Author Archive

Author Archive

The Last Elevator in Cayley

In the late 70’s and again in the 80’s  I traveled to Southern Alberta towns that still had standing elevators with one purpose in mind. I wanted to get as many photos of these vanishing landmarks on film as I could.

In 1990 we bought an existing framing business and building that we remodeled to accommodate our new venture.  Full-service frame shop, gallery and photography studio. I had no shortage of images to hang on the walls of the gallery in the town of Claresholm, AB.  I matted, framed and sold countless images from my collection of elevators. In 1981 I photographed the Cayley, AB elevator row.  These elevators were built along the tracks and the curve in the tracks was particularly attractive. This made for more interest than just a straight row. The light co-operated and I got a beautiful shot.   They were building a new Alberta Wheat Pool elevator at the time.The next time I visited the town of Cayley, AB was March 2000.  My niece Brita, who was six years old, and I were on our way to High River to visit my mother who was in the hospital at the time.  Word was out that the last and newest Cayley elevator was going to be torn down in the near future.  This being the case I asked Brita to let me take a photo of her standing on the tracks in front of this landmark.  I told Brita at the time that she would be the last little girl in the world to be in a photo of Cayley’s last Alberta Wheat Pool elevator.  To the best of my knowledge, it was true.  The track was torn out and the large backhoes moved in and destroyed this structure.

Border Collie Dogs

My family has always had Border Collie dogs.  Mom and dad raised puppies and my brother and his wife have raised quite a few litters at the same ranch over more recent years.  This highly intelligent breed of dog was bred for herding livestock.

When we were little kids my sister and I often dressed our puppies up in the beautiful hand knit sweaters, dresses, booties that our Norwegian grandmother knit for our dolls. We preferred to play with puppies over dolls. Grama would not have been very happy with us had she known.

judy-terryJudy & Terry with puppies.

The dogs were used on the ranch every time anyone went out with a horse to gather or check cattle.  One dog in particular, Trixie, was my dads hired man, in all kinds of weather.  She found the cattle and herded them to the feed or corrals, or just to another pasture without any special commands.  She often saved dad from having to ride in the thick brush to find the cattle.

Favourite animals and my dad.

Favourite animals and my dad.

My mother sewed all of my good clothes when I was a kid, until I knew how to sew.  I was pretty stylish back then.

Dad and me with my favourite animals.  Alvin’s  horse Flicker and dog Trixie in the background.

Pile on kids.

Pile on kids.

My father Alvin, Trixie his dog, and,  Arne,  Terry,  and Judy on our not so trustworthy Shetland pony Sugar.

Dogs, horses and kids

Dogs, horses and kids.

Trixie, like all the other Border Collies in my life was good natured.  She even posed on the back of my sister Terry’s pony for a photograph.

Three very cute purebred Border Collie puppies.

Three Amigos

Three  purebred Border Collie puppies.  Too cute for words.




Jackie and Border Collie puppy.

Jackie and a Border Collie puppy.

Our granddaughter Jackie cuddles a Border Collie puppy.



Jackies Guard Dog Ned.

Jackies Guard Dog Ned.

Jackie’s shadow on the farm.  Ned has his stick ready.  All Jackie has to do is throw it.

Studio Photo Session

Studio Photo Session.

A couple of a litter of five Purebred Border Collie puppies came to my studio for a photo session.  That was fun.  All in all they sat very well while I tortured them with my camera.

We were given a Blue Heeler that a friend could not keep so my kids grew up with very protective Heeler dogs.

Border Collie dogs really need to work.  They are inclined to get into trouble if they don’t.

Judy Dahl.

History of the Grain Elevators in Granum and Stavely – circa 1981-84

The town of Granum, south of Calgary at the junction of Highway 2 and Highway 519 is located on the edge of the prairies and the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Granum was once the home of at least 8 elevators.  I photographed the row of five in 1981.  These little pairie towns were tied together by the railway and by their distinct giant grain elevators.

Granum 1981


The town of Stavely is 68 miles south of Calgary on Highway 2.  The Canadian Pacific railway ran through both Granum and Stavely.  Here is a great shot from 1981 that I took before the elevators started to be destroyed.

Stavely 1981 copyright Judy Dahll collage

When the tracks were removed the grain elevators started to disappear.  One by one.  There is only one elevator remaining  in Stavely.  It is owned by Husted Farms.

The Great Fire

In 1982 one of the Alberta Wheat Pool elevators in Granum caught on fire and burned to the ground.

Granum 1982

Granum 1982 Taco Hansma jp blogGranum elevator fire 1982 TacoMeanwhile in Stavely a new, bigger, more modern Wheat Pool elevator had been built in 1982.  The smaller Alberta Wheat Pool was no longer used so it was loaded on to a trailer and moved to Granum in 1983 to replace the one that was destroyed by fire the year before.Stavely elevator moving to Granum 1983 Stavely moving to Granum 1983 for story


The trip from Stavely to Granum is approximately 20 miles.  The movers chose to take this elevator and annex on the road on the west side of Claresholm.  The move was put on hold when the transmission went out of the truck.  Eventually they maneuvered another tractor in to take over the rest of the move .  It was successfully set down in Granum.Stavely Elevator

I spent a lot of time just north of Granum during the 80’s photographing horses from Hans Hansma’s herd of Registered American Quarter horses.  Some of the finest horses in the countryI was at Hansmas on August 27th, 1984 the day Granum’s replacement elevator caught on fire reducing it to a pile of grain on the ground.  This fire also destroyed the hotel and a grocery store.  I shot a few photos from the road northeast of town of this fire.  My friend Taco Hansma took all the photos you see here of the fire in 1982.  His photos of the fire are much better than mine.  Alberta Wheat Pool burning Granum 1984

United Grain Growers Elevator – End of an Era

Claresholm Elevator row 1989

Claresholm Elevator row 1989

My first full-time job when I graduated from Olds College in 1970 was with United Grain Growers Head Office in downtown Calgary, AB. I worked my way up from the steno pool to the accountant’s personal secretary before I left three years later. After spending a few more years in the city of Calgary, my husband Brian and I bought a farm and moved to Claresholm. Back in 1975, the town hosted an impressive row of Prairie Giants (Grain Elevators). After losing one to fire in the late 80’s there were still seven fully operational elevators.

Claresholm Elevator
In the 90’s they started to be demolished and by Dec. 6, 2000 the last, which was the U.G.G. was brought to the ground. This impressive building was built in 1977. The east side of the elevator that housed the scale house was the first to go. The backhoes clawed away at the main structure for what seemed like forever. Finally, it crashed to the ground. I had tears in my eyes as I witnessed the demise of this building. I felt a personal connection to this elevator as my husband Brian also hauled his grain to U.G.G. and years before I had worked for the company.

United Grain Growers Mar


Dec 6, 2000 U.G.G.  The scale house was the first thing to go



Dec 6, 2000 1

Dec 6, 2000 2

Dec 6, 2000 3

Dec 6, 2000 4

Showing the last of its colours Dec 6, 2000

U.G.G. Claresholm Dec 6, 2000 Backhoes working

Demolition of the United Grain Growers Elevator, 2000


The Outhouse

In a time before indoor plumbing, a little house would sit behind the main house and it was used as an outdoor bathroom. It must have been quite the experience in the depths of the prairie winters!

Outhouses on the prairies were once a common site.  They were usually behind the house, and could be found in town and in the country.  It is hard to find one today, as most of them have been destroyed or are left in very remote areas.  In 2000, Judy’s images were used in Nancy Millar’s book “Once Upon and Outhouse” .  This book was a humorous look at outhouses. Nancy Millar offered up an intriguing history about an integral aspect of early Canada.  Judy’s extensive collection of outhouse photos below were used in the book, and will soon be available on the website.


“A Rose by Any Other Name”

It was called the outhouse, the little house, the back house and the White House.

It was called the privy, the biffy, the loo and the library.

In its grander moments, it was called the House of Lords, the Ladies’ Chamber and the Throne.

In its humbler mode, it was known as the Shack Out Back, the Comfort Station, the Rest Room, the John and the You-know-what.

In French Canadian communities in the west, it was known as the “becosse“, but after a few generations that word sounded suspiciously like “backhouse.”

It was called His and Hers, Mean and Women, Boys and Girls and I’m not Sure.

It had more names than any other building around the place, but it was seldom mentioned by name.  Just because folks had to use it regularly didn’t mean they were going to talk about it.  Bodily functions weren’t discussed in the early days.  It was considered coarse or impolite to do so.  Therefore, the seat of bodily functions wasn’t talked about either.. except in roundabout or humorous ways. “

Poem from Once Upon an Outhouse by Nancy Millar 


Do you have any Outhouse stories that you would like to share?

Do you recognize any of these Southern Alberta outhouses?

If you would like to purchase Nancy Millar’s Book – Please Click here