CBC Digital Archives

Roadside attractions: The derrick that made Alberta rich

One spewing geyser of oil at Leduc, Alta., on Feb. 13, 1947, transformed the province's economy. Until the oil strike Alberta struggled as a have-not province. Leduc "blowing in" was famous and rare because Albertans had never imagined large oil reserves existed beneath the wheat. But ownership of the resource challenged by the national energy program became a political battle: East versus West, Trudeau versus Lougheed. Today, the Leduc legacy lives on with Alberta paying off its debt in 2000 and countless barrels of crude yet to be extracted.

A giant hockey stick. A big nickel. An historic covered bridge. A history-changing oil well. People pass by these attractions all the time on their travels throughout Canada. Sometimes, tourists trek for days to just to catch a glimpse. Some attractions are monumental, others merely quirky. They are all the stuff of local legend. CBC Digital Archives goes province to province to admire the big things in our big country.

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"Leduc number one gave me an entire career," says retired roughneck Dan Claypool. In fact, on Feb. 13, 1947, the oil derrick gave all Alberta reason to celebrate. When it struck oil, the province's have-not status was suddenly history. "At that time, there wasn't any industry or jobs to speak of," Claypool explains in this 2006 clip. "Leduc number one opened it up where within the next several years many, many people moved in and picked up the jobs in the oil patch." Now those people come to see where history took place.
• Leduc number one sits on the grounds of the Canadian Petroleum Discovery Centre, which opened in 1997 to showcase Canada's oil industry to visitors. The derrick is all that remains of the original 1940's drilling rig. • The drilling of Leduc number one began in Nov. 1946 on a farm belonging to Mike Turta. Most members of the crew were pessimistic and felt the well would turn out to be yet another in a long line of dry holes.

• The well was shut down in 1974 after having produced some 50,300 cubic metres (320,000 barrels) of oil and 9 million cubic metres (320 million cubic feet) of natural gas.

Other prominent Alberta roadside attractions include:
• Cowboy in Airdrie
• World's Largest Mallard Duck in Andrew
• World's Largest Beaver in Beaverlodge
• Angus Shaw - Fur Trader in Bonnyville
• Antique Underground Coal Train in Canmore
• World's Largest Chuckwagon in Dewberry
• World's Largest Western Boot in Edmonton
• Buffalo in Fort McMurray
• Mozzy the Mosquito in Rainbow Lake
• Starship Enterprise in Vulcan

Medium: Television
Program: CBC News at Six
Broadcast Date: Aug. 4, 2006
Guest(s): Dan Claypool
Reporter: Jim MacQuarrie
Duration: 3:41

Last updated: October 9, 2013

Page consulted on December 17, 2014

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