Image: A film still showing tourists panning for gold (SPRA 0198.02.09, Fonds 198: Ward-Marcy family fonds)
Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie.
Today’s Movie Monday brings our vacation series to a close. We’ve visited various provinces and states throughout the summer and will be concluding our journey with a visit to South Dakota. Today’s film is from the Ward-Marcy family fonds and was taken circa 1960. It includes scenes of children with puppies (or are they kittens?), children playing outdoors, and a vacation to the Badlands of South Dakota.
Badlands National Park covers 242,756 acres of land in southwestern South Dakota. Much like the Canadian Badlands, the rugged terrain is almost surreal with its pinnacles and gullies, spires and buttes. The Lakota people who inhabited the region were the first to call it mako sica, directly translated as “land bad”, for its extreme temperatures, harsh landscape, and lack of water. French-Canadian fur trappers referred to the land as les mauvais terres pour traverse – “bad lands to travel through”.
In the heart of this ‘bad land’ is a small community named Wall, often called the “Window to the West” or “Gateway to the Badlands”. The town boasts a number of famous tourist attractions, some of which appear in the Marcy family film. Perhaps the most well-known of the attractions is Wall Drug, a sprawling tourist mall that welcomes more than a million visitors every year. The store began as a tiny pharmacy in 1931 and drew in customers by offering free ice water. When the proprietor realized how a little advertising could bring in a whole lot of tourists, he began constructing signs all across the United States. At the peak in the 60s, when the Marcy family visited, Wall Drug boasted more than 3,000 highway signs. Though the building itself is not shown in the film, there is a close-up shot of a moving Wall Drug billboard announcing the store’s proximity – only 5 blocks away!
The Marcy family is also shown visiting the Reptile Gardens and 80-foot dinosaur statue in Wall, as well as the ghost town of Rockerville, where tourists appear to be panning for gold. The ghost town was sadly burnt down in a firefighting training exercise in December of 2016, which makes films such as this one all the more valuable for the preservation of history!
Thank you for travelling with us this summer, and we hope to see you back on Movie Monday next week!