A Portrait Of Rosebud: Then And Now

My maternal great grandparents William and Mary Owens homesteaded on a quarter section of land near Lone Butte just east of Dorothy in the Alberta Badlands. Only the Lone Butte cemetery where they are buried marks their former community.

In the 1930s I remember driving with my parents to Lone Butte. The gravel road led to Drumheller across the Red Deer River and directly up the hill. It was normal for my father to stop in Drumheller for car repairs. The road to Drumheller could have gone through Rosebud but I think it did not.

Traffic was light and car lights were not bright in those days. The dark country side was occasionally lit by a dim kerosene lamp that farmers would keep in their windows to show their presence.

In the late 1970s I worked on industry environmental committees with the late Gerald Gainer, who was a fellow oil company environmental leader (I was Director of Environmental Affairs for Dome Petroleum and Gerald had similar responsibilities for Gulf Canada). I first knew Gerald when we were officers in the City of Calgary 403 Squadron in the early 1950s. Gerald was proud to be from Rosebud where his father was the CN station master for many years.

By the 1970’s, Rosebud had almost become a ghost town. Laverne and Timothy Erickson, two visionaries with a heart for youth, were in the early stages of their efforts to build a Christian oriented retreat and school of the arts.

I first showed up In Rosebud in the early 1980s. I was still working for Dome Petroleum but I was spending my weekends learning documentary photography. Rosebud people welcomed me, making it easy to create fine environmental portraits.

The people I knew best were the Turners, who showed me about bees and honey … without being stung. The Colberg brothers, John and Charley, made me very welcome at their farmstead. Bud Biggs and her dog Vicky were also special friends. In an act of trust, church members allowed me to photograph during their services.

Well aware that the iconic country elevators were going down as they were no longer safe or economic, I was fortunate to capture still operating country elevators and even some in process of deconstruction.

The Nickle Arts Museum at the University of Calgary exhibited this collection of work in the early 1980s.

Since that time, community efforts have led to the present day Rosebud School of the Arts, Rosebud Theatre, Rosebud Mercantile and the Canadian Badlands Passion Play in Drumheller.

In 2010 I met Royal Sproule in his art gallery in Rosebud. Royal suggested that I put together a collection of my previous work and join it with some new work. Thanks to his encouragement and the support of my Rosebud subjects, here it is.

The entire collection of prints will be exhibited Sept 30-Oct 2, 2011, and then be on display at the Rosebud Centennial Museum indefinitely.

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