Former mayor is a strong defender of oilfield
Dingman Centennial: Marjorie Straub wants recognition for gas plant
By: Ian Tennant
| Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 03:48 pm
The Turner Valley oilfield has a stout defender in Marjorie Straub.
The feisty 82-year-old resides at the High Country Lodge in Black Diamond but she was born and raised just a couple miles down the road in Turner Valley, where she was a former councillor and mayor.
Straub and a small group of friends established the Turner Valley Oilfield Society in 1978, and through that group she was involved in preparations for the May 14 100th anniversary celebration of the discovery of natural gas.
Although the Turner Valley gas plant is a provincial and federal historic site, Straub insists both levels of government, but primarily the Province, should be doing more to help the community clean up, preserve and promote the facility.
“I’ve been frustrated with them over this,” Straub said May 8, referring to the Province. “C’mon down here and talk to us and get serious about this.”
She noted the Leduc No. 1 well, where a major oil field was discovered in 1947, has an interpretive centre but Turner Valley does not.
“Does that sound right?” she asked.
Oil and gas exploration in Alberta is said to have got its start after the Dingman No. 1 well tapped into a vein of natural gas on May 14, 1914. Another discovery in 1924 found more gas and, for the first time, oil in the Turner Valley area. The Leduc No. 1 well, on the other hand, is said to have kick-started the modern-day oil and gas industry in Alberta when it stuck oil on Feb. 13, 1947.
Straub, however, wasn’t holding back, suggesting the Progressive Conservatives in Edmonton should “get involved now.”
She said the PCs, suffering in public opinion polls compared to the Wildrose party, should “want to show the people that the government is alive and kicking instead of half-dead like they are coming across on the TV.”
Straub insists the Turner Valley oilfields are not getting their due as a major reason for the growth of Calgary and by extension the province.
“That’s how Calgary got going. Period.”
According to Alberta Culture, between the First World War and the late-1940s “the processing plant at Turner Valley served as the largest natural gas processing plant in Canada’s largest oilfield.”
Alberta Culture took over the plant in 1988. It was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1989 and in 1995 it was named a National Historic Site.
Straub vividly remembers growing up in Turner Valley when “flares were going all the time.”
“We never had a street light because we had so many flares. It was like daylight all the time,” she recalled. “I loved that.”
When people complained about the strong odours the gas plant would emit, Straub says she would remind them that if it wasn’t for that facility they “would be using wood and coal” to heat their homes.
As for the environmental issues that would crop up later on, Straub said she “didn’t think it was unhealthy” to live in the Black Diamond area.
Despite personal tragedies, such as her father dying at the age of 47 and her husband passing on at the age of 49, Straub still has many fond memories of Turner Valley. Although she had lived for a time in Calgary raising her daughter Sharon Wilson and son Terry Straub, the family moved back to her grandmother’s farm near Turner Valley.
Straub eventually moved back to Turner Valley and served on town council for terms before becoming mayor in 2004.
“I really, really enjoyed it,” Straub said of her one-term as mayor. “I had such a great council.”
And despite her beefs with the Province, Straub said she is “just so proud” to be to able call the Turner Valley-Black Diamond area home.