MEMORY TAKE ME BACK
From the Hillman Songs
and Record Site
I was raised on a 3/4 section farm in South Western Manitoba -- NW
24-16-22 -- and most of my boyhood memories involve life on the farm and
visits to the village of Strathclair, 1 1/2 miles north. Memory
Take Me Back is a reflection of these nostalgic days.
More recently I was asked by the Brandon University Geography Department
to write a chapter for a textbook on Manitoba geography that would be published
by the University of Manitoba as a university level textbook. My topic
was to be centered on rural prairie settlements and I chose my hometown,
Strathclair -- using the title Strathclair:
A Prairie Town with a Past, Present & Future or Evolution of
the Strathclair District.
Previously, as part of a Masters Degree project, I had transcribed
the journals ('20s-'60s) of my maternal grandmother, Katie Campbell and
these first-hand accounts were a great resource for instilling a bit of
human warmth into what started as a more academic project. I also turned
to Memory Take Me Back for inspiration and the following excerpt
is really just an expanded version of that song:
The glory years of Strathclair and many other similar prairie communities
reached their zenith in mid-twentieth century -- the '50s decade. The excitement
and spirit generated by these towns was perhaps best epitomized by the
Saturday Night "event." Following the Saturday evening supper hour, families
would prepare to "go to town."
The first cars to arrive would get the best seats. This meant finding
a diagonal parking spot along the north side of main street (North Railway
Street) in the well-lit, high-traffic area extending from the pool room
at Minnedosa Street to Molgat's modern 'self-serve' department store.
Between these termini, people of all ages walked a jostling gauntlet
along a strip of thriving businesses.
Three favourite spots were the drugstore with its soda fountain and
magazine rack, the Chinese cafe‚ with its booths for socializing, and a
rival eatery which featured a jukebox, pinball machine and lunch counter
with stools. Many of the men gathered in one of the two male bastions --
the beer parlour and the pool room; while a favourite routine for the women
was to peruse the line of parked Fords, Chevies and Dodges -- each vehicle
demanding a nod, wave or a detour off the sidewalk for a chat.
When the week's discussion lagged out on the street, there seemed
to be no end of open doors to shops to provide diversion: bakery, grocery,
dry goods store, newspaper office, garages, butcher shop, hardware store,
restroom, shoemaker, and tinsmith.
In the winter there was always skating, curling and hockey at the
rink. The routine for some was to go to the 7 o'clock movie at the Bend
Theatre, delaying the sidewalk promenade for later. From a thirty-five
cent allowance, kids could eke out a full night's entertainment which included
a movie (complete with newsreel, Three Stooges short, cartoon, serial,
previews, and draws for prizes), popcorn, "coke" or popsicle, double bubble
gum, jawbreakers, and a fifty-two page comic book.
Later in the decade, many people gathered outside the electric shop
which provided an outdoor speaker connected to the twenty-one inch television
in the window, few realizing that this box with its flickering black and
white pictures was a harbinger of drastic change to this weekly social
phenonemon that everyone took for granted.