Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Al Oeming's Alberta Game Farm

A snow leopard interred at the Alberta Game Farm, circa 1974.
Back in 1974, while we were still living in Leaf Rapids, Mom and Dad took me on a trip to Alberta, where we visited Al Oeming's Alberta Game Farm. I don't remember the trip at all, but while scanning the family slide collection today I came across some official photos created by the Farm for visitors. The slides are in very rough shape, the colours faded by the years to a dark pink. I've tried to colour-correct these as best I can, but the results, as you can see, are lukewarm at best. (UPDATE: originally these photos were very pink, but thanks to a tip from my friend Jeff, they now look much better.)

Mom and Dad inform me that we did visit the Farm once again after moving to Alberta, mostly so that my brother Sean could see it. I have hazy memories of this trip - really nothing more than sensory impressions of strong odours, chain-link fences, and perhaps a sea of cars in a field that served as a parking lot, though this could easily be a memory conflated with that of one of our trips to the Namao air shows.

In its later years the Alberta Game Farm was known as Polar Park before shutting down for good in 1998. The Edmonton Journal has a pretty funny gallery here; my favourite is the one captioned "In 1978, gorilla escapes were a problem."


Here are a few other slides:
Formosan Sika Deer
A pair of Nilgai

Chilean Flamingos
A chained cheetah



15 comments:

susan_rn92 said...

We lived in Alberta amost all my childhood and never went to the Game Farm, but once while I was in school part of it came to us. The cheetah that you have pictured, or one just like it, and Al Oeming came to my school and we learned what it was like to have a cheeta on the prairies. He told us that to exercise the fast cat they would tie a broom onto the back of a pickup truck and cheeta would chase it. They would raise a few eyebrows driving around on back roads with a cheetah chasing a truck.

Anonymous said...

One of my parent's good friends used to be one of the caretakers at Polar Park. I don't remember ever going there when it was open but I did get to go visit after it had been closed to the public before the animals had been moved. The cheetahs were so tame that I, an eight year old girl, was allowed to take one for a walk! I also got to go into the pen with the wolverines (also very tame, although one tried to pee on me) and pet the "king cheetah."

G Lemmex said...

Growing up in Alberta, we visited the game farm several times and I have wonderful memories of it. I remember pulling into the parking lot and there were peacocks just wandering around and right away you knew you were in for something special. I remember the smells and the elephant ride, my mother was chatting with a camel and it spit on her, we all laughed but she didnt see the humor. I also remember the circus like train that you could get a ride or tour on instead of walking. I always walked and I remember it being huge.
Mr. Oeming also came to my elementary school and brought the cheetah and told the story of the broom but added that while at some school the janitor while sweeping the halls came upon the cheetah and shortly thereafter he said you could see the cheetah running 55 mph across the football field with the janitor doing 60 mph just ahead of him.
I have great memories of the zoo and always will, it was like a touch of Africa to me. Thanks Mr Oeming.

Earl J. Woods said...

Thanks for sharing your memories of Al Oeming and his amazing animals, everyone!

moakley said...

I visited the Alberta Game Farm in about 1970 and what has stuck with me til this day has been the wolves.
They were tall,rangy animals with long legs,and not your usual wolves,
I thought.
The zoo was pretty new at the time and didn't have a lot going on, but I also remember the long cheetah enclosure with a clothesline device rigged up to whisk a piece of meat, at great speed,for the cheetah to chase. We didn't see it in operation that day.
Does anyone remember those tall timber wolves?
I've googled them from time to time over the years and have never come across animals like that

S Byers said...

Hi, I just came across some (22) slides of my mother's dated 1977 of the Alberta Game Farm. I did a search to learn more about it and came across your site. Very interesting.

Earl J. Woods said...

You can find some interesting stuff in your parents' slide collections!

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia could use some good photos for articles on the farm and Dr. Oeming. They have some coyright rules but you can ask on talk pages how to get them uploaded.

Iris Archibald said...

My husband and I worked at the Ab. game farm in 1972. Interesting experience!

Rich said...

I've tried locating anything re: Al's game farm, I stumbled upon your site, cool.
My dad Murray Broadbent, and a good friend of his Junior Fix, were the two main bush pilots that flew into the far north capturing many of his animals.

Richard

Anonymous said...

The Alberta Game Farm truly touched everyone who came through it in some way. I grew up there and hope to soon transition the land into the Wild Splendor Eco-Resort in the Beaver Hills. Part of the resort will be a conversion of the Gorilla compound into an amphitheatre for a MacDowell style artistic colony as in New Hampshire. A Motor Coach Park, Equestrian Show Facility and Village, Golf Village, Retirement Village and Marriott Hotel will round out the 10 year development vision. You can stay abreast of it at www.wildsplendor.com . Wild Splendor was the name of a movie Dad made in 1969. Dad is still going strong at 89 effective April 9th 2014. I will also be dealing with over 4,000 medium format photographs we have over the life of the AGF / Polar Park and having them showcased in an interpretive center for everyone to view. All the best to everyone, Todd Oeming

Earl J. Woods said...

Wow, thanks for the update, Todd! Sounds like some exciting development is taking place.

Allan Fleury said...

Earl, thank you for the memory. I toured park 1n 1973 with family. Was fascinated with the Apes. Reminded me of older gentlemen sitting around and chatting.
Interesting the new development going on.
Allan Fleury

Jeanne Perkin said...

Still remember the Game Farm....God I loved that place...we went there at minimum 6 times a year...met Mr.Oming several times and even had the chance to meet his cheetah a few times...Dad talked Mr. Oming into coming to my school and remember him there a couple of times(Calder School, Edmonton)this was in the mid 70's...remember the giraffe taking some, think it was popcorn, from my hand and it's tongue wrapped around my arm almost to the elbow, but still got all the popcorn...always wished I could have taken my kids and now grand kids to this wonderful magical place... Jeanne Wright Perkin

Jeanne Perkin said...

My mistake...the time line...it was in the mid 60's not the mid 70's....