ROULEAU, Sask. – It’s been years since the cameras have rolled at “Corner Gas.”
Years since Brent cracked wise with Hank from behind the store counter.
Years since Emma gave Oscar what for over a bottomless cup of coffee at the Ruby.
And in those years, the Saskatchewan prairie has slowly been reclaiming the television show’s set.
The walls had grown mouldy, the rodents had moved in and the building was sinking into the ground at a rate of more than two centimetres a year.
On Friday, heavy machinery moved in and reduced the old gas station to rubble.
Producers said goodbye to the central backdrop for one of the most successful Canadian sitcoms of all time and a Saskatchewan town said goodbye to a landmark that went a long way to putting it on the map.
“It was hard,” said Virginia Thompson, executive producer of the show that ran for six seasons and 107 episodes ending in 2009.
“That building — we have had so much laughter in that building, and I think we have given so much laughter to the country out of that building.”
The “Corner Gas” station and neighbouring Ruby cafe were the centrepieces of the show and were built from scratch just outside the town of Rouleau, about a half-hour drive south of Regina.
The set became a destination for fans of Canadian television — a must-have selfie while road tripping in the southern Saskatchewan countryside.
Rouleau Mayor Grant Clarke can’t estimate how many people have stopped over the years, only that there were usually three or four cars there at any given time during the summer.
“Thousands,” he said Friday.
But the buildings lacked a proper foundation and the land they were on was marshy. Poor structure made them impossible to move.
Safety was also a concern as fans would pry off pieces of the set to take home as souvenirs.
“It was built for five years and it was 13 years old,” Clarke said.
The production company would send someone in to fix things each year, but it became an impossible task, said Thompson.
A full rebuild was too expensive and neither the town nor the production company owned the land, so the excavators moved in Friday and the set was down in seconds.
Clarke likened it to an explosion, a sign the buildings were ready to go.
The town kept the demolition a secret for fear scavengers would move in beforehand and take what they could.
“It was quite a surprise to the people in the community,” Clarke said. “But I think everybody understood that it was not built for longevity.
The yellow, green and red sign out front will have a new home at the Western Development Museum in nearby Moose Jaw, and Rouleau is developing a walking tour that will let fans see some other sites featured in the show.
Whether those will be a bigger draw than the station, no one knows. The town hopes so.
Thompson saved five bricks to take with her.
“For my husband, he is getting a brick, and my three daughters and me,” she said.
“We will put them somewhere proudly when we get home.”