Best In The West By A Damsite

As I drove into town, I laughed out loud at the town slogan for Bassano, Alberta. 

The phrase ‘damn sight’, used as an adverb has the colloquial meaning of ‘a lot; a great deal’. For example, “I’m a damn sight more clever than he is”. This turn of phrase is a blast from my past, growing up and living in Alberta. These old sayings, have a charm about them. They provide a link to the past, connecting one generation to another. I like that. The way a language and it’s particular uses are woven into our collective experience, in a more meaningful way than what we learned in school.

I suppose we will discover in our travels, how significantly a culture is formed by the evolution of the language and the quirky ways it is embedded into daily life. This kind of learning takes a long time and is difficult to acquire from a textbook or by taking a class. Understanding these nuances are what provides an extra dimension of richness for the native speakers and citizens of a place.

There is likely an element of familiar language use, which is specific to a geographical area. The prairies of North America have common ancestors going back to Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. So even today, there are common ways of thinking and in turn speaking which can often cut across a language barrier. In my experience, there have been circumstances where I hear Norwegians speak, which if I closed my eyes, could have been my Grandfathers words I was hearing. 

Main Street Devon circa 1987

But nothing brings up my memories of childhood, like a small town in Alberta. Even though my hometown of Devon was 3 times larger in 1980 than Bassano is today, there is still a familiar charm. Things like a true main street, where the important businesses offer up their services and products. Like the big anchor department store of a shopping mall. The ‘draw’ for people to frequent a place. In old towns of Connecticut, there would also be a town square, near to civic buildings and a park. Those bygone meeting places still live on.

Unlike Bassano, Devon was a planned town. Born of the oil boom. There was work to be done and people needed places to live. Not unlike the situation which has driven the growth of Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta. Bassano was more organic. There was the railroad, the highway and the dam. 

For all that transportation activity, somehow most of it passed by, leaving Bassano behind. The dam site is still there, but the importance of the nearby highway is not enough to draw many people into town. Most pass by, making the final sprint into Calgary. The railroad does not operate a station anymore. The town was victim to the fall of the Canadian railroad system, as a major economic system, along with so many other places.

“There is a comfortable feeling in small towns. It is salubrious.”   -Andie MacDowell

What survives today in Bassano, is much more interesting. I feel it is a community of people who have come together to live with purpose. Charming older homes have been renovated and even many of the original buildings from 2nd Avenue still stand today. There are all the services which you would expect, and many you would not for the size of the population. Many suburban communities in major cities like Calgary do not have the sense of support, found in Bassano.

What I like best, is the arts scene. Of course, I only had a glimpse of it from my Auntie’s house, but the list of ways a resident can become involved is extensive. I’ve been lucky enough to tour a pottery studio and then try my hand at simple creations. I’ve visited a local spinner, who works with the most lovely yarns. We spent hours creating garden light reflectors and hand painting beach stones. I also got to be part of a knitting circle. (Which involved homemade schnapps, but that is another story). 

The video highlights some of the fun in a small town in Alberta towards the end of summer. This was a nice way to finish off weeks 3 and 4, before heading back to Calgary and Airdrie for the final preparations, before our departure. Our teens start online school next week and that will be a big change, particularly for my daughter. My Auntie and I would have loved to be fortunate enough to have this opportunity to travel and take classes! What an amazing thing! Alas, sometimes:

“Youth is wasted on the young.”   -George Bernard Shaw

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