Growing up in North Central Alberta you might wonder how a small town boy like myself becomes a Science Fiction fan. My dad was into hunting and fishing and my mother listened to oldtime fiddling music. Unlike most prairie boys, I had one big advantage. I grew up in St. Paul, a town of 5400 and the location of the world’s first UFO landing pad. As a young kid, I visited the concrete structure and was never discouraged from thinking what might possibly be out there. (A big bucket load of proof would be handy, but keep an open mind.)
The Landing Pad was created as a Centennial Project. Back in 1967, Canada was 100 years old and people all over the country were looking for ways to celebrate. Roadside attractions are pretty popular in Alberta, so you have the giant Easter Egg in Vegreville, a frighteningly gigantic sausage in Mundare, monstrous beaver in Beaverlodge, etc. But the Landing Pad is different. There aren’t any famous UFO sightings in St. Paul’s history (It’s no Roswell, NM.), nor do they build spaceships there. The idea was conceived as a kind of intergalactic multicultural platform. Here we are and we want to be friends.
You go up the stairs towards the international flags….
This brings you to where the saucer can land before a map of Canada, clearly marking where St. Paul is….
If the visitors should require T-Shirts to take back to their planet, the information center and gift shop….
Added in the 1990s, I never had a chance as a kid to have my parents tell me “No, you can’t buy anything.”
The official plaque says: “The area under the World’s First UFO Landing Pad was designated international by the Town of St. Paul as a symbol of our faith that mankind will maintain the outer universe free from national wars and strife. That future travel in space will be safe for all intergalactic beings, all visitors from earth or otherwise are welcome to this territory and to the Town of St. Paul.”
(Feel free to sing along with me to that other Canadian UFO artifact, Klaatu’s 1976 song “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” in its original form, not the crappy Carpenter’s version. I know at least one other Canuck will chime in with, Dan Ackroyd, whether he is home in Ontario or in LA.)
The Landing Pad has had its share of attention. It was opened on June 3, 1967 by Paul Hellyer, Minister of National Defence, who flew in by helicopter to cut the ribbon. (He later would become a writer and be involved in UFOlogy.) Queen Elizabeth II and Mother Teresa both visited in the 1980s. The town maintains a UFO sighting hotline at 1-888-SEE UFOS (I think you’ll also get the gift shop.)
Captain Kirk visits Alberta.
Now if the landing pad wasn’t enough, my brother and I always laughed whenever we drove past the road sign for Vulcan, Alberta. We were avid Star Trek re-run fans on the CBC on Saturday afternoons at 5 PM. (We had a Black & White TV so I was shocked at the colors when I saw the show on my cousin’s set in the city.) “Mr. Spock must live there!”, we’d joke, that kind of thing. (The town was named by a railroad surveryor– like 99% of all non-aboriginal town names in Canada– after the Roman god, Vulcan.) Well, somebody else had the same idea. What began as a joke, some town dignitaries showing up in Spock ears, has put this small town of 2000 on the SF map. Today the town has a roadside attraction model of the USS Enterprise, along with hosting a Star Trek convention there every summer. And again this comes as no surprise, living in Edmonton in the 1980s when Star Trek TNG first aired. The show was huge in Edmonton, second only to Oilers hockey.
Where no lunch has gone before….
Not exactly a Landing Pad but ….
I examine the strange writings.
At the gift shop where I got my “Spock is my Homeboy” T-Shirt.
Where we live, especially as children, affects us forever. I will always be a fan of Science Fiction and the fantastic, just as much as I am a fan of these two places in my province. Come see them. Have a laugh, buy a shirt. Maybe we can get a coffee and argue the evidence. (There’s a Tim Horton’s down the road, no doubt.) Are UFOs real? Does Shatner’s toupee look real? Which is better Star Trek or Star Wars? Just remember: A big bucket load of proof would be handy, but keep an open mind.
Captain’s Log- Additional: Last October, my eldest son got married. Despite the fact that it was a Steampunk wedding (Raised the boy right!), I gave the toast to the bride in Klingon. What else can you do when you grow up Star Trek?