Before the park closed, George Webber photographed the people and the homes of Midfield.
This is a story about losing the things that matter most.
50 years ago, Midfield Mobile Home Park was built in Calgary. It was constructed along the edge of an escarpment close to the Trans-Canada Highway, where it passes through the northeast part of the city. It was built not on tough prairie sod, but on an abandoned landfill site.
Fred Jackson, technician
The southern edge of Midfield was tucked in next to the highway. All manner of tourists, commuters, lumber, cattle, apples and big screen TVs rumbled by ceaselessly, day and night. With all of that going on, Midfield should have been a noisy place — but with its elevation above the highway, tree-lined roads and shifting winds from the north and west, it was an astonishingly quiet place. The 182 mobile homes of Midfield were in a little acoustic oasis.
Erna Reinhardt, retired restaurant owner
If you drove to the front entrance of Midfield and took a right turn, you could be in Lake Louise in a couple of hours. Take two left turns and three hours later you’d be in Edmonton.
That particular confluence of location and time in Calgary’s history did not work out well for the residents of Midfield.
When Midfield was built in 1968, the developer decided to place the water and sewage lines directly under the mobile home pads, rather than below roadways — where those services are normally situated.
Alain Langis, health and safety trainer
That was a bad decision. Long-term maintenance and viability were a problem. The lines deteriorated.
In the early 2000s, the City of Calgary reckoned that the aging infrastructure at Midfield could not be saved.
The trailer park was tantalizingly close to the intersection of the city’s two most important highways, the Trans-Canada and the Queen Elizabeth II; residents figured that the city wanted to develop the land, using the place where they lived for condos and boutique coffee shops... and not for them.
But the nearly 300 residents of Midfield hung on. For more than a decade, they hung on under threat of eviction and the closure of their community.
Naomi Anderson, with children Vaughn and Chloe
If you stood at the north edge of Midfield, you could look down upon the immaculate green vista of a private golf course. But even better: if you looked straight out, sometimes you could see hawks, almost motionless and suspended in midair, then lifted into limitless blue skies by the updrafts. The people of Midfield were attached to the sight of those hawks — and to the sight of each other.
Jerry Gammell, pilot truck driver
Originally, the city offered to build a new park and relocate people there. Then city council withdrew the offer to build a new park, because it was too expensive. Everyone at Midfield felt that they’d been ambushed.
After years of uncertainty, many of Midfied’s residents were let down, scared and afraid. But others were feisty. “We’re not leavin’,” became the mantra of the electronics technician, the maintenance worker, the duct cleaner and the building manager who all called Midfield home.
“If I come to your house and offer you 10 cents on the dollar to get the hell out, are you gonna go? No!” says 47-year resident Rudy Prediger, a retired truck driver.
Rudy Prediger, retired trucker and community activist
Eventually, most of the residents began the painful calculations that are a part of cutting losses and giving up hope.
Eunice Nelson, retired
And then the time finally came: everybody had to leave Midfield. No matter their age, everyone who called the place home came to a clear understanding of what it feels like to be old — to lose a community and a sense of belonging — and to lose the things that matter most.