We were once more in the wheat growing country but with this difference
that whereas we had formerly lived in the treeless land, we were this time to be located in the more
Northerly Parklands of what is known as the Carrot River Valley. In this area land had to be cleared
before it could be farmed. Consequently development was much slower than in the south where
homesteaders had only to put the plough into the virgin prairie. But the rewards were much greater
for the soil of the Parklands was heavier, the rainfall more plentiful and the country was better
suited to mixed farming.
Our work was centered about the Parishes of Star City and Melfort. Apart from the natural features above noted, life in the Parkland Parishes was not much different from what we had known further south. Wood was plentiful and there was an abundance of garden vegetables, eggs, fowls and meat.
The teacher of Ridgedale School resigned his post to go homesteading. There was a chronic scarcity of church in that district. I offered to substitute for a short period as teacher.
The Saskatchewan Department of Education renewed my old certificate and since I had obtained my Arts degree they offered to give me a teachers and as I had charge of a High School Principal's Certificate if I would return to the teaching profession. I was not tempted, for I was dedicated to the work of the ministry, but I did agree to keep the school open until a new teacher was found. I drove out from home on Monday mornings, taught school during the week, and returned home Friday nights in time for choir practice and took my three Services on Sundays.
Railroaders are real people!
"I've been working on the railroad all the live long day."
This was the theme song of shop workers and running trades men at Sutherland, Sask. Here we were initiated into the home life of railroaders. This is the shop town and divisional point of the Canadian Pacific Railway near Saskatoon. At all hours of the day or night one could see men going to and from work. I learned that in doing Parish visiting it was courteous to knock at the back doors of homes in case the man of the house was sleeping after working all night.
Passengers on our trains rarely give a thought to the home life of the crews who operate the trains. One must live in a railway community to appreciate the anxiety felt in the homes for the men "out on the road." One reads of accidents and wrecks and thinks of the losses in dollars and cents, but as the parson in the town and personal friend, one thinks of the sorrow in the stricken homes. This is especially the case when one has to break
the news to a wife that her husband has been killed in an accident, as I have done.
When Bishop Lloyd was giving me advance information about Sutherland, he said, "Those railroaders are rough diamonds." Albeit they were diamonds. In fact the whole congregation of St. Matthews were the "workingest" group I had ever known, if Purist readers will pardon my use of this expressive term.
They balked at nothing in the way of volunteer labour for the improvement of their church. They painted the building on long summer evenings after work. They had electric lights installed to replace the old gasoline lamps. They dug long deep trenches for a water main to connect the rectory with city water service, while pipe fitters from the shops did the plumbing. When the exterior of the rectory was to be stuccoed, one of the men, a plasterer by trade spent his holidays doing the job, with the help of volunteer assistants.
DIARY ENTRY - Today made a storm door, only tools available being a hammer, an axe, a bucksaw and a butcher knife. Consoling thought - that Joseph in his Nazareth shop 'wrought with chisel, saw and plane' - no lathe, no power tools, yet he turned out creditable ox-yokes. Disconcerting thought when young son inquired "What are you trying to make Daddy?" Did not concede that I could make anything!
Our children by this time were adding to the gaiety of life. Frances had a close friend in Belle Scott. She came home one day in a state of great excitement. The two girls had been for a walk on a trail beside the railway track and our daughter declared, "We saw two hobos and one devil!" We never solved that mystery.
One Sunday we entertained Bishop Lucas of the Yukon at lunch. As mother was setting the table Mervyn drew the Bishop's attention to a set of glass tumblers and cautioned him, "You will have to be very careful of those glasses. They are Mommy's best set."
As the Bishop strolled about the room the boy eyed him critically and finally asked him, "Have you got any pants on?" His Lordship assured him that he certainly had, whereupon Mervyn followed up his investigation with "Well where are they?" So the Bishop had to convince the boy by showing him that underneath his apron were his pants.
It irked Leslie that he had to come home earlier at night than his companion, Billy, across the street, and he protested on one occasion, "I don't see why Daddy didn't marry Mrs. Cann. She lets Billy stay out as long as he likes." When our fourth child was born in a Saskatoon hospital, Frances was disgusted
that he was not a girl. Leslie's reaction was more favourable. "Hurrah", he shouted,
"I'll teach him to fight."
Sutherland was just two miles from the University, and Emmanuel College, so I had close association with my alma mater. Many of the students came out and taught Sunday School and assisted in Church Services and with young people's social activities. College Staff members often preached at our Services. Thus we formed lasting friendships with a whole generation of students in addition to those with whom I attended college.
"To the North, to the North we go," Old rollicking song.
We did not spend a winter in the newly stuccoed rectory at Sutherland, for in the fall of 1929 I was offered the parish of Christ Church, The Pas, Man. By then this was a new-old town whose roots extended back into the days of early Northern explorers. We found the town a bustling community of four thousand inhabitants. It was at the beginning of a mild recession which marked the completion of the railway to Churchill and branch lines to Flin Flon and Sheridan.
Originating as a trading post established in 1741 by La Verendreye at the confluence of three rivers, The Saskatchewan, the Carrot, and the Pasquai, and on the best camping ground between Cedar Lake and Cumberland House, The Pas was destined to become a modern metropolis of the North. The French Trader called his post Fort Poskayac.
In 1774 Samuel Hearne whose name is carved on a rock at Fort Churchill journeyed by the usual water route from York Factory on the Hudson's Bay, up the Hayes River across the north end of Lake Winnipeg, up the Saskatchewan to a point ninety miles above The Pas and there established Cumberland House, the first inland post of the Hudson's Bay Company.
Decades of strife between rival French and English companies ended in peaceful settlement with the Hudson's Bay Company alone in the field. Due to modern trading trends the H. B. C. closed up The Pas business during the nineteen thirties.
Besides those explorers already mentioned, The Pas witnessed the passage to and fro of Henry Kelsey, Sir John Franklin, Sir John Richardson, and many lesser lights. Kelsey, a youthful employee of the H. B. C. at York Factory reached the vicinity in 1691. Then setting a course to the Southeast, he was the first white man to see the grizzly bear and the buffalo of the plains. We saw the Kelsey cairn which was erected by the Historical Sites Board in Devon Park, The Pas. being dedicated by Judge Howay of British Columbia.