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Turner Valley and the $50-Billion Hangover

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"If the city was oil crazy on Friday," said the Albertan, "on Saturday it was demented." The Herald noted that the stock promoters had "struck a financial gusher," which made the discovery well "look like a lawn sprinkler."

All day and all night the crowds fought and struggled for precedence in the offices of the most prominent oil companies, and clamored for shares and yet more shares. Relays of policemen barely kept a clear pas­sageway and there was never a moment when the would-be purchasers were not lined up three deep in front of the counters, buying, buying, buying.

Within a few months Calgarians woke up from that monumental speculative spree with such a hangover that more than half a century later the city still remembers the event as the wildest boom that ever hit the West. More than 500 companies had been formed within a few months, holding half a million acres of oil leases and with authorized capital totalling an estimated $400 million. Less than 50 companies actually started drilling, and few of those found any oil. Calgarians, wiped clean of more than a million dollars of savings, were left holding thousands of share certificates worth less than wallpaper. Several homes, and the lobby of one hotel, actually were wallpapered with share certificates.

During the next 10 years the new Turner Valley field produced only 65,945 barrels of oil, an average rate of less than 20 barrels a day, together with some natural gas, most of which was flared. Only six wells had been successfully completed. Seldom had there been so much excitement generated over such little oil.

But still it rates as a milestone. It was the nation's first commercial oil discovery in half a century, and the first ever in Western Canada. Beneath the shallow oil- and gas-bearing sands discovered at Turner Valley in 1914 lay deeper porous rocks containing immense petroleum reserves that would be discovered only in stages during the next 22 years. Calgarians did recover from the hangover of Alberta's first oil boom and came back a little wiser and somewhat more successfully —­ to share in other Alberta oil booms.

From The Great Canadian Oil Patch, pgs. 65 to 67, reprinted with kind permission of JuneWarren Publishing and Mr. Earle Gray.


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