The Real "Corner Gas" (or How I Spent My Summer Vacation)

Historically, Canadian television programming has taken a lot of ribbing… most of it from Canadians. But because the Canadian government is so protective of our culture (and I think perhaps you can understand why), Canadian t.v. continues to get made even when it’s sometimes mediocre. There have definitely been some great shows along the way, though… what middle-aged Canadian does not remember, with fondness, The Beachcombers, King of Kensington and The Littlest Hobo? More recently, we have loved Degrassi Junior High and This Hour Has 22 Minutes. DP says, “Don’t forget Road to Avonlea?” He’s right. Definitely Canadian.

It seems that we, the people of Canada, were ready for a comedy like Corner Gas when a Saskatchewan comedian named Brent Butt pitched his show to CTV six years ago. A show about ordinary people in small-town Saskatchewan, set in Saskatchewan, filmed in Saskatchewan with a cast of Canadian actors. I don’t know if the show was a big deal right out of the gate as we were in Mexico. In fact, we came to the show quite late, at the beginning of its fifth season, and quite serendipitously. We normally buy some television on DVD for the upcoming (overseas) school year and we saw the DVDs for Corner Gas and thought, “Why not?” We picked up the first two seasons of Corner Gas last August.

Tee hee hee. We laughed, we cried, we ordered the third and fourth seasons from Amazon.com immediately. As soon as we had finished watching a season we handed it off to a Canadian family at our school. Soon they too were addicted. The two teenage boys, and a number of their friends, began characters quoting Brent and Hank and Wanda at school.

If you have not yet seen an episode of Corner Gas, imagine Seinfeld (a whole lot of nothing going on) crossed with Northern Exposure (set in Saskatchewan instead of Alaska) with a dash of the quirkiness of the film Fargo. Here’s a taste…

Close to the end of our Cross-Canada drive, we stayed one night in Regina, Saskatchewan in what has to be the flattest part of the country. If you are not familiar with the geography of southern Saskatchewan, the city of Regina is very close to…


As we were checking into our hotel room, I asked the clerk how long it would take to drive to Rouleau (where the exteriors of Corner Gas are shot). Having grown up in Ottawa, I pronounced the name of the town in French. The woman looked puzzled so I spelled the name for her. “Oh, you mean Rollo. Corner Gas, right?”

Rollo.

We headed south towards Rouleau the following morning, took some photographs of extraordinary fields of yellow canola along the way, and pulled up to the set about an hour later. At first, things didn’t look too promising…


… but DP explained that we were looking at the trailer village behind the set. As we pulled up beside Corner Gas, we noticed that the town has painted over Rouleau on the grain elevator. Yup, the local grain elevator now boasts the name of the fictional town, Dog River, as do a number of businesses in town including the bar and the show’s police station which, apparently, looks so realistic that there is a sign directing people to the real station.


Before DP had even stopped the car, I was out with my camera. Different people have their own idea of Mecca and my little confession is that mine is the set of Corner Gas.


The gas station looks so real that people actually try to pull up to get gas. They actually film the interiors of the gas station scenes here and you can peek in and see the props.


I took a few photos and eventually made my way to the buildings where the security guard greeted us with a post card with a photograph from the cast of Corner Gas and asked us to sign the Corner Gas Guest Book. She answered all of my questions patiently and captured my interest by mentioning the possibility of a Corner Gas movie; the show will continue to lease the land for three more years.


One of the things that struck me most was the complete absence of merchandise available… there were no t-shirts for sale, no tacky key rings or baseball caps for your dad. I didn’t want to purchase any of those items in particular but I was surprised that no one (CTV, for example) was cashing in on the visitors that kept turning up every ten minutes or so. If I lived in Rouleau, I can tell you that I would be opening a chip stand right on that corner. I would paint the chip wagon red and call it the Ruby Too. I can say that would have liked an ice cold coke and a few french fries with vinegar the day that we visited.


A couple of local guys who have appeared on the show lead a half-day bus tour from Regina to Rouleau. You can check out their “Corner Gas Experience Tour” here.

Are there any quirky places that you have always wanted to visit. Tell us about them.

4 comments

  1. I too discovered Corner Gas last fall and wanted desperately to visit Saskatchewan! I got my wish in mid-September.I'm a little confused about your statement that there was no place to get souvenirs though.The season 3 DVD features a W5 documentary about the show and the town including the opening of The Stoop, located in the police department building. I had a chili cheese dog (while watching a few eps, it's funny to see FOO MAR Ton the screen and look out the window and there it is!), put a pin in my state on the world map full of pins (they hang a new map every year), and yes, bought souvenirs. The Rouleau Hotel, labeled the Dog River Hotel, also has CG gear, but it was closed when I was there.I was lucky enough to be on the last tour which included meeting 9 actors. Eric Peterson gave me a smiling wave as he passed off a special autograph; I'm sorry I never got to meet Janet Wright. She's great. The last show was being filmed when I left (I had 2500 or so miles to drive home, and had already extended my stay) and Brent was standing between the pumps as I drove by the last time. I beeped and he waved.I also saw a 7-plane Snowbird flyover in Moose Jaw.

  2. @April,It's true… our little side trip was terrific! Don't be jealous… you still have Target and Barnes and Noble and NPR and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.I am glad that you are watching CG on television, though. It's the last season… so saddle up!@WhinneyPegSuch a clever blog name!Believe it or not, we didn't drive into the town of Rouleau… we just headed straight for the Corner Gas station and the Ruby set. We spent a long time there, chatting with the Security Guard. I was surprised to see no concession stands but, as wasn't interested in buying anything, I didn't ask about it. It was not until I started writing this post that I realized that a whole little Corner Gas industry – including the fun tour you took – has sprung up around the show. Good for Canada! I like the pluck!I'm so glad that Brent waved although I wouldn't have expected anything less.Thanks for your comment!

  3. "Such a clever blog name!"…Thanks, Teach! I thought it showed my love of animals & Canada!There really is a lot to see in Rouleau, even when no one is around, if you are patient and look. For example, the house next to "Oscar & Emma" really do have a garden of gnomes…a plot point. It's worth mailing an empty envelope to yourself just to get the Corner Gas/Dog River postmark!Unfortunately for US Corner Gas lovers WGN has no plans to carry Season 6 and has cut way back on the older episodes as well. Syndication won't be available until after the last season's over.Lucky for me I live near the border, and with a little antenna work can catch CTV.

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