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We spoke with Chowaniec about the passion project that he never actually wished for.
Q: To do a book like this you had to have really put in the time.
A: Well, I’d often be out doing it when my wife was at work and I had a day off. My wife would come home and ask what I’d done, and I’d say that I’d put in a thousand kilometres. She’d ask what I found, and I’d say “nothing.” Other days I might go for 100 kilometres and I’ll find an old gold mine. I just keep to the back roads all the time when I’m driving because you never know what you’ll see. Or maybe I’ll see the same building again, but in a different light.
Q: Do you get a lot of suggestions on where to go from friends or followers of the Facebook page?
A: A few. I heard from someone about an old mining cart in Mill Creek Ravine (in Edmonton), so last fall I went traipsing down to check it out. I put on some rubber boots and climbed into the creek by where they’re building that new house, and sure enough it was there, sunk in the mud. The wood is mostly gone, but you can still see the metal parts of it.
Q: You must come across some interesting relics when you’re out taking pictures.
A: It’s amazing. I was invited out to a homestead that was built by one of the first Norwegian settlers in the province, in the Camrose area. They had come up from Montana. The barn was full of stuff, and they had sort of cleared a path for me where this woman directed me to a box. I couldn’t really tell what it was because it was so dark, so I took a photo and then lightened it up when I got back home. When I saw what it was I phoned her and told her that she might want to go back and get it. Turns out it was a Scandinavian wedding/bridal box with the year 1885 stamped on it. There was another that had 1855 stamped on it. I love it when I find stuff like that.