 palm trees. Poppy learned that not all the grass was real.


1070 E. Apache Rd (not on the tour)

There was a display inside the lodge with models of some of the houses in the tract. Each house was 1600 sq. ft. and designed as a perfect 40’x40’ square, and there was only 1 basic floor plan with 8 variations. This kept costs down because constructions materials were standardized at 10-foot widths. However, each house looks unique because of their roof lines, facades, and the open carports. Today, some of the houses have had modest additions.

1041 Twin Palms

As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by tall birch doors with no trim – exactly like our Saskatoon house! The owners are art collectors and poodle owners. They were so excited that I was so excited that their birch doors had survived all these years. They told me to go in the bathroom and shut the door to see the wonderful graining. Gorgeous! The natural birch doors match their lovely Heywood-Wakefield furniture. They love their house and it shows.

1042 Apache

The homeowner knew Krisel and understood his vision. This house had been inappropriately renovated in the past and then had fallen into disrepair. The homeowner respectfully restored it to its former glory. I was so impressed by the attention to detail. The kitchen is new, but the cabinets look original with their sliding doors. The flooring is all terrazzo seamless tiles. The green bathroom is new, but renovated to replicate the pink bathroom. What a fabulous restoration! And the best news is that it is for sale! For a cool $1.2 million it could all be yours!

991 La Jolla

The homeowner really embraced color in his decor.  He told me that he is an engineer and always preferred black, white, and grey in his previous houses, but once he moved to Palm Springs, his grandma’s love of orange took over. This is a really fun house with an equally fun homeowner.

985 La Jolla

This home had also been neglected for many years, so the homeowners had to do an extensive renovation.  It has one of the most fabulous breeze-block facades. The interior is very airy and bright. The final picture shows the rear of the house.  You can really see the square footprint of the house from this view.

Stay tuned for more Modernism Week adventures in Palm Springs!

Historic Twin Palms Neighborhood: Ocotillo Lodge

February 18, 2019

When I was choosing tours for Modernism Week, I had to choose carefully. The Canadian dollar is doing poorly, so I had to ensure I would get enough value. The only house tour I chose was the Historic Twin Palms Neighborhood tour. At $60 US, it was pricey, but well worth it. I got to see 7 homes (3 suites and 4 houses) and the Ocotillo Lodge clubhouse and pool. The homes and lodge were designed by architect William Krisel and built by developers George and Robert Alexander, starting in 1956. When you think of butterfly roofs, sun flaps, clerestory windows, and atriums, think of Krisel. This neighbourhood has it all! It was the first modern housing tract in Palm Springs.

First stop, Ocotillo Lodge. This was where I checked in and got my wristband and gift bag. Oooooh! In my gift bag were 3 breeze-block magnets! What fun! Breeze-blocks are a significant architectural element in the Twin Palms neighborhood, and throughout Palm Springs.


Ocotillo Lodge champagne cork pool

The Ocotillo Lodge was originally an apartment hotel for prospective homebuyers to the neighborhood, but now each suite is privately owned. The suites came in only 2 sizes (525 sq. ft and 600 sq. ft.). Each suite is very secluded even though each one has 2 walls of doors and windows opening to a patio.


Suites at the Ocotillo Lodge

Suite 376
This unit features the original kitchen range.

Suite 349
This unit is referred to as The Peggy Lee. The owners hired interior designer Laura Slipak to refresh it after its 1980s abominable renovation.

Suite 341
The original tongue and groove ceilings were kept during a recent renovation, but everything else was updated. This one felt most like home to me. The homeowner chose many of the elements and colors that I had in our house. There is even a toy Airstream on the patio.

Stay tuned for part 2, when we tour some houses in this historic neighborhood.

Modernism Week CAMP

Camp is Atomic Central during Modernism Week.


Inside the big tent:

There are a few more vendor displays outside the tent. One of our favourites is Alpod.  This is a small aluminum pod house (410 sq ft). It is aluminum inside and out . . . remind you of anything?  It’s impressive.  The company is Chinese, and it has worked with the California and US governments to meet their standards; however, it does not have CSA approval from what we can tell.  There are actually 2 Alpods on display. We saw the first one behind The Rowan on our first day in Palm Springs.


Alpod beside MW CAMP


Alpod behind The Rowan (see the reflection?)


Also near Camp is the Walker Guest House and the creepy babies by David Černý:

The cost to tour the house is $10. The terrifying babies are free for the viewing!

More Modernism Week fun-seeking to come! Stay tuned.

Palm Springs was a Wash!

February 11-17, 2019 (Week 1)

I tried and tried to get an RV site within Palm Springs, but this is prime time, and no one was cancelling. Since we have friends who own a site in a park in Desert Hot Springs, we were able to stay there. Sheila came along with us for a few days to see some of the sights. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we walked the strip (Palm Canyon Drive). We couldn’t help ourselves and had lunch both days at Sherman’s Deli. Oh man! Giant matzo ball soup! This restaurant is a landmark, and there is always a line-up, but it’s worth it.


My new Palm Springs house! OK, it’s a tissue box.


On Wednesday night, it started to rain.

On Thursday, we were awakened by the phone screaming and the words “Flash Flood Warning for your area.” OK. Stay out of the washes. No problem. We decided to tour some of the other cities in the Coachella Valley. It rained all day, but it didn’t seem too outrageous. While we were in one shop, two clerks were talking about how Palm Springs was shutting down. The roads were impassable, and it was too dangerous. People were being sent home. What? Come on. It wasn’t that bad. Well, as we made our way back to Desert Hot Springs, there were some flooded sections of road where the roads crossed washes. We drove through slowly. Then, we came across some closed roads, so we took detours. That was a good thing because cars had been swept away for not heeding the warnings!

On Friday, the rain had stopped. Sheila returned to Yuma while we returned to Palm Springs for the Modernism Week festivities. Oh my! Exciting, but not festive. We met road closure after road closure. It was madness! The washes were full and overflowing their banks, taking sections of roads with them.

Unbelievable! This storm was in the top 3 storms in recorded history (approximately 100 years). We also learned that the RV park that I kept pestering to get into had to be evacuated during the storm. We were very thankful that we had brought Poppy with us that day because it took us 2 hours to get back to Desert Hot Springs. Since then, we’ve taken her everyday, much to her dismay. The weather has been too unpredictable to leave her alone. Nevertheless, she gets lots of attention from strangers and shop clerks. Palm Springs is very pet friendly.

Here is the road leading to the tramway. There is helicopter there because it had just surveyed the road damage leading up there.


Of course, Palm Springs was only a “wash” in the desert sense.  It rocks!

We found a perfect midcentury modern (MCM) cone lamp for the Airstream. Updates on that will come when we return to Canada. It will require some drilling and other fun, so Paul wants to have access to his tools.  This is the interior of the shop where we found the lamp.  I’m obsessed by the capsule shaped mirror on the far right (Hang 1 Capsule mirror by Blu Dot, but alas, it is too rich for my budget).  It would be perfect in the Airstream bathroom.  It resembles the shape of the window in there.  In front of the green dog is a water bowl.  Every shop has a water bowl for dogs, of course.

Now, let’s look at some far out architecture.

Tramway Gas Station (Albert Frey & Robson Chambers, 1965). It is now the visitors’ centre. Once you filled up there, you must have felt like you were ready to enter orbit. What a dramatic roofline!

Sante Fe Federal Savings & Loan (E. Stewart Williams, 1961).  It is now the Art Museum. I adore the metal screens.

Coachella Valley Savings & Loan (E. Stewart Williams, 1961). It is now a Chase bank. Can columns be more graceful?

The Rowan (November 2017).  OK, I’m obsessed with this building. It’s new, but it could be 60 years old! Look at the metal work and the yellow accents. I admire it every time I walk by.

BevMo! I don’t believe this building has any historical significance other than the fact that you’ve seen a building like this as some point. It is simple and lovely, but buildings like this were torn down long ago across North America. However, in Palm Springs, it has value. I love the way the roof mirrors the concrete blocks.