MEMORY TAKE ME BACK
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.
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'
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.