Hell's Half Acre is the story of the people who lived and worked in Turner Valley, western Canada's first commercial oilfield, located southwest of Calgary. Beginning in 1914, the oil fields attracted thousands of workers from across North America to the drilling rigs, processing plants, and the pipeline crews that dug the first trenches. In addition to the beginnings of an oil industry, Turner Valley provided Alberta with a rich historical legacy of epic proportions, along with a cast of very colourful characters.
Drawing on contemporary accounts and dozens of interviews with Turner Valley pioneers, as well as probing the vast visual history of archival photographs, David Finch captures the life and times of an exciting era in Alberta history. Imagine natural gas flares so plentiful and powerful that night turned into day and the glowing sky could be seen from Calgary. The smell of sour gas and its deadly effects were a constant danger, as were the primitive work conditions associated with the early years of oil exploration. But on the workers toiled, constructing massive drilling rigs out of huge timbers, working day and night in a relentless search for black gold. The Second World War brought an unprecedented level of urgency and tension to Turner Valley when the national treasure became a military target.
These were fascinating times, and in Hell's Half Acre the people, the companies, the booms and the busts are all revealed in entertaining detail.